Infinite Musical Possibilities
Yeah Ark 1 is worth it if you don’t have other libraries that offer that very dark, aggressive, raw sound. For me personally, I had a really nice collection of samples already but bought ark for kontakt and actually regretted it. Not that it’s bad, not at all… but it is just limited and I only use one patch from it… the low strings. I actually find the shorts to be quite bad- they do keep in line with the raw, unpolished nature of the library, but in application I find them hard (sometimes impossible) to work with.Is metropolis ark still worth it? I’m assembling my Black Friday plan … I like the ensemble approach, the sound is golden… so it does meet my needs - but whatever price it will be for Black Friday will be pretty high, especially for one that has a highlight library that will soon be a decade old. I also like the Teldex sound, but aren’t sure that it is where I want to go long term. Does anyone who own them think their sound still holds up well? If not, any good competitors that deliver something comparable?
So to be fair, it’s a very good, often amazing sounding library, but when it was released there was literally nothing else like it, anywhere. It was shockingly aggressive and bold. Now in many ways it’s been matched/surpassed as far as dynamics and depth of sampling, but maybe not surpassed in pure brutality and character, like the aggressive nature of the way the strings are bowed, stuff like that. So if you have, say, JXL brass, you already have a superior brass section, only lacking in a tuba ensemble which isn’t always practical to begin with, but up to you to determine if you’d use it. If you have something like Symphobia Pandora, or Jaeger/Nucleus, you have a cleaner set of samples that are much more versatile, can get just as loud, but they’ll still lack that raw character and darkness that Ark has. Maybe they sound downright sterile and lifeless to some.
It’s a very imperfect library but that’s why it does what it does so well. One of the reasons I find them hard to work with, though, is the fact my template and main orchestral libraries are already well established and blend together so well. Stuff like the spitfire symphonic orchestra, augmented with stuff like cinematic studio strings/brass and 8dio century strings and brass and a smattering of others. So I already had, for instance, Brass libraries that could get incredibly bold (csb and century can both get very loud) but they could also do soft and legato way better than ark ever could. Again that doesn’t mean that ark isn’t worth it, but for my uses I would rather have something that covers all ranges of the spectrum, and people only seem to use ark as a super loud layer, so if you’re okay with that, it’s absolutely worth it. I also pre ordered JXL brass when it released and since then have never used a single ark brass patch. Not because they’re bad, but again, very limited.
So I basically only use the Arks as supplementary libraries, as do many others, but even then, I still sometimes run into problems. I loved Ark 2 at first, but the low strings in ark 2 are a different configuration and seated differently than the low strings in ark 1, with the cellos and basses seated across the room instead of just on the right side, so when I listen back to it, it doesn’t make sense. So many people say, just get both to cover loud and soft, but they don’t translate or meld together like that for me. Ark 1 is a fairly traditional bold orchestra, but ark 2 is more niche, and has a very, very different tonal quality and timbre, much more room noise, etc. Basically if I were to use the strings from ark 2 in my soft passages And then suddenly switch to ark 1 for the loud parts, it just doesn’t sound like the same orchestra whatsoever, even if theyre recorded in the same place. To be completely fair, to some this is understandably NOT an issue, but it’s something I always noticed and stuck out to my super-critical ears- the instruments used, recording style, seating positions, are all changed in ark 2, so it’s just not quite as cut and dry as “ark 1 for loud and ark 2 for soft” for me, at least not in the same song.
The patches I do keep that literally no other library can touch-
Ark 1 low strings- incredible marcato that has unmatched aggressiveness.
Ark 3 brass, strings, and woods clusters/hits, repetitions, and flutters.
Ark 4 instrument combinations can be useful for detail, but again, they’re only good at being “first chairs” with the other arks or Berlin mains… they really, really, really don’t fit in well with an already established, non-OT/Berlin orchestral template for me. Ark 4 is the one that fills a unique gap more than any others IMO, but it is also by far the most niche and often downright bizarre and can be comically out of place with a more traditional film score type piece… saxes and the melodramatic Choir are amazing but rarely used in application for me.
Ark 5 has some very useful swells and open chords patches, but as a collection it’s easy to see it as either the least (if you own the others) or most useful (if you just want a little bit of liveliness and character without the brutality and rawness) out of them all. It really has no soul and rawness like the others, but it fits in better with libraries from other companies,
Ark 2 has a unique and beautifully dark sound but again, doesn’t blend so well. Not just with other companies libraries though, it doesn’t blend well with the other arks either to me, due to instrument choice, room noise, recording philosophy and seating arrangement.
So each of them offer something new and unique and exciting, but when it comes to practical application, they just rarely get used for me. I like having them around and I’ll often open them up just to play with the sounds and then think “ok I’ll write a full track using just this library” (or just the arks) and I always find something is missing, open my other libraries to fill the gaps, and then realize that the other libraries can do pretty much what the arks do as far as dynamics but the arks can’t do what the other libraries do as far as versatility and total realism. So I end up ditching the arks.
However the reason I ditch them is also the reason so many adore them. Full of raw character and life, for better or for worse. I mention I regret buying the kontakt version of ark but I certainly wouldn’t have regretted buying just the low strings I just want to give that perspective so you know what to expect. Incredibly unique and amazing sound quality all around, just not always as practical and usable in a real world context.
TL;DR- amazing libraries, but sometimes not so easily blended with others, and to me, owning more than one to cover different dynamics in the same song is not quite as versatile and all-inclusive as many would lead you to believe, as buying them all is VERY expensive but I’d rather invest that money into an all inclusive orchestral collection, figure out what’s missing, and THEN buy individual patches from the arks on SINE.
EDIT- to be fair the “blending with others” issue is somewhat negated if you own/use the Berlin mains orchestra as your template-