I’ve been an avid user of Cinematic Strings since I bought Cinematic Strings 2 a couple of years back. It’s been in pretty much every project I’ve needed strings for, and I will probably keep using it. But this time, Cinematic Strings decided to throw another symphonic strings sample library at us, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear that. Cinematic Studio Strings enters the arena of strings libraries, and it’s one that kicks ass.
CSS (Cinematic Studio Strings) is a rich, warm and organic sounding library. It has a crisp characteristic to it that is hard to capture when sampling any orchestral sections. The controls, mic options and routing-possibilities are easy to get used to and are easy to learn – it’s a library meant to be played, used and sound great – straight out of the box.
- 34.5 GB (after installation)
- Kontakt 5.5 Full or Free (Player) version
- Rich, expressive and realistic Hollywood style ensemble strings
- Intuitive GUI and articulation-switching
- Full and Lite Ensemble & section-specific patches
- Close, Main, Room, Mixed mics
What’s inside Cinematic Studio Strings
Cinematic Studio Strings is a symphonic string ensemble library with both full ensemble patches and individual sections. Each patch contain all the articulations for that section, so there are no patches with only spiccatos or sustains except for the Classic Legato patches for legato only, but this is no issue as you can load up patches with only one articulation selected and save it as it is.
Here are the patches in the CSS library:
- 1st Violins
- 2nd Violins
- Full Ensemble
- Lite Ensemble
- Classic Legato Patches
All the section patches include the following articulations:
- Shorts (Sfz, Staccato, Staccatissimo, Spiccato, controlled by modwheel)
- Tremolo and Measured Tremolo (love the Measured ones!)
- Trills (Major and Minor)
- Marcato (optional spiccato overlay)
While I’d like to have some more interesting articulations (like flautando and sul pont.), the articulations that we use the majority of the time for strings are present. A runs patch would be amazing but the legato is so good and the internal script can figure out that you’re playing a run so there is hardly any need for it. Kinda.
There is also an option to activate legato for all the long articulations of the library (legato trems, legato harmonics, etc) which is cool. A faked (pretty convincing) con sordinooption is there too.
The Full Ensemble patch has all the articulations with all the sections loaded into one patch and the Lite Ensemble only has three articulations; Sustain (no legato), Staccato and Pizzicato, to save computer resources and allow for easy ensemble sketching and writing.
The sound of Cinematic Studio Strings
The first thing I was looking for when I started playing a patch from CSS was how good and realistic it sounded. I opened up the Full Ensemble patch and started playing around with the sustains – and boy, does it deliver!
Cinematic Studio Strings has a wide, lush and, as the name aptly suggests, cinematicsound. I don’t typically care much if it’s hyper-realistic, as long as it sounds good – and CSS actually sounds both cinematic and realistic. The sound is where many of the high points I’m giving this library comes from.
Check out these sound clips that Daniel Beijbom, a great composer and my good friend, wrote using only CSS. He is basically just playing around with the library:
And this one:
Bravo, you crazy guy, Daniel. Why you so good?!
Like any good real orchestral recording, the close mics do a lot to add definition. In CSS, you can hear the proximity of the bow on the strings through the close mics. You can choose, mix and route the sample sources you want through the different mic positions, which is quite standard these days.
I also enjoy the attack of the shorts. It really feels like the string players are digging into their strings when I’m smashing my keys hard, and gently touching the strings when I’m playing softly. Really nice.
Cinematic Strings have mapped the Full and Lite Ensemble patches a little bit lazily. When I’m playing around the area of the lowest notes of the violins, there is a discrepancy in sound because if you play the F or F# below the lowest G, the entire left sound field disappears because the violins can’t play there. I would like a more fluid transition where the violins smoothly fade out like they do in many other libraries, like the Spitfire full ensemble libraries.
Now, I have to be honest here. I am typically a composer who enjoys virtual instruments that just work straight out of the box and are very easy to load up and play to record my musical ideas.
Cinematic Studio Strings, while it has a fantastic GUI, gorgeous realistic sound and is very easy to load up and start playing right out of the box, lacks a little bit in quickness in both the legato and shorts articulations. This is however a conscious choice from Cinematic Strings as it increases realism under the hood. The legato script under the hood is geniusas you can choose adaptive legato (where it adapts to your playing), but it sometimes feels a little bit too sluggish to play; almost like there’s a few ms added latency. The same goes for the spiccs and staccs.
I value performance and playability highly and quick/no latency is one of the things I look for in libraries. Luckily, Cinematic Strings let us have the Classic Legato patches with one legato transition sample with little to no transition time!
That being said, once you spend some extra time after recording, I absolutely love how Cinematic Strings scripted the legato, as it sounds gorgeous and very fluid. The realism and beauty of this library is so far unrivaled for commercial strings my opinion, and that is partly due to the scripting, especially with the legato.
This library is definitely a straight out of the box type product that will sound amazing in most any project that needs strings. It’s all neatly packed in a simple and nice GUI. You can see all your articulations right then and there, and like Cinematic Strings 2 (which I’ve used profusely for many years), you have the option to change articulations through keyswitches mapped to your keyboard.
The short articulations (spiccato, staccatissimo, staccato, sforzando) are all on one patch and are mapped to the modwheel (cc01) which is an interesting approach that I’ve found good use for.
Apart from some added latency to the legato, especially with the adaptive legato option turned on, and the short articulations, it’s an easy library to play and write with.
Cinematic Studio Strings is an ensemble strings library that works in the free Kontakt Player, sounds great out of the box and is easy to start using in any project that needs lush, powerful and wide strings. It has a bit of a processed, extra powerful sound, but still sounds very realistic and cinematic – a quality that isn’t that easy to find.
When it comes to the playability, it’s great, and you get incredibly realistic performances, but it’s a bit tricky to get right with the, albeit conscious, slightly higher latency of the legato transitions (it takes quite a few ms before anything actually happens when I play an interval) and the short articulations. I’ll use the Classic Legato patches when I’m short on time, they sound beautiful as well.
That being said, I highly recommend CSS as a main strings library because you do get the standard articulations, and it just sounds so beautiful. I think the price is very fair as well. I will definitely continue using this as a main strings library for most of my projects.
Cinematic Studio Strings – Music Software Score
Total Score: 4.4/5
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