There is something undeniably powerful about the sound of a traditional classical orchestra. It is also a sound that is universally loved and accepted. Even if you’re a staunch punk rocker, an acid house raver or jazz funk progressive, you will have been, and will continue to be, moved by music played by an orchestra. Orchestral music is as popular today as it probably ever was. It is the sonic backbone of so much that we see on TV or at the cinema. Orchestral works by the great masters are still played and enjoyed, even sampled, by a vast, global audience.
I shan’t attempt to describe the history of the orchestra as we know it today. That’s more my sister’s kind of thing, sickeningly talented individual that she is. And therefore I won’t embarrass her or myself in attempting that, but suffice to say, the current accepted configuration of an orchestra has been around for a long time. And until the dawn of sampling, getting orchestral sounds in your music was a logistical nightmare and a luxury only afforded by the biggest and the best in the business. Hiring 40+ people to sit in a studio all day is not cheap. But sampling changed that. Once technology had been refined and sampling capabilities had hit the heights of 16bit and 44.1kHz, it was entirely possible to sample all the instruments in an orchestra well enough to be able to come up with a pretty convincing approximation of the real thing.
Of course, this put a lot of people’s noses out of joint at first, but here we are, some 30+ years after many an infamous Musician’s Union strike, and whilst some orchestra’s have gone out of business, the majority are still here, still in business and still the best way to get the full impact of having all those instruments in the hands of deeply skilled individuals. In fact, many orchestras make more money for themselves by being sampled themselves!
But, for the likes of you and me (well, definitely me), I will be forever limited to the sampled variety. And to this end, I have a number of libraries to hand that give me some semblance of sonic credibility when I need those specific sounds. But in this modern era of software sampling, the art of scripted sampling has really brought virtual orchestra’s to a whole new level. It used to be that the average DAW based composer would have to have multiple instances of their sampler, or large multis set up, to cover the range of articulations of just, say, the violins. If the piece warranted a swift switch from marcato to pizzicato and on to tremolo, it took some doing, with different instruments, possibly on different channels, and that’s if you actually had samples of those articulations! So it is now very common place to find orchestral libraries with numerous articulations and other performance controls that allow for a vary varied approach for the small composer. And UVI’s Orchestral Suite is another that more than fits the bill. In fact, at the current price of $199/€185, it fits that bill very well indeed!
Orchestral Suite gives you access to over 60 classical instruments, including strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion instruments, a full choir, and other complimentary instruments such as a cathedral organ, harpsichord, celesta, classical guitar and harp. You can choose from ensembles or solo instruments, different playing styles and articulations, with per-instrument controls to fine tune your orchestra to your liking. All of these instruments are categorised by family (Brass, Choirs, Strings, Woodwind, etc.) and within each of these are various individual instruments, or ensembles. There’s even a complete orchestra category for instant gratification. The articulations are pretty comprehensive too, and as well as the ones you’d expect, like pizzicato, staccato, sustain and the like, there are also things like runs, where the instruments perform upwards octave runs, or 5ths, where, for example, the viola section plays notes (unsurprisingly) a 5th apart. Very useful if you’re wanting to recreate that ethereal ending to “Purple Rain”!
Instruments are often limited to their natural range and all take advantage of UVI’s Impulse Response reverb unit, an equaliser and amplitude envelope. There are also controls for polyphony reproduction or legato and other settings to control portamento. Expression can also be controlled either by key velocity or by the mod wheel. Many instruments have unique and/or specific controls, such as the percussion instruments. Tubular Bells, for example, give you the choice of wooden or leather mallets, as well as the ability to shape and blend in transients. And all of the main articulations are handled by key-switching with those keys situated at the far left of the particular instrument’s playing scale.
Put simply, there is more than enough depth here to satisfy many people’s needs when it comes to orchestral sounds. There really is something for almost every occasion here and only the most demanding composer may want more, but then they’re likely to be able to afford a real orchestra or half a dozen dedicated computers running individual instances of some hugely expensive library.
For me, UVI’s Orchestral Suite is more of an everyman’s package. You can compose and orchestrate complete works with this library and at a hugely affordable cost. There is enough variation to make your composition sound authentic as well as satisfying and still not sound too much like a sample library rather than the real thing. Orchestral Suite is like that really useful wrench you have in your toolbox. It can pretty much handle any job required of it. It is also incredibly CPU efficient too. 30-40 simultaneous notes through the IR convolution reverb was barely tickling 2.5% CPU on my iMac. And from a size perspective, it’s fairly economical when it comes to its footprint. There are over 15,600 samples here, across 82 presets, and yet the entire library compresses down to 4.62GB! And that compression is also lossless, so there is no compromise on quality here.
If you are after hyper-realistic orchestra sounds with every possible articulation and performance nuance at your fingertips, Orchestral Suite may fall a bit short. But I figure if that is your requirement, you will have your eyes set on something vastly more expensive, if not the real thing. And as such, Orchestral Suite will more than likely tick most, if not all, of most other users boxes. I think it is fair to say that this library is exceptional value for money and delivers superb quality sounds with a fantastic amount of variety and expression. But then, we’ve come to expect nothing less from UVI.
As is the way with UVI libraries, copy protection is via the iLok system, with 3 activations available at a time, be they on a specific computer or stored on an iLok key. Playback is via UVI’s free Workstation and Orchestral Suite is also fully compatible with their new (and rather bloody awesome) Falcon instrument. Orchestral Suite can be bought direct from UVI and is currently $199/€185 ex. sales tax.