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Best Solo Cello?

Dex

Member
For emotional cello, I wonder if perhaps some saturation or distortion and maybe some room emulation might change the overly smooth parts that end up sounding synth...I haven’t gone back into it in a while, but it definitely is one that provides the most expressive playing options, at the expense of a truly sampled instrument’s sound.
It’s got a lot of saturation and reverb on by default.
 

ism

Senior Member
Another voter for Virharmonic. It has a gorgeous sound and I think they really hit on something with the bowing control. It's easy to play out of the box and very expressive but when you start to gain more facility and fluency with the forced key switches, you can get even more control and detail.

I love the Bohemian cello also, for some things.

But thinking about this a bit, I think it might be useful to tease about the multiple senses in which the notion of "expressiveness" is being used here.

So to my distinction of the above extremes of approach:

Spitfire: "Uncompromising sonority with as much expressiveness as possible without compromising the sonority"

CH: "Uncompromising expressiveness with as much sonority as possible without compromising the expressiveness"


Let me add a third:

Virharmonic: "On allow lines in which you get both expressiveness and sonority".

Vir Harmonic is quite explicit, for instance, that they're unwilling to sacrifice the sound quality that comes with even basic crossading. So except for the legato, there is no crossfading to be found between dyanmic layers or vibrato, all expressiveness in dynamics and vibrato is baked into the samples right from the start.

If you play, for instance the pp dimenuendo arc on the Bohemian cello, its one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. But like all design decisions, it comes at a cost.


And this diminuendo arc lasts for something like 13 seconds. Which is an extreme example, because once you hit the key to start the arc, you no longer have any control on the expressiveness. At the most extreme, it feels like you've triggered a loop.

After playing with the spitfire cello (and the kinds of arcs its lets you craft) it can be incredibly painful to switch to the Bohemian, as you feel you're being railroaded into a very small set of possible expressiveness(es). Of course the reverse is also true, after writing lines of languid, slowly evolving progressive legato on the Bohemian cello, adapting to the kinds of arcs the roughness of the transitions on the Spitfire cello make it suited for can be equally painful.

So in achieving the sublimely beautiful expressiveness of the arcs baked into the samples , you (necessarily) also loose a lot of expressiveness in the ability to craft phrases.

The danger of this is that the phrasing being baked into the samples, when it doesn't quite coordinate with the phrasing of the rest of the composition it can also break the illusion and fall off the cliff ... though not into 'synthyness' in the way that CH or EC do.

The way I'd describe the effect is that there's a kind of uncanniness. Which I think is also what bothers me about the approaches of CH and EC - its not that it sound bad, its just that one minute it sounds like at pristinely beautiful cello, then the next we have even just a touch of 'synthiness' that ... in some way that you can't quite put your finger on ... breaks the illusion. And the danger is that you enter a kind of uncanny valley.

(Compare this to the bumpiness in the Spitfire cello. These can sound unrealistic, but to my ear its more like there's a problem with your speakers, so it's not that these artifact are necessarily more 'realistic' so much as less uncanny in the unrealism - just a theory)

And this is how I feel about certain user demos with the Bohemian instruments ... except at the level of phrasing. With the Bohemian you always hear a pristinely smooth and beautiful cello performance. But unless you've planned it carefully, very often the phrasing you get isn't quite in sync with the rest of the composition.

Yet unless you put on your analytical hat and really dig into why the phrasing isn't quite properly idiomatic in the context of the surrounding composition, then you get a pristinely beautiful cello, played with a phrasing that just isn't quite right ... and often just not quite right in a way that (unless you're a cello player able to analyze idiomatic phrasing) you can't necessarily quite put your finger on. With can also lead to a kind of uncanniness, though at the level of phrasing rather than sound.

That said, the Bohemian Cello has superb legato scripting, and the possibility of considerable manual control via key switching ... except that so far as I know no one actually uses it, as the plonkabilty arising from the virtual performer seems to be a major selling point (and it certainly provides a great deal of instant gratification). My own efforts at craft more idiomatic phrasing with keyswitches have been frustrated by a bug that causes UVI to crash when you use certain keyswitches in combination - although I've just got a fix from Alex, so I remain optimistic about squeezing better idiomatic performability out of this instrument.


So my point is that we're using the notion of 'expressiveness' in a number of distinct sense here.

All valid, but worth distinguishing.
 
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Raphioli

Active Member
Since the existing ones I like have already been mentioned,
I'd like to name one which I'm hoping its under development or at least being planned.
Which would be from Performance Samples.

They have a solo series called Solo of the Sea. So I'm hoping they're developing a solo cello lib.
 

ism

Senior Member
They have a solo series called Solo of the Sea. So I'm hoping they're developing a solo cello lib.


I'm excited for this one also. But assuming it's the same as violin, it will be a single dynamic layer, with (I believe) no control over vibrato.

The expressiveness in this approach seems to arise largely from amazing quality of the legato, and the sense of 'flow' that it delivers'.

I also think that single purpose cello libraries tend to be more sensitive to the baked dyanmics of the arcs (think Tina Guo vol 1) than similar violin libs, so I'm curious to see how this works.
 
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nas

Active Member
I love the Bohemian cello also, for some things.

But thinking about this a bit, I think it might be useful to tease about the multiple senses in which the notion of "expressiveness" is being used here.

So to my distinction of the above extremes of approach:

Spitfire: "Uncompromising sonority with as much expressiveness as possible without compromising the sonority"

CH: "Uncompromising expressiveness with as much sonority as possible without compromising the expressiveness"


Let me add a third:

Virharmonic: "On allow lines in which you get both expressiveness and sonority".

Vir Harmonic is quite explicit, for instance, that they're unwilling to sacrifice the sound quality that comes with even basic crossading. So except for the legato, there is no crossfading to be found between dyanmic layers or vibrato, all expressiveness in dynamics and vibrato is baked into the samples right from the start.

If you play, for instance the pp dimenuendo arc on the Bohemian cello, its one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. But like all design decisions, it comes at a cost.


And this diminuendo arc lasts for something like 13 seconds. Which is an extreme example, because once you hit the key to start the arc, you no longer have any control on the expressiveness. At the most extreme, it feels like you've triggered a loop.

After playing with the spitfire cello (and the kinds of arcs its lets you craft) it can be incredibly painful to switch to the Bohemian, as you feel you're being railroaded into a very small set of possible expressiveness(es). Of course the reverse is also true, after writing lines of languid, slowly evolving progressive legato on the Bohemian cello, adapting to the kinds of arcs the roughness of the transitions on the Spitfire cello make it suited for can be equally painful.

So in achieving the sublimely beautiful expressiveness of the arcs baked into the samples , you (necessarily) also loose a lot of expressiveness in the ability to craft phrases.

The danger of this is that the phrasing being baked into the samples, when it doesn't quite coordinate with the phrasing of the rest of the composition it can also break the illusion and fall off the cliff ... though not into 'synthyness' in the way that CH or EC do.

The way I'd describe the effect is that there's a kind of uncanniness. Which I think is also what bothers me about the approaches of CH and EC - its not that it sound bad, its just that one minute it sounds like at pristinely beautiful cello, then the next we have even just a touch of 'synthiness' that ... in some way that you can't quite put your finger on ... breaks the illusion. And the danger is that you enter a kind of uncanny valley.

(Compare this to the bumpiness in the Spitfire cello. These can sound unrealistic, but to my ear its more like there's a problem with your speakers, so it's not that these artifact are necessarily more 'realistic' so much as less uncanny in the unrealism - just a theory)

And this is how I feel about certain user demos with the Bohemian instruments ... except at the level of phrasing. With the Bohemian you always hear a pristinely smooth and beautiful cello performance. But unless you've planned it carefully, very often the phrasing you get isn't quite in sync with the rest of the composition.

Yet unless you put on your analytical hat and really dig into why the phrasing isn't quite properly idiomatic in the context of the surrounding composition, then you get a pristinely beautiful cello, played with a phrasing that just isn't quite right ... and often just not quite right in a way that (unless you're a cello player able to analyze idiomatic phrasing) you can't necessarily quite put your finger on. With can also lead to a kind of uncanniness, though at the level of phrasing rather than sound.

That said, the Bohemian Cello has superb legato scripting, and the possibility of considerable manual control via key switching ... except that so far as I know no one actually uses it, as the plonkabilty arising from the virtual performer seems to be a major selling point (and it certainly provides a great deal of instant gratification). My own efforts at craft more idiomatic phrasing with keyswitches have been frustrated by a bug that causes UVI to crash when you use certain keyswitches in combination - although I've just got a fix from Alex, so I remain optimistic about squeezing better idiomatic performability out of this instrument.


So my point is that we're using the notion of 'expressiveness' in a number of distinct sense here.

All valid, but worth distinguishing.

Good post and I agree with you. I found for example that the bumpiness of some of the swells in Bohemian Cello could get distracting and sometimes difficult to sit in a phrase at certain tempos, however, some of the forced key switches can help to alleviate some of that quirkiness.

Unfortunately there really is no one-size fits all with these libraries... especially with strings and solo strings, and as such it's also somewhat constraining to have to write for the samples and play to the strengths while trying to diminish or conceal any weaknesses. But this is how it's pretty much been with every sample library I've owned. Truth be told, in the case of a solo instrument, once I've mocked it up I'll usually go out and hire a soloist to come in and play the lines and breath life into it.
 

jtnyc

Senior Member
For emotional cello, I wonder if perhaps some saturation or distortion and maybe some room emulation might change the overly smooth parts that end up sounding synth...I haven’t gone back into it in a while, but it definitely is one that provides the most expressive playing options, at the expense of a truly sampled instrument’s sound.
One thing you can try is turning off the timbre in the effects section. It tends to really smooth things out. As already mentioned there is already saturation on it. You can of coarse increase that. I have the timbre off, the saturation on, the room reverb on, but turned down from where they set it and the hall reverb turned off. I use my own for a tail.

I'm generally happier with the timbre off. You get more of the string grit and a much more present tone overall. I tried the same with Emotional Violin, but it almost needs the timbre impulses. Without it it tends to sound quite thin and very whiney in the 2k range. There is no saturation in EV. That may be worth trying out as I'm still not knocked out over the general tone of EV.
 

Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
Of all of VSL's solo strings, the cello is the one that I have had the least trouble coaxing into musical results in all genres and articulations. I love the solo violin and viola as well, but I still have some trouble spots that I haven't gotten past, and so I continue to compare to other choices now and then.

I recently sold some other solo strings that are popular here, because after many hours with them, I just couldn't match the expressivity and phrasing of VSL. I could get somewhat close to the timbre, with Chris Hein (which I kept), and a bit with Embertone as well (or even Fluffy). VSL has the most articulations though.

I have come close to buying Emotional Cello and Violin a few times, but hesitate after reading and hearing some of the permanent limitations (sorry, my memory isn't good enough to detail what is missing -- maybe release samples?). Many of those demos do sound very good to me.

Before I got more proficient at making use of VSL matrices and presets, I had been using the solo cello from EWQL Orchestra for a few years. Now, it grates on me, as I'm used to more modulation on held notes that what I am personally able to achieve with that library. It does have a nice timbre though.
 
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Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
Funny thing about the Bohemian stuff: I can't use it! I think I'm going to have to make room on my small SSD by kicking something else to the curb; surely that is why it doesn't work on my computer? It hiccups and stalls constantly!
 
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miket

Senior Member
For a few months now, their site has been displaying something along the lines of: "We dropped the price of our solo strings to 99 bucks in anticipation of a large update."

I really hope that's it.
I emailed them about this a while ago, and unfortunately, it's just a planned scripting update to the solo strings. No new instruments or new sample content. I'm sure it'll be a great update, but....
 

ism

Senior Member
I emailed them about this a while ago, and unfortunately, it's just a planned scripting update to the solo strings. No new instruments or new sample content. I'm sure it'll be a great update, but....
That's a pity, as what they're sorely missing is dynamic layers (at least the cello and violin, unless you find the eq modelling convincing, which I don't).

There was a post here involving both Embertone and Blakus noting that they actually had recorded new samples for the cello (but also that Blakus had himself lost interest). The cello is oldest and weakest in ISS. So hopefully 'major update' is more that script tweaking'.
 
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