RED ROOM AUDIO – SYMPHONIC SKETCHPAD
“This could be the audio paintbox you need to create your next work of art”!…
There’s certainly no shortage of orchestral sample libraries on the market, ranging from once popular products that now lurk amongst the virtual bargain bins of online discount vendors, to the top notch high end, hhigh ram, high price professional libraries that only the elite can afford and which almost demand their own file server for the sheer vastness of the gigabytes of storage space they demand.
Between either end of the spectrum lies the middle ground, and a new series of libraries from newcomers Red room Audio who have adopted a building block approach to orchestral and trailer scoring libraries which could appeal to many composers, as they are both of high quality, and affordable too.
You could easily be forgiven for thinking that for a new company (having only formed in 2017) that it’s an ambitious move to release a library that discerning composers will certainly judge on the merits of it’s realism and sound quality. You don’t just release a product of this nature without a prior sample library history, and thankfully we’re in safe hands here as company owner Dickie Chapin has a long established pedigree having had a passion for sampling that dates back over 20 years, he also has a close affiliation with Impact Soundworks having worked for them as Project Director and Creative Lead and notched up respected titles such as Bravura Scoring Brass, Rhapsody Orchestral Percussion & Colors along with Ventus Ethnic Winds amongst his credits.
When talking to Dickie in the course of writing this review, I was encouraged to learn that he had attended the accessibility workshop hosted by Avid at this year’s NAMM show. he remarked that he was glad he attended and recognises the importance of the Komplete Kontrol NKS system and the game changer it represents for blind users. The company plan to continue NKS implementation in future products, a commitment which seems apparent with it’s inclusion even at the base level with it’s free ‘Snaps Claps Slaps Stomps & Shouts’ library (see a link at the end of the review).
The Palette Approach…
Being a professional musician and consumate sample library user himself, Dickie understands the nuances involved in creating a complex sample library, and has been able to incorporate all the elements he’d liked to have seen in other products, whilst at the same time developing the concept and working on the Palette series.
In particular avoiding a pseudo-realistic and scripted orchestral ensemble was of paramount importance, instead choosing at the initial recording stage to capture the whole of the orchestra from basses to violins playing in unison and thus utilising the complete octave range of your keyboard, which results in a far more realistic and natural sounding musical progression as the various instrument sections start and stop within their own authentic playing range. Be warned however if you intend using this library on a 25 key Komplete Kontrol keyboard you’re either likely to wear out the octave up and down buttons, or develop some form of RSI !
Our focus from the Palette range in this review is ‘Symphonic Sketchpad’, this being the flagship library which depending on your orchestral scoring needs, could be your be all and end all, however because of the Palette range’s flexible approach Symphonic Sketchpad can also serve as a capable framework to add more ‘Palette brush Libraries’ which offer more specific content.
The series currently has three of these accessory ‘Brush packs;, these being 01 Melodics, 02 Orchestral FX and 03 Runs and Arps, Red Room also have ‘Saga Acoustic Trailer Percussion’ availble should you need to supercharge your hits armoury.
running in Kontakt version 5.68 and above, and following a recent 1.1 update adding even more content, Symphonic Palette will occupy 29.1 Gb of your hard drive, and the 62,352 24 bit 44.1 kHz samples explain why!
The library is aimed at orchestral scoring and media composers offering not only an ample range of orchestral content in both full ensemble and chamber versions, but Red Room Audio have also thrown in a very capable 2 oscillator subtractive synth, and a ‘Trailer Toolkit’ with a respectable number of impressive cinematic presets, which in some ways belie the ‘sketchpad’ title, as it’s easily capable of being used to create a fully finished and mastered track all from the one library.
The sample content offers up to 5 dynamic layers and 7 round robins, and the entire series was recorded in the same european hall location using the same musicians to ensure consistancy.
Browser Content and Categories…
I was a little perplexed when I first began exploring the browser section through my Komplete Kontrol keyboard, Knobs 1 and 2 were obvious enough being assigned to vendor and product, knob 3 is designated as Symphonic Sketchpad being a bank, whilst knob 4 is a sub bank hosting just 2 categories Synth and Trailer Tools. Where was all that Orchestral goodness lurking?, well it seems that Knob 4 has to be set to ‘all sub banks’ in order for the orchestral content to show up. It would perhaps have made more sense (to me at least!) to simply have an ‘Orchestral’ sub bank alongside the ‘synth’ and ‘Trailer Tools’.
With this minor quibble out of the way, lets explore what’s on offer within the library.
Knob 1, Vendor, Knob 2 Product, Knob 3 Bank
Knob 4 Sub Banks – Synth, Trailer Tools
Knob 5 Types – All Sub Banks gives us Bass , Bowed Strings, Brass, Drums, Mallet Instruments, Percussion, Piano/Keys, Plucked Strings, Reed Instruments, Sound FX, Synth Lead, Synth Misc, Synth Pad, Vocal (yes there’s even a choir!)
Choosing Synth as a sub bank will yield many of the above categories except they will be synthetic representations, and the Trailer Tools sub bank offers us Sound Fx and Synth Misc
Knob 6 Types – I will list all the entries under all categories rather than breaking them down, take a deep breath!: Analog Bass, Bassline, Digital Bass, Distorted Bass, Sub Bass, String Ensemble, Synth Strings, Brass Ensemble, Closed Hi-Hat, Cymbal, Kick Drum, Snare Drum, tom, Bell, Chime, Glockenspiel, Marimba, Xylophone, Bongo, Conga, Other Percussion, Small Metal, Timpani, Grand Piano, Other Piano/Keys, Harp, Wind Ensemble, Big & Bad, Noise, Other FX, Classic Mono Lead, Classic Poly Lead, Dirty Lead, Huge Lead, Other Lead, Soft Lead, Classic Synth, FX Synth, Percussive Synth, Stabs & Hits, Sweeps & Swells, Beri Pad, Basic Pad, Dirty Pad, Evolving Pad, Other Pad, Female Choir, Male Choir, Mixed Choir.
Some of the above categories have only one patch, whilst others are more populated. It’s worth noting that depending on how you have your search filters set, where there is only one preset it won’t be possible to audition the sound using pre-hear as you need to move the dial away and back to the first preset in a list in order to hear it, so it’s just a question of putting your search filter into a more global biew.
Knob 7 – Mode, invariably this is often ‘sample based’ but can reveal ‘long evolving’ and other descriptors depending again on the search criteria.
Knob 8 – Presets, I counted 72 presets with the filters set to ‘All’, which may not sound like a lot, however you need to bear in mind that some presets are multi-sound in as much as they contain lots of individual sounds, for example ‘Trailer Tools Impacts’ has 36 individual hits to keep you amused.
Symphonic Sketchpad also makes good use of keyswitched articulations in order to achieve access to orchestral playing variations like legato, staccato and pizzicato rather than needing to load another patch or instance, meaning you can change styles on the fly.
Palette Edit Section…
The parameters assigned to the knobs on the edit side of Komplete Kontrol have some variation in their content dependent on the preset you have selected. The sampled sounds are uniform with some pertinent modifications where required, the Synth and Trailer FX controls are similar give or take a page here and there, I will explain these differences post walkthrough.
Sampled Sound Presets (Orchestral Content)
Page 1 – Volume, Pan & Width, consisting of
Knob 1 – Close Mic Master Volume
Knob 2 – Decca Mic Master Volume
Knob 3 – Hall Mic Master Volume
Knob 4 – Unassigned
Knob 5 – Close Pan
Knob 6 – Decca Pan
Knob 7 – Hall Pan
Knob 8 – Unassigned
Page 2 – Microphones & Controllers
Knob 1 – Close Mic on/off
Knob 2 – Decca Mic on/off
Knob 3 – Hall Mic on/off
Knob 4 – Unassigned
Knob 5 – Dynamics Controller
Knob 6 – Expression Controller
Knob 7 – Vibrato Controller
Knob 8 – Tremolo Controller
Page 3 – Round Robins, Releases and Velocity
Knob 1- Round Robin Active
Knob 2 – Mode
Knob 3 – Releases Active
Knob 4 – Releases Volume
Knob 5 – Velocity Curve
Knob 6 – Minimum
Knob 7 – Maximum
Knob 8 – HQ Velocity X Fade
Page 4 – FX
Knob 1 through 8 – FX Assignments
All of the above parameter assignments are fairly self explanatory, the variations can be found as follows:
Drum and percussive presets such as Timpani, have the inclusion of a ‘Rolls’ control which can be used to increase or decrease the dynamic intensity of the drum rolls, and a ‘Roll to Hit’ control adds a hit to the end of any roll you perform, which is a nice touch of realism.
The piano (a Steinway B Grand) preset has tone, pedal on/off and volume controls, along with ADSR mappings.
the Harp preset has some rather clever scripting going on, the ‘Performance’ page allows you to switch from standard playable notes into Glissando mode which has settings from up to up then down, or vice-versa, there is also a speed knob to control the rate as well as Tone and ADSR. Holding down the root and end notes will perform the glissando within this range which is a really nice feature.
As I mentioned earlier Red Room have made good use of articulations and key switching within the orchestral presets which can greatly assist with both performance and general composition workflow.
In both the Ensemble and Chamber String presets you will find articulation keyswithches in the upper octaves giving access to 2 sustain variants, vibrato, tremolo, Marcato, Tenuto , Spiccato , Pizzicato , Major Trill , Minor Trill .
Within the Brass presets we have 2 sustain variants, Vibrato, Flutter, Tongue, Marcato, Tenuto, Staccato, Staccatissimo Major, Trill Minor Trill.
Woodwinds again provide 2 Sustains, Vibrato, Marcato, Tenuto, Staccato, Staccatissimo, Major Trill, Minor Trill.
Both the Women and Men’s choirs give us (Ah, Oh and Mm) with both Sustain and Staccato.
As I mentioned previously, percussive and drum presets provide rols, and this extends to other percussive instruments such as tamborines.
The Synth and Trailer Tools…
The parameter mappings for the Synth and Trailer Tools presets are of course by their very nature different from those of the sampled orchestral instruments. It is therefore worth listing the knobs that are mapped to enable an understanding of what is creativly possible from the Komplete Kontrol keyboard.
Page 1 – Layer 1 & Layer 2
Knob 1 – Wave (Layer 1)
Knob 2 – Volume
Knob 3 – Pan
Knob 4 – Tune
Knob 5 – Wave layer 2
Knob 6 – Volume
Knob 7 – Pan
Knob 8 – Tune
Page 2 – Filter & Env (Layer 1)
Knob 1 – Cut-Off
Knob 2 – Resonance
Knob 3 – Key Track
Knob 4 – Env
Knob 5 to 8 – A,D,S,r
Page 3 – Filter, Re-Trigger and Env Amp
Knob 1 – type
Knob 2 – Unassigned
Knob 3 – Re-Trigger (Layer 1)
Knob 4 – Re-Trigger (Layer 2)
Knob 5 to 8 – A,D,S,R
Page 4 – Wobble 1 and Wobble 2
Knob 1 – Wobble Speed
Knob 2 – Wobble Depth
Knob 3 – Wave
Knob 4 – Target
Knob 5 to 8 – As above for layer 2
Page 5 – Play, Velocity and Unison
Knob 1 – Mode
Knob 2 – Glide
Knob 3 – Velocity to Volume
Knob 4 – Velocity to Cut-off
Knob 5 – Unison voices
Knob 6 – Detune
Knob 7 – Spread
Knob 8 – Unassigned
Page 6 – FX
Knobs 1 through 8 – FX assignments
anyone familiar with my NKS accessibility reviews will know that I’m often bemoaning the frequent ommission developers make in not assigning waveform selection to a controller knob. I was pleased to find that Red Room Audio had done this with what in their own admission was almost a last minute decision to include a synth within Symphonic Sketchpad. The synth might not be the next ‘Omnisphere’ however it’s got all the elements you need to create your own patches from sscratch, something sadly missing from arguably more dedicated NKS synth libraries.
One oddity I found however, was despite individual waveforms and volumes being selectable for each layer, the filter and amplitude controls appeared to be tied between the two oscillators, meaning if I wanted to alter for example the attack of layer 1, layer 2 was also changed, unless I’m missing something it would have been easy enough to add another page or two of duplicate controls for the second layer to enable them to be controlled independently of one another.
The trailer tools is a welcome inclusion within Symphonic Sketchpad, there are multi-sound presets for all the categories you are likely to need Braams, Downers, Impacts, Reverses, Risers, Sub Booms and Wooshes are all here.
The mapping here is very functional, although there isn’t control over individual layer elements (I suspect these are complete samples rather than being made up of editable layers), however it is possible to alter either the individual sound or affect globally all the various sounds spread across the keyboard range.
There are controls for volume, pan, tuning and ADSR, as well as comprehensive filtering, Wobble and importantly sample start and end points.
I can think of a few additions to the NKS mapping within Palette symphonic Sketchpad that would improve the already good level of accessibility still further.
It would be nice to have access to the edit page that is dedicated to FX. Currently we are unable to choose our own FX and don’t know what FX have been assigned within the preset patch without randomly turning the FX knobs to hear if there is an audible change.
This isn’t a real issue with the orchestral sounds as we have good access to the microphone positions, and the hall in which the recordings wer made is fairly dry (with only a 1.2 second reverb tail) this enables us to add external reverb and effects to suit our project needs. Being able to tweak the effects in the synth and trailer tools sections would have been nice, or failing this perhaps even to just have an additional page or two of adjustable reverb/delay etc.
The library has a feature called TACT (total Articulation Control Technology), which in a nutshell offers comprehensive control of articulation assignments, being able to choose what triggers certain articulation parameters like assigning tremolo to your footswitch for example, or changing the sample offset. We are quite used to not being able to get to these kind of bespoke controls, and this is no exception, so again perhaps another page or two to provide these kind of features accessibly would be a real bonus, certainly having access to sample start and end points (as found in the Trailer Tools) would allow a bit more tweaking of the sample sounds in the Orchestral patches if so desired.
I think Red Room Audio have done a splendid job in creating the Palette Symphonic Sketchpad library, it encompasses everything the modern creative composer needs in order to flesh out media projects to a high standard, the ability to mix, match and combine the three available microphone positions means you can achieve the sound you needeasily.
The keyswitchable articulations mean you can readily jump to the musical expression and style you need for various passages within your project, and the inclusion of synth and trailer tools is the icing on the cake of an already comprehensive package. Add to this the optional Palette Brush Packs and you really do have a complete suite of scoring tools in your hands without the hefty price tag of the market heavyweights.
As always I’d recommend checking out some of the online video reviews (see links at review footer) to give you an idea of what is achievable.
Palette – Symphonic Sketchpad is available as a download from Red Room Audio for $299.00
At the time of publication (April 20th 2018) Red Room Audio are offering $50 off any Palette product with coupon code PALETTE50
Creating Palette series:
Sample Library Review:
Palette – Symphonic Sketchpad Manual:
Free Snaps Claps Slaps Stomps & Shouts Library:
(c) Chris Ankin 2018
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.