Audiobro is a relative newcomer, but their first product, L.A.
Scoring Strings, is an impressive, professional library that raises the
bar in several key areas. Billed as “five libraries in one,” LASS (for
short) was recorded on a real film scoring stage, and provides a range
of section sizes, letting you produce stunningly convincing unison
and chordal passages. In this regard, LASS is the most adaptable
string library I’ve ever worked with.
LASS is the brainchild of composer Andrew Keresztes, who, after
years of frustration with the shortcomings of other libraries, set out
to create his own that addressed the limitations that composers typically
face when working with a virtual orchestra. So does it deliver?
Review continues after these Web Extras:
The print reviews of the above this product and EastWest Hollywood Strings
audio examples. After we went to press, author John Krogh decided to go
one better and make a video explaining divisi
string arranging, using both the EastWest and Audiobro products to illustrate it. CLICK HERE
LASS is formatted for Native Instruments’ Kontakt sampler, version
3.5 or higher, and Kontakt Player is included for users who don’t
already own Kontakt. The content is on five DVDs, and weighs in at
a mere 40GB when installed—a relatively small footprint. That’s good
news if you want to run LASS from its own solid-state drive, as these
days you can pick up a small SSD under $200. Samples are provided
in 24- and 16-bit format, letting you maximize your system’s
resources. Two authorizations are allowed, so you can spread the
library across two computers. Additional authorizations can be arranged
by contacting Audiobro.
Audiobro hasn’t disclosed exactly which scoring stage was used to
record LASS, but the sonic signature is a clear, rich, and detailed
sound. There’s a hint of early reflections from the room, but otherwise
this is a drier collection that requires a quality convolution reverb
to achieve a polished sound.
A collection of 150 impulse responses (IRs) by noted developer
Ernest Cholakis comprises separate early reflection and tail IRs, complete
with a variety of tonal characteristics from clear to dark. You can
mix and match to dial in exactly the sound you’re after. In my tests,
loading the supplied IRs into Audio Ease Altiverb sounded great.
Although the concept of sampling string sections of varying
sizes isn’t new, Audiobro takes it to a new level by sampling each
section in full, plus three smaller sections, as well as solo “first
chair” players—hence the “five libraries in one” tagline. Sections
are organized into groups A, B, and C, where A and B each have
a quarter of the full number of players, and C has half. Different
players are featured in each smaller section, so when you layer
these patches to build chordal, unison, or divisi parts, the sound
is incredibly lifelike and expressive. You get the sense of a true
section playing together versus the synthetic texture you sometimes
hear with other libraries.
I did note some minor intonation issues with some of the smaller
sections, but this wasn’t a major distraction, and when layering multiple
sections, the slight tuning offset actually created a more natural
blended sound. Other developers have intentionally left similar
tuning “warts” in their libraries for this exact reason.
Several sophisticated scripts process incoming MIDI data to produce
different articulations, and even rhythms. The Real Legato
script, for example, triggers sampled intervals between two notes
as you play, so you can easily perform true legato passages. Some patches include legato, portamento and glissandi intervals, with
velocity determining which type of sample is triggered. This produced
fantastic results ranging from slow, languid, romantic lines
to fast runs.
Other scripts include the Automatic Rhythm Tool, or A.R.T.,
which triggers rhythm patterns with staccato and spiccato patches,
giving you the kind of driving phrases typically heard in sci-fi,
suspense, and action scenes. Keyswitching lets you trigger different
patterns, and you can program your own. There’s even an
Auto Arranger (see “Divisi Explained” below), which intelligently
splits chords across multiple patches loaded on the same MIDI
channel, letting you create divisi parts on the fly. All of this is, in a
L.A. Scoring Strings is an impressive library, both sonically and technologically,
and sets a new standard with regard to the degree of
flexibility and ability to create a vast array of articulations and playing
styles with minimal effort. In fact, as I was working with the library, I
was struck by how easy it was to realize and execute musical ideas.
This is due largely to the built-in scripts, which makes LASS respond
more like a true musical instrument, not just a collection of sounds
that need to be chiseled into a believable performance via tedious
Divisi (Italian for “divided”) is written in the score when
notes in a chord are divided among players in a section.
For example, 12 violinists might play a two-part harmony
with six players for the upper voice and six for the lower.
With virtual orchestras, hitting a key for the second voice
would normally double the number of virtual players, resulting
in a too-thick, obviously sampled sound. Now, developers
such as Audiobro, Audio Impressions, and EastWest are offering divisi sections, and tricks such
as the Auto Arranger script shown at left, to translate your
keyboard chording into proper divisi playing.
PROS Expertly programmed presets with clever scripting. Can produce a wide
range of textures from small and intimate to epic and sweeping. Impulse
responses included for use with third-party convolution reverbs.
CONS No “non-vibrato to vibrato” crossfade presets (Audiobro is
reportedly releasing an update with these patches in the future).
CONCEPT Kontakt-based string library designed to emulate the “Hollywood film
FORMATS Mac and PC. AU, RTAS, VST, and standalone.
MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS Mac: OS 10.4.x or later, G4
1.4GHz or Intel Core Duo 1.66GHz. PC: Windows XP or Vista. Pentium or
Athlon 1.4GHz. Both: 1GB of RAM, 40GB free hard drive space.
PRICE List: $1,399
Approx. street: $1,099