Spitfire Audio Chamber Strings Professional – An Evolution of Excellence
Spitfire Audio’s reputation precedes them with everything they do these days. So you can assume that flagship titles like Chamber Strings will be of the highest possible quality. This new professional edition includes all of the elements from the original Sable collection, rounded nicely into a single NKS compatible library.
The company made mention about a pro version of their Symphonic Strings library some time ago, so was a bit of a surprise to see the older Chamber Strings title get the extended treatment first. There is a lot of marketing up-selling when “pro” is attached to a product, mostly appealing to consumers’ nature to suppose that the most expensive is the best
Regardless of the connotations, providing more affordable alternative versions is suitable for all budgets. I hope they haven’t trimmed too much of the fat.
Spitfire Audio Chamber Strings is a medium size orchestral sample library. This 16 player group consist of four 1st Violins and three each 2nd Violins, Violas, Cellos and Basses. In total there are 244 articulations, from shorts, longs, pizzicato, staccato and spiccato through to performance legato, runs and trill effects.
The library is available in two variants: standard at 70 gigabytes and professional at close to 230 gigs.
The library includes a full Ensemble patch and four individual section patches for violins 1 and 2, cello, viola and basses. An advanced categories directory contains some creative and FX articulations, performance legato, DSP economy patches and handy composing tools.
The standard version includes three standard microphone mixes – close, Decca tree and ambient room mics. Performance controls include typical Spitfire Audio dynamics, vibrato, speed, release tails, tightness and volume expression.
The professional version has an additional four extra microphone position recordings for only the individual instruments, but not for the ensemble patch. Each has multiple round robins and dynamic layers. The other microphone recordings include close ribbon, a stereo pair offering a slightly wider stereo image than the standard Decca tree, extended outrigger and gallery mics.
Three more specialised enhanced stereo mix outputs are included (fine, medium and broad), again only for the individual instruments.
The interface is typical Spitfire Audio affair, with an easy-mix mode or advanced tools for dialling in your mic mix. The excellent Ostinatum arpeggiator is here, plus some handy tools for transposing, custom CC and articulation trigger mapping.
Whatever edition you have decided on, the installer hub will download, install and monitor your software automatically in the background. This download time could be anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on your connection and purchase option.
Chamber Strings is primarily a product aimed at high-end professional users so I will dispense with testing the basics on the assumption that you are familiar with both Spitfire Audio products and the Kontakt environment.
There is nothing unusual or new with Chamber Strings Professional over other typical Spitfire Audio titles. If you are familiar with Spitfire Audio’s workflow, you will be right at home here.
I joked a review or two back in regards to requiring a new SSD hard drive to install Spitfire Audios’ Hans Zimmer Strings. Well, now you’ll be needing another one.
This product requires 230 gigabytes and a whopping 470gig of free space to install, so you do need to consider hardware upgrades as well when you are looking at the big libraries from Spitfire Audio.
Out of the box Chamber Strings is well worth the wait. The first chord played on the ensemble patch is pure joy. Though a chamber ensemble might be considered very small – maybe a half dozen or so players – this larger group of 16 players has a much weightier sound that I expected.
I have been attuned to the full symphonic orchestral sound recently, so this very gritty, upfront sound is fresh and lighter than I am accustomed to hearing. The definition of the instruments is better and feels more responsive and nimble.
Going through each of the included microphone recordings it is hard to discern much difference between standard close and professional close ribbon, other than perhaps a slight high-end roll off. The Decca tree mics again are very similar to the Stereo pair, but not quite as full. Using a combination of all mics opens up more possibilities and certainly makes for a full sound.
The professional edition outrigger and gallery mics are the most impressive for me. Used in the test mixes, I found that these show off Air Studio’s acoustic characteristics distinctly better than those in the standard edition.
The three curated custom stereo mix patches (fine, medium and broad alternatives) provide unique variations to what you typically might mix. Fine sounds the most commercially balanced, while broad is more cinematic sounding, and medium a half-way point between the two.
I was expecting this orchestra to be a lot smaller than 16 players provided – maybe only 8 – 10 which is how I think of a chamber group. But considering its scale, everything sounds very clear and detailed. Some of the quieter flautando patches take a little time to develop, but overall there is no wallowing heaviness associated with the broader musical groups.
The small ensemble means everything also sounds tighter. I also think the small group makes for better spatial width from the ambient mics, especially those set way up in the gallery.
The basses don’t have the energy of the larger ensembles, as you would expect, but they do cut more through the mix. During my initial testing, I found the basses and cellos tend towards an aggressive bite if you’re not careful with dynamics.
The central star of the show for me with the professional edition is the beautiful outrigger and gallery mic recordings. There is not a reverb effect I know of that can match the lush characteristics of Air Studio’s main room.
Ordinarily, I would route individual instruments to a BUS track in my DAW and apply a decent reverb to save on processing because each mic recording uses exponentially more processing power the more you add. But these ambient mic recordings are unmatchable with any digital or convolution reverb we have and well worth dedicating the extra DSP processing to run them.
For modern composition Chamber Strings is one of the best on offer from Spitfire Audio, and right now, possibly the best in the market. The tighter sound and extended articulation techniques will appeal to those looking for a meticulously detailed string library.
Chamber Strings nicely fills a gap between Spitfire Audio’s Symphonic Orchestral series and the monstrous Hans Zimmer Strings.
Price is a consideration. At nearly $1,400 NZD, this is hard on the bank balance. But, there is plenty of value here for professional composers. Chamber Strings is a focused and elegant library with more than enough technique articulations to cover most applications. Hybrid libraries are all the rage right now, but having at least one comprehensive orchestral string collection that includes all angles is essential for a composer.
There is no such thing as Spitfire Audio’s “best library” – they are all the best. The key is to work out what fits in with your needs. In my view, this should be a strong consideration for composers of commercial orchestral music and producers creating film scores or gaming music.
Spitfire Audio Chamber Strings is a well-rounded collection. It has not only a lot of content but also a consistent level of quality throughout all the samples. The library includes fantastic performances by the players and another industry benchmark from the production team. Highly recommended.
Full details and purchasing option over on Spitfire Audios main website www.spitfireaudio.com