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EastWest/Quantum Leap Hollywood Strings Diamond Edition (Mac/Win) Review

October 13, 2010
Hollywood Strings includes the proprietary Play virtual instrument, whose controls are specifically designed 
to maximize playability.

Hollywood Strings includes the proprietary Play virtual instrument, whose controls are specifically designed to maximize playability.

Hollywood Strings Diamond Edition (Mac/Win, $1,495) is one of the most ambitious and detailed string orchestra libraries to date. Recorded at EastWest Studio 1, Hollywood Strings (HS) is intended to capture the Hollywood sound found in so many records and movie scores during the years. HS was conceived and created by EastWest founder Doug Rogers, along with longtime partner Nick Phoenix and composer Thomas Bergersen. Academy Award-winner Shawn Murphy recorded and engineered the sampling sessions. The results are fabulous.

HS is 312GB and ships pre-installed on an internal 7,200rpm, 500GB hard drive; an iLok (not included) is required for authorization. HS comes only in the proprietary EastWest Play format, which is the native application for most newer EastWest/Quantum Leap libraries. HS also contains a great-sounding, built-in impulse/response reverb comprising responses of several great halls, rooms, studios, and cathedrals, including the EastWest/Quantum Leap Symphony Orchestra 4 hall.

Five miking perspectives were recorded simultaneously and are available to mix and match: close, mid (positioned over and slightly behind the conductor position), main (Decca Tree and a wide outrigger pair a little farther back), and surround (distant mics switchable between a modern mic pair and vintage ribbon mics).

The string orchestra comprises 16 Violins I, 14 Violins II (different players), 10 Violas, 10 Cellos, and seven Basses. There are no solo, quartet, or chamber ensembles provided; however, divisi patches A and B were created by close-miking each section on their respective 
left and right sides. Though it''s not a perfect solution, using the close divisi samples with reverb or mixed with the more distant mid, main, or surround microphones sounds perfectly acceptable and authentic because all samples were recorded simultaneously and blend perfectly.

Included are numerous articulations: sustains, legato, detaché, staccato, Spiccato, marcato, pizzicato, Bartok pizz, 
ricochet, col legno, 
flautando, harmonics, sordino, 
and so on. Keyswitching and mod-wheel crossfade control allows for expressive and realistic playing. Crossfades are provided in six, nine, and 13 levels, depending on what your system can handle, and both Light and Powerful System versions are provided. True legato and portamento are standout features, and Round Robin and Repetition controls use multiple alternating samples to avoid the machine-gun effect with repeated notes.

The sordino sounds are not separate muted samples. According to Rogers, the already huge HS library would have become unmanageable and prohibitively expensive to create. (The library already took more than a year to complete and employed mostly A-list film musicians.) Some sordino recordings were made during the sampling sessions, then carefully analyzed and EQ-modeled within Play. Although I wouldn''t have thought it possible, the sordino effect sounds authentic and has the added bonus of perfectly matching the nonmuted counterparts in playability, articulation, and response.

Not on Your Lap Because of the nature of Play, and the size and vastness of HS, the system requirements are heavy. For professional composers and those working on deadline, EastWest suggests dedicating a separate, powerful computer setup with lots of RAM to HS, and I agree. Working on a dual-core MacBook Pro with 6GB RAM was tedious and slow-going, and I had to freeze tracks all along the way. Testing on an 8-core system with 16GB RAM proved much easier to manage. Obviously, the sound gets better as you mix combinations of the various mic positions, but the system demands spike even higher as a result. (The 16-bit Hollywood Strings Gold version, which lists for $795, includes one mic position and all articulations, but no bow-change legato and no divisi.)

EastWest''s goal was to capture the sound we have grown accustomed to in movies and on commercial recordings, and it succeeded. The sound of HS is lush, rich, powerful, and poignant.

Is this library perfect? No, but I give it high marks anyway; a product this detailed, thoughtful, well-recorded, and ambitious deserves to be heralded. HS is an extremely capable tool—it is up to you to make the most of it.

Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4
Hollywood Strings Diamond Edition Product Page

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