SoundIron brings another Choir sample library to the table, hot on the heels of Requiem Lite. MARS is a breath of fresh air, as it’s a 30-voice male choir. No Alto’s or Sopranos in this lot. Grr.
It’s a big pile of bytes, containing over 16,000 samples, and weighing in at 18GB. There are over 220 patches, and over 60 multi patches – some of which will definitely test your computer’s endurance and ability: One particular combo multi patch loads almost 4gb’s worth of RAM. Phew.
The Library is built in a very similar fashion to the Requiem Lite Choir. For more detailed review on the setup – you can look at this review on Audionewsroom. It’s built for NI’s Kontakt, full version (4 and up) only. The GUI is another Gothicky ‘candles and crucifixes’ number, very pleasant to look at, with slightly different looks for different sections, and it is well scripted and easy to find your way around. As with the Requiem, all of the patches contain parameters for Attack, release, and tone/fx. There are also performance parameters, selected at the bottom of the window, that enable various important elements to be adjusted, such as crossfade, swell, ranges, keyswitch, polyphony and legato, depending on the patch chosen. If this is not enough for you, it is an open version, and is all customizable to your heart’s content.
Soundiron said that with this choir, they’re aiming for versatility. With this in mind, the choir is based off not one, but 2 languages; Latin and Slavonic. There are choral phrases for both languages. There are also 3 soloists – one bass, 2 tenors, also containing phrases from both languages. There are 2 microphone positions, stage and hall, which give you the chance to place the choir well in the mix, giving it the balance of clarity and full-bodied sound as it’s needed.
Building the choir
There are several tools within this library you can use to create the choral sounds you’re looking for. They start from presets containing set phrases sung at a defined tempo, for quicker construction, to straight non-language vowel polysustains, down to the Marcato phrase builder, which lets you get deep into the sound, and control most elements of it for ultra realism.
The preset phrases are taken from popular Slavonic and Latinate liturgical texts, and come in set tempo of 100bpm (slow) and 140bpm (fast). They can be sung polyphonically, as a choir, or legato, as a melodic line. There is also a poly-sustain patch, which essentially holds the last vowel until you release, which gives a lot of scope for flowing melodic lines. Incidentally, there were hundreds if not thousands of legato slurs recorded at all different intervals, which makes for some very smooth and beautiful sounding melodic phrases, with just a little tweaking. There is great dynamic range in the patches, enabled by the ‘swell’ parameter, taking you from moderately quiet, to ultra fortissimo. If this isn’t enough, there is also a ‘whisper’ patch, to take the phrases well into the realm of creepy, if that’s what you’re looking for. There is a polyphonic legato, where you can have up to three lines singing legato, as long as they stay a user defined interval away from each other (from a tone on up). This setting is particularly useful if you’re writing contrapuntal choral stuff, as opposed to straight chants.
There’s a nice touch with the Latin patches provided throughout the library. They are designed to fit in with the Requiem choir, so if you have both libraries, you can use them together seamlessly. The full choir and the soloists have these, with a little variety between them, so you can use them all together.
The phrase builder is a simple sequencer, again built off the success of the Requiem Choir’s version. Common syllables, consonants and vowels are grouped together, and you can create 16 different phrases of 16 syllables, sung in either a marcato or staccato form. Every time a note or chord is played, the phrase builder steps to the next syllable. This has potential to be annoying, but is fortunately totally controllable with built in keyswitches, that enable you to choose whether to step to the next syllable or not. Very useful!
The Marcato Builder is perhaps the deepest patch of the whole library. With this patch, you can basically design your Marcato sustained phrases from the ground up, where you can choose the attack sound, the sustain sound, and the release sound, and then balance them with attack, hold and release. Not only that, but there are two layers that you can blend between with the X-blend parameter. With tweaking, it’s possible to have the choir slowly blend between two different syllables. It really sounds beautiful. There are over 40 different combinations to try out. This one requires some time to figure out, and it requires a powerful computer. Soundiron recommends you don’t try this with a 32 bit system. Here’s a video giving a walk-through on the Marcato Builder.
There are other patches, if you don’t want to create sung phrases, but want a choral sound. There are sung vowel patches, with 2 layers, so you can blend between two vowels with the use of the X-blend parameter. Very useful for background choral sound. The vowel sounds for each layer, as with many of the other patches, are selectable by keyswitching, so you can change the vowel on the fly by quickly hitting keys at the bottom or top end of the keyboard range.
The soloists here are a nice touch too. They are very richly recorded samples from really excellent singers. They have many of the same patches as the full choir, plus they have a variety of sung melodic phrases (Slavonic and Latin) with timestretch patches, so you can manipulate them into different tempi. Timestretch works within reason, but you can’t change it much before you can really start to hear digital artifacts in the sound. The phrases are beautiful, and the rich and resonant character of each singer comes through very strongly. There are breath patches for each of the soloists, for that extra realism. There are sustained legato vowel patches, blend-able between 2 different vowels with the X-blend. You can also select polyphonic legato, to have several different melodic lines sung as a duet or trio. The soloist patches really are excellent, and with the exceptional detail that’s gone into the recording of legato phrasing, it’s possible to get some lovely sounding melodic phrases.
There’s also a large effects patch section thrown in to the pile. Whispers, drones, clusters, body percussion, and random horror ambiences are a brilliant addition to an already full-stocked choral library. Some of the ambiences really are beautiful, synthesized to the point where you can only just tell it’s vocal-based.
As if that wasn’t enough to convince you this is worth it’s weight, there’s also a huge original custom-made convolution reverb library, where you can put the choir in various locations, from the expected concert hall to complete sci-fi madness. Brilliant. Here’s some of the demos off the Soundiron website:
After playing with this library for a while, it’s obvious that a lot of work has gone on between the previous, excellent choral library and this one. The sound quality is amazing, the thought that has gone into the setup is obvious, and it seems to be a big step up from Requiem. If you want a choir in a flash, you can quickly whip up a great sounding phrased chorus within a few seconds. But from there, you can delve into the library to create extremely authentic sounding choral music. The legato phrasing is lovely, and it’s not much effort to create some really sweeping melodies without the usual awkward sounding releases. The soloists and choral effects are lovely additions to the main choir, and the mix options, from EQ, custom convolution reverb, and two different mic positions round off a lovely library package that will fit into the composer’s library with ease.
Price $449 (plus shipping and handling if you don’t want to download)
…The soloists and choral effects are lovely additions to the main choir, and the mix options, from EQ, custom convolution reverb, and two different mic positions round off a lovely library package that will fit into the composer’s library with ease…