Review – Analog Strings by Output
Analog Strings – a string library that is definitely not just about the strings – it goes beyond the border of the well-known string universe.
by Alex Arsov, May 2017
If someone asked me to describe Analog Strings in one sentence, I would probably say that it’s kinda like ARP Solina String Ensemble on ecstasy in combination with LSD. Given the chance of two sentences I would only add: a bit more LSD than ecstasy.
We are a serious magazine and we can’t describe any instrument in this way, so let’s take a longer route.
Analog Strings is not a string instrument. It is a string-based instrument that deconstructs its source with a set of intelligently programmed effects and modulators, producing quite weird and unique string-based sounds. The main problem with most of the string synthesizers from the past is that they don’t wander far from the source. Not being the first instrument from Output, we all know how far their instruments can go beyond the source. In this case they use classical string instruments, big and small orchestras along with a bunch of analog synthesizers and analog effects as a starting point. Not that Analog Strings just brings different and more unique content, but it also adds a new evolving dynamic to the string sound, also covering a wider range of the sound spectrum in a variety of timbres, characters or even literary going from extremely deep pads to the fragile high ones. A collection of 500 presets that sound as all those string synthesizers from the past should sound in the first place.
Same as with all other Output instruments, you won’t buy this as just another analog string emulator, you will buy it to bring some unique character to your compositions. On the one hand, Analog Strings have this old Solina character, but on other it still sounds very modern, a 21st century gem, not feeling dated in any way. I think that this is one of the stronger advantages of this instrument. Bringing some interesting, fresh sounding analog strings that don’t sound like some blast from the past.
At the top of the main window we can enter a browser or just browse through all samples on by one. Under the browser is a Macro window where we find a row with three to six (this number varies from preset to preset) macro controllers shaped as a string for controlling the most significant presets, depending on the effect or modulator. You can change the current selection, setting a precise range for every parameter controlled by this macro. Quite easy and pleasing to use. Under the strings are sample windows where we can even set the loop point, and at the bottom a control box for every source with volume knob, on/off switch and a source window for opening the source window. More or less all presented controllers on the main page are more than enough for taming the preset in general or even for applying some dynamic movement – of course, all macro sliders can be linked to CC as you desire, so automating a preset with your controller is not a big problem.
By clicking on the currently-chosen preset we enter the main preset browser window. It contains 30 tag buttons containing various sound characteristic categories, helping us to narrow our search by selecting just the desired ones. From pads, staccato hits to looped phrases, of which a good number proved to be quite useful, as I usually don’t know what to do with various instrument loops being usually too recognizable and too repetitive over the long run. I presume it is a matter of taste. Anyway, I found those to be quite interesting.
If you are not a happy with the sound you can try your luck in the source browser where all sounds are nicely categorized by type: one shots, pads and tape loops which are also categorized by sound origin: Orchestral, Synths and the so-called Creative.
Edit and FX Page
Clicking on Edit view, the second in the upper menu, will brings a window with ADSR, Filter, stereo width and similar stuff. Not much fun here, the real fun starts on the Effect page. The Output fellows are real gurus in this field. They can beckon a hell of a lot things with quite ordinary effects. On the Layer effect page we can find EQ, Distortion, Filter, Delay, Compressor and Reverb. Nothing to write home about, but still, somehow, when the Output team start messing with these effects, as seen in all the presets, nothing is “ordinary” anymore. On the Global page we have more or less the same ones, except for the additional Phaser – Chorus effect and Convolution reverb. I have almost all the Output libraries and most of them use the most ordinary effects. I’m not sure how they do it, but all Output libraries share the same alchemist process that produces the extraordinary out of the ordinary.
Of course, there would be no Output instrument without a rhythm section with their well-known LFO or step sequencer rhythm generators. Here you can draw or simply just set some preprogrammed shapes for modulating volume, pan, filter cut off and resonance, saturation, distortion, LoFi distortion bits and Lo-fi distortion sample rate. Just drag parameters up or down, set the tempo and have fun. Even if you just drag some parameters without knowing exactly what you are doing, the results will still be very musical, at least while you’re not setting everything to maximum.
Last in line is the Arpegiator page, which offers a large number of preprogrammed patterns inside a well-organized browser with various arpeggiator patterns; you can easily find something to suit your needs. You can also set the number of steps, apply random function or even just reverse the pattern.
Sum More than Parts
The combination of all those quite ordinary sound sources, effects and modulators gives quite extraordinary results. Analog Strings sounds original, being in a category of its own. It is definitely a library that can add some special colors to your arrangement. It is always cool and handy to have one different sounding synthesizer or library to distinguish your music from that of other people. Lucky me, I have a series of such instruments from Output. I realized that I have bunch of different virtual synthesizers, using just one or two, as there is no real big difference between them all. At the same time I have most of the Output libraries and I use them all. Quite regularly.
With them – and Analog Strings also goes into this basket – you can start with some quite boring, well-known, million-times-used harmony, play it with some strange sounding preset from Analog Strings and you’ll finish with a modern fresh sounding tune. Analog Strings – it is definitely not just about the strings, it goes beyond the border of the well-known string universe. Where are we going, captain? Somewhere we haven’t been yet. Doctor Spock, please, play us a line with Analog Strings.
$199 USD. One main preset in Kontakt player that can give you access to all other 500 presets.
More info at here: https://output.com/products/analog-strings