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? Read on.
Review continues after these Web Extras:
NOTE: The print reviews of the above this product and EastWest Hollywood Strings originally promised 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 word, brilliant.
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 MIDI editing.
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 score” sound.
FORMATS Mac and PC. AU, RTAS, VST, and standalone.
MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTSMac: 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