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Native Instruments Symphony Series String Ensemble Review

Discussion in 'REVIEWS (compensated & non-compensated)' started by Thorsten Meyer, Aug 11, 2017.

  1. Thorsten Meyer

    Thorsten Meyer Senior Member

    Native Instruments Symphony Series String Ensemble Review

    Native Instruments Symphony Series String Ensemble is a 60-piece string orchestra with a simple, intuitive interface allowing you to compose quicker. Native Instruments partnered with Audiobro to create Symphony Series String Ensemble. Audiobro is known for their leading virtual instrument libraries LA Scoring Strings and LA Drama Drums.


    Symphony Series String Ensemble has been recorded in a large orchestral studio in Budapest, Hungary to capture the full 60-piece string section with a beautifully ambient quality. Symphony Series String Ensemble is really easy to set up and use. One of the included key characteristics is the auto divisi feature which assists composer to create believable scores.

    Native Instruments offers different orchestra groups part of the Symphony Series. Orchestra groups available are Brass, Woodwinds, and Strings. For all products, you have a choice to buy an essential version at a lower price. Essential versions feature a reduced set of samples, microphone position, no legato, fewer articulations, and depending on the instrument section features like Auto Divisi in the Strings is not available. Native Instrument has not released yet percussion which is the fourth group in an orchestra.


    So how can LA Scoring Strings (LASS) and Symphony Series String Ensemble be positioned against each other? When it comes to setup and use I personally found LASS is a bit complicated to setup, for a beginner composer LASS would be overwhelming. There are many tutorials available, however, LASS is complicated to use. On the other hand Symphony Series String Ensemble is really easy to set up and use. The included auto divisi assist you to create believable scores.

    Auto Divisi
    Audiobro has delivered one of the key elements why this library highly appreciated and successful. Auto Divisi monitors your playing and distributes divisi parts appropriately between the number of players in a section. This key feature prevents you from increasing the number of players where the listener would know even without any musical training that the sound is somehow wrong. With Auto Divisi, you have an accurate and believable player count in your orchestra. With other libraries, if you play for example 2 notes at the same time you doubled the number of players. Auto Divisi allows you to manage that and have a more realistic sound.


    Microphones and Mixes

    String Ensemble gives four stereo mixes – close, mid, far, and stereo. Particular consideration was provided to the close mic mixes to deliver unique and meaningful sound.

    Symphony Series String Ensemble 60 PIECE STRING SECTION
    Symphony Series String Ensemble incorporates the four string instruments of an ensemble – violins, violas, cellos, and basses. The additional ensemble instrument combines all String Sections in one. Ensemble patches are great to sketch out a new theme. Later you would replace the Ensemble patch with the individual sections. Each of the covered section is provided with a comprehensive collection of articulations.


    Violin Sections (30 players)
    Violins I A & Violins I B - 8 players each
    Violins II A & Violins II B - 7 players each

    Viola Sections (12 players)
    Violas A & Violas B - 6 players each

    Cello Sections (10 players)
    Cellos A & Cellos B - 5 players each

    Bass Sections (8 players)
    Basses A & Basses B 4 players each

    Symphony Series String Ensemble articulations
    The included range of articulations is more than sufficient to generate powerful, emotive scores. Violins, violas, and cellos do lack Bartok, Marcato articulation.


    Symphony Series String Ensemble was released in November 2015 and is available here direct from Native Instruments


    Rating: Four dot five (4.5) out of five stars

    Symphony Series String Ensemble produces authentic re-creation of a full string ensemble at a moderate price for the extraordinary sound quality. All sections include True Divisi (key feature), true polyphonic legato, and portamento as one of the key features for realism. You can also play smaller section sizes. If you do follow the reviews usability is key and this library is easy to use.

    Areas of improvement: Other libraries provide more articulations, which you need to add through additional libraries from a different vendor.
  2. Silence-is-Golden

    Silence-is-Golden ^^

    Jun 9, 2015
  3. mouse

    mouse Senior Member

    Oct 20, 2016
    Lol more like a copy paste of the manual / release notes
    rottoy and Silence-is-Golden like this.
  4. Silence-is-Golden

    Silence-is-Golden ^^

    Jun 9, 2015
    exactly, with a link with which will help him financially......but the added value of the review is almost zilch.....
  5. mouse

    mouse Senior Member

    Oct 20, 2016
    Plus probably free copy of the library for a give second review
  6. mac

    mac Senior Member

    Mar 21, 2016
    In his defence, I don't think the link is an affiliate link, but yeah, not the best review on the net :D
  7. re-peat

    re-peat Senior Member

    Dec 12, 2004
    I wrote a few words on this library, a few weeks after I purchased it, for the little forum around the corner. Which means that everything that follows was written before any updates that might meanwhile have been released. (Never bothered with any update because shortly after this review was written, I moved the library onto my graveyard HD and I haven’t looked at it since. The NI Symphonic Series Brass met with the same fate, by the way.

    Anyway, here’s that 2015 review. Depending on the quality of the update(s), some of it might no longer be accurate — I certainly hope so, for everyone who purchased this — but lots of other remarks still stand, I fear.


    Since installing the NI Symphonic Series Strings, I haven’t been quite able to make up my mind regarding this library. The first few days, I was of the opinion that it was a major disappointment, then I started thinking “Wait, maybe this isn’t so bad after all”, but at the moment, I’ve drifted back to somewhere in between those two, be it much closer to my first impression. I can certainly see some points of attraction, but on the whole, I’ve ended up being much more of the opinion that this is, all things considered, a rather mediocre affair. Maybe: too much NI, too little Audiobro. The word ‘mediocre’ says it all really, when talking about these strings: mediocre sound, mediocre flexibility, mediocre performance ability, and mediocre software.

    It’s also quite difficult to see what NI/Audiobro hoped to achieve here and who they intended this library for, because, on the one hand, these strings don’t offer nowhere near enough in the way of articulations and timbral possibilities, to function as the sole string library in anyone’s template (unless your requirements are very basic), but at the same time, it’s also far from unique or special enough in how it sounds or what it is capable of, to appeal to those who already have a few potent string libraries.

    In other words, if you’re shopping around for your first string library, I really don’t think these strings make for a very wise choice at all, and if you are the happy owner of one or more decent libraries already, I see even less reason to consider adding these strings to your palette, because there’s very little here which you won’t be able to do already, and probably with better sounding results.

    But, it is certainly not all bad. For example, if all you ever require from sampled strings are slow-moving parts consisting of long, sustained notes, your opinion of these strings will probably be a lot more positive than mine is, because for that type of thing, these strings are quite good. (Not great, to my ears, but certainly acceptable.) And the AutoDivisi-feature, which works very well, really does help in avoiding that bulging, overpopulated and porridge-y sound which is invariably the unpleasant result when playing polyphonic parts with libraries that don’t allow for divisi (automated or otherwise). So, well done there.

    Less good news is that too many of the sustained samples do sound strangely flat (not in the tuning sense, but in the sonic sense) and lifeless. And that the more than sufficient dynamic range is mostly created by volume differentiation rather than by timbral differentiation. (The big ‘Dynamics’ knob in the centre of the interface is, alas, basically a volume-knob for 75% of its range. Sure, there are velocity layers, but too few for a truly serious string library.)

    So, as far as the sustains go, supportive lines are no problem at all, but despite considerable effort, I haven’t been able to make this library do a soaring lead melody that sounds alive, convincing and expressive.

    And if I may add one more thing: I find portamento one of the ugliest things in sampled strings for any interval exceeding half-a-note. I never liked LASS’s portamento (unless used only once every 24 bars in a piece) and I don’t like it here either. Considering everything which wasn’t sampled (but should have been), it’s a bit annoying that something of so little musical value as portamento did get so much attention.

    The other long articulations are not bad, though never a reason to press the Buy-button, in my opinion: the harmonics sound quite beautiful, yes, possibly even one of the nicer sounds in the package (as long as you stay in the upper ranges of the patches) and the trills and tremolos are adequate, but only that.

    On a much more positive note: the ‘Section Setup’ option is a very nice addition, in that it can turn this library effectively into several, distinctly different libraries, depending on which sections you activate. In other words, this is not only a symphonic strings library, but it can also be called to duty as a chamber-sized strings ensemble if you like.

    Which brings us to the short articulations. And, sadly, also to more problems. While the staccatos certainly have some use and the pizzicati are even surprisingly good, the spiccati (which I happen to consider a very important articulation in a string library, and also always the first thing I check) are unfortunately a different story. I am beginning to think that sampling a larger group of players, playing spiccato, must be one of the more difficult things to get right, because I know of only two or three libraries which include good spiccati — as in: musically useful and versatile, and good sounding. These Symphonic Series Strings are however not among them. What we have here, is alas the old and all too familiar, gritty tchak-tchak ‘sampled strings spiccato’ sound again: a disagreeable timbre that’s been part of mediocre string libraries ever since these appeared on the market. And even if this sound does occur when a sizeable string section is asked to play spiccato with some force, the fact is that, when sampled thoughtlessly, it invariably results in a very unpleasantly yapping and overly agressive articulation with which very little is possible. And not only that, but the problems of this particular sampled spiccati timbre also increase enormously as soon as you start layering a few sections, resulting in the sort of musical uglyness, typical of mock-ups, that not only shouts “we’re sampled” with every note that’s being played, but which also kills any hope you might have of injecting some subtlety, lightness, variety and/or delicate nuance in the performance.

    Here are two examples of what I consider very bad spiccato samples: (1) en (2).

    And talking about nuance and variety: all of these shorts are also painfully undersampled. As with the longs, there’s a very big dynamic range, but unfortunately most of that is achieved with volume alone, and much too little of it with timbre.
    Having said that, if brute and simplistic high-energy ostinati are your thing, these spiccati are not entirely without use.

    Finally, the software. And we’re still not at the end of our bad-news-reel I’m afraid. For starters, this is yet another library that is the prisoner of its scripts and its pre-wired functionality. Not surprising given the script-wizard people behind this project, but no less unpleasant a discovery nonetheless. I already spent some time ranting about this in the SA Jazz Horns review so I’m not going to do it again here, suffice to say that this puts me immediately in a very uncongenial mood when trying to do serious work with these strings.

    Why, for example, are important settings such as Expression, Attack and Release not linked to the keyswitches? If you’ve changed the attack of the sustains and then key-switch to staccato, you also have to reset the attack again, because, incomprehensibly, its setting always applies to the entire patch, rather than to the selected articulation. Really quite annoying and very distracting, in that it requires a whole lot of unnecessary ContinuousController-programming and a near-constant attention to check whether these settings match the selected articulation. This oversight alone makes the supposed convenience of the “all the articulations collected in single key-switch patches” instantly a completely ridiculous assumption.

    (By the way, why are the various articulations not available as separate patches? Surely, a library in this price category, should offer the option to work that way?)

    And why is there no way to disable to Modwheel dynamics from the short articulations, and simply allow access to their entire dynamic range through velocity alone? In itself this may not seem like the biggest of problems, but if you happen to work in a host like Logic, which is somewhat particular about the way it chases (or fails to chase) Continuous Controller-settings, this constant need to keep an eye on the setting of the Modwheel (or other assigned controllers) quickly becomes tiresome beyond words.

    If none of these complaints strike you as problematic, then I guess the software-side of this library gives little reason for criticism, as most everything is implemented with great care and, as far as I’ve been able to gather, performs mostly bug-free as well.

    But, in conclusion: unhappy. I really can’t think of any musical challenge requiring virtual strings that will make me reach for these strings before trying out all my other libraries first. Maybe the harmonics and the pizzicato might see some use in some of my work, but even that is higly unlikely.
    Considering the price and considering the teams who worked on this, this could, and should, have been really great string library, with a very unique sound and a feature-set that puts it firmly above the midrange of string libraries, but for some reason, which I can’t explain, this ended up being a very mediocre package the point of which — amongst today's other options which include several very decent libraries already — eludes me almost completely.

    rottoy likes this.
  8. rottoy

    rottoy Gentleman Scholar

    May 12, 2013
    I've always been curious about these strings, thanks for taking the time to write down your impressions.

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