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Review: Spitfire London Contemporary Orchestra-Strings
Jay Asher on Sat, April 29th | 0 comments
Spitfire Audio has a reputation as a heavy hitter in the world of meticulously sampled orchestral instruments. But would their latest release win over Jay Asher?

In recent years, Spitfire Audio libraries have become a mainstay in many composers’ templates and for a very good reason. Most have been meticulously recorded at Air Lyndhurst, truly a gorgeous sounding venue and therefore sound great, right out of the box.

But until now I have not reviewed or owned any. Why, you may ask?

  • I have a lot of libraries I am happy with, especially strings.
  • Their products tend to be on the pricey side and until recently, you had to buy more than one to get a full compliment of articulations. (That is changing.)
  • I prefer to use drier libraries as it is easier to mix them together.

But this one is very, very different. It has a range of articulations well suited to contemporary orchestra composing techniques for strings that is simply deeper than any other library that I am aware of. Also it is recorded in a much drier stage, Kings Cross in London, with vintage mics and mic pres, and is priced very reasonably. 

What is it? 

LCOS is a Kontakt 5 library that works with the Kontakt Player so a full version of Kontakt 5 is not required. The sections recorded are comprised of 6 violins, 4 violas, 3 celli and 2 basses with the celli sections in octaves. It has two mic positions: Close and Room; an a integrated reverb “matched to the room.” It also has 2 individual mixes called “Full” and “Pumped” and 2 printed analog FX as well as the Ostiantum for creating patterns that is pretty clever.

Requirements: 

56.2 GB GB of disk space for installation, 28.1 GB for the library.  

Articulations

In addition to a full compliment of tremolos and sul tasto (bow kept over the fingerboard for a soft thin tone), sul ponticello (played near the bridge to produce a glassy, mysterious tone), harmonics, spiccato, pizzicatos etc this library also has articulations, described as detuned granular, “woozy”, scrapes, twitchy, slackened, spectral scrubs, quick and slow pulses, and percussive articulations. And you can link them within the GUI or by keyswitching, MIDI CC control, or the UACC approach. (You can Google UACC to learn more.)

It is truly unique and in tandem with any of your other favorite string libraries, whether Spitfire or by other developers, gives you a staggering range of possibilities. Christian even has a video tutorial on combining wetter and drier libraries.

Getting Started

There are a couple of things right off the bat that almost made me give up, frankly. Like some other developers lately, the Spitfire guys must have very, very good eyesight because the icons and other aspects in the GUI are so small that when I want to do some tweaking, I have to change the resolution of my display to be able to work effectively with it. Personally, I would greatly prefer to simply have more pages instead, as do many other libraries.

The second issue is the default keyswitch assignments. They are two octaves below the lowest C on an 88 note keyboard. I understand that the rationale is that the keyswitching will be consistent between high and low instruments, but for me, the cure is worse than the disease because now you have to play C5 (Yamaha) to hear middle C. There is however a Keyboard Shimmer to help you deal with this. 

In the manual it says, “Simply click on the keyboard icon and drag your cursor left or right and you’ll see the pink bank of keyswitches follow! Wherever you stop, those will be the new keyswtiches.”

Fine, but does it change the keyswitches by half steps? By whole steps? By octaves? The manual does not say but by looking at the Kontakt keyboard you see that it is in fact by half steps. I think that if you want to use keyswitching for articulation changing, you would be wise to invest in a small second keyboard transposed way down for this purpose. But I persevered and I am very glad I did. 

There are three views; the default General Overview that is in the title pic, an Expert View, and Ostinatum (works with short articulations.)

 

There are basic patches with multiple articulations, advanced patches with extended long and short “techniques” as well as individually loadable articulations and patches that are intended to be less CPU demanding and RAM intensive. There are no “true legato” patches, but as I said, this library is best used “in addition to” other libraries rather than “instead of” in my view. 

So What Do I Love?

The sound; the unusual set of articulations; that I can link articulations by shift-clicking them in the GUI, or by holding down a couple of keyswitch notes; that I can totally change the sound by changing or mixing mic combinations and mix combinations easily on the fly and even automate the changes; that I can easily create an ostinato pattern by clicking it in and even play chords and then save it for future use. 

 

And finally, because it is dry I can do like what I did here: mix the Long Woozy Vibrato slow pulses with the Long Detuned Open Normale with a Measured Tremolo from Cinematic Studio Strings send them both to a little Adaptiverb Orchestral Hall and get something I could never get with just another strings library! My conclusion? This is a terrific library well worth your consideration.

 

Price: $279 US introductory, $349 regular price

Pros: Beautifully recorded. Truly unique set of articulations. The Ostinatum pattern creator. Good level of control. Not as “washy” as the Spitfire Air Lyndhurst libraries. Very playable and mostly pretty easy to learn.

Cons: Not as lovely out of the box as the Spitfire Air Lyndhurst libraries. Keyswitches are below the lowest notes on an 88 note keyboard. The GUI is very small and hard to read at fine monitor display resolutions unless you have terrific eyesight.

Web: https://www.spitfireaudio.com/shop/a-z/london-contemporary-orchestra-strings/

 

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