Review – 8Dio Agitato Grandiose Legato Strings Bundle
8Dio’s new string library picks up where Adagio leaves off, with legato and dynamic bowings designed for use in faster passages, with a change in vibrato and timbre to match.
by Per Lichtman, Jan. 2015
The 8Dio Agitato Grandiose Legato Bundle ($399 USD at www.8dio.com) is a string library for owners of the full Kontakt 5.3 or later. It follows hot on the heels of their Adagio series with faster legato patches for both the ensemble and divisi size sections for the strings, as well as shorter length dynamic bowings than in their Adagio series. Each of the six volumes contained in the bundle can also be purchased separately. The bundle currently costs less than half of the Adagio one because it offers a much narrower range of articulations – but ones that users have been craving for a long time.
The Agitato bundle includes ensemble violins, divisi violins, ensemble violas, divisi violas, ensemble cellos and divisi cellos, each with both legato and dynamic bows. You won’t find solo strings, basses (8Dio says that since the Adagio basses were released last, they had already incorporated some of the Agitato benefits) or the wider range of articulations found in Adagio. The main emphasis here is on the faster legato types, which is in part why is priced so much lower. Note that, as in Adagietto, there’s no separate second violin section. This differs from 8Dio’s Adagio, which offers a second violins switch on all but two patches: Bonus Ambiences and Legato Master (though each of the legato types has a second violin option when used separately). You can get a sense for the library using a free range limited demo of legato violins, available for download on the product page.
A Little Extra Refinement
Some of the headliner features for the new collection is you now switch between three different legato intervals based on velocity. 1-39 trigger a portamento, 40-80 triggers a normal mf-f expressivo legato while 81-127 triggers a more aggressive f-ff to expressivo legato. This is a very noticeable and welcome improvement over Adagio.
One of my other favorite improvements (and you’ll laugh at me because it’s such a small detail) is that dynamics and expression can now be linked together with a single click, making it easy modify the two parameters with the mod wheel without having to manually use MIDI learn to accomplish the same thing. Like I said, it’s a very small thing but it’s indicative of some of the small sorts of refinements that 8Dio has made that make Agitato easier to use than Adagio. Another is the settings icon to the right of each variation name when a legato patch is loaded. For instance, if I click on this icon to the right of “Mancini 1”, it brings up three well labeled icons let me change the key-switch for the note (just like before) but I can also set it to be triggered by a certain velocity range, or by certain MIDI CC values. It would be great if scripting improvements like this could make it back into the Adagio line because they really make for a more polished experience.
Agitato is one of the very few libraries that can do legato passages at a brisk pace well. Playing quicker ostinati and melody lines is significantly easier than in many competing libraries in addition to being easier than in Adagio, of course. The sound is musical, energetic and focused, and the library maintains the key-switching ability of its predecessor to move between different legato variations – but now with the important distinction that the key-switch now applies to the first note of the line. In the previous library, every legato line began with the same sustain, regardless of how it was used, and that situation has now been improved. In combination with Adagio, it remains one of my favorite legato options of any library released.
Short Dynamic Bowings
The dynamic bowings consist of several crescendos and diminuendos, with the emphasis squarely on the crescendo. For the divisi violins, there are eleven ranges from very short to medium. For the divisi violas, there are ten and for cellos, seven, from very short to short. For the ensemble cellos, there are eleven from very short to short. For the ensemble violas, there are eight, all short. The ensemble violins have the most: two very short, three short, two sforzando variations, three medium, two medium two bow and finally three “Mancini” variations. As a side note, the Mancini variations have lots of vibrato and they decrease in length in as their numbers increase.
All of the short bowings have the energy and playing characteristics that helped make a name for Adagio, but the louder dynamics also don’t pull any punches. For instance, some of the notes performed on the A-string in the violin ensemble patches have an audible sympathetic resonance that makes it clear that the players really “let go” while performing instead of being concerned with the most refined sound. I, for one, really like this and feel it helps to more clearly differentiate Agitato from Adagio.
Agitato retains the lively, vibrant sound that attracted many people to Adagio but perhaps projects a bit more. As such, I would suggest reading my earlier Adagio review to get more of a sense of what to expect. There’s sufficient consistency between the two libraries that you can mix and match consecutive sections of the same line if needed, keeping in mind that Agitato will sound more energetic and dynamic as opposed to the lush majestic sound of Adagio’s legatos. The recording quality is great throughout all six volumes, with none of them standing out as stronger or weaker than any other… and yet I do have a special appreciation for the cellos, which manage to maintain a smooth sound all the way to the top of their sampled range (C above middle C) without ever feeling sluggish. All of the sections strike a wonderful balance between “beauty” and “energy”, making it easy to maintain momentum in a given line without feeling bogged down by the legato scripting. I especially enjoyed playing minimalist ostinati with all of them.
How Does It Compare to Adagio?
In many ways, this is a very simple review to write compared to the Adagio bundle because the product is narrower in the scope of what it aims to do – and does it very well. There are far fewer articulations, the library organization is more consistent and straightforward and the programming and quality control have improved. I didn’t encounter a single bug the whole time I was reviewing it.
Many minor niggles that got my attention in Adagio have also been taken care of. For instance, the ambience and tail on note releases is much more organic sounding in Agitato than Adagio. One of the few remaining niggles is that the habit of stretching the low open string sample up a half-step remains, meaning that the second lowest note is still played without vibrato. The miking approach remains the same and there is no overlap in sample content between the two, so it is important to think of Agitato as an additional volume in 8Dio’s orchestral string lines, not as a replacement for Adagio. My templates are setup to use the two together and either one has things about it that make it a good starting point for new users.
Adagio features solo instruments (which thus far are not present in the Agitato line) and short notes (staccatos, spiccatos, pizzicatos, etc.) that are not present in Agitato. Agitato features clearer organization, superior scripting, tighter quality control and a lower introductory price point, closer to Adagietto.
The aren’t many products that try to do fast legato lines for ensemble strings. Out of the ones I’ve worked with Berlin Strings is the primary one that comes to mind. Mural Vol.2, CineStrings CORE, Cinematic Strings 2, Hollywood Strings and 8Dio’s own Adagio have many other strengths but are just not well suited to those lines, requiring significant workarounds to get decent results. Agitato is also the only library I have reviewed so far that does fast legato lines well for divisi ensemble sizes.
In comparison with Berlin Strings, Agitato has a very different sound that comes off as more intimate and vibrant while Berlin Strings has more of the lushness of a natural hall ambience. Either one can do fast lines well, in a way that few other products can, but Agitato has the edge in terms of price and ensemble size: while Berlin Strings has a similar number of players to the ensemble volumes in Agitato, it does not feature the smaller divisi size option that Agitato offers. Conversely, Berlin Strings (a much larger product overall) offers a second violin section, which cannot be found in either Adagio or Agitato.
Agitato is a worthy addition to 8Dio’s line of orchestral strings, adding previously omitted articulations and addressing previous shortcomings while maintaining the strengths of earlier entries. If you liked Adagio and want to write faster legato lines – or if you just want to write faster legato lines regardless of previous library experience – I would definitely give it a look. It has few competitors and does everything it aims to quite well.