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Audiobro LA Scoring Strings 1.1 (Mac/Win) Review

4/9/2010

LA Scoring Strings sounds impressively realistic, largely because its Kontakt scripts give you unprecedented real-time control over its expressive capabilities.

LA Scoring Strings sounds impressively realistic, largely because its Kontakt scripts give you unprecedented real-time control over its expressive capabilities.

The ultimate goal of orchestral sample libraries is to convince audiences they''re listening to a real orchestra. Among the dozens of string collections available, the best not only give you great-sounding samples, but their programming helps you play them expressively, a quality that''s crucial to producing lifelike recordings.

LA Scoring Strings (LASS; $1,099) from audiobro supplies nearly 40GB of 16- and 24-bit content for Native Instruments Kontakt 3.5 and newer. (It comes with Kontakt Player 3 in case you don''t own Kontakt.) The entire library took less than three hours to install on my 8-core 3.2GHz Mac Pro, and it took just a few minutes more to download and install the version 1.1 update. Although my rig had no problems with latency, audiobro recommends playing LASS on two computers simultaneously for optimum performance in the most demanding situations.

Take Five
Traditionally, string sections and other large ensembles can be split into smaller sections that play separate parts, a technique called divisi. LASS lets you build large ensembles by layering smaller ones to form any-sized group you need. For each instrument section—violin, viola, cello, and bass—you get a single first-chair player and four groups ranging in size from one to 16 players. The violin section is duplicated with a different spatial perspective, bringing the total to five sections.

All the players were recorded on a large film-scoring stage with no reverb other than the stage''s natural early reflections. The samples were then mixed from the perspective of the players'' seating positions; however, you can pan them anywhere you like. LASS comes with a selection of excellent impulse responses that provide early responses and tails.

You Say Legato
Like any good string library, LASS comprises a good variety of articulations. In addition to legato, staccato, and pizzicato, you get spiccato, tremolo, sustained (looped), muted, harmonics, and major and minor trills, as well as portamento and glissando articulations.

Realistic legato phrasing can be particularly tricky with any sampled strings, but LASS shines in that area. You can play legato normally by overlapping notes as you play, or you can simply hold down the sustain pedal (CC 64) on legato patches to enable a feature called Real Legato (see Web Clip 1). Your keyboard velocity affects whether your playing triggers a clean legato, glissando, or portamento. (You can load legato patches without glisses or portamento if you need to save RAM.) The Real Legato script will instantly recognize whether you''re playing chords or legato phrases, too, and respond accordingly. Unlike many orchestral libraries, LASS lets you use MIDI CCs to control crossfading, release length, tuning, gliss and portamento speed, and other real-time parameters.

When you''re playing staccato, spiccato, and pizzicato patches, the sustain pedal activates the innovative Auto Rhythmic Tool (ART), a type of step sequencer that lets you control repeated, short articulations. You can graphically specify the length of rhythmic patterns and the velocity (hence the accent) of each step. As you play, holding down the sustain pedal triggers the patterns, which would be much more difficult (and less realistic) to play manually (see Web Clip 2). By assigning keyswitches to trigger as many as 10 separate presets, you can change patterns on the fly as you play. The best part of using ART is that accurately playing accents in repeated phrases becomes automatic and doesn''t rely on your keyboard technique. However, it took a little practice to get used to depressing the pedal just before I played a chord rather than after.

If you have the full version of Kontakt, clicking on tabs provides access to scripts that enhance realism by helping you avoid mechanical precision. LASS'' Delay and Humanization script minutely randomizes how quickly different sections are triggered. The Tuning Tool causes slight variations in pitch and lets you detune whatever notes you choose. The Trill script lets you trigger diatonic trills by pressing a keyswitch, and the Anti-Machine Gun script plays alternate samples when you repeatedly play the same notes—essential for realistic pizzicato. If you prefer triggering round-robin samples, there''s a keyswitch for that, too.

No Strings Attached
In addition to a terrific sound, LA Scoring Strings delivers startlingly faithful phrasing and articulation. The glissandos sound especially authentic, and ART makes short articulations sound more lifelike than in any string library I''ve heard. The folks at audiobro have proven that with time, skill, and technological progress, sample libraries can fool more people more of the time. LA Scoring Strings has become my go-to string library.

Overall rating (1 through 5): 5
LA Scoring Strings 1.1 Product Page

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