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Analog Strings by Output full review – Beauty and the Beast!

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Analog Strings by Output – Beauty & The Beast –

If you are looking for a sample library to reproduce orchestral strings then this library from Output is probably not for you, if by contrast you want a library that still maintains the natural beauty of a real string orchestra yet merges this with the raw and gritty power of synthesis and cutting edge mangled sounds to produce a unique and modern cinematic library, then keep reading… you’re in for a treat!

Output by Output…

Situated in the heart of Los Angeles Chinatown is the headquarters of Output, a forward thinking sample library developer who appear intent on carving their niche approach to sound design on the billboard alongside other notable vendors.

I use the word niche as this aptly describes the style of sound design that runs concurrently throughout all of their products. Signal, Exhale, Substance and Rev being among the most noteworthy of their portfolio.

Output have a knack of taking their well recorded analog sound sources, which if kept clean could ordinarily probably stand their ground alongside non-processed libraries from other respected developers, however clean or non-processed isn’t a word often heard in the Output vocabulary as the instruments they create are for want of a better phrase decidedly non-vanilla!

The Output Sound…

If you can imagine taking both a 60 and 22 piece string orchestra and putting them through a blender, I’m talking figuratively rather than literally of course (the latter would simply be gross!), then mixing in a healthy dose of analog synthesis and studio processing, and then finally reassembling the results, you would be someway to understanding the Output sound. They have retained natural elements such as the sparkling realism and beauty of a string ensemble complete with all the nuances of bow scrapes and tremelos, and have added an underlying bed of sometimes warm sometimes dark synth sounds which would be right at home in many modern cenematic, game and trailer compositions.

Installation & Tech Specs…

I have to take my metaphorical hat off to Output for their productdownload and management software. Rather than go for an off the shelf and in my general experience inaccessible solution, they have created their own ‘Output Hub’ which once you log-in shows all of your owned content and serial numbers with download buttons, as well as direct links to other Output products and expansion packs. The whole process is remarkably straightforward and screenreader friendly, but as if that wasn’t enough if you log-in to your account on their website and go to downloads, you can simply paste in your serial number to receive an email with direct download links to your product zip files – other developers take note this is how things should be done!

I seem to be slightly at odds with Output on the size of Analog Strings data footprint. The website specifies 38Gb, yet my download and installation was 18.4Gb, despite all seeming to be working well, concerned I might be missing something I downloaded it again this time from direct links and after unpacking it still came to 18.4Gb, very strange, the website also states that you need 22Gb of free hard disk space which again seems at odds with the 38Gb stated.

I’m certainly not complaining as that 18Gb already gives you a very large number of presets, 500 to be precise and if you also have the Neon Strings expansion you can add a further 100 on to this figure. There is also another expansion available if you happen to run out of inspiration.

Analog Strings has a single NKI file which is becoming more commonplace amongst developers, and thus presets are derived from the smaller file sizes that snapshots require. Output highly recommend performing a batch resave before using the product which is good practice with any new Kontakt library you install.

The single NKI takes a few moments to load initially but then subsequent patch browsing is pretty speedy.

As always I have to give a nod of appreciation to Native Instruments for the introduction of the pre-hear feature, it just makes the workflow a whole lot more of a pleasurable experience, particularly when as in this case there are a large number of presets to peruse.

Library Walkthrough…

Down to business then by first taking a look through the library categories and presets.

Knob 1 and 2 is Vendor and Product
Knob 3 is for banks the default being Factory but any installed expansions will also appear here to enable you to narrow down your search filtering.
Knob 4 – Unassigned
Knob 5 – Type, Bowed Strings, Multitrack, Percussion, Piano/Keys/ Plucked Strings, Sound FX, Soundscapes, Synth Lead, Synth Misc and Synth Pad
Knob 6 – Sub Types, Bowed Strings have Cello, Double Bass, String Ensemble, Synth Strings, Viola and Violin,
Multitrack has Ethnic/World, Film music and Orchestral/Classical,
Percussion has Wooden, Piano/Keys has Harpsichord and other piano/keys
Plucked Strings has Harp, other plucked and Stings
Sound FX has Big & Bad, Machine, Metal, Noise, Orchestra, other fx, Shots, Vinyl and Water
Soundscapes has Ambivalent, Destructive, Gloomy, Heavenly, Hypnotising, Insanity, Peaceful and Wind & Noise
Synth Lead has Classic Mono lead, Dirty lead, Huge lead, other lead, Soft lead, Sync lead and Vox lead
Synth Misc has Classic synth, FX synth, Melodic sequences, other sequences, Percussive synth, Stabs & Hits and Sweeps & Swells,
Synth Pad has Bery pad, Basic pad, Bright pad, Chime pad, Chord pad, Deep pad, Dirty pad, Evolving pad, Layer pad and other pad
Knob 7 – Mode, Appregiated, Chord, Dry, glide/Pitch Mod, Granular, Long release, Long/Evolving, Monophonic, Percussive, Processed, Sample based, Sequence/loop, Slow Attack, Surround, Synthetic and Tempo Synced,
Knob 8 – Presets

You will I hope forgive me for not listing the 500+ presets, although if you suffer from insomnia feel free to request them and I will consider adding them as a revision at a later date!

Edit Pages…

Page 1 – Macros, layer A & B
Knob 1 to 4 Macros, Knobs 5 to 8 layer A on/off, Volume, Layer B on/off, Volume
Page 2 – Global Filter, Hi-Pass and Low- pass
Knob 1, Global filter on/off, Knob 2 Hi-pass on/off, Knob 3 Cut-off, Knob 4 Resonance, Knob 5 Low-pass on/off, Knob 6 Cut-off, Knob 7 Resonance, Knob 8 Unallocated
Page 3 – rhythm Modulation/Flux
Knob 1 Rhythm Mod 1 on/off, Knob 2 Rate, Knob 3 Flux on/off, Knob 4 Unassigned, Knob 5 Rhythm Mod 2 on/off, Knob 6 Rate, Knob 7 Flux on/off, Knob 8 Unassigned
Page 4 – Rhythm Envelope/Flux
Knob 1 Rhythm Env 1 on/off, Knob 2 Rate, Knob 3 Flux on/off, Knob 4 Unassigned, Knob 5 Rhythm Env 2 on/off, Knob 6 Rate, Knob 7 Flux on/off, Knob 8 Unassigned
Page 5 – Arp A
Knob 1 Arp on/off, Knob 2 Unassigned, Knob 3 Velocity Sensativity amount, Knob 4 Unassigned, Knob 5 Duration, Knob 6 Swing, Knob 7 Octaves, Knob 8 Fix Velocity on/off
Page 6 – Arp B
Knob 1 Arp on/off, Knob 2 Unassigned, Knob 3 Velocity Sensativity amount, Knob 4 Unassigned, Knob 5 Duration, Knob 6 Swing, Knob 7 Octaves, Knob 8 Fix Velocity on/off
Page 7 – Filter A & Filter B
Knob 1 Filter A on/off, Knob 2 Cut-off, Knob 3 Resonance, Knob 4 Velocity Sensitivity amount, Knob 5 Filter B on/off, Knob 6 Cut-off, Knob 7 Resonance, Knob 8 Velocity Sensitivity amount
Page 8 – Flutter A & Flutter B
Knob 1 Flutter A Fade-in, Knob 2 Frequency, Knob 3 Amount, Knob 4 Spread Amount,
Knob 5 Flutter B Fade-in, Knob 6 Frequency, Knob 7 Amount, Knob 8 Spread Amount
Page 9 – Global EQ 1, 2 & 3
Knob 1 Global EQ on/off, Knob 2 Unassigned, Knob 3 EQ 1 Frequency, Knob 4 Gain 1, Knob 5 Global EQ 2 Frequency, Knob 6 Gain 2, Knob7 Global Frequency 3, Knob 8 Gain 3
Page 10 – Global Distance
Knob 1 on/off, Knob 2 Unassigned, Knob 3 Gain, Knob 4 Unassigned, Knob 5 Bass, Knob 6 Middle, Knob 7 Treble, Knob 8 Unassigned
Page 11 – Global Delay 1, 2 & Reverb
Knob 1 Delay on/off, Knob 2 Delay 1 on/off, Knob 3 Delay 2 on/off, Knob 4 Reverb on/off, Knob 5 to 8 unassigned
Page 12 – Global Delay 1 & 2 Controls
Knob 1 Delay 1 Time, Knob 2 Delay 1 Feedback, Knob 3 Delay 1 Pan, Knob 4 Delay Wet Mix, Knob 5 Delay 2 time, Knob 6 Delay 2 Feedback, Knob 7 Delay 2 Pan, Knob 8 Delay 2 Wet Mix
Page 13 – Global Reverb Controls
Knob 1 Pre-Delay, Knob 2 Size l/R, Knob 3 Size L/R, Knob 4 Unassigned, Knob 5 Hi Pass, Knob 6 Lo Pass, Knob 7 Wet Mix, Knob 8 unassigned
Page 14 – Delay A & Delay B Controls
Knob 1 Delay A on/off, Knob 2 Delay A Time, Knob 3 Delay A Feedback, Knob 4 Wet Mix, Knob 5 Delay B on/off, Knob 6 Delay B Time, Knob 7 Delay B Feedback, Knob 8 Delay B Wet Mix
Page 15 – Reverb A & Reverb B Controls
Knob 1 Reverb A on/off, Knob 2 Reverb A Pre-Delay, Knob 3 Reverb A Size, Knob 4 Reverb A Wet Mix, Knob 5 Reverb B on/off, Knob 6 Reverb Pre-Delay, Knob 7 reverb B Size, Knob 8 Reverb B Wet Mix

Making Sense of it all…

It’s great to see such a healthy number of pages being mapped in an NKS library, for us blind users it generally means we have better odds of getting more control out of a product. In the case of Analog Strings however whilst I applaud the number of mapped parameters I can’t help thinking that some odd choices have been made.

Clearly we have to take into consideration that mapping decisions were most likely made without blind or visually impaired user access in mind, so it would be unfair of me to criticise too harshly, they are what they are so we have to accept this, however as I am a writer of accessibility reviews you will want to know what you can or cannot do with your trusty Komplete Kontrol keyboard.

We have come across the dreaded macro in a few libraries, thankfully there are only 4 knobs on the first page that make use of them. The general idea is that users are able to click on dropdown menus and make their own choices for what parameters get assigned to these knobs, obviously we are not able to do this and so it’s a bit of pot luck as to what we get with each preset, but having something is far better than nothing but it can take a little guesswork to figure out what the controls are doing as we are relying soley on our ears.

Like many Kontakt libraries there is a built in step sequencer which can trigger not only notes, but modulation effects and other parameters, naturaly these too are out of reach being heavily reliant on GUI and mouse click interaction.

There were certainly some missing functions that I would liked to have seen in exchange for less important parameter mappings, the lack of dedicated ADSR and being able to select sample sources of our own do sadly limit the degree of total sound design we are able to achieve.

There are also one or two knobs that are unassigned that could clearly have been made good use of, in particular on the Arp page there is no ‘rate’ control, despite there being two free knobs doing nothing which seems a missed opportunity.

I don’t want to dwell too much on the negatives, were it not for the substantial number of presets my gripes would carry far more weight, you are certainly able to make worthy adjustments to the presets which allow you to tweak and blend them to your project, with good EQ, filtering and effect control.

There are essentially two layers of sounds which can be manipulated independently or in the case of some effects, on a global scale.

Sounds…

There is a bounty of useful presets among the 500 supplied in the factory content, everything from appregiated loops, lush pads, drones and hits, the sounds can work on a variety of levels from in yor face to more subtle underscore. I think because Analog Strings straddles the fence between real and synthetic it will also sit well with other libraries be they Heavyocity or Spitfire as an example, which is a pretty broad spectrum.

Expansions…

Output as I mentioned earlier do sell a number of expansion packs for their products which help to keep them fresh, Analog Strings currently has Neon Strings and Modern String Beds, which each add a further 100 presets, as far as I could tell no additional sample content is installed, they are new patches that make use of existing material.

Conclusions…

Analog Strings certainly has a few ‘gotch’s’ when it comes down to accessibility, there are no key switches implemented and the lack of NKS mapping for a few sound design building blocks are annoying ommissions that leave you thinking ‘if only’, but we can say that about so many sample libraries forgetting exactly where we were just a couple of years back before the advent of Komplete Kontrol where we had little to no access at all.

The large number of supplied presets are it’s saving grace from a value for money versus accessibility perspective, and the availability of expansion packs means the story doesn’t have to end here.

As ever I would recommend checking out some of the online video/audio demos to fully get a feel for the Output sound. The bottom line is that Analog Strings successfully delivers a unique blend of orchestral string realism alongside a mix of cutting edge dusty and granulated synthesis that will win the hearts of many composers across several genres.

Analog Strings can be purchased directly from the Output website as a download, the normal price is $199.00, however there is currently an offer in conjunction with Native Instruments with 50% off making it UK £79.00 (March 2018 *check price/currency for your country via Native Instruments website)

Links

Output Website

Home

Native Instruments – Current Deal (March 2018)
https://www.native-instruments.com/en/specials/komplete/output-offer-2018/

Analog Strings Walkthrough

Output – Behind the Scenes Analog Strings Live

 

(c) Chris Ankin 2018
KK-Access

Disclaimer

The author accepts no responsibility for subsequent purchase decisions made as a result of this article,or Any inaccuracies found within this review. All opinions or product functions stated are based soly on information perceived as a blind user whilst using the product or gathered from official factual sources on the web or product manual.

About the Author

Chris Ankin has worked previously as a freelance review contributor with articles published in Sound On Sound, Home & Studio Recording and ST Format Magazines.

 

 

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