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Xsample Contemporary Solo Strings

richhickey

Active Member
I wanted to give a heads up and first impressions on Xsample Contemporary Solo Strings.

Apparently it was released last month (?) but I haven't heard anything about it here or elsewhere.

This is a Kontakt (full) library of 4 solo string instruments (violin/viola/cello/bass).

There are plenty of articulations on tap - good consideration for senza vib as well as vib, stac, spic, sfz, marcato trem etc. A single lovely flautando, Several artics each in sul pont and con sord. Plus a ton of harmonics, glisses, pizz variants and other esoterics to support 'contemporary' composition. The demo video emphasizes these but the meat and potatoes here are very good.

The base sound is completely dry (though there are lots of included IRs, and fancy room control too). Just a beautiful chamber string sound with plenty of wood and rosin. It appears to be recorded chromatically, with most core artics having 3 velocity layers. For the core long artics, separate velocity switched and CC crossfaded variations are supplied. It works wonderfully in MIR.

Speaking of crossfades, a highlight of this lib for me is the excellent (seems phase aligned?) xf support. The library is remarkably free of the phasing and doubling that can make expressive solo sampled instruments so difficult to achieve. It is easily the best of any solo string library I have, and I have far too many.

Consistency of artics/control between the instruments is extremely high - there's none of this "violins can but violas can't" stuff. Consistency of dynamics is very good.

The legato is scripted so nothing for legato-heads to get excited about. There's a single timing param with CC control. I found it quite satisfactory. Trills are also scripted and somewhat awkward to access. I'll probably just perform them myself. RRs are also emulated, with lots of control.

Another area of interest for me is single-tracking in DAW and use within notation programs and it is clear that this is one of the design targets. This is a single track per instrument library. You load the violin patch and all 88 of the violin articulation presets are available, switchable via a single CC. Coupled with the high-quality xf support for dynamics and hairpins, and inter-instrument consistency (identical preset maps), and huge articulation set, I think expression/notation maps for this library will be a breeze. (I'll let you know :)

The ensemble-izing support is quite credible and flexible. You can get 2-5 voices, control over the range of detuning, the range of timing discrepancies, and the amount of variability within those ('alive'-ness). Each of which can be dynamically controlled via CC. It sounds really good.

There are a ton of other features I might never use - a phrase maker, aleatoric support, 'room walking' etc.

I am super impressed and very excited about this library. It sounds really good. It's lightweight, loads fast, saves fast. Control is straightforward, musicality is high. It's kind of old school but wow, it jumps to the head of the line for me in sound quality and utility.

Whenever the discussion here goes to "which lib for string quartets, chamber etc", Xsample Contemporary Solo Strings should be in the conversation, IMO. For reference, I have most of VSL/SF/OT/CH.

This is not a sponsored review. I just discovered the library on the Xsample site, and paid full price for it, my first purchase from Xsample. Furthermore, I got several questions answered via email over the weekend. I was so impressed I went back and bought most of the rest of what they sell :)

Highly recommended.
 

ism

Senior Member
Any sense of how they compare to other offerings? That is, where they fit with the solo string landscape?
 

Mikro93

Senior Member
Thanks to you, I'm discovering this library and this developer. I like the sound of the demos, I would tell they are not written "to the samples", therefore you can tell, sometimes, that it's a sample library. But I bet you can do amazing things with it! I'm very intrigued :)

I took a look at the rest of the catalog. I found some amazing stuff, like the "jazz trumpet" that has "trumpet in water (tones)" and "trumpet in water (sounds)" patches. That's amazing, new sounds, very exciting!

And the legato for the muted trumpet in the default AIL library is really good, and I mean, amazingly good! Hear that, at 0:53:


I'm gonna have a serious look at that. Thank you very much!
 
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richhickey

Active Member
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Oh, also:

I think I can hear some portamento in the demos. Is it scripted as well? I'd say it sounds decent, believable, more so than the "regular" one.


Or is this not the Contemporary library?

That example is not the contemporary, but in both the legato speed control goes from a slight slur through to a portamento.
 
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richhickey

Active Member
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Any sense of how they compare to other offerings? That is, where they fit with the solo string landscape?

Yes, they compare quite well so far. (I will only mention other libs I own below)

True solo, so not just for first chair work. Thus they sound better for exposed solo than Spitfire Solo, OT FC, LASS FC. But a chamber vibe, so less good for soaring over the orchestra.

Dry, like VSL and CH (my two favorite solo string libs). Fewer artics than VSL (but some more esoteric), more than CH. Just one of each instrument, and tight room-less samples, so the GB size is deceptive vs others. There is a lot of sound here, not multiplied by room ringout and dozens of mics.

The sound is fuller and more sonorous than VSL solo, more body and rosin. Perhaps less body than CH, but more composed and less harsh. OTOH, if you really want to rock out nobody touches the top 3 dynamic levels of CH :) Responsiveness is as good (they are all quite agile).

The xfades are better than both VSL and CH, thus performing dynamics is fluid. This to me is perhaps the crux of the library - you can swell around to your heart's content, like with SM, but with a much more realistic and pleasing sound.

Really good senza vib, and relatively subtle performed vib. This is a biggie for my tastes.

No arcs or other pre-emoted stuff like Virharmonic/Emotional/JB. No canned shorts of varying lengths, just spic and stac. Nothing like VSL's performed trill transitions, repetitions etc. If you have the time and inclination nothing gives you what VSL does for frankensteining together a performance.

The ensemblify is better than with CH. The a3 is an almost unfairly easy and good chamber sound. Dynamic control over timing and pitch variation compares somewhat to VSL's humanization system (w/o the time envelopes) - you can definitely vary the tightness over sections of a piece or particular runs. If you could split the voice outputs (you can't) for different eqs and positioning it could be a poor man's Dimension strings, and easier to use.

It's probably in its own league re: contemporary and aleatoric support, but I haven't tried it.

In time maybe I'll miss the connective tissue artics that VSL provides. But I really like the sound and these samples work even better than VSL's silent stage samples do in MIR, so my investment in MIR still applies.

The intangible effect, compared to other libs, is one of relief - this is a lib you can just fire up and get on with it. These strings just sound good throughout their ranges, play really well, won't require much fuss to control etc. They can be pretty w/o over-emoting, austere w/o being unpleasant, quiet to loud (but not harsh, except the overpressure artic, which is extreme).

I hope that helps.

p.s. as far as the website goes, yeah. However, there's been plenty of recent pushback against marketing vs quality control and attention to detail. Here it's the opposite. I know what I prefer :)
 

CGR

Pianist, Composer & Arranger
. . . p.s. as far as the website goes, yeah. However, there's been plenty of recent pushback against marketing vs quality control and attention to detail. Here it's the opposite. I know what I prefer :)

Hans Josef simply goes about creating some very high quality, realistic virtual instruments without all the fanfare. Discovered his libraries a few years ago - a hidden gem in my opinion.
 

Hans Josef

Active Member
Xsample is a small business and we don't want to compete with much much greater companies like VSL, SF and so on. We know that there is not so a great market for contemporary music. So we must decide where we put our work. So, perharps the website is not so actual . I'm sorry if our website is not as you would expect.
 

lychee

Active Member
Hello

Xsample instruments sound very good to my ears, and I don't know if I should thank you or hate you for this discovery, because I now want to put my plugins in the trash.

I would have a little question though, does it handle the divisi?
If the answer is yes, this would be the ultimate plugin for me.

Best regards.
 

Bollen

Vintage Member
Xsample is a small business and we don't want to compete with much much greater companies like VSL, SF and so on. We know that there is not so a great market for contemporary music. So we must decide where we put our work. So, perharps the website is not so actual . I'm sorry if our website is not as you would expect.
Hey Hans! I've had Xsamples K5 and the strings Extended Edition for quite a while now, are these new libraries you've made? And why didn't you tell me....? :emoji_stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
 

Michaelt

Formerly Mike T
I've been meaning to properly look at these for a while now. I think they may have a lot to offer beyond the many more traditional choices out there. Thanks for the reminder!
 

Mikro93

Senior Member
Okay, sorry for hijacking that thread again, but I'm now stuck on a loop with these libraries. That walkthrough of the Extended Solo Strings (yes, sorry, not the Contemporary ones) is highly impressive...

 

Oxytoxine

Active Member
Okay, sorry for hijacking that thread again, but I'm now stuck on a loop with these libraries. That walkthrough of the Extended Solo Strings (yes, sorry, not the Contemporary ones) is highly impressive...



Wow, I can not believe that I see / hear this for the first time!

I’ve sold all my superfluous organs for way too many solo strings, but never heard of those. Granted, the interface looks intimidating, but the sound seems gorgeous and the possibilities extremely comprehensive, stunning!

Thank you and the OP for making me aware of Xsamples.
 
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