Cinemania – Soundiron Voice Of Gaia: Strawberry and Bryn
Orchestral strings, choirs and big percussion can make for a great passionate and intensive piece of music, but still can’t give us that special emotive component that a superb single human voice can add.
by Alex Arsov, Nov 2016
Voice Of Gaia Strawberry and Bryn are two solo voice vocal libraries from Soundiron that both run only with the full version of NI Kontakt. I’m the happy owner of many choir libraries, also having a few different solo voice libraries, but I was totally hooked when I heard the Strawberry demo for the first time. Same happened with Bryn. All solo vocal libraries have similar sorts of limitations: you need to combine prerecorded short melodic phrases with some legato vowel sustains to get realistic results, which is rather time consuming, and you are always forced to make some sort of compromise. Strawberry and Bryn have two advantages that make them stand out from the line-up of similar products. The first one is a really big number and variety of prerecorded phrases. They come in various keys, they can be automatically time-stretched to fit the tempo of your song, and, the best part, you can select the starting point of a vocal phrase using just a desired part of the whole phrase, along with setting the pitch with the implemented pitch shifting option. The number of included keys and phrases allow you to get along with fewer compromises than is usually the case with all those solo voice libraries. The second advantage, the one that makes me get these libraries in the first place, is the fact that both Strawberry and Bryn, as those are names of the vocalists, have absolutely divine voices. With various legato vowel sustains you can build some nice sounding background phrases, while those prerecorded phrases can add this true spirit of live, real performance that could make your instrumental track sound more organic. I can easily imagine how those divine voices could work wonders on some chillout tracks, same for cinematic, movie, games, advertising and all other sort of media compositions and also for most other electro EDM genres.
Voice Of Gaia: Strawberry
We got more than 5 GB of recorded vocals of Linda Strawberry Coloma, a mezzo-soprano artist with one of the most pleasant voices that I’ve heard lately. In the package we get legato Ah, different Vowel Sustains, along with my all time favorite humming MM vowel, piano and force versions of Ah and Oh, and one OO vowel. The same vowels also come in a Staccato version in its own preset. Along with those basic staccato and sustain vowels we get a large number of short vocal phrases recorded in various tempos and pitches. Soundiron build quite useful interfaces inside Kontakt with bunch of different controllers helping us to tweak our “Voice of Gaya” arrangements. I’m mentioning this, as there is also a Tempo function that you can select or deselect to have all phrases tempo synced with your host or to use them in their original tempo. I didn’t notice any issues with different tempos, but the truth is that I also didn’t go extremely out of the base tempo ranges. Phrases are recorded in A#, C, D, E, F# and G# scales, but I found my way in some other scales with the Pitch button inside the Voice Of Gaya Strawberry interface, along with Swell, Attack, Offset, Release, X-fade and Stretch controllers that come with all those short phrases. There is also a 16 step sequencer where you can set them in a different order, triggering all phrases with just one note. You can also set the starting point for every step in a wave window display giving us an option to combine some interesting phrases just from specific parts of chosen phrases. You can also set the starting point for phrases outside the sequencer, those that you trigger with different notes arranged in the keyboard row. I only miss an option that would allow us to set the starting point for every phrase separately, as is possible in sequencer mode. Hope this will be fixed in some future update.
Legato Ah and Sustain presets are recorded with the so-called “True legato” technique, meaning that Soundiron fellows recorded all interval transitions between notes, and with the Legato option switched on in all legato sustain presets we get very natural legato between notes as long as they are overlapped. Nice job, Soundiron. Maybe I’m asking too much, but I only miss a true vibrato option, allowing me to set natural vibrato through the mod-wheel controller here and there to make the melody even more realistic and versatile. Also, staccato notes are a bit too short for my taste, making them a bit synth sounding. All staccato vowels sounds nice but I didn’t find a way to make them realistic in some longer takes.
Both Legato Ah and Sustain presets can be played in polyphonic just by deselecting the legato function. They also come with some additional controllers allowing you to fine tune some details, but truth be told, vowels are recorded and programmed very professionally, so I didn’t find any need for additional programming. Different sorts of vowels can be triggered through key-switches, so more or less you can get impressive results just by playing your keyboard and maybe making one additional ride with the mod-wheel to add a more realistic feel by riding the volume curve through the whole vocal take. Interesting how none of those solo libraries, not just those from Soundiron, doesn’t implemented some common preset where we could combine legato vowels with staccato and marcato, switching between them through key-switches as is the case with many other orchestral instruments. This could definitely be something that can open some new possibilities.
Voice Of Gaia: Bryn
Over 6 GB of content recorded with a male tenor, Bryan Lane, known as a “Bryn”. With a bit of a different set of presets and a similar set of controllers it brings a large array of short phrases – and very melodic ones, as Bryn has a really impressive voice. After all, this is the most important element for all solo vocal libraries. Regarding programming, those libraries can’t go further than the vocalist can go, especially if they contain prerecorded vocal phrases.
We get a few great legato sustain patches in this library but I have to admit that Legato Ah is maybe not as playable as is the case with the similar one in the Strawberry library, as it happens that some notes have different characters along the scale, also not being at the same volume level at the same time. Such things become noticeable as soon as you start repeating a phrase. OK, if you don’t overdo your vocal line, making wild tonal jumps, the results could still be impressive. Other Legato vowels are more or less on the same top level as with the Strawberry library, offering a bit of a different arsenal of vowels. Along with Ah Fortissimo we get Hum, pianissimo OO and whistle. I miss some shorter notes or variations inside the whistle articulation, but otherwise everything sounds as it should with same sort of controllers as you get with the whole Voice Of Gaia collection.
The area where the Bryn library really shines is the diversity inside the short phrases content. Those phrases come in a quite wide array of styles, so we get a large number of tempo-synced phrases in all keys while Arabian also comes in E/B major combination, and Whistle also comes in E/B minor combinations . We also get a 16-step sequencer with the same capabilities as in the Strawberry library and also the same pitch, stretch and time start abilities.
Along with the basic vowel melodic phrases we get presets with Arabian, Chants, Hum phrases, Soul and even whistle phrases in all keys. With all these short vocal phrases I found Bryn to be an indispensable combination with Strawberry or any other similar Soundiron Voice Of Gaia female library. It really adds some extra spirit, adding a nice male vocal along with the female.
Both libraries also contain additional vocal effect patches where we get various throat cleaning, short warm up phrases that come with Strawberry, inhales and exhales, some whispers, laughs and coughs. Of course both libraries come with a Soundiron standard array of additional effects, the ones that come with each of their libraries. From filter, through reverb, chorus, amp and cabinet simulation, to the equalizer and delay.
Both libraries share the same price, $119 USD, and both bring very unique sounding content that can’t replace a real vocalist but still go way beyond some simple vocal libraries. With some careful combination of prerecorded phrases, legato and sustain vowels you can get very good results with these two great vocalists that gave their voices to these libraries.