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Freyja & Wotan – Review, User Tips & Lord of the Rings & Hobbit mock-ups

Snarf

Active Member
Hello everyone! I recently picked up Strezov Sampling’s Freyja and Wotan. So far, I think they’re great (spoilers) and wanted to leave a review to ‘return the favour’ to the people on VI-Control, as they’ve been a very good resource for me in the past. So without further ado, here goes!

Some preliminary points:

  • I created this review (and the mock-ups) in a hurry because the 40% off sale for Freyja is nearly over. Please excuse the rough edges (both in my writings and in the music)!

  • While this review is for both Wotan and Freyja (given that they are complimentary libraries), the features are not completely consistent across both libraries. I’ll mark these differences with [Wotan] & [Freyja] when talking about library specific features.

  • I’m not going to go over every detail from the manual or walkthrough videos, I will focus on the stronger points, some user tips and weaker points with some suggestions for Strezov Sampling to improve the library.


The strong points:


  • First of all, the tone and timbre of these libraries is absolutely gorgeous! I am in love with the sound of it, especially the lower dynamics sound. The mic selection (close, decca, hall) is well balanced and simple. The result is that both libraries are about 10 gb in size. The main syllabuilder patches require around 1,5-1,75 gb of RAM (all mics). The legato patches use only about 300 mb.

  • Although there is no video about it, there are new performance patches and they are pretty good for getting instant results. The ability to split/layer/overlay the different choirs is well thought out too. It works exactly like the one for Storm Choir Ultimate:


  • The dynamic range (from piano to forte) is feels very wide and the crossfading is very smooth. Like I said, the lower dynamics are beautiful! The higher end of the dynamics, while not particularly suited to ‘epic’ molto vibrato FFF styles of music (since that is not its intended purpose - Strezov has Stormchoir Ultimate for that) can definitely work in an epic context. Especially Freyja. Here’s an example from the Thomas Bergersen which heavily features Freyja. Except for the staccato choir near the end, all the legato passages (Mm, Ah) and syllable ‘lyrics’ near the middle are from Freyja:


    And here’s my (attempted) playing of the same line:

  • [Wotan] The inclusion of shouts and whispers in the main syllabuilder patches at the extreme ends of the velocity spectrum (adjustable) is pretty clever. Cuts down track count :)

  • The polyphonic legato patches are awesome. They just work! I couldn’t stop playing around with them after opening them up.

User tips:

  • Take the time to learn how the syllabuilder patches work. There are some shortcuts for group editing/removing syllables etc. in the manual (read it - it’s pretty short!).
    Shift + left mouse click allows you to edit multiple syllables at the same time.

  • I think the best workflow (in my limited experience) is sketching things out with the performance patch for getting ideas out quickly, and then moving the midi to the syllabuilder patches for more control. The performance patch works pretty well so you might be able to leave it in from time to time. You can also make your own performance patches by layering staccato’s and sustains, either in Kontakt or in your DAW on separate tracks. I tested this out in the Moria/Journey In the Dark mock-up.

  • [Syllabuilder patches] Play around with the midi end times to get smoother phrasing; midi-off triggers the release samples which sometimes contain a relatively lengthy consonant, like the -k in ‘Chak’.

  • [SB patches] While the amount of syllables (8) might seem a little low, I haven’t found this to be a problem. I think it’s less noticeable if you leave out/lower the amount of the ‘chak’ syllables, since the ‘ch’ and ‘k’ consonants are very distinct. You can also create ‘new’ syllables by combining two (or more) into a morphing sound.

  • [SB patches] It is absolutely worth tinkering a little bit with the attack, release, volume and offset values to turn up/down a loud vowel sound or to create smoother crossfades when morphing syllables etc.

  • Make a little folder somewhere to save all your lyrics for the syllabuilder patches, so you don’t have to type them again in the other sections of the choir.

  • At the lower dynamics, you can pretty much just leave the modwheel/cc1 at zero and use cc11 for creating realism. You shouldn’t overdo the automation because the library is quite musical in and of itself. In fact, some of the little mock-ups below are done with very minimal modwheel and expression data.

  • When doing monophonic lines with the legato patches, keep in mind that they are polyphonic! This means that you’ll have to be quick in releasing the keys after playing a new note, otherwise the last note will continue to sound. Depending on your playing skills, it might be worth getting into the midi editor and trimming the note-ends so that they overlap only slightly.

  • Keep in mind the internal reverb is turned on by default on all patches. Sometimes this is not immediately obvious as it’s not on the main page for the syllabuilder patches. I would recommend saving some new patches or snapshots.

Weaker points & some suggestions for Strezov Sampling

  • A keyswitch patch with all the legato types (Aah, Ooh, Mmm, Mm-ah) per section would be nice. It’s not a big deal because you can do so in Kontakt by loading multiple patches and using something like OTS’ free keyswitch router multiscript:
    https://www.orangetreesamples.com/blog/free-keyswitch-router-multiscript

  • Like I mentioned before, the libraries are not totally symmetrical. Wotan has some more choral effects (clusters and shouts). More importantly, Freyja lacks the Ooh legato, which is a bit of a shame, unfortunately. I would love to see Ooh’s added in an update, although I recognize that that would be very unlikely.

  • [Wotan] [SB patches] On many notes, the singers take a little bit of time to ‘scoop up’ into the note. I personally don’t find it very noticeable or obtrusive (I think it adds realism), but it’s worth pointing out.

  • [Wotan] Sometimes, in an exposed context and depending on the syllables, the samples feel a little cut-in too much. If would be great if there was a feature to get the natural attack using a uniform delay or perhaps even a sample start feature (like Audio Imperia’s Nucleus & Areia). Right now this would be the only major drawback of the library. Fortunately, I don’t find the effect that noticeable but this could be a dealbreaker for some.

  • The information on how to use the library and particularly the syllabuilder engine is spread over multiple videos (because of the updates) and is sometimes not up to date. Also, the manual on the website is not the same as the manual included with the download. In fact, the web-manual is just the same information as the product page.

  • [Allright this point was a little rambly – it’s pretty late here!] Adding to the previous point: what seems so weird to me is that, given that the library is top-notch, with an incredible roster of testimonials, why isn’t the presentation up there as well? I’m not advocating for Spitfire level marketing but an update to the manual, product page and one or two walkthroughs or ‘in-action’ videos wouldn’t hurt, I feel. Around these big sales would be the perfect time to upload a video showing a track walkthrough or how to use the library, especially when paired with the release of the performance patch and NKS version!
Sound examples and Lord of the Rings / Hobbit mock-ups!

When I got Wotan, I was kind of surprised that the quintessential Moria track that apparently inspired the sound hadn’t been done yet. Then it got a little bit out of hand and I did a few more Howard Shore tracks… All choir sounds are from Freyja and Wotan. The orchestra is EW’s Hollywood Series. All examples are pretty rough – no mixing, mastering etc. Only a little bit of reverb on the master. There are also a couple timing issues, but I wanted to get this review out before the end of the Freyja sale, so yeah… here goes:

The Prophecy – excerpt (Freyja+Wotan)

The Prophecy – excerpt (Choir only)

George Strezov has actually also made a mock-up of the Prophecy with Storm Choir Ultimate. It’s much more detailed (he actually planned out his phrases and used the connect mode in the syllabuilder!), his orchestration is more complete, but also quite a bit wetter. Might be useful for anyone wanting to compare Wotan + Freyja vs SCU:


A Journey In The Dark – excerpt (that Wotan-Moria sound)

The Woodland Realm – excerpt (Mainly Freyja)

The Feast Of Starlight – excerpt (Freyja)
 
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Snarf

Snarf

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(Ran out of characters in the previous post)


My conclusions/TL:DR

Sound: 10/10

Learning curve: pretty quick (read the manual!)

Amount of fiddling: medium, depending on how you set it up.

Legato playability: 9/10, can handle relatively fast phrases + smooth crossfading

Syllabuilder playability: 7/10, I end up tweaking the midi a little no matter what – the results sound good though

Can they handle fast phrases? Yes/kind of. Not too fast. Still better at it that most choir libraries.

Only choir libraries you’ll ever need? Probably not, there are not that many choral effects and it can’t do all styles of choral music (such as epic/molto vib stuff and fast staccato’s)

Wotan vs Freyja if you have to choose? I think Freyja has a slight edge over Wotan.



That’s it, I hope it’s helpful!
Let me know if you have any questions 😊
 

Trash Panda

Clueless nitwit
Interested in hearing how to smooth out the monophonic legato in Wotan when programming. It sounds buttery smooth when playing, but there are pronounced bumps when programming it. I don’t run into the same issue with Freyja.
 
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Snarf

Snarf

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Interested in hearing how to smooth out the monophonic legato in Wotan when programming. It sounds buttery smooth when playing, but there are pronounced bumps when programming it. I don’t run into the same issue with Freyja.

Could you specify your situation a bit? Are you talking about the true legato patches (Aah, Ooh, Mmm) or the syllabuilder patches? Also, would you mind sharing perhaps an audio example or a screenshot of your midi of the part you're struggling with?
 

river angler

Active Member
I have admired the sound of these choirs for a few years now but have not been tempted tp purchase any of Sytezov's choral libraries because it appears they don't allow proper velocity control of initial dynamics of sustained samples nor conventional use of the sustain pedal. Their recent Choir Essentials library seems to have implemented true sustain functionality but their so called "velocity dynamics influencer" still seems somewhat confusing regarding being able to trigger chords initial dynamics with how hard one strikes the keys.

I use Orchestral Tools and Chris Hein libraries for all my orchestral instruments as both developers allow options to control dynamics via cc or key velocity on sustained samples as well as short articulations- indeed with Chris Hein you can use both!

Perhaps the OP or others who use Strezov's choir libraries can shed light on this? Thanks!
 

JGRaynaud

Member
More importantly, Freyja lacks the Ooh legato, which is a bit of a shame, unfortunately. I would love to see Ooh’s added in an update, although I recognize that that would be very unlikely.
You can use the 'fake legato" option on the "Luh" syllabe in the syllabuilder patch. It works very well.
 

HomeViGuy

New Member
Hi All -- I just joined this forum after finding this thread. NI has a sale on the Strezov choir bundle so I've started researching ($400 for Wotan Male Choir, Freyja Female Choir, Arva Children Choir, and Rhodope 2 Ethnic Bulgarian Choir.) I have always found included stock choirs limited. I'm new to vocal VI's but recently used something from EW and found it useful. JG -- can you explain what you mean by "fake legato" (I've never heard that term) and how you'd do that on the LUH to simulate OOH legato?
 
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Snarf

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Dynamics are controlled via the mod wheel.
Yes - this makes the most sense too. Choirs are not like piano's where you can't influence the dynamics of a note after its initial attack. You need to think about how a real choir would perform if you want to make expressive/'realistic' sounds.

That said, the 'velocity dynamics influencer' offers a nice hybrid approach which pairs well with the polyphonic legato and syllabuilder patches. You can use it to make certain lines stand out a bit from the others - it's pretty cool.

nor conventional use of the sustain pedal.
It's not setup that way by default, but you can change it to a conventional setup. I would highly recommend using it in the way intended by Strezov Sampling, however.

You can use the 'fake legato" option on the "Luh" syllabe in the syllabuilder patch. It works very well.
Great tip! I've noticed the simulated legato works better on some syllables than others, especially on lower dynamics and with a bit of reverb.

can you explain what you mean by "fake legato" (I've never heard that term) and how you'd do that on the LUH to simulate OOH legato?
If you hold the sustain pedal in the syllable patch, instead of sustaining it adds simulated legato transitions (3 possible speeds) rather than retriggering the syllable. 'Lu-uu-uu' vs 'Lu-lu-lu' if that makes sense. It's better explained in Strezov's walkthrough videos (not the one NI put out for this sale).


 
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river angler

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Yes - this makes the most sense too. Choirs are not like piano's where you can't influence the dynamics of a note after it's initial attack. You need to think about how a real choir would perform if you want to make expressive/'realistic' sounds.
..but you could influence the initial dynamic the choir sings at if key velocity were available.

Of course I get it that the mod wheel is for swelling/de-swelling sustains but I've always found it highly frustrating/unnatural not only with choirs but also strings to have to move the wheel prior to every key struck just to be able to perform the initial dynamic. Orchestral Tools always offer an either or for dynamics. Chris Hein actually offers both which is of course the ultimate control for any sustained samples where one strikes the keys for the initial dynamic, then while the keys are held down (or sustained with the sustain pedal), you can swell or de-swell from the initial dynamic level with cc control. I find it baffling that all developers don't implement this dual dynamics controlling system as standard for sustained/longs samples.

I'm still not clear about Strezov's "velocity dynamics influencer" even after having watched all their video walkthroughs for their choir libraries... From what I can gather it appears velocity is only available after a dynamic has been set by the modwheel which for me just doesn't make sense. The syllable and legato implementation are all well and good but having to move the modwheel to select the entry level dynamic before striking the keys is counter intuitive.

Also what a lot of developers are missing by omitting velocity control of dynamics is the ability to
use their samples for live performance where having to move a modwheel or expression pedal just to create the initial dynamic level of a key struck chord is simply impractical especially if one is blending that sample with other instruments. When playing live when you strike the keys you expect all your preset volume levels to react uniformly but if some of the sounds in a combo patch don't react to initial dynamics this is never going to work!

Another notorious example of this mal-functionality is with Spitfires EVO libraries that I would love to use live on stage but can't because non of them respond to velocity. With these samples there are actually no dynamic layers so to omit velocity even to control their volume is just silly!

Re: the sustain pedal... if this really can be reprogrammed that is at least a functionality that would bring me closer to investing in Strezov's choral libraries!

For me with these Strezov choir libraries it's just a pity about the lack of true velocity control of dynamics as the samples themselves do sound fabulous!
 
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