Cinemania – NOVO by Heavyocity
Our reviewer thought he owned all the string libraries he’d ever need, but then along came NOVO from Heavyocity. Long story short – turns out he was wrong.
by Alex Arsov, May 2017
I promised myself that I will never ever order another string library. I own most of the well-known string libraries, and am totally satisfied with them. They take up a certain amount of disk space, and as space on my disks is not unlimited, my decision was quite final. I remained a man of my word and didn’t even blink when I received some info about Heavyocity’s NOVO. Everything was fine until Heavyocity released the “Demo – Walkthrough” video clip. Two hours later I was sipping my coffee and reading a book while downloading NOVO. All my other mighty string libraries perfectly cover a wide cinematic range, from “Titanic” up to the “Batman” kind of themes. But NOVO is the one and only “Joker” themed library. Mean, loud, forceful and creepy. Even if you have every other string library, you don’t have one similar to this. The more I used it, the more I was impressed with NOVO.
The (Mostly) Conventional
NOVO offers some articulations and solutions that are quite unique in the string library world. On the other hand, as I discovered a bit later, with just a few easy tweaks it can become quite gentle, being on the same level as some of the Titanic – Batman ones. Lowering the dynamic (the big, main knob at the center of the GUI) and by slightly increasing attack time inside the ENV editor (upper left, in line with the big knob) you can mimic the gentle legato string sound known from other libraries. Also, if in Legato mode the transition between notes sounds too fast for your taste (still being handy for some more vivid legato passages, it is something that I miss in my other libraries) you can do the same thing, lowering the attack and dynamic – or even try setting Legato mode to two voices. I found both options work nicely with slower melodies.
Of course, at the moment, we are talking about the Traditional Instrument section, one third of the entire instrument, covering the standard string articulations common to most libraries. At first glance you notice that only the Low Ensemble section contains Marcatto articulations, all other common ones are provided in all string sections. The truth is that attack in Sustain articulation is so strong and vivid, while at the same time release is so well programmed, that playing short notes inside the Sustain section sounds better than most of Marcatto articulations on other string libraries. I played a long note followed by one short, and in all other libraries the result was not so satisfying, as the release on a short note was too messy and didn’t allow you to play Marcatto notes inside Sustain articulation. In NOVO – it works like a charm. Short note ended in the best Marcatto manner. Should I say again – the more I used NOVO, the more impressed I was.
At first I also thought that having only Staccato along with Pizzicato would be a problem, as for some fast arpeggio lines Staccatissimo could come in very handy. I tried playing various fast combinations and found that Staccato works perfectly in all circumstances. Obviously someone did a hell of a good job programming this library. Staccato articulation also offers another cool solution, allowing you to select rate determining at which rate the bow should play up and down, starting to use some round-robin samples at the same time. Some phrases sound better if the bow plays just in one direction, striking strings giving a stronger, forceful note, while on other occasions up and down gives very realistic results. Of course, tweak and try gives the best results. After all, it is just a matter of few seconds to find the best solution.
In the Traditional Instrument section we have all the standard string sections, only the second violin section is missing. So, there are Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass sections along with two additional, unique sections called Low and High Ensemble. In Low Ensemble you get some mean, loud and heavy short bass articulations (from Marcatto up to Pizzicato), so mean and aggressive that no other library can offer anything similar. While in the High Ensemble patch you can find some creepy sounding high legato articulations that are quite unique and hard to describe (for instance, there is one with sordino strings with some fast picking Con Legno strikes that fall like rain drops inside legato sordino lines, sounding like an orchestral version of a flock of birds from a Hitchcock movie – quite creepy but still very orchestral).
If all this is not for you – NOVO also brings a well chosen and very useful set of controllers. This is common to all Heavyocity instruments but pretty much uncommon for String libraries. Everything is on hand, so adapting it to your needs is a pretty simple task, but at the same time also offering some very unique solutions, like an Arp section that allows you to play various arped staccato sequences quite easily, having very good round-robin functions implemented.
For more odd sounding orchestral results there is also a Gate option with step sequencer gate editor where we set or simply draw some patterns, or choose between some existing patterns. Along with those two sections we also have a complete ADSR section, Reverb section with a nice number of convolution spaces, EQ with spectrum window along with the option to apply different equalization settings to separate microphone position outputs. There is also a Filter section with similar microphone options as in the EQ section. A big mixer with sliders for all microphone positions with option to purge, actually unload some of them. Not related to this topic, but still not to forget it, there is also an option to purge unused articulations to save RAM – quite handy when having an excess of other instruments loaded along with NOVO in your Kontakt.
All articulations also come with an option to set range for velocity and dynamic. The velocity option is automatically deselected on Legato and Sustain articulations (where dynamic is controlled with the mod wheel).
String Designer and Loop Designer
OK, now we can finally start digging into the more unique and more interesting parts of NOVO. As previously stated, the Traditional Instrument section is only one third of the library. Actually, it is the most “ordinary” part of the NOVO library, presenting a similar content to other string libraries. String Designer and Loop Designer are parts where NOVO really shines, bringing an enormous amount of interesting and unique, very unusual orchestral combinations, that no matter how strange they sound, still preserve a recognizable orchestra string sound.
String Designer presets are compiled from three different sound sources. You can choose from a big array of sources, covering a range from different orchestral sounds up to some synthesized ones. Those three sources can be ranked in parallel, playing all three simultaneously or just being ranked one after another from low to high. This is of course just a good start. The big joy comes in the Macro Sequencer section inside the String Designer, joy in the form of a big, central Macro Control knob, as we can link and automate all previously named controller sections directly to this knob (EQ, Filter, Envelope etc…) easily setting the level and range of automation for almost every parameter. So, after connecting all parameters to the big central knob, all we need to do (or in the case of an endless number of included presets, where this is already done) is to draw some patterns in the macro sequencer window where we can define the speed and create a sequence determining how this Macro big knob will modulate all the connected effect sections. This results in a sound that changes and evolves, and I have to admit, it is very amusing toying with all these settings. As mentioned, if you are not in the mood to try this out, there are loads of included presets, of which I didn’t have time to try all, but those that I did sounded very interesting.
There are also the well-known Heavyocity knobs Twist and Punish that can make the end result even more interesting and can be found in the Master FX section inside the Sound Designer interface, also containing five more effects: Filter, Distortion, Chorus, Delay and Reverb, which comes with a nice choice of good sounding convolution spaces. Is that all? Nope, this is actually only the beginning, an overture for real fun. By clicking on the Cycle menu in the upper right corner we come to the Cycle section, which is, if I may quote the NOVO manual: A powerful tool that combines a rhythmic sequencer with an arpeggiator and granular capabilities. Too many things here for me to describe them all, but in short, it is a place where you can draw various patterns and go totally bonkers with most of the parameters – or just using one of the included presets.
The third part of NOVO is a Loop Designer that also comes in the form of a single preset, same as the String Designer, also containing a big set of presets where every preset brings plenty of different loops ranked over the keyboard range containing key-switch knobs in a range of one octave at the lower end of the keyboard, allowing us to change the pitch of every loop by selecting any note inside key-switch, transposing the loop to that note. Some loops bring complex melodic and rhythmical patterns while some others just contain creepy sounding textures. I prefer the latter, but those melodic and rhythmic loops can also come in handy for filling some gaps or just for use as background. Of course, all loops are perfectly looped and synced with a host.
Of course, being a Heavyocity product, NOVO is endowed with far more options and details than I have described here, so there are plenty of things to tweak. But most important is that you don’t need a doctorate to tweak some parameters to your needs, and with a little help from the manuals you can easily construct some new sounds, not to mention that you will need a good amount of time to go through all presets anyway.
I thought after I had acquired some of the best string libraries available that there was nothing more that could surprise me in this field. However, obviously I was wrong – I’m very impressed with this one. With a few clicks and tweaks, it can sound like an ordinary string library. But on the other hand it offers content and functions that make it totally unique. It covers a wide range of strange sounds that string orchestras can produce, whether mighty, brutal and aggressive or even going in totally the opposite direction and being creepy, sneaky or even sounding gentle. NOVO is a must have for all the unpleasant or intense moments in your score. No matter how many other orchestral libraries you have, this one could and should find its place inside your Kontakt collection, being so different in a very spooky and vivid way.
At least give NOVO a chance and take a few minutes to watch the Demo – Walkthrough video from Heavyocity. Maybe you will understand a bit better why I’m so enthusiastic about this one. It has great sounds, versatile content, a wealth of controllers packed into an easy to use GUI offering things that no other String library can offer – real strings on real steroids.
And now, no more orchestral libraries. At least until the next one. 😉
More info at https://www.heavyocity.com/product/novo/
$549 USD. It also works with the free Kontakt Player.