SCS, CSS ... is it possible to pan the sections wherever you want?

Is it possible to pan sections in CSS, SCS wherever you want without them sounding weird?


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tim727

Active Member
Haven't used CSS yet (see previous post).

SSS and SCS -- trust your own ears and instincts. If one seems better to you, personally, don't be swayed by what I or anyone else says.

Nevertheless, a few thoughts, though they are very subjective:

1. SSS is a much bigger section -- much -- than SCS, and the sound is very different in consequence.

2. Both have a lot of unusual-but-useful articulations, including, for example, a "brush" short articulation that I haven't seen in other libraries. So, put another way, both are very useful and good quality.

3. If you are not hearing a big difference between SSS and SCS in the demos (not saying you aren't but just in case...) then get some better headphones or speakers to audition them. It's a very big difference in sound.

4. For what it's worth, people who have very good ears and are very good composers really rave about SCS; I like both but... (see next point below).

5. If you already own, say, Hollywood Strings from East West or any of the "big section" sample libraries, most likely SCS is going to be "more different" than what you own today. That doesn't mean you will be happier with SCS than SSS because it depends on what kind of material you like to write, but SSS is more able to convey the idea of lots of players and an overall bigger vibe than SCS, in my view.

But even that's only "sort of" true. You can always fiddle with reverb to throw a small section into a bigger space, or use the different mic positions to accomplish the same thing.

If you're torn between SSS and SCS, I recommend listening very carefully to Andy Blaney's dazzling demos and follow what your own ears tell you.
Thanks for your thoughts on this @JohnG . I'm going to listen to both SSS and SCS a bit more and see how I feel. Currently I don't own a string ensemble library at all (only violin and cello solo instruments) so this would be my first. The biggest thing holding me back right now as discussed earlier is my concern over the fact that all three of the libraries discussed (SSS, SCS, CSS) were recorded in position. I noticed yesterday that NI Symphony Series Strings was not recorded in position. I had already discounted it as an option a few days back because it seemed that it just wasn't as high quality as the other libraries mentioned in this thread. At this point though, given the fact that I know it won't introduce panning issues I'm starting to reconsider it. (It's also only $250 for Black Friday).

Also since the whole "in position" issues has become my focus I think I'll change the thread title and my original post to reflect that.

Thanks again for all your input.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
Also since the whole "in position" issues has become my focus I think I'll change the thread title and my original post to reflect that.
Naturally, you should certainly follow your own inclinations, and I'm sympathetic to panning, since I like to have vln1 on the left and vln2 on the right sometimes. Panning is also probably more important if you are a songwriter, instead of creating more of an orchestral / chamber music sound. Maybe that's your motivation?

Overall, for an orchestral sound specifically, the realism and musicality of the sounds affect your results decisively, whereas panning is, in my opinion "nice to have."

I think almost last on my list would be panning, actually, compared with:

1. realism of sustained and short samples and sonic flexibility (3 or more mic positions);

2. consistent editing;

3. playability and responsiveness (corollary -- speed with which you can create an acceptable / satisfying result);

4. consistent tuning (especially with round-robin short articulations);

5. variety of articulations;

6. legato implementation.

I'm not even that keen on legato actually, as I often find it intrusive and distracting compared with "the notes." But to return to the main question, panning is good but just not that important to an orchestral / chamber music / hybrid sound, compared with these other considerations.
 
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tim727

Active Member
Naturally, you should certainly follow your own inclinations, and I'm sympathetic to panning, since I like to have vln1 on the left and vln2 on the right sometimes. Panning is also probably more important if you are a songwriter, instead of creating more of an orchestral / chamber music sound. Maybe that's your motivation?

Overall, for an orchestral sound specifically, the realism and musicality of the sounds affect your results decisively, whereas panning is, in my opinion "nice to have."

I think almost last on my list would be panning, actually, compared with:

1. realism of sustained and short samples and sonic flexibility (3 or more mic positions);

2. consistent editing;

3. playability and responsiveness (corollary -- speed with which you can create an acceptable / satisfying result);

4. consistent tuning (especially with round-robin short articulations);

5. variety of articulations;

6. legato implementation.

I'm not even that keen on legato actually, as I often find it intrusive and distracting compared with "the notes." But to return to the main question, panning is good but just not that important to an orchestral / chamber music / hybrid sound, compared with these other considerations.
Before going further I want to make sure I have the same definition of "hybrid" that you do. My sense is that it meant a piece that incorporates orchestral elements but is not a strictly or traditional classical orchestral piece?

Also, could you elaborate on what you mean by "songwriter"? Aren't we all songwriters on this forum? :P

To elaborate a bit on my intended usages ... I could see myself composing full/traditional orchestral pieces at some point but by and large I will probably be composing what could best be described as "epic celtic" or "epic medieval" music. My tracks will likely have a wealth of various ethnic solo instruments, but will also include ensemble elements particularly in the categories of strings, brass, and choir in order to give the music a "bigger" sound. If I knew that my main usage were to be traditional/classical orchestral music, I wouldn't think twice about the panning issue because I'd want the instruments to be sitting in position regardless. Since that is not likely to be my main usage though ... I have my concerns.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
Before going further I want to make sure I have the same definition of "hybrid" that you do. My sense is that it meant a piece that incorporates orchestral elements but is not a strictly or traditional classical orchestral piece?
Yes -- for example, a lot of what takes place in action-style video game music, or what many call, for want of a better expression "epic action." So overall a mostly orchestral ensemble but heavily supported / sometimes led by electronic sounds -- synths and warped electronica.

Also, could you elaborate on what you mean by "songwriter"? Aren't we all songwriters on this forum?
I'm using the expression, "songwriter" as shorthand for someone who writes musical pieces that typically feature a lead solo vocalist singing in a regular / modern language (English, German, Italian, Spanish etc.) that relies mostly for instrumentation on electric guitar, bass, drum kit, piano / synth keys, and so on; and also uses verse / chorus / bridge /intro / ending type elements. Could sound like The Beatles, or M83 or whatever, but not like Wagner.

I will probably be composing what could best be described as "epic celtic" or "epic medieval" music.
I think I know what you mean; I wrote something that is in that ballpark for some video game trailers, including these Elder Scrolls trailers I composed along with another guy:


I didn't touch the panning on it that I remember.

The mix they used eventually isn't quite what we originally gave them, and there are quite a few SFX that are rather loud, as often happens, but if that's the kind of thing you want to write, or in the general direction, I don't think panning is really top of my list.

Either way, good luck.
 

Mike T

boring member
Interesting discussion here, since I have such an unbearable craving for SCS, and tend to not love the conventional string seating arrangement.
 
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tim727

Active Member
Yes -- for example, a lot of what takes place in action-style video game music, or what many call, for want of a better expression "epic action." So overall a mostly orchestral ensemble but heavily supported / sometimes led by electronic sounds -- synths and warped electronica.



I'm using the expression, "songwriter" as shorthand for someone who writes musical pieces that typically feature a lead solo vocalist singing in a regular / modern language (English, German, Italian, Spanish etc.) that relies mostly for instrumentation on electric guitar, bass, drum kit, piano / synth keys, and so on; and also uses verse / chorus / bridge /intro / ending type elements. Could sound like The Beatles, or M83 or whatever, but not like Wagner.



I think I know what you mean; I wrote something that is in that ballpark for some video game trailers, including these Elder Scrolls trailers I composed along with another guy:


I didn't touch the panning on it that I remember.

The mix they used eventually isn't quite what we originally gave them, and there are quite a few SFX that are rather loud, as often happens, but if that's the kind of thing you want to write, or in the general direction, I don't think panning is really top of my list.

Either way, good luck.
@JohnG First off, great sounding music there ... congrats! When I mentioned epic celtic that wasn't quite what I was envisioning. Similar but a bit different. Image that, but with a slightly lessened emphasis on the ensemble instruments and rather an increased emphasis on solo celtic/ethnic/medieval instruments such as solo harps, flutes, hurdy gurdy etc. Either way though, I really appreciate your the time and effort you've put into your responses, thank you!

@Ben E You are awesome for posting that, thank you! To my ears it sounds a bit off after having been moved to the right, but I'll need to listen to it some more to be sure. Also, is it your sense that the inclusion of the tree mics would make it sound weird(er)?
 

Ben E

Active Member
Tim727,
The tree mics sound great too (to my ears.) I just tried it. No weirdness. The panning still comes through nicely.
 

Saxer

Senior Member
Is it possible to pan sections in CSS, SCS wherever you want without them sounding weird?

The main answer is missing:

"Depends on your goal"
 
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tim727

Active Member
Is it possible to pan sections in CSS, SCS wherever you want without them sounding weird?

The main answer is missing:

"Depends on your goal"
My goal is to have a sound that is still great. I didn't include that as an option in the poll because I figured that that is an implicit requirement :)
 

Saxer

Senior Member
Nobody wants a sound that is not great. But sometimes there's a mix of instruments already panned (i.e. a band or two solists) and you want to add some strings. It doesn't make sense to pan the main string voice onto another leading roll in the arrangement only because they are recorded like that. Even if you are collapsing the room it will be a better end result than keeping the original room position and having conflicts with the rest of the arrangement. Or maybe having a single violins line behind a singer: why should this line be on the left? In those cases it doesn't make sense at all to keep an original orchestra position. That's why it depends on your goal.
 
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tim727

Active Member
Nobody wants a sound that is not great. But sometimes there's a mix of instruments already panned (i.e. a band or two solists) and you want to add some strings. It doesn't make sense to pan the main string voice onto another leading roll in the arrangement only because they are recorded like that. Even if you are collapsing the room it will be a better end result than keeping the original room position and having conflicts with the rest of the arrangement. Or maybe having a single violins line behind a singer: why should this line be on the left? In those cases it doesn't make sense at all to keep an original orchestra position. That's why it depends on your goal.
@Saxer I don't disagree with anything that you've said here, but I think somehow there is a bit of a miscommunication between us. My goal is to have great sounding strings that are ideally also very playable and don't limit me during the composition process. Hitting all of those points might be impossible as no library is perfect, but that is the goal. Currently my dilemma is that I can either get:

(1) A library that is better sounding but ultimately less flexible as far as the ability to maintain the same sound quality after panning (such as CSS or SCS) ... or ...

(2) A library that is not as good sounding in general but has better flexibility as far as panning (such as NI Symphony Series String Ensemble, which was not recorded in position).

For me it's been a rather frustrating decision to make so far, largely because I have never owned an ensemble string library (or ensemble lib of any sort for that matter) and have also never composed orchestral music. So it's a bit tough to know what the right decision is. Several people here have given their valuable input (yourself included) which I will be taking under consideration. Ultimately though I think I'm leaning pretty strongly away from SCS ... largely because when the price is higher it magnifies the risk associated with making a poor purchase decision. So I think at this point I'm looking mostly at CSS ($320 for Black Friday) vs. NI Symphony Series String Ensemble ($250 for Black Friday). CSS seems to have better sound quality and also more articulations, but has the (likely) diminished flexibility due to being recorded in position. Meanwhile NI SSSE has (seemingly) inferior sound quality and less articulations, but greater flexibility. I'm going to mull it over a bit more and make a decision soon.
 

storyteller

Senior Member
(2) A library that is not as good sounding in general but has better flexibility as far as panning (such as NI Symphony Series String Ensemble, which was not recorded in position).
Just a heads up in your decision process... NI SSSE is recorded in position. The brass and winds were not recorded in position though. Off the top of my head I'm actually not sure if any of the large string libraries are recorded in a manner other than in situ.
 
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tim727

Active Member
Just a heads up in your decision process... NI SSSE is recorded in position. The brass and winds were not recorded in position though. Off the top of my head I'm actually not sure if any of the large string libraries are recorded in a manner other than in situ.
@storyteller

Hmm, so I just went back and watched some walkthrough videos for both libs. In this first one that Dirk Ehlert did for NI SSSE, in the demo song that starts at 2:20, there is certainly panning ... with the violins very clearly on the left for example. But then when he is going through the various patches in the rest of the video, it doesn't really sound to my ears like anything is panned. I'm curious as to the basis for your assertion that the library is recorded in situ. Do you own the library? Or did you just gather that from various walkthroughs or reviews?

Meanwhile in the CSS video linked below, it is extremely clear that the instruments were recorded in position. Perhaps my ear for this stuff is just not so great (very, very possible) so I'm not picking up on the fact that NI SSSE is also in position, but there seems to me to be a striking difference in panning between what you hear from NI SSSE and CSS in the videos linked. (Maybe it's also possible that both libs are recorded in position but for whatever reason in NI SSSE they had all the sections more tightly packed toward the center of the stage while in CSS they had a "wider" setup?)

NI SSSE:

CSS:
 

storyteller

Senior Member
@storyteller

Hmm, so I just went back and watched some walkthrough videos for both libs. In this first one that Dirk Ehlert did for NI SSSE, in the demo song that starts at 2:20, there is certainly panning ... with the violins very clearly on the left for example. But then when he is going through the various patches in the rest of the video, it doesn't really sound to my ears like anything is panned. I'm curious as to the basis for your assertion that the library is recorded in situ. Do you own the library? Or did you just gather that from various walkthroughs or reviews?

Meanwhile in the CSS video linked below, it is extremely clear that the instruments were recorded in position. Perhaps my ear for this stuff is just not so great (very, very possible) so I'm not picking up on the fact that NI SSSE is also in position, but there seems to me to be a striking difference in panning between what you hear from NI SSSE and CSS in the videos linked. (Maybe it's also possible that both libs are recorded in position but for whatever reason in NI SSSE they had all the sections more tightly packed toward the center of the stage while in CSS they had a "wider" setup?)

NI SSSE:

CSS:
I own it, and actually really like them. If you use just the close mics you can hear the difference very clearly. The NI site for the strings has the recording diagram as well. If Dirk was using out of the box settings, it uses a preblended mix of the mics and a built-in kontakt reverb (neither of which showcase the library in the best light), so the overall stereo image is much less pronounced in that situation. Using external verb, eq, and a blend of all three mic positions is the way to go.

From the manual...
Microphone Position - Stereo Width - Stereo Panning
CLOSE - Spot Microphones - Panned to orchestral position
MID - 100% Wide - Conductor’s perspective, panned
FAR - 100% Wide - Ambient microphones, little direc- tivity
STEREO - 100% Wide - Mix of MID and CLOSE micro- phones, panned to orchestral position
 
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Gerry

I sure don't feel like a Senior Member
I, too, don't yet have any real ensemble libraries, so pardon me if I'm completely off base here, but even for CSS, or for any sample with a baked-in location, couldn't you essentially accomplish what Ben E did above by bouncing that instrument down to a mono track and then panning it wherever the heck you wanted? That was my first thought, at least. Maybe a little time consuming if you wanted to rearrange an entire orchestra. But to get centered violins on a singer-songwriter track, it seems like an option, at least. Yes?
 

chrisphan

Active Member
IMHO, you are overcomplicating things. If your main goal is to write orchestral music, be it classical or epic, the default panning position is good, sounds idiomatic and really doesn't need any major tweaking in terms of panning. If you wrote for something else and only wanted your strings to accompany as @Saxer mentioned, a slight decrease in quality as a result of panning wouldn't be noticeable. In fact, many famous songs were even produced with "bad" quality strings with no real legato and they still still sounded good in the mix because the strings were only secondary elements in the mix to complement the main. Examples are Video Games - Lana Del Rey and LoveStoned - Justin Timberlake.

My last point is I don't think SSSE sounds bad at all. It's just not a favorable library in this forum, which can be misleading. Please check this for a blind test and decide for yourself: https://vi-control.net/community/th...d-preference-fun-mostly-revealed-11-24.66704/
 
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tim727

Active Member
I own it, and actually really like them. If you use just the close mics you can hear the difference very clearly. The NI site for the strings has the recording diagram as well. If Dirk was using out of the box settings, it uses a preblended mix of the mics and a built-in kontakt reverb (neither of which showcase the library in the best light), so the overall stereo image is much less pronounced in that situation. Using external verb, eq, and a blend of all three mic positions is the way to go.

From the manual...
Microphone Position - Stereo Width - Stereo Panning
CLOSE - Spot Microphones - Panned to orchestral position
MID - 100% Wide - Conductor’s perspective, panned
FAR - 100% Wide - Ambient microphones, little direc- tivity
STEREO - 100% Wide - Mix of MID and CLOSE micro- phones, panned to orchestral position
@storyteller You are absolutely correct. Thanks for bringing this to my attention because I was definitely under the wrong impression. Perhaps it really was due to the reverb used on SSSE in the demos I watched. But anyway, considering the fact that I now realize that all the libs I was looking at are actually recorded in position, that will no longer be a factor in the decision-making process. (Additionally, upon further consideration of some of the comments of users like @chrisphan and others perhaps it wasn't as much of an issue as I made it out to be anyway.)

Now it comes down to price, articulations, playability, and sound quality.

Price between CSS and SSSE is very similar, so that's not really a separator between the two libs. CSS clearly wins on articulations. Meanwhile, playability probably goes to SSSE due to divisi feature and lack of any pronounced legato delay challenges. IMO though CSS looks to clearly win in terms of sound. I took a look at that blind test that chrisphan linked and number 2 (which was NI SSSE) actually jumped out at me as the worst of the lot. Granted that may have also had to do with reverb and the skill/knowledge of the composer etc ... but I just haven't been terribly impressed by SSSE at any point to be honest.

I think at this point I can consider all of the questions asked in the original post to be fully resolved. I'm going to start a new thread asking about the viability of CSS in a more "epic", in your face, kind of track (as I have some lingering concerns about that) but provided the responses are at least reasonably favorable I'm thinking that CSS will be the winner here.

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful input and time!

edit:

@Gerry As to your question, it seems it is indeed possible as @Ben E demonstrated. Personally to my ears it sounded a bit strange but that's for you to decide. One point worth noting is that the video showed that patch in isolation. I do imagine that in the context of a mix it would be far harder to pick up on any oddities in the stereo image ... so even if the overall sound would not be as good as if you didn't pan, it's not necessarily the case that anything would sound "weird" or "odd" per se.
 
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tim727

Active Member