SonicCouture ALL SAINTS CHOIR
SonicCouture’s newest outing sees them release their first full 32 voice Choir Library, quite a departure in comparison to their earlier 10cc appreciation library ‘Tape Choir’, let’s see how they rose to the challenge!
SonicCouture have never created what I would deem as traditional sample libraries, yet it somehow still sounds odd for me to say that this is a departure from their usual style, however All Saints Choir is certainly a venture somewhat out of the ordinary for the London based developers, and in their own words signals possibly their most ambitious project to date.
All Saints Choir…
The All Saints Choir library is a 32 voice chamber choir that includes Bass, Tenor, Alto and Soprano voices with variants of male, female and SATB presets. There are several legato modes including poly legato with 6 keyswitched vowel controls, and multiple microphone positions.
Location, Location, Location…
The recording took place at All Saints Church in South West London, over an intense four day recording session during May of 2019, and captures the vocal talents of the New London Chamber Choir.
A variety of high quality cardioid and omni directional microphones were used to record the four sections separately over a four day period, and these recordings are reflected in the available close, Front, Mid and Far microphone mixes and are a key feature of the libraries boutique sound.
Weighing in at 9Gb, the library requires Kontakt 6 or the free Kontakt player equivalent to run, and is licensed through Native Access with NKS support for Komplete Kontrol.
Featuring 30,494 24 bit, 48 kHz samples, the library uses NCW compression to reduce the original 14Gb down to the aforementioned 9Gb.
There is one main All Saints Choir Kontakt NKI preset file, with a further 24 NKSN snapshots which give us access to a variety of standard choir and SFX presets.
SonicCouture do have their own software management application, however when you log into the website and view your purchased products, there is the option to directly download the archived file for your platform, which is probably going to be the easiest and most accessible means of grabbing your new library.
Installation is a simple case of unarchiving and placing the resulting compiled product folder in your preferred location, and then authorising and adding it through Native Access using the supplied authorisation code.
Finally a rescan of Komplete Kontrol in standalone takes care of the rest and you should be up and singing, quite literally!
Komplete Kontrol Browser & Plug-in Edit Controls…
Knob 1 & 2 – Vendor and Product
Knob 3 & 4 – Unallocated
Knob 5 – Type: Vocal
Knob 6 – Sub Type: Female Choir, Male Choir, Mixed Choir
Knob 7 – Character: Sample Based
Knob 8 – Presets
Plug-in Edit Section
Page One – Dynamics & Microphones
Knob 1 – Dynamics: Sing
Knob 2 to 4 – Unallocated
Knob 5 – Close Microphone
Knob 6 – Front Microphone
Knob 7 – Mid Microphone
Knob 8 – Far Microphone
Page Two – Edit & Cluster
Knob 1 – Attack
Knob 2 – Attack Velocity
Knob 3 – Release
Knob 4 – Release Velocity
Knob 5 – Key Off
Knob 6 – Pitchbend
Knob 7 – Unallocated
Knob 8 – Cluster Depth
Page Three – Space, Stereo & Saturation
Knob 1 – Space Mix (Reverb)
Knob 2 – Size
Knob 3 – Pre-Delay
Knob 4 – Hi Pass Filter
Knob 5 – Lo Pass Filter
Knob 6 – Unallocated
Knob 7 – Stereo Width
Knob 8 – Saturation Amount
Page Four – E.q. Low & Low Mid
Knob 1 – EQ Low Freq
Knob 2 – EQ Low Gain
Knob 3 & 4 – Unallocated
Knob 5 – EQ Low Mid Freq
Knob 6 – EQ Low Mid Gain
Knob 7 – Q
Knob 8 – Unallocated
Page Five – E.Q. High Mid, High & E.Q.
Knob 1 – EQ High Mid Freq
Knob 2 – EQ High Mid Gain
Knob 3 – EQ
Knob 4 – Unallocated
Knob 5 – EQ High Freq
Knob 6 – EQ High Gain
Knob 7 – Unallocated
Knob 8 – Output
Page 6 – LFO
Knob 1 – LFO Depth
Knob 2 – LFO Rate
Knob 3 – Delay
Knob 4 to 8 – Unallocated
Page Seven – Level & Pan Controls
Knob 1 – Level Soprano
Knob 2 – Level Alto
Knob 3 – Level Tenor
Knob 4 – Level Bass
Knob 5 – Pan Soprano
Knob 6 – Pan Alto
Knob 7 – Pan Tenor
Knob 8 – Pan Bass
NKS Controls & General Accessibility…
As always SonicCouture have been really helpful in making the library as accessible as possible within the confines of the NKS system.
The individual section level and pan controls were added almost as instantaneously as I requested them in my preliminary overview, and when I cross reference the NKS parameters with those of the user interface and those exposed within Kontakt, I found that very little has been omitted.
The microphone positions, although considered standard are a particularly essential component when it comes to using a library like this, and Close, Front, Mid and Far are all welcome stalwarts to be found on page one of the NKS parameters.
Velocity is assigned by default to the modulation wheel (cc01), and there is a Dynamics ‘Sing’ threshold control which lets you set the low and high points.
Additional settings allow for the adjustment of attack and release velocity alongside the standard attack and release controls.
Pitch bend lets you set the note range of the bend wheel, which when twizzled hard right to it’s maximum, will make the choir sound like it’s being launched into outer space, a somewhat amusing effect but probably not something most will use in a track, but I could be wrong!
There are assignments for Reverb which also have low and high pass filters alongside size and pre-delay. Stereo width, Saturation and Equalisation rounds off the effects section controls. Incidentally, it is worth noting that the reverb spaces , are actually impulse responses captured at the venue, which is good to know.
In terms of the elements we cannot access, there is a Cluster control tab, which enables users to create Cluster effects by adjusting the pitch of the choir notes for atonal horror style effects.
There is a cluster control assigned, however this only functions within presets that have been configured to use the cluster settings, we are otherwise unable to interact with this accessibly ourselves on standard presets due to the complexities in finding a way to make it work with NKS.
The other grey area is in choosing the legato mode from the options available. Currently these are not keyswitchable which might be a possible future option, however SonicCouture have told me they will kindly create some bespoke NKI presets which duplicate those already available out of the box, with the addition of the legato variants already engaged, so they will be there as a preset for us to use as required.
All Singing, All Saints…
The appeal of the All Saints Choir is that it fills a gap in the choir sample market which is mostly occupied by traditional larger Choral libraries consisting of over 60 singers.
All Saints strength lays in it delivering the smaller perhaps more intimate and emotive sound of a chamber choir, with a total of 32 singers covering the whole SATB range, essentially eight per section.
SonicCouture have sensibly opted not to travel down the word builder route with this library, sensible, from our perspective because they are not accessible, but generally often not too convincing if realism is on the agenda.
Instead they have decided upon a more solid and no frills approach that presents a library that is capable of producing good results when you need a smaller less grandiose emotive brushstroke for your choir needs.
The six available vowels of A, I, U, E, O… and m are triggered by keyswitchable note assignments on a lower octave on the keyboard, and this of course can be done ‘on the fly’ or as a post recording overdub, providing welcome textures and expressiveness to your recordings.
As the title suggests, Poly Legato lets you polyphonically play vocal chords and transition the changes, for me at least this took some getting used to, in fact I am still not convinced I have mastered the technique fully. I seemed to find that key velocity was a factor in achieving a smooth transition, and on occasion found that the volume could perceivabley jump in level. As I said this could well be me, and there is also the velocity attack and release controls which may help to improve things in this respect.
The All Saints Sound…
All Saints Choir is certainly capable of delivering the intimacy associated with a smaller choir ensemble, particularly if the close and front microphones are employed. In general use though, most may well opt for the mid or far as a combination which work well especially when mixed with orchestral instruments, and there is always the opportunity to layer additional tracks if you want to go for the bigger cinematic sound.
The choir voicings are sung pretty much with little or no vibrato, and there is an LFO with depth, rate and delay to simulate this technique.
The library is also able to deliver a more FX based sound set, and this capability is explored somewhat with some of the presets that the team have come up with.
On the topic of presets, there are not a whole lot of these included, split proportionally between the more traditional examples of the SATB sections with various microphone examples, and the FX based material offering such titles as ‘Angels Breath’, ‘Towards the Light’ and Mellotron.
It would have been a bonus although perhaps a little cliche, to have an additional collection of breath sounds, whispers and dedicated atonal recordings to perhaps further support the simulated Cluster effect, especially if horror and spooksville are your thing!
SonicCouture have overall done a good job here, with what is arguably a brave diversion from their more eclectic and experimental libraries, both terms I use with praise rather than offence in mind.
Accessibility levels are good, and they have immediately stepped up to the plate in order to address any shortfalls that are not directly attributable to the limitations of NKS.
All Saints Choir is certainly worth a closer look if you are seeking a solution that is something other than an off the shelf choral affair of epic proportions.
SonicCouture All Saints Choir can be purchased from the SonicCouture website, currently with a 30% Introductory Discount until May10th.
All Saints Choir – Product Page:
All Saints Choir Walkthrough with James:
Composer Hannah Peel Blog Featuring All Saints Choir:
(c) Chris Ankin
May 4th, 2020
The author accepts no responsibility for subsequent purchase decisions made as a result of this article,or Any inaccuracies found within this review. All opinions or product functions stated are based soly on information perceived as a blind user whilst using the product or gathered from official factual sources on the web or product manual.
About the Author
Chris Ankin has worked previously as a freelance review contributor with articles published in Sound On Sound, Home & Studio Recording and ST Format Magazines.