Symphobia 2 review
Now our friends in the Netherlands (sorry, inside joke) have released the successor to Symphobia, aptly titled Symphobia 2. I got it the other day and want to give you a brief review on what I think about Symphobia in general and especially the new Symphobia 2.
Symphobia was (and still is) all about filling gaps in our orchestral palette. There are a lot of things that can be done very realistically with samples, and there is a large number of very good libraries out there for this. But there are some things that just are somewhat more involved.
From my experience, there are two big problems in sampled orchestration:
- All kinds of special effects are hard to come by as samples and even harder to recreate
- Instruments blending (or rather NOT blending) together
Symphobia sets out to provide solutions for both problems.
Special EffectsSymphobia 1 as well as 2 contain a large number of instrumental effects, all prerecorded which are conveniently mapped across the keyboard. To recreate such effects with conventional libraries would be very difficult. ProjectSAM made this a lot easier, by just recording insane amounts of hits, rips and other effects. The effects section of Symphobia is about half of the library size of 18 GB! Contrary to popular belief, these are not loops, they are just recorded orchestral effects that previously could not be created by any sample library.
Blending of instrumentsYou may have noticed that when several orchestral sections play together, the resulting sound is more than the sum of its part, so to speak. This is crucial in samples orchestration. If you double a cello line with a bassoon and use two patches from a library for this, the result sounds very much different from what a real recording of this combination would sound like. This is because the timbres of the instruments interact and form a completely new, unified sound. Don’t ask me about the physical background of this - ask your teacher^^ Symphobia elegantly circumvents this problem by offering section patches that were recorded together. That means if you do a cello/bassoon line, it will sound very realistic, because the instruments indeed play at the same time in the same space and the resulting sound was captured.
By providing these important additions to your sonic arsenal, Symphobia is kind of an extension to existing libraries. It cannot (and does not try to) replace your workhorse library like EWQLSO or VSL, but it complements it in a nice way.
Symphobia 2So what about Symphobia 2? We got special effects and sections in Symphobia, what is in version 2? The answer is pretty easy: More of it. And then some. I have to admit that I was pretty sceptic when Symphobia 2 was announced in August. The demos didn’t sound like anything that couldn’t be done with Symphobia 1. Boy, was I wrong.
More of itSymphobia 2 extends the sections from the original Symphobia. You get lots of new string ensemble articulations, with a special focus on octave patches, which were missing in Symphobia 2. The Flute & Piccolo Octaves (real recorded octaves, not artificial layers!) are really good, as are the String wide octaves.
A focus also lies on full orchestra sounds. The new Full Orchestrator is particularly useful: You get carefully orchestrated tutti samples over the full range of the orchestra, just perfect for quick writing of action cues. Because there is no layering, the sound blends naturally. The Symphobian Stacks fall into the realm of effects; all kind of hits, rips and dramatic gestures that are nearly impossible to recreate using conventional sample libraries.
Eat this, VSL! (i.e. legato patches)For me, this is the best about Symphobia 2: real legato ensembles. True to the concept of Symphobia, you get several sections, all prerecorded and wonderfully scripted. There are also a few nice solo section patches, of which I like the horn patch best. True legato horns are rare but very much in demand, so this is a very welcome addition to Symphobia!
Legato patches work differently from conventional patches: Instead of synthesizing transitions from one note to another (or not playing them at all like most libraries do), these patches have recorded intervals. So when you play an interval, Symphobia 2 will play a sample of real people going from one note to the other. Despite the huge number of samples to do this and the probably very involved scripting, the legato patches indeed are very light on resources.
Legato playing is one of the biggies in the VSL and works really well there. Symphobia 2 takes this conept to sections. It should be noted, however that it is not possible to play polyphonic legato! This still is firmly in the domain of VI Pro. Nevertheless, the legato ensembles are a very, very good addition to a composer’s arsenal and blend perfectly in the mix.
Bonus ContentThere is quite a lot of what I would call bonus content in Symphobia 2. Aside from the „usual orchestral instruments“, you get lots of additional content, including legato patches of a Low Whistle and Uillean Pipes! Both may appear a bit special, but they are pretty useful.
I like the new horn section with 8 horns (giving you a second horn section with the first one from Symphobia 1). A nice touch are the concert hall noise and orchestra tuning patches.
There are also a bunch of new Dystopia patches there, which use material from Symphobia 2 and mangle with it for sound design applications.
GUI Changes and the MultisThe one thing most striking about Symphobia 2 is the revamped GUI.
Using Kontakt 4’s capabilities to the fullest, the new version really looks great. I particularly like the easily visible keyswitches on the interface. You can just make a screenshot of that portion of the patch window and put it in the notes section of your sequencer so you always know the keyswitches! The seamless switching between mic positions is pretty nice.
My favourite are the multis. They were great in Symphobia 1 and they are even greater in version 2. Multis now come with a description of what is in them inside Kontakt, so you don’t have to try everything out. There are not that many multis there, but judging from Symphobia 1, this will change with future updates. The multis that are there nicely show off the new features (mainly legato ensembles and new articulations) and give a good starting point to be creative.
PerformanceIn general, Kontakt libraries are pretty good performance-wise. Most Symphobia patches are light on resources and don’t require too much RAM, so I think you can safely say that the library will run on any remotely recent computer. There really isn’t more to say :)
The VerdictSymphobia 2 indeed is, as ProjectSAM states on their website, a completely new library. As Symphobia was designed to complement your existing library, Symphobia 2 is designed to complement Symphobia. You get more of everything and with the addition of the Legato Patches there are completely new possibilities for deeply emotional scoring. For composers on a tight schedule, both Symphobias are a no-Brainer. For people who want to write naturally flowing music with lots of legato passages, Symphobia 2 may actually be a very good first expansion library to their primary library.
There are two pretty nice things that I found interesting:
In the manual, ProjectSAM speaks of the „Symphobia series“, which means there are probably other Symphobias to come. This goes very much in line with my impression of Symphobia 2 as a logical next step from Symphobia 1.
Second nice thing: If you own both 1 and 2, you get a free patch, which in the included readme is listed as „the first free patch“! So maybe there are more patches to come there, too?!?
Hope that review helps; take care and keep on rocking!