Review – Cinesamples Tina Guo Acoustic Cello Legato
Cinesamples Tina Guo Acoustic Cello is in an incredibly easy to use solo cello library with phenomenal sound quality, vibrato and bow changes. Are there any reasons not to get it?
by Per Lichtman, Jan. 2015
If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you have probably noticed that I have a special passion for reviewing ensemble strings and solo strings and that I cover them more often than anything else. So when I say CineSamples Tina Guo Acoustic Cello Legato is a cello library unlike any other I’ve ever used, I’m not speaking lightly. Tina Guo Acoustic Cello Legato is a Kontakt 5 Player (version 5.3.1 or higher) library currently available from Cinesamples.com for $99 USD. It is positioned as part of Cinesamples strings range while the “full version” of Cinesamples Tina Guo library is positioned as part of the sound design range, costs $299 USD and contains a wider variety of content. When you purchase Tina Guo Acoustic Cello Legato, you currently get a voucher for $99 USD toward the purchase of the larger product should you choose to upgrade. Sessions for Tina Guo Acoustic Cello Legato were recorded more recently than the other content and with a different signal chain so I will save discussion of the larger product for another time.
What Makes This Cello Library Special?
Before I go any further, the biggest thing that makes this library special is Tina Guo herself. Cinesamples have captured surprisingly evocative single note performances by this world class artist, imbued with the natural variation in vibrato and human expression that I have frankly been unable to replicate with any other library in all my years of working with samples. On top of that, the legato interval sampling is so excellent that I frequently got positive comments on the bow changes from laymen without any experience playing or writing for strings. So the performances are the first huge part.
The second part is the sound quality. While the library lacks the flexibility of the miking I found in Cinesamples Cinesymphony products, it is nonetheless recorded in the same space (the MGM Scoring Stage at Sony Pictures Studios) and provides two mixes. The first thing I did was to disable all the FX (it sounds great without anything on it) and then I just picked the mix I liked best of the two. Honestly, I never found reason to switch back and forth so I think it’s purely a matter of personal preference. The library cannot be made to sound as dry a VSL Solo Strings I, let alone the Embertone products but it sounds great without anything on it. Let me re-emphasize that: this is a solo string library sounds great without any FX applied to it, and yet doesn’t have an overpowering hall sound.
The third thing is the learning curve and usability. You can be fully proficient with the library in less than an hour. I am serious – within the first hour of finishing installing the library, I was fully up to speed. I improvised five sketches for piano and cello in thirty minutes, including one that turned out to be a listener favorite and got tons of compliments. And how much time did I spend tweaking the performances? None. Not only that, but I only played the notes and used one CC to modify the level of the performance while I was playing. The legato transitions worked wonderfully and (other than disabling FX) I didn’t have to do any setup at all. I’ll come back to that point later, but suffice to say that I have never found a solo cello library that was quicker to learn, use or mix.
What Is the Library Best For?
Unlike some other libraries I have reviewed, Tina Guo Acoustic Cello Legato does not aim for maximum flexibility. There is a single patch, it is not close-miked in a dry space and the only key-switching is to turn the legato intervals on and off (allowing you to play multiple sustains at once, for instance). While the legato scripting can handle a decent range of performance, it is not designed for the especially quick playing. So what this library really excels at is slow to moderate performances so that the bow changes and vibrato get a chance to breathe and shine: if you play it in this range, it’s much more difficult to push the library to sound unnatural than many other products I have used. The library can work very well for a variety of material in this range, from passionate to pastoral, from expansive to intimate, and the warm sound worked well with a surprising variety of material, especially with a little EQ. I used the library for chamber pieces and for larger orchestral ones with equally good results and found it effective both on lead melodies and playing a supporting accompaniment.
What about the Competition?
Tina Guo Acoustic Cello Legato is far from the only solo library out there and it faces a lot of competition, even at its relatively low price point. Embertone’s Blakus Cello is only a little more and offers much great flexibility, not just in terms of the number of articulations and (due to the closer miking) how close you can get to the instrument, but also in terms of vibrato control. The solo cello in 8Dio’s Adagio line is less flexible than Blakus Cello but still offers more options than Tina Guo Acoustic Cello Legato. The solo cello in VSL Solo Strings I Full offers an even more comprehensive range of articulations than that, once again with great mixing flexibility. Many other libraries also offer solo cellos at aggressive price points: there’s covered Prague Solo Strings (though without interval legato samples or advanced scripting) and Kirk Hunter also offers multiple options, for starters. And there’s pocketBlakus, which still holds my recommendation as the best free solo cello library and is very easy to learn (though it too does not have interval legato samples). Some of these libraries also go further into the highest range of cello than Tina Guo Acoustic Cello Legato.
Tina Guo Acoustic Cello Legato does not attempt to compete with the versatility of those libraries in terms of either articulations or mixing options, let alone vibrato control. Instead it provides a much shorter learning curve with great instant gratification and in place of vibrato control, it provides really great vibrato by a world class performer that I simply don’t seem to be able to recreate in other libraries. It sounds great without FX, it sounds great without mixing, it sounds great without a ton of CC data (just one controller for level is enough) and it is very, very fast to work with.
If you’re looking for a solo cello library that is very easy to learn, with a warm sound that has got a bit of ambience without sounding “too” wet and with great vibrato performances. This is currently my clients’ favorite cello library that I have ever used. There aren’t additional articulations here (though the larger product may include some from a different product) and it’s not meant for especially fast playing or to give you non-vibrato performances or vibrato control. Frankly, it’s still a steal at the price because I have never used a sampled cello that made it this easy to make melodies sound this good. If sampled cello is important to your melody writing, I would seriously suggest looking at this library, even if you already have another sampled cello. It sounds unlike any other library I have ever used and it is very fun to work with.