Constrictor Cinematic Tension Strings By Audio Imperia
Audio Imperia are back with their latest library, offering a veritable spooky graveyard packed full of unnatural and disturbing orchestral string articulations, which are almost guaranteed to send a tingle down both you and your audiences spine!
The summer is well and truly upon us, and as the mercury rises, right on cue it also heralds the time of year when film & media composers generally begin to receive those spooky soundtrack and music projects for the forthcoming Halloween season.
The team behind Audio Imperia are made up of a collective of professional composers and media creative’s, and will I’m sure be well aware of this, so Constrictor Cinematic Tension Strings seems ideally placed to take advantage of a desire for what the uninitiated may otherwise consider to be a somewhat niche market.
Suspense, drama, tension, thrills, jumps & scares are all now very big business, so the demand for a tensions string library might not quite be as niche as first imagined.
Setting The Tone
Constrictor was recorded with Budapest Scoring at the Rottenbiller recording stage, and features in excess of 400 articulations which encompass many unusual string techniques that are seldom to be found within most standard orchestral sample libraries.
Constrictors traditionally seated string sections consist of 10 Violins, 4 Violas, 4 Cello & 3 Double Basses all uniting to dish out the terror in their separately sampled groups.
The result is a whopping 30GB of content, which even exceeds Nucleus, Audio Imperia’s fully loaded orchestral sample library, and as such it seems evident that Constrictor is likely to cover everything you should ever need in a product of this genre.
Constrictor runs in either Kontakt 6.1 and above or the equivalent free Kontakt Player, and is NKS compatible with Komplete Kontrol.
The library Occupies around 30GB of disk space, compressed in NCW format from it’s original 70 plus GB.
Constrictor uses Kontakt NKI files as it’s preset source, and I counted 416 of these. There is also a folder containing Kontakt NKM multi files, of which there are 31.
Download & Installation
Constrictor can be downloaded directly via Native Access after registering your post purchase authorisation number.
It is then a simple case of selecting ‘Install’ from the ‘Not Installed’ tab, and waiting for the 30GB installation to complete (do ensure that you have ample space in both your temporary download location, and also the ultimate resting place for the library.
Following completion, Constrictor will quickly be scanned into Komplete Kontrol after it’s next launch, and the creation of your audible nightmares can then begin!
Plug-In Edit & NKS Parameter Mapping
Page One – Controllers
Knob 1 – Dynamics (expressed as a percentage)
Knob 2 – Dynamics Range (expressed as a percentage)
Knob 3 – Expression (expressed as a percentage)
Knob 4 – Sample Start (expressed in ms)
Knob 5 – Tightness On/Off
Knob 6 to 8 – Unallocated
Page Two – Reverb
Knob 1 – Reverb On/Off
Knob 2 – Pre-Delay (expressed as ms)
Knob 3 – Time (expressed in ms)
Knob 4 – Amount (expressed as a percentage)
Knob 5 – Algorithm (Room or Hall)
Knob 6 to 8 – Unallocated
Page Three – Velocity Curve, Transpose, Range & Envelope
Knob 1 – Velocity Curve On/Off
Knob 2 – Velocity Shape (expressed as a percentage)
Knob 3 – Transpose On/Off
Knob 4 – Range On/Off
Knob 5 – Attack (expressed in ms)
Knob 6 – Decay (expressed in ms)
Knob 7 – Sustain (expressed in dB)
Knob 8 – Release (expressed in ms)
Constrictor, along with most other now updated existing Audio Imperia orchestral libraries, now uses Pyramid, the name given to Audio Imperia’s bespoke Kontakt engine.
For sighted users, this is a great idea, as the concept of having a single user interface unified between libraries makes for a seamless workflow when transitioning between them.
This premise, at least on paper could equally have worked for us as blind users, provided that the implementation had been fully realised from the outset.
Unfortunately in this respect there are still some un addressed issues which are remaining hangovers from the previous interface, which continue to somewhat curtail our fully accessible use of the Audio Imperia product line.
Most notably is access to the four available microphone positions, and also our ability to switch between the provided Classic & Modern mixes, which remain as a mouse driven GUI option.
The Instrument range extension and transposition tools also appear to be similarly out of reach, although there are On/Off toggle switches for both of these via the NKS map, so it’s kind of half accessible.
Perhaps of less importance is the continued and slightly peculiar approach of prefixing the name of each preset with the library title.
This may sound overly finicky, but as blind users we do rely quite heavily on text to speech feedback to navigate and browse through our presets.
The additional time taken to announce the word ‘Constrictor’ before discovering what the actual preset is, can rapidly become irksome when there are over 400 presets to wade through.
I have to confess that I often suggest that people should perhaps rely on their ears more, so as a workaround to this preset frustration, it could be a good approach to turn off your Komplete Kontrol preset speech announcements, and singularly use the pre-hear audio sounds as a method of discovering the content of a preset, which should speed up workflow.
After examining the parameters that have been made available for automation in Kontakt outside of Komplete Kontrol, this did not reveal any hidden treasure.
There were however quite a lot of assignable additional midi controls much further down the parameter list beyond the initial instrument sound controls.
With these accessibility considerations put aside, we can now relax and checkout the dark and shadowy land of Constrictor with it’s bountiful selection of presets.
There are certainly lots of unique and distinctive articulations to be found within this library. Sustains, Cluster Sustains, Tonal Shorts, Harmonic Clusters, Atonal Shorts, Cluster Runs, Risers, Downers, Arco Cluster Sustains, Cluster Stabs, Random Stabs, Various Tremolos, Trills, Sul Ponti, Pizzicato Variations, Scratches, articulation transitions and bar based presets are all here, and I am not joking when I say that this is only listing the tip of the iceberg in terms of content variation, all duplicated separately for the Basses, Cello, Viola & Violin sections, as there are no ensemble patches as such within Constrictor, unless you include the added and very welcome Kontakt multi NKM presets.
There are a number of presets that mention musical bar lengths , however as the samples are not tempo synced, and the core tempo is not mentioned, using these to precisely hit a cue point for us may take a bit of experimentation.
When a library contains any time and duration based presets, it’s useful if there is some form of time stretch and tempo algorithm included within the engine to enable media composers to quickly hit important onscreen cues. It could be that there is something within the GUI that facilitates this, but I was unable to find any mention of it’s existence.
Dark Pleasures & Hidden Treasures
There are definitely some interesting gems among the plethora of content, I particularly enjoyed the Basses ‘Skin Crawlers’ preset, which has a long bowed bass sustain that can transition to a scratchy tremolo when the modwheel is moved up, and this is perfect for introducing some much needed unsettling tension and malice into a score.
Also noteworthy are the ‘random stabs’ presets, which as the title suggest, continuously rotate the samples via round robins of a Bernard Herrmann style Psycho string stab, the absence of which in a product of this nature would of course been quite unforgivable!
I would certainly suggest making frequent and judicious use of the Komplete Kontrol favourites button when you first explore and subsequently go on to create work with Constrictor.
It can be quite time consuming and unwieldy wading through the hundreds of sounds to locate the exact one you remember hearing two days ago, which could possibly now work really well in the horror score that has just landed in your inbox!
Audio Imperia stalwarts will be pleased to know that the famous sample offset feature is still retained within the Pyramid engine.
If you are not familiar with this feature, it essentially moves the sample start time backwards by 1.25ms (or an amount of your choosing), this results in the retention of the natural transients that many developers will slice from the sample start in an effort to tighten up overall playability.
Audio Imperia get around this by providing a tighten control to enable the user to comfortably temporarily work with the samples during the recording process.
Turning off the tightness post recording to add back the pre-attack can result in the timing being out of sync, however you can then use your DAW track offset to compensate for this delay by an equal amount.
This will once again put things back in sync, but will now include the natural goodness of that pre-attack audio, and at the same time add a layer of additional realism.
I can fully appreciate the ergonomic challenges involved in tagging and categorizing a vast and largely atonal library such as Constrictor, expediating the process of preset selection is not an easy task for a developer to solve.
Likewise for the user, searching for the precise articulation you can hear in your head when trying to meet a deadline can be a challenge.
To this end, certainly via Komplete Kontrol at least, more could perhaps have been achieved within the Komplete Kontrol browser tagging to help whittle this down a little more.
Currently, there are no banks, it only has ‘Bowed Strings’ followed by the four instrument types, as well as only Sample Based, Risers & Stabs & Hits in the character section, this makes the filtering options quite sparse.
Some presets do have keyswitched articulations within them, which are generally located one octave up from the bottom of the keyboard. For sighted users these will be flagged with colour coded lights on the keyboard to indicate their existence, for us there is an element of chance in picking one, but when found they do offer a rewarding and extended selection of articulations with which to further explore.
Audio Imperia Constrictor Cinematic Tension Strings is without any shadow of a doubt an extremely comprehensive and unrivalled collection of tension string articulations.
If you have the need for such a scary beast in your composition collection, then it will almost certainly serve you very well indeed in attaining those essential textures.
The quality of the sounds are rich and dynamic, full of the tension, suspense, menace and scary frights that the label on the tin promises.
When combined with some underlying impactful percussion, they will be sure to do their job admirably and deliver frights to your intended audience.
In terms of access for us as blind users, the inaccessibility of the microphone and mix controls continue to be a frustration, but perhaps to a less degree than Audio Imperia’s other more traditional orchestral products, however I feel it does remain on the face of it a somewhat unnecessary restriction that could be looked at in an update, which in return would gain a good deal of customer appreciation and attract a wider user base.
Constrictor Cinematic Tension Strings By Audio Imperia can be purchased from their web site.
At the time of review publication the introductory price is $179.00 (regular $249.00)
Constrictor – Product Page:
Audio Imperia Constrictor Walkthrough:
Audio Imperia – Constrictor Only:
Sample Library Review – Writing Horror Music With Constrictor:
Audio Imperia – Pyramid Engine (Web Based Help Guide):
(c) Chris Ankin
28th July 2022
The author can not accept any responsibility for subsequent purchase decisions made as a result of this review,or Any inaccuracies found therein. All opinions and product functions stated are based solely on information perceived as a blind user whilst using the product and/or gathered from official factual sources such as the developer, web or supplied product manual.
About the Author
Based in Buckinghamshire, England, Chris Ankin has worked previously as a freelance review author and contributor with articles published in Sound On Sound, Home & Studio Recording and ST Format Magazines.
He has also worked extensively in, and been associated with music, recording, film Soundtrack, Game & media, the creative arts, publishing and investments since 1982 under his own name and various other pseudonyms.