Sample Logic’s Cinematic Guitars 2 picks up where
the original left off by further exploring the sonic landscape that’s
possible through combining creatively sampled acoustic and electric
guitars with all manner of sound sculpting controls available within
Native Instruments’ Kontakt 5 soft sampler. As with the first library,
Cinematic Guitars 2 (CG2 from here on) is squarely aimed at composers
for media, although there’s certainly enough musical variety to find
favor among rock, industrial, and electronica producers. But is this
sequel as good as the original?
Six Strings and Beyond
CG2 is divided into single instrument patches and multis
that combine two or more instrument patches on the same MIDI channel.
The instruments are arranged into three categories: Atmospheres,
Instrumentals, and Percussives. Folders within each category further
organize the patches by musical application, such as “loops,” “pads,”
“ambience,” “stingers,” and so on. This sensible organization scheme is
intuitive and makes it relatively easy to work with CG2’s massive sample
set, which weighs in at over 17GB. I also appreciate how many of the
instruments’ names reference film and video game soundtracks. For
example, instruments such as “Gladiators in the Mist” and “Valleys of
Mars” conjure scenes and sonic textures that imply how these sounds
might be used.
CG2 is not your typical “guitar sample library.” While you
will find a solid-yet-modest selection of more conventional riffs and
melodic loops played on acoustic and electric guitars, the bulk of CG2
borders on the edge of music and sound design, which is a good thing.
Even the multisampled guitar patches have an experimental quality that
pushes them into fresh territory—and frankly, do we really need another
“purist” guitar library?
Much of the raw sampled material has been processed and
manipulated to create sounds that bear little resemblance to the
original sources. For example, I found dozens of evocative pads and
textures that I’d be hard pressed to identify as anything close to a
guitar. I should also point out that CG2 isn’t limited strictly to
guitar. Other plectrum instruments were used, as is evidenced by some of
the sample names. It’s all wonderfully creative material that’s made
even more musically useful thanks to a feature-packed user interface
that offers a wealth of programming options (more on this below).
As with the instrument patches, the multis are organized
into helpful categories: Construction Beds, Instrument Stacks, and One
Note Glory. Construction Beds feature instruments mapped across
different areas of the keyboard, allowing you to build a “bed” by
playing in different registers, while Instrument Stacks employ
combinations of stacked instruments to make composite patches such as
pads and leads. As the name implies, “One Note Glory” multis are
intended to be played by holding down a single note — these are the
“instant cue starters” that typically comprise layered melodic and
rhythmic loops. On the whole, CG2’s multis are truly inspirational and
are the place to start when you’re on a tight writing deadline.
Functionally, the user interface is nearly identical to that of Synergy X (reviewed July ’12),
so refer to that review online for details. Briefly, there are
dedicated sections for EQ, dynamics, reverb, delay, lo-fi, distortion,
and other effects, as well as the arpeggiator. Parameters for each
section can be modulated via a step sequencer or LFO, and indeed, many
of the factory patches show off the rhythmic modulation capabilities of
CG2 (think Steve Jablonsky’s Transformers soundtrack).
Additionally, instruments based around looped audio samples feature a
step editor for adjusting volume, pitch, pan, and filter cutoff settings
for each slice within a loop. In short, there’s a lot of rhythmic variety that you can bring to the sounds.
That said, there’s only so much you can do with turning
effects on and off and step-modulating effect parameters. Many times
during the review I wished I could get deeper inside a sound, the way
I’ve become accustomed to working with “sample oscillators” in
Spectrasonics Omnisphere, Camel Audio’s Alchemy, or NI’s Reaktor. In
other words, I think Sample Logic has hit the ceiling on what’s possible
within the context of Kontakt. After all, it’s a sample player (albeit a
very full-featured one) and it doesn’t offer the kind of sample-level
synthesis options that would take CG2 to a whole new level. Ah, but a
synthesist can dream, right?
Trigger and Multi Madness
CG2 boasts two new interface options: Triggers and Multi
Script Macros. Triggers allow you to momentarily engage one of 48
different effects chains from one of six trigger buttons (see Figure 1). This is cool
for live performance or working with sounds in an improvisational way.
Hit the onscreen pads (or their MIDI note equivalents from your
keyboard) and you can instantly change the character of a sound. It’s
not possible to create your own custom effects chains, however.
| Fig. 1. These pads trigger effects chain treatments, letting you "play" the effects and get radical sonic changes within one patch. Of course, you can map them to physical pads or keys.|
Multi Script Macros let you control multiple instrument
parameters from a single knob, hence the term “macro.” It functions
similarly to the macro function in Ableton Live, letting you create
complex parameter sweeps from a single knob. A multi can have up to six
macro knobs, all of which are freely assignable to instrument
CG2 is certainly a must-have for any media composer and
offers the kind of fresh, up-to-the-second, evocative, and
adrenalin-pumping textures that producers of any kind of contemporary
pop music could put to use in their tracks immediately. The
programmability is top notch, as is the sample content. I can’t wait to
hear what Sample Logic does next.
PROS: Impressive sound-shaping controls available from the
custom user interface make it possible to dial up seemingly endless
variations. Imaginative and inspiring sample content.
CONS: Much of the sequenced and rhythmic material is just one or
two bars—longer patterns would help minimize repetitiveness.
Documentation of features could be better.
Bottom Line: Guitars never sounded this weird, scary, aggressive, and beautiful.