Era II Medieval Legends by Bestservice.de
Is this a tool just for media producers or it could serve as an ultra up-to-date library for modern Chill – Trop House production? A gift from the past for all our future needs?
by A. Arsov May 2015
What has Tropical House got to do with ERA II?
This is a sample library containing sampled medieval instruments aimed mainly at media composers. But as many of you are not media producers, we will try and find out how ERA II could also be useful for producers of pop, dance EDM and rock, seeing as all cinema, advertising, game and other media producers will probably buy this library anyway. The reason is pretty simple: in the world of sample libraries Eduardo Tarilonte has a reputation. He’s the one who killed the spirit of sample pack competitions. In the sound library field, Eduardo is something of a legend, like Tomba was for ski sports, or Schumacher was for Formula 1… Why bother competing when you know who will win? While all other competitors put goggles on at the start of a race, he never takes them off. He wears the goggles all the time – obviously he is some sort of natural born winner.
OK, jokes aside, as soon as I had heard some demo clips of this library I knew this could be a real gem for my new Tropical House songs. Everybody talks about this upcoming genre and most producers jumping on this wagon use a standard set of sounds compiled from the few packs out there for this relatively new scene. But as far as I know, it still counts if your music sounds unique, no matter which genre you are in. This library could be your ticket to originality. A wild bunch of exotic flutes, one of the best atmospheric voices that can be found in the virtual world, and a huge number of bowed and plucked stringed instruments. At first glance it really looks like the perfect tool for all sorts of media compositions – after all, this is the main purpose of this library. But doesn’t all this ring a bell? Flutes, voices, eternal strings? It is somehow destined to be used in Chill-Trop House, other indie pop genres, and especially ballads.
What do we need?
First of all, money. Limited Edition will cost you €399 EUR and regular ERA II €259 EUR. Compared to other libraries, both versions are more than reasonably priced. The other thing you will need is around 23 GB of free space on your hard disk for Limited Edition and 3 GB less for regular ERA II, and at least 4, 6 or even 8 GB of RAM. Engine 2, the host for this library, is bundled in a pack with the sounds.
Limited Edition brings some additional soundscapes along with two additional solo voices (every voice brings a similar quantity and quality of content to some of Eduardo’s previous vocal libraries, like Shevannai and Altus, both in the €159 EUR price range. So for the price of one additional vocal library you get two). Of course, these two libraries are just one side of a coin. The second one is a “hardware” – Limited Edition comes in a special collector’s pack. It is absolutely one of the most impressive packages I’ve ever seen. My whole family went “Wow, wow, wow!” as I pulled things out of the pack like a magician. A big beautiful poster, a USB stick in the shape of a Chess figure, lying inside a small leather purse, and a signed certificate from Eduardo himself with your unique Limited Edition number.
What else do we get?
Lots of versatile groups of instruments. The first that caught my attention were the various wind instruments – very pleasant with unique character. Every wind instrument contains several variations ranked through key-switch notes on the lower part of a keyboard, and bringing blowing mouth sounds along with the basic tone, adding a special, pristine character. For that reason most of the presets sound surprisingly authentic during the fast passages, especially if you try to play trills or those fast, arpeggio-like notes at the start of a phrase that are so significant for wind passages. It is generally known that wind instruments are not so hard to emulate with a sampler, but Eduardo went a step further, adding those small details that really bring these instruments to life. Actually, within every group of instruments in this library there is also a large number of rare instruments, and some of them sound quite different to the modern ones, giving a special color to the whole collection. So, we get a nice colorful versatility – and great playability too, thanks to Eduardo’s programming skills.
The second instrument group that impressed me is the one containing plucked strings. Being a guitar player I was a bit skeptical about any kind of sampled acoustic guitars, as such an instrument can only sound good as long as you’re playing arpeggiated chords, and as soon as you start playing melodies or strummed chords it sounds somehow… wrong. Active played notes in a guitar phrase don’t have the same attack as the singular plucked notes often used in sample libraries, no matter how many layers for one note you sample. Not that Eduardo has invented perpetual motion, but his Baroque guitar and Bass Citole (two of the most appealing presented in this library) sounds so gentle and sweet that they render this attack issue almost insignificant. Playing any of the plucked strings from this library I enjoyed the overall tone without constantly wondering whether it sounded 100% real or not. All in all very useful, and I will definitely use them in my songs as they sound very different from my existing arsenal of guitars. Actually, during the test period alone I had already made two backgrounds for my Trop House songs.
Along with plucked strings we also get a cool collection of bowed strings. I especially like two violas, where one of them offers a very playable articulation with a touching vibrato and unique sounding bow hit at the beginning of the lower notes, making it sound as if it’s being played by a gipsy player, where feeling is much more important than technique. Actually almost all instruments in this library have a special character, distinguishing it from others that offer a similar collection of instruments.
ERA II also brings three brass instruments which are also very playable and could easily be used to make realistic brass lines (if that were the case with most brass libraries then we’d never bother ourselves with brass loops and prerecorded phrases). Brass instruments are usually only playable (meaning that you can play the line in real time without then spending ages programming it) in bigger, specialized brass libraries. As with all other instruments in this library, the brass ones are enhanced with an appropriately implemented reverb, but which could easily be tamed in the Quick Edit window of Engine 2. On the lower part of a keyboard you will find a standard set of articulations accessible through key-switches – staccato, swells and similar articulations that are not so common in these kinds of libraries.
There is also a percussion section covering various medieval percussive instruments and bells, and the Key section, covering three interesting key instruments – Spinet, Organetto and Virginal, the latter being some sort of a Cembalo, sounding very Rock-ish. You can easily imagine it in a modern indie rock song.
Voices of Limited Edition
The next important part of this library are the vocals. There are two voices that only come with the Limited Edition pack, and they are of a quality we’ve come to expect from Eduardo – he has really mastered the art of vocal sampling in the last two years and already made a bunch of vocal libraries. Heroica contains female vocals which come with some highly unique variations, like a trill that triggers automatically on normal notes if played legato. We also get a preset with vocal phrases ranked along the keyboard, which proves very useful as some phrases with fast intro notes could be retriggered for some more EDM Dance effects. Heroica is also a very playable library, sounding natural at fast or slow tempo. The second library is a male one, with the name Bard. It brings a very interesting vocal color, which I found a bit tricky if you try to play fast lines, it somehow not being able to make the transitions from note to note as naturally as with Heroica, but I did find that the transition works very well when using slower, longer notes. Also the phrases are nice, as with Heroica, and are in Spanish (at least I presume they are – there’s no information about that, not even in the very detailed manuals where you can find out anything you want to do with key-switches, articulations and vowels.)
The third voice, part of the regular edition of ERA II, is a Tavern choir – basically a bunch of guys yelling! Well, maybe we should call it “singing” – “hoom” sounds and similar noises and phrases. Actually a very handy way to tame choruses, adding in those pub members as a weird background to the main vocal . Odd but very likeable.
As we mentioned, Limited Edition also brings some extra soundscapes. There are some very atmospheric and unique sounding drones and pads which are a very cool addition – I like them all. But truth be told, we get more than enough of these even with the regular version of ERA II. Actually, under the Sound Design directory in regular ERA II we find three subdirectories: Soundscapes, Whooshes and Mysterious Atmospheres, the latter containing some nice exotic and scary sounding bell drones, while Soundscapes contains more voice/instrument-related drones and pads. I’ve heard a lot of similar stuff from other Eduardo libraries, but have to admit that he gets better and better from library to library and those creepy sounds could really come handy for drops, middle eights or any kind of “in between” moment in all sorts of genres.
What it’s all about
Let’s face it. It is 2015, and every library coming from any of the well known companies or developers costing more than $200 USD should be top notch recorded and offer full, organic and authentic sound. So you could say this is a standard, more or less, proving that this could not be the main reason Eduardo wins all the rewards. Actually, what makes this library so special is very clever programming – the way articulations automatically change according how you play the phrase. OK, it’s an old trick, changing the articulation when notes are played legato, but Eduardo has made this work a bit better than other sample library developers. The quality of this library is not simply in the selection of instruments, but mainly in the special character that all those Medieval instruments have. And this character is not only captured within the instruments’ primary sound, but also the way they’ve been recorded, with all those human artefacts – additional noises that every player makes while playing – and finally some clever programming to make these samples playable. It’s not easy to put all those quirks in the right order to preserve authenticity without loosing playability on a keyboard. It is an old paradox: the cleaner, simpler and more equal the sound, the easier it is to achieve a fluid, almost natural feel while playing; but at the same time it can somehow start to sound less and less natural, and end up becoming somewhat robotic – there is no real life musician that plays like that. Only very skilled sample developers could break this Gordian knot – and that’s where Eduardo shines.
Yes, there is one, but it is not on the Bestservice side, it is a problem with Engine 2, the host made by Yellow Tools and bought by Magix. Loading such big files, as they are in this library, is a bit of a tricky task. Engine 2 shows the main preset window even before finishing loading all the files associated with the preset without letting us know the files have not yet been loaded. So, if it happens that you press a note as soon you see the preset window, thinking that all sounds are already loaded, it can crash Windows.
I have quad-core system with 6 GB of RAM, but it still managed to crash my computer so badly that I spent the next two hours trying to get it back to normal. So, a small window with the message “Dear Mr. Arsov, please don’t touch the keyboard as Engine files are still loading” would have been nice.
Limited or normal?
ERA II Limited Edition gives you additional voices, soundscapes and load of collector’s material. If you can afford it go for it – you won’t regret it. On the other hand, ERA II (normal edition 😉 ) gives you enough quality material that, even if you miss out on the Limited Edition, it still offers excellent value. The versatility, quality and most of all the pristine nature of the sound, mimicking the feel of a real ethno musician, adds such a special character to all of the instruments, giving them something that cannot be found in other libraries containing similar sets of instruments. “Medieval” is just a name, this library is far more than that. It is about bringing “unperfection” to your perfectly arranged material. Unperfection with all the dirt and dust of a real performance that you hear from real players on stage during a performance.
Soundbytes ERA II Limited Edition
We’ve got a special gift for our readers. A MIDI file along with an Engine 2 project containing all necessary presets and an MP3 of a finished song. All three files are originally from Eduardo, so you can learn how to use some of his instruments and voices in this library directly from the maestro himself.
The voice used in this demo is from Limited Edition, so if you only have the regular version of ERA II, then you will only get a guitar part to use in your DAW of choice. (We also added an original Cubase project from Eduardo, so if you have this DAW you can simply load this project instead of importing the MIDI clips and Engine 2 project separately.)
Details and additional info:
ERA II Medieval Legends – Limited Edition € 399 EUR
ERA II Medieval Legends € 259 EUR
And my ERA II demo (wih Requiem choir and percussions from Albion )