Cinemania – Chris Hein Solo Cello through Best Service
Two realistically-sampled cellos with many articulations and implemented controllers. All you need is to ask yourself is if you are in a Romantic or Modern mood for recording.
by Alex Arsov, Mar. 2017
During the last year we covered a few great cello libraries. This one is also great, but is’ also a bit different. If you are familiar with any of the Chris Hein instruments, then you already know that his instruments come with a large number of articulations that allow you to recreate almost every possible line that live player can play on that particular instrument. So, nothing new regarding Chris Hein standards, but there is also one more thing that also stands out from all other cello libraries that are currently available on the market: the consistency of played sound.
Let me explain. Most other cello libraries bring sound quality that is up to date with current high standards, offering sound that is almost impossible to distinguish from the real instrument. Some of them also contain a great number of different articulations and various controllers, but the main problem with most of them is that it is not easy to place them easily inside a crowded arrangement. Compressor here, equalizer there, but it always happens that some notes are lost in arrangement, as sometimes not all articulations are on the same level. Also, as the cello is a very dynamic instrument, it depends on how velocity response is programmed. There are a million ways how the transition between quiet and loud notes could be programmed, preparing the library to have the best response in all possible situations.
One way or another, with most other cello libraries I’ve spent quite a nice amount of time trying to make them audible in a mix and have consistent level during the whole phrase. The field where Chris Hein Solo Cello shines is in the fact that it sounds beautiful and very realistic when you play it solo, covering the whole dynamic spectrum, from sounding very gentle and emotional to aggressive, sharp and loud. In that way it is almost like some other, better libraries, with maybe one exception: Chris Hein Solo Cello has a slightly better programmed attack, so it is a bit easier to play gentle notes without spending additional time bouncing notes a few milliseconds before and after the line to get the perfect timing in legato mode.
The main difference, at least in my personal experience, comes when you put CH Solo Cello in a crowded arrangement. All notes in all articulations sounds quite a bit more consistent. More or less, they are all there, maybe you will need to set a velocity here and there, as with default settings it is quite easy to overdo dynamic, especially if you use any of those light mini keyboards. Of course this could be fixed inside the Solo Cello edit menu where you can apply different velocity curves, but when inspiration strikes, this is the last thing I want to do, so to be honest, it is more on me than on Chris regarding this one. Otherwise, everything else is just perfect, all I need is to play the line, change a few articulations through key-switches in the lower part of the keyboard, add a few additional effects to taste (light compressor for taming the peaks and equalizer, standard duo for every crowded, loud arrangement, and as a final touch a common reverb to put the whole arrangement into the same space).
The library offers two different cellos, the first one is Modern Cello with a clearer tone and higher dynamic range, containing all articulations needed to cover the wide range of musical styles and playing techniques. With this one, more or less, the sky is the limit. Second one is a Romantic Cello with warmer, more emotional tone, with greater vibrato and all in all a calmer character. Both libraries offer the same number of articulations, 38 each. You can find some incredible performances recreated with Solo Cello on Chris Hein’s page, showing what can be done with all those articulations. From drumming on a cello body to the various string hammering and all other playing techniques known to man (and Chris). Off course, the deeper you go, the more time you spend programming your lines. Most common articulations, like Legato, Pizzicato or Marcatto can be easily programmed on a fly, by playing keyboard with your right hand and changing articulations with your left, but for some cello concertos you could spend more than few days programming it. Actually, this is good news as there is no other library that offers anything similar – such an impressive number of articulations and controllers. 10,000 samples for every cello offering up to eight layers per articulation, four dynamic modes.
The structure and content of both cellos is quite similar to those that we described in our Chris Hein Solo Violin review, so I’m not sure if we need to go into every detail. Two reverbs, one for body and one Room reverb with plenty of convolution room spaces and body variants. I mumbled about velocity at the beginning, but the truth is that I don’t know any other instrument on the market that allows so many variants and options regarding velocity curve. If any of those X-Fade / Keyboard options still don’t work for you then you can simply draw your own velocity curve with all the tiny details, even allowing you to combine velocity with the Expression C11 controller, as C11 can overtake the velocity as soon as the C11 value exceeds the main velocity that is set for that particular note. It sounds complicated, but when you get to grips with any of the Chris Hein instruments it is not so hard to control it.
Years ago, when I got one of his instruments for the first time I thought: Ouch, I will never learn all those functions. But later when I started using more and more of his instruments, it’s proved that all those functions really help if it happens that you are stuck with some notes that you are not quite satisfied with. More or less, all his instruments are very playable and don’t require any additional programming. All those additional functions are for some specific occasions when you try to recreate some playing technique, which is usually a “no go” for a virtual instrument. One such addition that most of his new instruments have is a Note Head function. All stringed instruments from Chris Hein already come with a nice number of different staccato and spiccato articulations, but as you know, when a violin or cello player starts playing fast staccato runs or phrases the length of notes are changed from note to note. A real player can go from staccato directly to spiccato and back to staccato in one small fast run. It is quite a common habit of string players to play shorter and shorter notes towards the middle part of the phrase, increasing in length from note to note toward the last part of a phrase. Recreating this only by switching between different articulations will not do the job. That’s the reason Chris added this “Note Head” function, where we can change attack and release of every note in a phrase on the fly with a single controller, going through different short notes recorded in twelve different note lengths with eight dynamic layers. The Note Head function is connected to the CC2 controller, so setting a fader for this one is just a few clicks job (all controllers can be set to any other value, so CC2 is just the default setting). With a single move of the fader you can recreate a live player performance by slightly increasing or decreasing the length and attack of every note. Quite simple and effective. OK, we will not mention that all details of every head can be fine tuned and adapted to your specific needs in additional to the “Note Head” editor, as this is a classical “everything can be controlled to the last detail” Chris Hein approach, but let’s leave those additional functions for the young nerds (I hate to repeat myself, but have to say again that all his libraries are so well-preprogrammed that in most cases there is no need to change any parameter to get realistic live performance – but it doesn’t hurt if we have all those options for the worst case scenarios and all other special wishes).
Another interesting addition is an option to switch between polyphonic and legato playing modes with the sustain pedal. Actually, there are countless different details that can make all playing techniques very realistic and alive. I recommend you to go through the manuals to learn more about all those tiny details, such as how to change basic note vibrato in many different ways, drawing different vibrato curves – but I should mention again that it sounds just perfect as it is. If someone asked me what the biggest change in sample technology was in the last few years, I would probably answer: a realistic vibrato. A few years ago it was really hard to find a library containing a realistic vibrato while in the last year or two, it is almost impossible to find an instrument with unrealistic vibrato. One way or another, it is nice to have all these additional options.
I played some simple lines with no additional programming and sent them to my friend, a cello player, and he was very pleased with results. Solo Cello is as real as a real instrument can be. It isn’t cheap, but I can’t remember any other instrument where you can get so much for the asking price. It brings a top-quality instrument (actually two different instruments where each has its own character), an impressive number of articulations and even more impressive tools to liven up all those articulations. The endless number of controllers are ranked in quite a logical order. All in all, I was impressed with the first Chris Hein instrument that I got years ago and have to admit that his instruments have become better and better. Watch the video clips on the Best Service site carefully and try to find any moment in this complex performance that sounds fake. Maybe I’m not the most astute listener, but I couldn’t find any – way beyond impressive!
I know that it would be nice to find at least one weak spot, to make this review a bit more credible, but I’m a big fan of the cello and this library is a dream come true for me. It is so playable and sounds so good, that even if I could find any weak spot it would probably be totally irrelevant. At some moments Emotional Cello from Best Service might sound a bit more emotional, but this one can recreate everything that a real cello can, no matter how complex and dynamic performance it is. Even more important, at least for me, it sounds consistent and well-defined even in a crowded mix, and on the other hand, it is impossible to recognize it as a virtual instrument even when it plays solo. With a little skill and experience you can get very impressive results with minimum effort.
More info at: https://www.bestservice.de/en/chris_hein_solo_cello.html
AAX native, AU, Mac, NKS support, RTAS, Standalone, VST, Win ca. 6.86 GB