Voices of Prague & Soloists of Prague by Virharmonic
Voices of Prague and Soloists of Prague offer some possibilities that can even come remarkably close to credible singing of words, at least in our reviewer’s estimation.
by A. Arsov, Jan. 2014
There are only two kinds of sound libraries: The ones where programmers did the all programming for you, and you can just enjoy using them, and secondly are the ones where you should program all sorts of things because the developer didn’t do it. Thankfully Ondrej did the job. Neither library is a one-hundred-percent substitute for real vocalists, but both are easy and fun for use, offering many tools for fine-tuning the details (not that you need to do that). The text editor is simple and pretty self-explaining; all you have to do is to write some text, copy it between various voices and start toying with a keyboard and mod-wheel.
Voices of Prague
Voices of Prague is a UVI Workstation-powered Choir library with a text editor where you can add your lyric for the choir. Surprisingly the whole thing doesn’t sound like Yamaha Vocaloid (in translation).
As we said before, you can’t replace a real choir with this library, mainly because of an accent, as a real vocalist can pronounce words more logically than programmed samples, especially if we consider that humans pronounce some words a bit differently in a sentence according to the other words used in the same sentence. But the truth should be said: Most of the time it is hard to understand the words sung by real choirs unless you already know the song from before. So, if you give this Czech Choir a few sentences from your chorus, adding a line or two of a live vocalist on top of it, you can make wonders. This is a common trick used with string libraries, and it provides even better results with this vocal library.
What Do We Get?
The whole library is divided into three basic windows: Mixer, Settings, and Libretto engine, the last one being the default window which we get when we start the library. At the right side of the Libretto engine window is a voice selector where we can assign the desired MIDI channel for each one of the four basic voices: Sopranos, Altos, Tenors, and Basses. UVI really nailed this one, as usually articulations, or different voices, are ranked on key-switches. For example, in Kontakt you should load another instance of the same instrument (which doesn’t use any additional memory resources) selecting another key-switch, while here is everything so straightforward, at the reach of your fingertips. This is just one of the many user-friendly additions offered by this library.
In the middle there is a score and stuff like a window where you can write your lyric from bar to bar. When you reach the last bar, you can press the next-page arrow at the top of the window, selecting a new page, so there is no quantity limit here; if you have enough time you can write the whole Bible here. There is also a Presets drop-down menu where you can find a nice number of various Latin words for some quick, instant results. The library is mostly adopted to the English language, but thankfully there is such a big number of letters and syllables available on the typewriter sort of keyboard under the score window, that you can easily make some sentences in your native language.
At first I was a bit confused about finding the right letter, but after some time, especially after I finally printed all letters and syllables explained in the manual, everything comes to its place. All available syllables and letters are also explained with some examples, so it is not hard to figure how to use them to get better results.
At the right side is a Copy/Paste window which allows you to copy all the text or just a selected part to other voice, so making a whole libretto is almost a piece of cake.
For all trial-and-error types of works there is an erase button for erasing the last letter and the most desired knob in such sort of libraries – the Restart button – which will bring the next MIDI note to the start position. I have one similar library and had enormous problems pressing keys on my keyboard over and over, browsing through the lyric to bring it back to the start position. At first you may get the impression that writing words phonetically is a defect, but after some time you will notice that it is really joyful and funny to do things that way. After all, making a music should be a pleasurable, funny thing.
The next window, reachable through the mixer sign at the right upper corner, is a mixer where we can fine-tune the general sound. There you can find a volume slider for every voice along with microphone volume. Every voice is recorded with three microphone positions, close, decca, and far, and choosing one of those positions may reduce the memory load. Microphone positions can be switched on and off through the small buttons under the volume slider. I’m a bit old, and as my computer is also a bit old, this came as a lifesaver for me. And this is only the beginning of a beautiful friendship with the controllers that are accessible here, panning and stereo width controllers for every voice, Ensemble, Poly legato along with presets containing various microphone positions and auto-split function for the keyboard, stab link and Ensembler which activate the ability to play chords.
A Picky Not
For all those unrealized programmers, picky warriors and other demanding fellows, there is also a settings window where you can fine-tune specific vowels from the specific voice. It is divided into a few separated windows: Vowel Sequencer and Ensembler are the first, most noticeable ones. In the Vowel Sequencer, you can choose any letter or syllable from specific voice, fine-tuning it by changing the attack, release, adding delay or volume. The Ensembles section will allow you to tweak the spread, time, tuning and volume along with a tempo of the selected voice. There is also a Reverb with two main controllers, mix and size; the latter is for changing the size of the room. There is a Legato section for controlling the volume and time of the legato and the Sustain section, with a hold-vowel function along with switching on of the poly legato mode. The last one is Auto Split which works only if the Auto Split function is selected in the main window, splitting the keyboard into various voices and defining the keyboard range for every voice.
With all those controllers you can fine-tune and humanize specific vowels, adopting them to your needs. Thank Zeus I’m picky on some other fields, and, therefore, I didn’t use this section too much, but all in all, only the sky is the limit.
Both libraries also have some additional functions for controlling the dynamics of the used parts. With a keyboard’s mod-wheel you can change the dynamics from pianissimo up to fortissimo.
If you still have somewhere your old sustain pedal (I have to dig through the old boxes for mine), then this is the right time to use it. It can nicely tighten the transition between syllables inside the played word.
Soloists of Prague
The main difference is that you get a soloist in this library and not choir sections as they are presented in Voices of Prague. The main result is a bit less authentic when you listen to just one solo voice, isolated without any background. But when you put it in a content with a music, or when you use more voices together, all those imperfections become far less obvious. So this one is also not meant as a full replacement for a live vocalist, but if you want to add a Soprano or Alto voice, or even my favorite from this library – Tenor, or even maybe Bass vocal part to your Choir arrangement or even pop arrangement, then this is one seems as almost a perfect solution for such a task.
All other components and controllers are pretty similar to what they are in Voices of Prague. Maybe the main difference is that you will need to use much more your mod-wheel to achieve better results, as a solo voice is far more sensitive regarding the dynamic range than the choir. This is not a programming issue, but it is related to the natural differences between the solo voice and the bunch of them.
Most of the controllers in this library can be controlled through the MIDI continuous controllers, and the end results could be fine-tuned with many additional parameters, but mostly all you have to do is to toy with syllables, trying to teach your soloist or your new domestic choir to talk properly. As with teaching kids, it is a funny adventure which brings you plenty of joy when you achieve the final results. Voices Of Prague and Soloists of Prague are two of the most user-friendly libraries that I have had the honor to play with till now, and secondly, the end results are very impressive. When I pressed a few chords for the first time my whole family goes: “Wow, what’s that?”
So, no matter that it could happen here and there that some word could sound a bit odd, as a whole it is pretty damn impressive.
Voices of Prague will cost you $399 USD, but for that money, you get the whole choir; it is less than a C-note per separate group of voices. (If cars can be sold by advertising them as: “Pay five dollars a day,” why shouldn’t we separate those Choirs on voices?)
Soloists of Prague is just $199 USD, (less than 50 bucks per voice).
No (more) iLok required – just register and enjoy your new products.
More info about libraries can be find on http://www.virharmonic.com/
and the main impression can be heard on https://www.youtube.com/user/Virharmonic