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Cinematic Studio Strings vs. Spitfire Studio Strings Pro: My observations

gohrev

Newbie Composer
Scroll to the bottom of this post for a side-by-side comparison

Hi everyone,

earlier this week I purchased Cinematic Studio Strings, and boy.. am I glad I did :)
As a newbie to the sample scene, I bought the entire Spitfire Studio suite last year: Woodwinds, Brass and Strings. All Pro editions. I really like these libraries, especially as the Brass and Woodwinds library feature some of the rarer instruments.

But the Spitfire Studio Strings is a hit and miss. Now that I have a decent library to compare them with, I decided to turn my observations and comparisons into a little post. May it come handy for those still in doubt on which Strings library to buy.

Bear in mind that these are merely my personal observations and opinions, and I am by no means a professional.


Cinematic Studio Strings ~ €425 inc VAT

Overall characterWarm, classic
Overall toneDark, even a bit muffled
Overall 'vibe'Lush
Particularly suited forLong legato lines, classical composition
Not so suitable forAggressive articulations, modern composition
Best feature(s)Beautiful legato
Missing feature(s)Flautando, sul tasto, snappy shorts

Cinematic Studio Strings (CSS) sounds extremely musical, if that makes any sense. I would consider this my workhorse for most strings parts, as the legatos (both classic and advanced, the latter allowing for long, medium and short legatos) are just beautiful. Very realistic, warm sound. I particularly enjoy the ease of use for the CC1: It's cross-fading is very gradually, allowing for a smooth blending of dynamics.

CSS doesn't do short samples too well, I find the pizzicati to be laking in strength. The bartok snaps and col legno sound good, nothing wrong with them. The various microphones are OK, I have yet to discover their added value.

The samples are beautifully dry, and I appreciate how realistic the legato sounds. That is the one reason why I purchased this library, and I am very glad I did.


Spitfire Audio Studio Strings Pro ~ €450 inc VAT

Overall characterCool, modern
Overall toneCrisp, very close
Overall 'vibe'Sharp
Particularly suited forFilm music, suspense
Not so suitable forLong legato lines, a traditional big sound
Best feature(s)Clear short articulations
Missing feature(s)Good legatos, more variation in samples

Spitfire Studio Strings Pro (SStS) win in the category "alternative articulations". From whispering flautando to aggressive bartok snaps, and from brushed spiccato to long sul tasto. Just toying around with all of the quirky samples is really inspiring. I can see this library being a great tool for film composition. The ultra-clear recordings make it feel as if the violinist is sitting right next to you.

That said, legato is sadly a big miss. No matter what I tried, I just can't get it to sound right, let alone musical. The CC1 is extremely jumpy and it just doesn't feel intuitive. If you'd only use this library for its beautiful shorts, you'll be glad with the close microphones: Crystal-clear!

The samples are perfectly dry, so I could imagine the short articulations as a perfect supplement for CSS. But, one has to bear in mind that the crispness of sounds came at a cost: This library is not meant for long arcs.

So there you have it.. :)
Now that I come to the end of my post, I realise you can't really compare these two libraries. I never worked with Spitfire's Chamber Strings, but perhaps that would've been a fairer comparison in the end. One thing to keep in mind, is that SStS offers various ensemble sizes, like 16-8-4&4 (the last being divisi) for Violins I, and 12-6-3&3 for Violins II. Only four contrabassi seems to be a bit of an odd number, but the sound is still massive.

Yes, Spitfire's short articulations are truly a joy to experiment with, but chances are you won't be needing them that often. Another downside of SStS is the fact that many samples sound cut off, which results in a jumpy start. This is particularly audible in the lower registers of the 1st and 2nd Violins.

For those looking to write beautiful legato lines for strings, I wouldn't hesitate to say: Get CSS, you won't regret it!

Below you'll find a side by side comparison table.

Cinematic Studio Strings (CSS)Spitfire Audio Studio Strings Pro (SStS)
Price€425€450
CharacterWarm, classicCool, modern
ToneDark, even a bit muffledCrisp, very close
VibeLushSharp
Suited forLong legato lines, classical compositionFilm music, suspense
Not suited forAggressive articulations, modern Long legato, traditional big sound
Best featuresBeautiful legatoClear short articulations
Missing Flautando, sul tasto, snappy shortsGood legatos, more variation samples
 

ProfoundSilence

Senior Member

ism

Senior Member
Sounds like CSS is the right library for you. And I think your overall comparison is quite good.

However, I'd also argue that it's a comparison is made largely on CSS's terms.

I think I know what you mean in characterizing StSS as "cool, modern" and "sharp". But I think this misses something, and perhaps comes from an excessively direct comparison to only the strengths CSS.

But it's also the there are very different design philosophies behind each libs, which (grossly simplifying) I'd sketch as


CSS: "absolutely nail a relatively homogenous sound, high romantic hollywood studio sound with superb legato"

StSS: "deliver pretty good legato, but create a larger palette of sounds for an overall rich sonic palette"



Obviously, CSS legatos are technically superior, and certainly much better for high romantic legato lines.


But I'd argue that (within their obvious limitations compared to CSS) StSS does a very different type of legato line that CSS can't touch. I'm not quite sure how to describe it, it's somehow got a very differently lyrical quality. A different sense of motion and momentum and yearning. It isn't that I don't love the CSS high romantic sound, its just that I was looking for something quite different. And while I'd struggle to put into word precisely, whatever this StSS quality is, it's entirely different. You definitely have to work to it's strengths though , and these strengths are definitely not the soaring high romantic studio legato of CSS. Which suits me well.

And there is a "shapness" to it, which I think comes from the dryness, as well as the overall aesthetic of the recordings. And yet there's a lot of soft and lyrical dimension that you can get from this, for instance

- all of the long flautando, con sort, 1/2 con sort, sul tasto etc patches add all kinds of additional colours. Not helpful in a soaring high romantic lead line, but they enormously add colours to the palette that CSS isn't going to help you with.

- The soft dynamic layer of StSS is absolutely gorgeous, and with that wonderful Spitfire sense of texture. I often mess around with the levels to bring these textural qualities of the p layer out, perhaps a little more that is strictly "realistic" in a "natural" mix. I think of it as a "neo-classical" quality. It's quite beautiful, and just a little bit messy, in true Spitfire style.

- More impressionistically, there's something about the legatos that really convey a certain type of flow and momentum, which has a wonderful lyrical quality if you can write a line that takes advantage of this quality. Especially when you crank up the levels a bit and really bring out the texture of the p layer. It's taken me time to get my head around how to work with it, and I'm still not completely sure how to describe it. But it's a lyrical quality that no other library I have can touch, and that I'm quite certain you're not going to remotely approach with CSS.

- Another dimension to the "sharpness" is something that I came to understand with LCO. LCO is itself not only dry, but has it's own style of micro tuning. But here is one of the (many) fascinating things about LCO. Dryness + microtuneing + highly textural articulations really make it good for harshness and horror and dissonance. Which about half of the demos showcase, and this is a form of "sharpness" that holds absolutely no interest for me.

But with careful reverb, and a bit of care in orchestration, and maybe a certain type of crafting of your lines, these same qualities of the dry crispness and the micro tuning can also be used to give it a wonderful warmth. Someone on another thread suggested that it analogous to the way giving synth a bit of detuning creates a chorus effect, that rather that dissonance, can be experienced as richness and warmth.

Well, I'd argue that there's a similar effect with StSS. One interesting thing I've found is to put a great big (Valhalla Room) cathedral reverb on it. Then play with the early reflections. It's actually not a particularly dry library, it has lots of short reflections, it's just that it's not a room that has an intrinsically nice room tone without long reflections. What it does have, though, enough short reflections what when you add a long tail reverb it sounds wonderful (I personally don't believe that short reflections can be satisfying simulated, so I would make a very big distinction between StSS from a properly dry library like VSL or Chris Hein).

But from there you can play with the early reflections on the reverb, and you get very different qualities from this, and it can make a very big different to how cool vs warm it sounds


So it's certainly true that for your high-romantic soaring legato lines with a homogenous studio vibe, StSS is at best going to give you a pale imitation of the glories of CSS.


But I bought it precisely for this reason. CSS trying to reach towards the various lyrical, warm, expansive musical palettes that StSS can get you to is going to be, if anything, an even a paler immitation.

Moral of the story, as usual, you can really never own too many string libraries. And maybe also that I've found that the sonic palette of Spitfire libs have been consistently been the most surprising and fun libs to explore. And while it's obviously not everyone's thing, I think they should be recognized more for their willingness for providing this kind of depth and expansiveness over homogeneity and instant gratification.

That said, really looking forward to picking up CSS at some point also.
 
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Ashermusic

Senior Member
I don't own Spitfire Studio Strings Pro so I cannot compare the two, but my guess is the legatos can be convincing in the right hands. What I can say for sure is that CSS shorts can be convincing in the right hands.
 

bbunker

Senior Member
Just thought I'd chime in with my:

CSS doesn't do snappy shorts, are you out of your mind? Compared to StSS it doesn't do shorts? StSS has 'better' shorts? StSS, with its viola spiccatos that are half as quick off the bow - THOSE are the good shorts???

You're doing something wrong.

OK. Had to say it.
 

ism

Senior Member
Yes, I think the OP has perhaps not fully explored the CSS shorts, they're clearly more comprehensive that StSS.
 

ProfoundSilence

Senior Member
Just thought I'd chime in with my:

CSS doesn't do snappy shorts, are you out of your mind? Compared to StSS it doesn't do shorts? StSS has 'better' shorts? StSS, with its viola spiccatos that are half as quick off the bow - THOSE are the good shorts???

You're doing something wrong.

OK. Had to say it.
maybe he had cc1 up the whole time LOL

I honestly don't know what berlin87 was thinking
 

bbunker

Senior Member
I mean there's a lot of strengths I'll yield to any library as a matter of interpretation, but that CSS's shorts are not objectively better than StSS is a hill I will gladly die seven deaths upon
 

MilesAbbott

Member
maybe he had cc1 up the whole time LOL

I honestly don't know what berlin87 was thinking

Could you elaborate on the cc1 part of your comment? I'm just curious because I've written some shorts with CSS recently and haven't found a need to touch the dynamics at all. I merely change velocities for certain accented notes; otherwise, changing articulations is all I need to do. I've not heard of people employing cc1 on shorts before (I am new to all of this as well, so maybe that is why).

I'm basically just wondering if using cc1 on shorts is something people normally do and what possible benefits there might be.
 

bbunker

Senior Member
Could you elaborate on the cc1 part of your comment? I'm just curious because I've written some shorts with CSS recently and haven't found a need to touch the dynamics at all. I merely change velocities for certain accented notes; otherwise, changing articulations is all I need to do. I've not heard of people employing cc1 on shorts before (I am new to all of this as well, so maybe that is why).

I'm basically just wondering if using cc1 on shorts is something people normally do and what possible benefits there might be.

CC1 doesn't affect velocity or dynamics in CSS, it controls the type of short articulation. CC1 up all the way would be Sfz attacks, down would be spiccato, and velocity determines the dynamics.
 
OP
gohrev

gohrev

Newbie Composer
Thread starter
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I absolutely don't mind to stand corrected :) I may not have given the shorts in CSS enough attention, or perhaps I stared myself blind on its excellent legato. Either way, this definitely calls for more exploration from my side.

A special shoutout to @ism for his thorough review / experiences with SStS - if I didn't own it myself, I'd be persuaded to give it a try :) One thing I am curious about, is a good example of great-sounding SStS legatos.
 

MilesAbbott

Member
CC1 doesn't affect velocity or dynamics in CSS, it controls the type of short articulation. CC1 up all the way would be Sfz attacks, down would be spiccato, and velocity determines the dynamics.

Ah ok, thanks. I've been changing articulations with keyswitches so I didn't realize that.
 

shomynik

Active Member
Could you elaborate on the cc1 part of your comment? I'm just curious because I've written some shorts with CSS recently and haven't found a need to touch the dynamics at all. I merely change velocities for certain accented notes; otherwise, changing articulations is all I need to do. I've not heard of people employing cc1 on shorts before (I am new to all of this as well, so maybe that is why).

I'm basically just wondering if using cc1 on shorts is something people normally do and what possible benefits there might be.

In CSS CC1 is set for changing the 4 different lenght versions of the shorts. One of the strenghts of the library for sure.
 
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