Review of the
Orchestra Soft Synth (Macintosh and Windows)
Personal Orchestra includes a
comprehensive orchestral sample library, Native Instruments' KONTAKT
sample player, GenieSoft's Overture LE Notation Program, Cubasis VST
Sequencer (for PC), GPO Studio and AMBIENCE Reverb.
Read more about GPO at
www.garritan.com where you can
listen to demos and examples of each instrument.
Native Instruments Kontakt (Macintosh and Windows)
Now in its third incarnation, KONTAKT 3 builds on its
reputation as the industry standard for professional sampling. The
outstanding audio engine and state-of-the-art modular architecture
provide unlimited sonic potential for your music. Universal file import
ensures global compatibility.
It has been said before about music technology. You know, "Beethoven would have killed for
this software". Probably not, says one muse. The man, after all, was
deaf in his later years. And he didn't need any stinkin' software.
It was all (Tweak taps his large forehead) "up here". But think again,
says a contrasting muse. Those guys back in the day had a huge problem
getting played. How many composers lived and died having never
heard their magnum opus? Imagine, you, a composer in the 19th century
telling your compatriots "Yo, Homeys, I got some killah tunes in my head,
lets get together and make a 100 piece orchestra!" Back then the rock
stars of the day were the church organists (heh, the first synthmaster's who
tried to emulate the orchestra on pipe organs). Only the chosen few made
the MTV equivalent of yesteryear--virtuosos born into aristocracy, whose
families could afford the best schools, met the right people, and like
Beethoven, had immense and uncontainable nerve, as well as verve to walk the
whole world into totally uncharted musical territory. Imagine the
difficulty getting a symphony orchestra to play your works! No wonder many
of them were madmen!
Centuries pass. The torch is passed from
Bach, to Mozart, Beethoven to Berlioz, Liszt to Strauss, Debussy to Bartok',
Stravinsky to Glass, and maybe in a way, them to you. Can we
hand you the torch? Do you have the imagination, the vision, the soul, the verve to compose for orchestra? Remember what it is all about.
The combination of sounds to create a beatific vision larger than life itself.
It seems almost cheap to mention a product in
this context. But that is what the wonder of technology has brought us
with today's super orchestral libraries. You pay a small price of
admission and you get the tools that let you build your own symphonic
masterpiece. We can thank Gary Garritan for that. He managed to
capture and distill the basic elemental sounds of the classic orchestra and get
them all in a usable format for Mac and PC users, called the Garritan Personal
Ok, stop the violins. Lets talk about
this product. If you are unfamiliar with how this stuff works, I'll fill
you in. Basically, GPO is a sample library that can be used as a virtual
instrument on your computer triggered by MIDI data from your keyboard. You
can use it standalone, and just play it on the keyboard, or you can load it into
your composition software, where you can build multi tracked compositions.
My package came bundled with a version of
Cubasis VST, an older stripped down version of Cubase, but useful for those who
don't have recording software. There were other applications too.
GenieSoft's Overture LE (a notation program), GPO studio (sort of a shell for
combining many instances of GPO for use in Overture), and a great reverb plugin
called Ambience (which will be useable for other instruments as well, not just
GPO). GPO itself came in the form of a Kontakt Player, made and suported
by Native Instruments. The Kontakt Player loads as a plugin in your
sequencer. Each player can hold up to 8 instruments. You can create
as many instances of the Kontakt player as you need till your run out of
computer power. Its not like the full Kontakt soft sampler, but one that
appears designed for GPO.
Do you need a powerful computer? To get
the most out of it, yes. The library is 2gb of memory which is a good
size. That's 20 times the size my Emu E5000 Sampler holds and 40 times the
size of the Roland Complete Orchestra expansion board. Yet its small
enough to work well on most desktop computers of the past few years. The
overall health and speed of your hard disk is pretty important here, as the
samples stream from hard disk as they are called up.
Using GPO is quite straightforward. There
is a minimum of knobs and tweaks on the interface. But you get what you
need. The big patches use key switching, where you get an different
articulation of the instrument by pressing a key your MIDI keyboard outside the
useable range of the instrument. This lets you switch easily with your
left hand while playing with your right. Interestingly, the mod wheel functions
as a volume control on many instruments. The instrument loads at a low
volume and the mod wheel must be raised to set the desired level. For those who
automate their midi sequences you have to remember to use controller 1 and not 7
for channel volume (7 affects all channels). I was initially bothered by
this, but am getting used to it.
One nice feature of the Kontakt player is that
you can set midi channels for each instrument. So you can build huge
sections for strings, woodwinds, whatever, by putting several instruments on the
same channel. Imagine pressing one key and having The Cellos and Violas
and double basses play one melodic figure on one channel and on the next channel
having the 1st and 2nd violin sections (22 players) playing a counter
melody. Now that's what I call 2-finger music power!
GPO is a complete orchestra. Here, take a
look at the list.
You get strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and keyboards and harps. The
instruments Mr. Garritan sampled include millions of dollars worth of finely
crafted vintage instruments, including a Stradivari solo violin.
Indeed some of the instruments sound stunning. My favorites are the solo
violins and solo flute. They are the best I have in my vast collection.
I am a bit jaded as i do have lots of orchestral expansion cards in my Triton
and Fantom, EXS and Emu sample libraries, but I've never been able to play solo
violin or flute like I can now. The other instruments are good sounding, well
tuned and have the neutrality necessary to make the the instrument work in many
kinds of music. The instruments also blend well with each other, allowing
to you create those beautiful sounding symphonic washes. I am in
appreciation of how much work this must have been. Hats off to Mr.
Garritan on getting a whole symphony in a plugin.
Other nice features are that instruments do not
play outside their natural range, which tricks the ear towards assuming
authenticity. Samples never sound stretched as they do in synth
collections. Another great feature is the GPO manual, which is a useful
bunch of words on instrument placement and orchestration that will really help
you get started. The whole product is friendly and superbly designed.
A good manual, a supporting website, easy updates and registration, easy install
on Mac an PC, all the software a newbie could want, and a great main feature
that works as advertised.
But GPO is not only for newbies. Even the
most die hard studio hack will appreciate it and use it. If you already
have synths that feature orchestral sounds, the GPO makes sense as a high
quality add-on to your arsenal. While the Kontakt player lets you create
as many instances of GPO as you like, in the real world of CPU and hard disk
activity, your computer will feel the pinch after a few instances.
Orchestral compositions on a sequencer benefit from having many instruments
playing at the same time, so I use an approach where the sounds are divided up
among my Fantom's Complete Orchestra and Symphonique strings, the Triton's Peter
Siedleczek Orchestra and let GPO sit front and center. If you already have
other orchestral collections on sample cd roms, the GPO will stand out as a
quick and easy way to work up big ensembles. If there is a weakness here
it is compared to libraries that cost 5 times the price, which include more
articulations of instruments allowing one to create unique moods and effects.
But hey, we are under 300 here, you can't expect everything. The hard core
tweakmeisters will be pleased to know that the instruments will also load into
the full version of Kontakt, in case you get the desire to do wicked things to
these pristine sounds with LFOs and filters.
To sum up, I give it a rating as a good buy for
newbies and pros alike. Do keep in mind the system requirements.
This is a big cpu and disk intensive virtual instrument, so check carefully.
To quote: "To play the entire orchestra, we recommend 1 GB of
RAM. There is a direct correlation between the number of instruments that can be
loaded and the amount of available RAM. Loading the entire orchestra requires 1
GB of RAM. The more RAM available the better." There is support for VST,
DXi, RTAS, and OS X AudioUnits. That covers all the major sequencers.
The question is back to you. Can you
build a symphonic masterpiece? At least for you, unlike our unknown
musical predecessors of the 18th century, you won't die with your composition
unheard. The modern tools are here, easy to use, and ready when you are.
Rich the TweakMeister
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