In terms of instruments and vocal sample variety, this library has no competition. It’s obvious that a lot of love and time have gone into the development of this library!
– A huge compendium of sources
– Sampling quality
– Microtuning feature
– Some of the older instruments don’t offer the same depth as the newer ones
Best Service have been cranking out excellent libraries for donkey’s years. The Ethno World library first found itself in the public eye back in 2001, and has been steadily growing in size and quality ever since.
Created by award-winning composer Marcel Barsotti, Ethno World 6 is a library of instruments and voices from every corner of the planet. With this release, the Ethno World library almost doubles in size to 33GB of deep sampled instruments and voices, of which there are now 320 in total.
Ethno world complete 6 is a combination of two separate Kontakt libraries – Ethno Voices, and Ethno instruments.
Voices is separated into 6 regions, North and South America, Europe, Africa, and East and West Asia. These regions are then subdivided into smaller regions, or ethnicities. For example, the European region contains, amongst others, Gregorian chants, Ukranian voices, and Alpine Yodelling. For the most part, when you dive down into these subfolders, you get a fairly random mix of pad ‘ooh’ sounds, ‘licks’ – or phrases sung commensurate with that culture, tempo synced vocalisations, and FX like shouts, etc.
The sound quality is excellent; Very clean across the board, with a slight (editable) reverb to situate the sound. The GUI makes great use of the Kontakt engine, so you have control over the speed of the sample, the tuning of the sample, attack, release, low and high pass. There are 6 tabs running along the bottom of the window that open up extra parameters to be tweaked. 6 effects, micro-tuning of each note, a performance tab that enables the player to humanise the sound and detune very slightly, to tweak the legato technique and create a better ‘sung’ performance from the samples.
As with vocal samples, I found the looped, and complete phrases the most compelling. Computing power isn’t within the realm of being effectively able to re-create a vocal performance using midi control, so pre-recorded phrases and pads are definitely best. And I thought they were excellent. The quality of recordings of vocals was beautiful. I particularly loved the Turkish muezzin phrases. So haunting. There’s a tab at the end that gives you great info on how the patches play best, but also gives info on the performers, which I thought was a great touch.
The instruments library is laid out differently to the VOICES, in that it’s divided into timbres and styles of instrument, for example ‘bowed instruments’, or ‘Gongs Bells and Metals’. There are a couple of exceptions. There are 3 construction sets, which create a group of looping instruments from a same geographical area. There are also Multis with this library, which will use the multi-instrument capabilities of Kontakt, and load several instruments that group together nicely geographically. One of the Multis for example is Alpine Ensemble – which contains stringed, bowed, brass and woodwind instruments that you might find up the swiss mountains playing together. They’re all assigned their own midi channel, so can be played separately.
It’s slightly harder to discover what area some of the instruments are from. Thankfully, the aforementioned Info tab gives you a concise history of the instrument you’ve selected.
In terms of tone and timbre, the sounds in this library are incredibly diverse, and you will find yourself lost in different worlds. From Cinematic Massive booming Taiko drums, to tiny, intimate, dry recorded thumb pianos, bowed Psaltery, didgeridoo, Uillean Pipes, through to more unusual instruments, such as the Dung Dakar Conch Trumpet from Tibet, which doesn’t sound like what you imagine. It’s beautiful.
Once again the recording quality is excellent, and there is no skimping on detail. The release notes are recorded natural releases, in the most part. This sounds like a small thing, but it’s vital to the reproduction of an authentic sound. Most of the samples are round robin, which adds to the real flavour of the sounds. However, as this library has been being developed for over a decade, there is becoming a large gap in the depth of timbre available for instruments introduced with this release, compared to instruments from the very first release. I wonder if the samples from the original release could be updated, or perhaps layered a little more.
This library makes great use of the algorithms within Kontakt. Both the beat machine and time machine algorithm are used, depending on the sample material, to get the best possible flexibility out of any loops. There are keyed instruments that you can play directly from the keyboard, with great use of legato and sustain pedal to get any swoops or glides across notes – retaining the sense of authenticity. Again there are 6 effects you can add and tweak to go crazy with the sound design if you wish.
My favourite section in this library is a massive gamelan section, added with this release version. It’s fantastic. There are both Balinese and Javanese gamelans, each with the full orchestra of tuned and percussive sounds. There are original tunings and western tunings available, and they’re all keyswitched either open and mute, or open and stick hit. The percussion instruments contain both keyed, and looping samples. And they’re phenomenal. Really inspirational to play, they’re scripted with the Beatmachine algorithm of Kontakt, which splits the sample rhythmically, so the sound quality takes a lot to start sounding digitised.
This library has blossomed over the years into a huge compendium of more unusual instruments. In terms of instruments and vocal sample variety, this library has no competition. I was extremely impressed with the sheer volume of sounds that caught my ear. The gamelan orchestra, in particular, is extremely playable, is recorded beautifully, and just straight up sounds exotic in timbre. I would say that if you’re serious about composing for media, this library is a must-have. You can’t go wrong.
The micro tuning tab I found added nicely to the authenticity of the sound. There are presets, so you can adjust the tuning to move away from western tuning and fit the geographical region more effectively. Ethno world is now NKS compatible too – so you can find your way around each instrument more quickly.
It’s obvious that a lot of love and time have gone into the development of this library, and much kudos to Mr Barsotti and co. for their excellent work. The only thing that stood out to me that I wished was slightly different was the depth of sample layers in the instruments that have remained in from the first version of Ethno world. I feel they could be a bit deeper to compare favourably with the newer additions to the library.
Still not convinced? This overview shows off the extremely wide-ranging and versatile selection of instruments from literally all over the world.
Ethno World 6 Complete costs $450 and is available from Best Service (FYI: you can also buy Instruments and Voices separately). If you get it quick, you get a free poster signed by the creator of the library, Marcel Barsotti.
Recommended minimum specs for your computer are Windows 7 and Mac 10.9 or later, Intel core Duo and 8GB RAM.
About The Author
Composer/Producer, and keyboard player. He has written and recorded soundtracks for a wide variety of media and co-owns DOsounds.com with Jake Owen, a music production company that gives him an excuse to buy more analog gear.