Testing the new sound library “Philharmonik” is like testing a luxurious car, suddenly available to everyone. Miroslav Vitous orchestral sounds library, now costs less than 1 million lira, but some years ago (akai version) costed more than 3000 euro. It was a great wish for composers that used virtual sounds. Recently IK Multimedia, an important company of Modena that has best-seller like Sampletank ™ and Sonic Synth ™, has worked on the sound library, adding a choir and guitar section (non-existent in the old version). The virtual instrument has a moderate cost but offers a great quality of sound.
The software works with PC or Macintosh systems. The system requirements aren’t high. Minimum requierement for Windows: Pentium III 733 Mhz, 512 MB of Ram. This allows to use this virtual instrument with notebooks and updated computers. Where other libraries like East West Symphonic Orchestra Gold Edition and Vienna Symphonic Library Opus need more memory. The equipment used in the text is: Intel Pentium IV 3.0 Ghz, 1 Giga Ram, 2 Hard Disks 7200 RPM, cache 8 mega, firewire audio interface Fireface 800 – RME, monitors Genelec 1032. Although the “dongle key” (Fig.1) use (some users don’t like it so much), the product installation has been successfully completed. After installing the library, it must be registered online within 10 days. Package includes: installation CD, 2 sample DVD (Fig.2) with wizard installation for easy setup (no manually copying files), manual (at the moment only in English).
Old and new characteristics
Once the sounds have been loaded, we decide to check the instrument’s intonation. Vitous library old version had intonation problems so many utents had to fine tune parameters. Philarmonik has overcome these problems: the library is well intonated and easily usable. The second check is for the IK Multimedia sound attack. Attacks are very important for obtaining a realistic sample. In my opinion, modifying natural attacks during editing phase is an error. The purpose is to offer more expression and control chances. Controller or velocity manage time attack. Once more Philarmonik overcomes the test. Although many patches have been added, the sound library has a great sound, including only a little attack noise, for example, on instruments to breath and some brass. Furthermore, new recordings have been added, like thrills and strings performance. Perhaps, patches need more velocity sensibility for obtaning a better espessivity with master keyboards. Philarmonik Miroslav has been compared with similar products, like East West Quantum Leap Gold Edition and Garritan Personal Orchestra.
The instruments sections will be shown according to the “orchestral order”. First, woodwinds must be loaded. In a recent conversation with “demoers” and “betatesters”, all thought library oboe was the best (about timbre and expressivity) in the “sample world”. But let’s go by order. The library includes: piccolo flute (solo), concert flute (solo and section), oboe (solo and section), english horn (solo), clarinet (solo and section), bassoon (solo and section), bass clarinet and contrabassoon (instruments usually not present in other libraries for budget reason). Almost all instruments have sustain, staccato, portato and other articulations. Oboe and english horn performances are amazing. They have a great passion and expression power. The vibrato quality and its entry time are ideal for passionate music. The clarinet quality is very good, its sound is like Vienna Synphonic Library, warm and “european”. The bassoon and flute quality is excellent. All the sections are useful for “full orchestra” arrangements or “ensemble phrases”. In my opinion, Vitous Orchestra woodwinds are better than the other two products. As many users say, the GOLD’s weakness are the woodwinds. Philarmonik Miroslav woodwinds have less articulations, but more warmness and expressivity. On the other hand, Garritan Personal Orchestra woodwinds have been recorded in Prague, so they have a classical and good sound. Nevertheless, their attacks (programmed by Tom Hopkins) are “strong”, so the “virtual instrument” has not much realism. In this case too, Philarmonik Orchestra is more realistic and professional. This result was expected. The woodwinds sector has an “ideal quality”.
In the last years, the brass recording has changed. The sound must be “rich” and “mixable” with a virtual orchestra. Furthermore, the orchestra sound has changed too. Nowadays, great horn sections (for example in the film “The Lord of the Rings”) are easily available. Philarmonik Miroslav brass don’t have many articulations (all the library too), but their classical timbre is very useful for “traditional” orchestral simulations. The comparison with EWQLSO Gold Orchestra (by Nick Phoenix and Doug Rogers) is necessary. East West Gold brass are bright. Philarmonik Miroslav brass are dark and deep. Vituos Orchestra doesn’t have a frequency clearness, but some timbres are very professional, like horns and trombones sections (their staccato has a good impact on “strong” sounds). The Philarmonik Orchstra includes: trumpet (solo and section), horn (solo and section), trombone (solo and section), flugelhorn (solo), bass trombone (solo), tuba (solo). The majority has two sustains (mp and ff), two types of staccato and portato.
I don’t like this section so much. The timbre is very dark. Some instruments should be more modern. For example, some instruments have a metallic sound, like glocken, celesta, crash, bell. Timpani have a dark and classical sound. They are like VSL, but less detailed. Snare has a good timbre. Last generation East West Gold percussion or True Strike percussion (Projeckt Sam) have another quality. Nevertheless, Philarmonik Miroslav Ochestra has a good sound with use of percussion. It has a great sound and environment compatibility. Articulations are good. Many percussion instruments have been recorded in “hall” and “studio” mode.
Miroslav Philarmonik strings have a professional timbre. Their principal characteristic is a little crescendo effect on patch sustain. This allows to obtain a warm tone. We have sections of 11 and 23 violins. 11 violins section has a passionate and delicate sound. Soft and espressivo patches are good. “Grand detaches” are good too, but I prefer the old version. The section of 2 violins has an excellent timbre. Violas are fair. Cellos and basses are very interesting. Cello has a great expressivity in high register melody. Basses are magical and warm. Almost all the sections have articulations: 2 types of sustains, espressivo, soft patch, tremolato, staccato and pizzicato. There are other performances as well, for example, phrases of three notes in staccato. There aren’t thrills. East West Gold strings are very “sparkling” and Philarmonik Miroslav strings are more “balanced”. GOLD has more sound articulations. This allows to obtain many orchestral styles. “Full strings” sections are fair and useful for their articulations. Furthermore, strings solo are amazing too. Nowadays the recording process has improved a lot. Many articulations include: violin, viola, cello and bass. On the other hand, Garritan Personal Orchestra strings solo are similar, but GPO offers more midi controls in real time.
Choirs are well recorded. They include: male, female and mixed (male plus female) choirs. There are vowels (ah, eh, ih, oh, uh) and some syllables. The total sound is good. Some syllable “in portato” is amazing. Instead, voices without vibrato aren’t so good. The articulations are: sostenuto, staccato, portato. There isn’t “word building” (creating phrases with syllable). On the other hand, East West Synphonic Choir has this function.
Other instruments: guitar, piano and organ
Philarmonik Miroslav includes some classic guitar “patches” (good), organ and piano. The total sound is fair, but other “specialized” libraries (like Real Guitar, Steinway B and Projekt Sam organ) have more quality. Nevertheless, patches are very useful to arrange.
What a good idea. The patches include mixed sounds. For example, great strings or woodwinds sections quickly available or orchestral sets by action, drama, etc….. “Multi” allows to play 2 or 3 patches, for example, one with three different velocity level. All patches are “single-layer” (like old Akai samplers). Therefore, mp, forte and ff are divided in 3 pachtes. This limitation is overcome by the use of “multi-layer” presets.
Sampletank “player” offers many controls. There are “normal” midi controls and some patch has crescendo by “modulation wheel”. The sound can be modified by changing envelope, velocity curve, instruments range. In my opinion, this interface has an amazing sound control. There are 2 indipendent filters LFO, 2 traditional envelopes (attack, hold, decay, sustain, release), “cutoff” filter, velocity panel (with many regulations). Furthermore, “tuning” section is very important. There are many possibilities: editing sound zones, managing instrument range, changing velocity values along the octaves.
The effects are numerous: reverb, modulation, delay, compressor, limiter, etc… The effect bus allows to use 4 effects for each instrument and to create “send effects” (not overloading the cpu). However, effects are too much. Orchestral libraries need only reverb, chorus, compressor, limiter and equalizer. Nevertheless, in electronic music, some modulations can be useful to obtain particular sounds. The effects quality is fair. Reverb section is neutral. For example in a “Large Hall” (if you change some parameters) it can become a balanced and not metallic effect. Unfortunately, it’s impossible (in this version) to load other effects by VST system. In my opinion, if you want to improve your sound and the internal effects don’t satisfy you, export your song to wave format and use other VST effects (compressor, equalizer, etc…).
My compliments to Ik Multimedia. The new edition of the Vituos library is well made. Original samples have the same characteristics and some new patches have been added. The sounds are warm and “european” unlike the East West Gold Orchestra, that has a “sparkling” sonority. For example, East West Gold strings are used for television music because they have a bright and recognizable sound. The library hasn’t “disk streaming”. All the samples must be loaded into RAM. This allows not to overload the CPU. Furthermore, patches are too “light”. During the test, we have loaded 40 channels, consuming “only” 350 mega of RAM. The sections (with exception of the percussion) are good and useful for “film orchestras”. The price is not expensive, but the quality is good. Some articulations are not present, but you can resolve this problem by adding other libraries like GOLD, GPO, TRUE STRIKE, etc… If you buy Philarmonik Miroslav you will have expressive and warm sounds. Unfortunately, the software can’t work stand-alone, only VST or DX. However, the Vituos library has a great quality and (his best characteristic) it is easy to use.
Miroslav Vitous was born in Prague in 1947. He played with the best jazz musicians of his time and he co-founded the Weather Report, jazz fusion group, where he was bassist. He had a good classical music education and so decided to record an orchestral sample library in the Dvorak Hall of Prague’s Rudolfinum. Vitous said about his work “Others record notes, I have recorded music”. Perhaps this was one of the reasons of his success. Dvorak Hall is one of the famoust concert hall in Czech Republic. The hall has a fascinating history, it was built in the 19th century and was once used as czech parliament. In 1896, Dvorak conducted there the first concert of the czech philharmonic orchestra. Some time after the hall took his name. Speaking about the hall is not superfluous, few libraries have a good sound environment. Sounds are influenced by acustical reflections, so some frequencies can change naturally. Philarmonik Miroslav is a “placed” library, because listeners “feel” the real distance from recorded instruments.