Cinemania – Soundiron’s Requiem Light, Mercury Elements and Olympus Elements
Three different choral libraries, all light versions from Soundiron, which for the price a major choral library, offer an extremely wide spectrum of choral experience.
by A. Arsov, July 2016
When acquiring a sampled choir library, there is always the option of buying one big expensive one, or for the same money, buying three smaller ones covering a much wider aspect of various choir possibilities. In this case, we are talking about Soundiron’s Requiem Light, Mercury Elements and Olympus Elements . You will get fewer microphone positions. Actually you get only one, but this is not an issue because all Soundiron choirs sound great already with just one basic microphone position – not being totally dry as many close-mic only libraries typically are. All Soundiron choirs are recorded with a nice touch of natural ambience and can be used as they are. If you want to add extra space, you can include some additional convolution reverb impulses that all three libraries have implemented in a more-than-decent quantity and quality. Otherwise, you can always can add your favorite hall or “church” (after all, we are talking about choirs) reverb from your third party collection.
Compared to big expensive choir libraries, those three reduced choir libraries bring fewer articulations, fewer samples in general, along with fewer multi layers per preset. Does this affect the quality of end results? That depends. If your intention is to recreate a real choir sound with all the tiny details, playing very complicated passages with all sort of articulations and without any background music, than yes, that could be the case. On the other hand, playing different chords, solo lines, applying a few articulations, actually just building tension inside your compositions by adding all those choir elements, nobody may notice the difference.
All three player libraries sound authentic, or maybe we should say, quite impressive and absolutely not cheap-sounding and thin as libraries in that price range can often sound. It is only a matter of whether you need those choirs. If you are after all of the small details, needing a great number of articulations, then feel free to buy any full version of Soundiron. As a professional score producer, you will not regret it. But if your intention is to add some quality choir elements to your compositions, making them bigger than life, then you will get much more out of buying these three different libraries where each one covers a very specific choir niche that would be impossible to find in just one library.
An additional bonus is that all three libraries work with the free Kontakt player and, at least for me an important issue is that they require only a modest footprint on your disk. Every library uses only about two or three gigabytes of disk space, and most of the presets use less than half a gigabyte of RAM while preserving the quality of end results. Requiem Light and Mercury Elements even come with some light patches, so you can use them even if your RAM is close to maxing out when you use choirs in a very crowded arrangement. With Mercury Elements you get a boys choir. Olympus Elements brings you a male and female choir (separate and mixed). Requiem Light offers a wide collection of easily programmable Latin chants with which you can build numerous Latin phrases with various articulations, from Staccato to Legato ones. Mercury Elements and Olympus Elements are $99 USD while Requiem Light comes with a price of $269 USD.
The boys choir has been recorded with a 25-voice boys ensemble in a big hall ambiance for a natural sounding tone. With this library we get basic articulations from sustained Tenuto, through Marcato to Staccato, with Ah, Eh, Oh and Oo vowels having two round robin variations per note. All basic articulations share a very similar general interface. The first things that catch the eye are two identical drop down menus where we can choose between two different vowels, actually articulations, building our own vowel/articulation mixture. Of course, there is also a Blend slider between those two menus, allowing us to set relations between those two articulations, using just one, or both at the same time. If we automate this slider, we can get very interesting results where one vowel fades into another in real time. Setting automation is actually a very easy task, since every controller can be easily connected with any external hardware by right clicking on the particular controller, pressing enter, and then you just move your hardware controller.
I immediately set mod-wheel to control “Swell” for both vowels. This “Swell” is actually a dynamic controller for applying a dynamic from very soft to very loud (pianissimo to fortissimo). It adds a very natural dynamic to the choir, so this is probably the only thing you will need to set manually in this library. If you run into any issues, there are also Attack, Release, and Offset controllers for taming the end results. In the upper-right corner are four additional pop up control windows where we can apply any of those effects. Vibrato adds a touch of vibrato to Sustain and Playmaster presets. The Legato option offers a set of parameters for controlling the transition between different legato notes. EQ brings Low and High gain knobs along with Mid gain and Mid Frequency knobs. Those are effects that I have never touched. It is nice to have them, as you never know when you will need them, but I have never found the need for them in my productions. Usually I don’t use internal reverbs, but I found this selection of convolution impulses quite appropriate for this library, and finding just the right one is accomplished in just a matter of seconds. All you need to do is to set the wet/dry knobs along with hi and low pass knobs and you’ll have your nicely drenched choir.
“Playmaster” preset gives you an option to choose not only different vowels, but also to choose articulation. It is actually available in all presets. The Legato preset brings a nice preprogrammed transition between the notes, being of course monophonic, since otherwise the legato function would be pointless. The Vowel Sustain preset is quite a straightforward one, offering different sustained vowels. Then we have the Staccatos and Marcatos presets. I hope that there is no need to explain them in more detail. Latin Poly-sustains contain four Latin chants – phrases that can be played over the whole keyboard range. Nice, but Requiem Light brings that to a whole new level. So if this is your only choir library, then this might be useful, but otherwise, Requiem Light is the right tool for this task. Next is a Choral Effects preset that brings a quite nice selection of vocal swells, drops and risers, falls and drones that you can select through key-switches or directly by clicking on appropriate buttons in the main preset window. We also have a few Ambient presets where you can get various choral ambient textures – basically drones. Those can come in handy for ambient intros, outros, or for atmospheric middle parts.
That is more or less everything. Articulations for every vowel are sorted on the left side of the keyboard for the first vowel and on the right side of keyboard range for the second vowel. There is also a set of controllers at the bottom to set key range for both vowels together. As already mentioned, none of these libraries sound like they are modestly priced. They sound more or less the same as those which are more expensive. You will only notice limitations in the number of included controllers and articulations, but not in the sound quality.
This one is a 63-voice symphonic choir with a few more vowel articulations: Ah, Ee, Eh, Ei, Ih, and my favorites, the simply unbeatable Mm and Oh and Oo. It comes with many more presets and articulations than Mercury Elements. The graphical interface is almost the same, except instead of Vowel 1 and Vowel 2, we get Men and Women parts to combine different vowels for male or female inside most of the presets (of course in just male or female presets you get those two separately with an option to combine different vowels). Compared to the Mercury interface, we also get pan and release volume for every layer along with additional controllers for crossfading both layers.
Olympus Elements offers a few general directories of presets: Ambiences, Choral Effects, Marcatos, Phrase Master, Staccatos, Sustains, True Legato and Vowel Master. In most directories there is an option for mixed choir, men only, or women only. The Phrase Master directory is quite special; actually it offers similar things to that which Requiem Lite offers, with the difference being that you can build phrases from vowels and not Latin chants. It is quite a big difference because those vowel phrases give a totally different atmosphere to vocal lines than Latin chants. You can program different vowel combinations and save them for later use. You do this by setting a starting point with a key-switch. You can then set whether it should be staccato or a sustaining marcato for every vowel following. I impressed my senior son yesterday by setting up a pattern (in less than a minute) where every second hit was a staccato, playing few randomly chords. This is a very powerful and handy tool for achieving quite impressive results in less than a minute. I actually just replaced an Mm vowel, as it didn’t fit there, being too different than all other vowels.
In a Vowel Master or Staccato, Marcato or Sustain directories it’s a similar story to what is in Mercury – automating the slider between layers, blending male and female voices, or just vowels between only female or male presets can produce wondrous sounds. Add automation to Swell buttons and you will get “Wow!!!” instead of just vowels.
I bought this one back in 2012 and still use it. In the interim it was updated to version 2.5, adding Tenor and Soprano solo singers and adding tempo time – stretching the functionality to all Latin-based chants and to Latin phrases that solo singers sing.
Of course, we get a wealth of similar articulations that are available in both of the other libraries, like staccato marcato and legato vowels. But the main thing that we get with this library is a fantastic Marcato and Staccato phrase builder, where we can construct our combination of Latin syllables, achieving this impressive, intense Latin choir singing used in so many action movie themes. There is actually nothing that can match such a choir. The phrase builder is easy to use. It comes with useful number of key-switches allowing us to determine from which syllable our line should start. This is fine for setting the starting point to be permanent and not starting from the last played. Secondly we can replace a syllable, actually switching one syllable with another on the fly, so we are able to make a great number of combinations in real time.
Of course, this is not all that we get in this library. There are also a large number of legato patches in which we can change vowels in real time by turning a knob, choosing between Ahh, Eh, Ih Ee, Oh and Uhm. Then we have a number of so-called Poly-sustain presets containing up to nineteen different Latin short phrases that we can combine through key-switches, using them in various pitches. Requiem light also comes with large number of vocal effects presets. So, all in all, we have a Legato Sustain directory and then Marcato and Poly-Sustain as well. The rest are Staccato, Soloist, Ambiences and Choral Effects.
We already discussed the phrase builder that allows us to build phrases combining seventeen syllables, but we didn’t mention that the phrase builder has two additional sub-windows. One of these is called Performance in which we can fine tune some elements, setting the swell and offset, or adjusting the attack, release, or release volume. The second one is a Tone/FX window, common to all presets actually, not just to phrase builder presets. There we have a selection of various controllers for every effect that we apply. At the left is a drop down menu where we can browse through all of the effects. They are Equalizer, Lo-Fi, Flanger, Rotator, Pro 53 Filter, Delay, Reverb and Stereo Imager.
The Performance window is also available for all presets, but the set of available controllers varies and is not the same for every group of presets. There we can find various Low, High, Xfade Polyphony, and other similar types of controllers.
Soundiron Choir Summary
All three libraries come with a large number of controllers. Some things can be controlled directly, while some others can easily be set by assigning any parameter to a hardware controller. But to tell the truth, all three are very well preprogrammed, so you will not need many additional tweaks to achieve great results. All three come with specific sounds and some unique elements, so for me there is no possibility that one library can be a substitute for another. Of course, Requiem Light is absolutely unbeatable and irreplaceable for score music, while Mercury and Olympus Elements can easily find its place in all sorts of arrangements and all genres. I’m not using pads anymore. Whenever there is a need for pad sounds, I would much rather put in some choir instead. It sounds much more impressive – period.