Cineamania – The Orchestra by Bestservice
An orchestra library that’s light on RAM but not on sound quality, offering looped orchestral phrases at the same time – a great sketching tool (and more) that is easy to use.
By Alex Arsov, Sept. 2017
There are plenty of string and orchestra libraries on the market. Every one brings something authentic but, more or less, any library that costs more than €300 EUR can be your “one and only”, since it offers a realistically sounding orchestra, containing more or less all common articulations that you need to finish your arrangement. Everything else depends by your specific needs: the soft, rich and highly realistic Cinematic Studio Strings for making some complicated string arrangements, or the aggressive, mean, intense and scary NOVO string library, or Sonokinetic libraries with some pre-recorded phrases, or Spitfire with their complete orchestra solutions, having all orchestra sections like The Orchestra. They all offer different approaches, functions and options. As a result, there is a place for every new library, especially if it covers something that other libraries don’t have.
So, where is the place for The Orchestra? Before I got it for reviewing purposes I saw a trailer and was a bit skeptical that it would be any good. “Fast loading time” is a phrase that usually means small disk footprint, i.e. lacking realism, while “easy to use” in most cases means that it doesn’t have much to offer.
Thankfully it I was proven wrong. Yes, fast loading time meant small disk footprint but, surprisingly, it doesn’t affect the sound quality as drastically as I expected it would. Basic orchestral parts are not as fat, rich in timbre and detailed in frequency spectrum as some far bigger libraries, but still they are not sounding cheesy like some libraries from the €100 – €200 EUR range. The whole library is recorded with only one microphone position, so with a good additional reverb you can find your way.
After spending the first hour with it I concluded that “easy to use” really means easy to use. After all, raw sound is not something that The Orchestra is all about. The package offers much more than just various elements and articulations from the big orchestra.
The whole library is centered around one big main preset called The Orchestra, containing three different main sections. The first one, called Orchestral Colors, contains up to five different elements combining various orchestra sections. These are similar to various Project Sam Symphobia recreations – actually more like those from Best Service’s Orchestra Essentials libraries with a big difference; all elements are reachable from one common window. There are plenty of presets for most of the common instrument combinations that are used in orchestra arrangements. In short, a small RAM footprint and easy to use.
A second main part of The Orchestra brings a large number of Orchestral Rhythms. Again, we have up to five different elements that are driven by three different arpeggiators. At the bottom of the interface is a menu where we can reach the Engine and Mixer window along with the Main one. In Engine, we can set quite detailed behavior for any of three arpeggiators. Setting time signature, doubling the speed or drawing the rhythm curve for arp in a sequencer-like window. We can transpose the whole arp pattern (but unfortunately, we can’t do that with separate steps). Setting the swing or octave for pattern is just a click away. Every arpeggiator also comes with a nice set of “Note Order” options. Along with three arps, there are also two additional envelope windows allowing us to draw a curve for every volume envelope separately, along with some other taming options.
The good news is that all phrases sound steady and non-aggressive. The bad news is that all phrases sound steady and non-aggressive. It depends on your taste – as I said above, every library has its own characteristics. I really like the general sound of all Orchestral Rhythms, not only that they all sound good, but also that it is quite easy to adapt it to our needs, changing instruments inside orchestral sections to make whole new combinations. It is also possible to make totally new rhythmical patterns by starting with an arp pattern and changing or drawing some steps. The whole library actually offers a bit more freedom than most other similar libraries, allowing you to make something new from existing patterns. It seems that The Orchestra offers a bit of a longer drive to the road of patterns before you hit the “I already heard this” wall of repetition than is the case with some other libraries. The devil is in the details. Some other libraries offer harmonically more diverse patterns using different pitches inside the chord phrase, while The Orchestra can be more vivid in a rhythmical field building interesting accents and rhythms.
The third part of The Orchestra is Animated Orchestra, which brings some pre-programmed phrases. The most fascinating aspect is that these phrases are not pre-recorded but actually cleverly programmed with the same set of tools. Every phrase is compiled from different arp note orders and nicely programmed arp steps. Being driven only by MIDI notes produces a great freedom for building various accents for different instruments, something that pre-recorded phrases can’t come as close to achieving. Again, by changing some arp steps or even various orchestra sections, it can be like a breath of fresh air.
Of course if this is not enough, there is a big collection of Multis offering the same three sections as we encountered in that main big The Orchestra preset, combining multiple windows at one time resulting in some really big orchestra sounds. Actually the main purpose of this library, at least according to its developers, is to allow you easily and quickly produce an orchestration. This is absolutely true and the bonus is that all patterns are very usable while being quite general and not being easily recognizable. Few listeners would be inclined to regard them as being a part of particular library as might happen with some other phrase-based libraries.
Along with main The Orchestra preset we have five big preset directories containing all orchestra sections with all instruments and with most general articulations for every instrument or group of instruments. There are no solo instruments, but there are different string sections inside the Strings directory, and the same goes for all other orchestra sections. I also appreciate that we have presets for all articulations separately along with the main, common presets containing key-switches for articulation. I have spent considerable amounts of time with some other libraries separately saving particular articulations, unloading all others from memory – quite a labor-intensive task. So, with The Orchestra, if you are tight on memory and you need only a pizzicato first violin section, you could just load that exact one. Having all articulations for all orchestra parts separately is a big bonus with this library.
I must also mention that there is a chorus of men and a chorus of women with Ah and Oh sustain presets, as well as staccato phrases of eleven different syllables.
The Percussion directory brings a nice number of separate orchestra drum elements along with a full drum ensemble preset. So, timpani, gran cassa, tubular bells and some others you can choose from.
Along with all basic orchestra sections (Brass and Woodwinds are also there) we also get a plucked concert harp as a bonus.
I’m quite impressed with the number of combinations and number of articulations, as well as with the number of the presets that come with this library. Of course, there is always something that could be improved with every library. Maybe having some pitch step sequencing would allow us to build some melody lines that could push this library to an even higher level, but we should accept that in such a case, it would not be so simple to use it anymore. Secondly, for €399 EUR you really get quite lot of things that should make you happy for a long time, allowing you to build quite complex arrangements in no time. I’m also thankful for finally getting one orchestral library that takes less than 7 GB of disk space while managing to sound realistic, not somewhat cheap like even some slightly bigger libraries sound. This one is ideal for loading on your second, smaller laptop, allowing you to have your orchestral tool everywhere you go. This will hold for all users with older computers.
If you don’t have any libraries such as this, then this one is an ideal solution for being your first, especially if you are tight on disc space. If you are a professional score composer, then this library could also come in handy by offering a different sound spectrum, imparting some unique rhythmic options. As previously stated, I really like the drive, gentleness and versatility of Orchestral Rhythms and Animated Orchestra, not to mention how glad I am having all those separate articulations at my fingertips while also being so light on RAM. As we all use different libraries for our mock ups, this one fits nicely with other libraries, being realistic enough to not spoil the party. It avoids being fat, yet still allows you to produce epic arrangements. As always, Best Service proves to be good niche masters, being a true Nietzsche on a niche field.
More info at https://www.bestservice.de/en/the_orchestra.html
The Orchestra works with Kontakt player and it is priced at €399 EUR. It’s perhaps not the best orchestral library available but it definitively serves its purpose. I had a great time trying it and will have great time using it. It’s ideal for sketching a tune and good enough that there will be no need to recreate all sections later with some other library.