SONiVOX Hip Hop Strings instrument


Going to NAMM one doesn’t know what to expect. This was my first year so I tried to take in as much as possible.

Walking through the show floor I came up on the SONiVOX booth.

I had heard of them before, and actually had been trying to setup a review on their Sampla product.

So I stopped by to see what they had going and found that there was a new product that had just released.

Hip Hop Strings

So how can strings be “hip hop”?

Some people actually hate when things are “geared towards” a specific genre.

Me, I personally have no problem with it, as long as it sounds good….I can use any sound for any genre.

So what makes these strings “hip hop”

I think it’s the style in which they are packaged.

Unlike many string libraries, there isn’t a bunch of esoteric articulations and “orchestration specific” titles for the sounds.

legato, staccato, and pizzicatto, those are the 3 main styles represented.

They also include tons of orchestra and string loops in “kits” at 3 hip hop friendly tempos.

81, 100, and 120 bpm.

The names of the presets are based more on how they sound instead of the articulations played, making it easier to pick what you need and not having to learn what all the various styles of string and orchestra articulations are.

The fx and modulation of the patches allow them to work well for urban music. Distorted, clean, reverbed, etc…

Quick Specs

  • Content: 8.3gb of sounds, 200+ instruments, 50+ pad layouts
  • Format: proprietary SONiVOX instrument files that access the wave samples
  • Price: $149

So how do these “hip hop strings” sound?

They are actually pretty good. Not surprising, since SONiVOX also has a $3000 symphonic orchestra library!

They recorded players from the Boston Pops and Boston Ballet orchestras for this collection.

If you’re looking to compose orchestra pieces or something like that., you would most likely be looking elsewhere at the larger string libraries available.

But as a producer looking for high quality string sounds, these are some you definitely want to check out.

The string are lush, recorded well so there is no distortion…of course, unless that’s the purpose of the specific preset.

You can definitely get some nice, sexy strings out of it, but they also allow it to get dirty, grungy, and just plain crazy at times.

What about the interface?

It’s based on their “Playa” engine, so it has that similar layout. The interface is actually quite useful, you have access to all the eq, chorus, delay, reverb, amp, and filter settings on the interface for quick tweaking.

I also like the “pad layouts” which allow you to load preset pad setups. This basically is something they premapped, not with sounds, but more like midi or playback data.

So if I load a C Major chord layout, then each of the 16 pads will play whatever sound you have loaded as a variation of a C Major chord.

This is really useful, since it’s not audio data. You can use these pad layouts on any sounds you want in the instrument.

There are chord progressions and other setups, where the pads will trigger the loaded sound in specific chords and popular progressions.

Again, I really love this feature of the Playa engine, especially if you don’t really know all the proper chords, you can load up these layouts and get chords that are in the proper key and sound right with each other.

You can also make your own pad layouts, save them for later, and use them with any of the sounds in the library. Come up with a specific set of keys that sound good together, or your own creative chords, you can save that to one of the pads and use those same chords or keys on any instruments in the library.

It’s also very easy to midi learn the sliders and knobx, as well as map keys to pads and such.

Some things I’d like to see

One thing I would like to see implemented in the Playa engine itself, is a progress bar of some sort, that shows the progress of the sound being loaded.  It’s especially needed when working with something like strings, which can be large files.

Nothing super fancy, just maybe a small bar under the load area that shows the progress of the sound you are loading, this helps out when switching sounds instead of just sitting there not knowing how long you will have to wait.  It’s a small change, but it’s great for workflow.

Since you can have access to so many pad layouts from the factory or your own user saved presets, a nice up/down button next to the loaded pad layout would be very welcomed.

Now you have to load each one by clicking the load layout, then browsing for it. It’s again, nothing that is a show stopper, but something that if added would make it even easy and quicker for the workflow, when you’re working, you need to be able to move through things as quick as possible.

I would also like to see them add the ability to midi map the buttons and not just the faders, knobs, and pads.  If I could map the buttons that change the fx on/off or the retrigger function, I can have a total hands on experience using my controller of choice.

The final verdict on SONiVOX Hip Hop Strings

I like this instrument, and I like SONiVOX as a company. I like how they are packaging their instruments in the similar Playa interface, and I love the features of that interface, again, pad layouts and the ease of midi mapping is amazing.

I love the sound of the strings, very high quality yet easy to tweak with the eq, fx, and filter settings.

I give this instrument a 4.5 out of 5 subs, it’s really a nice addition to the crowded market of huge and expensive string libraries. I left some room to grow, not based on the sound or how useful it is, it’s perfect in those areas in my opinion…but because I want to see them deliver on a few tweaks that would improve the workflow even more…I think they can nail it!

The fact is, this instrument really stands alone in what it is attempting to accomplish. Provide quick and easy access to high quality string sounds.

I feel this one is made specifically for electronic/urban music producers in it’s layout, and preset naming. It’s built for quick track composition whereas most string libraries are made for building large arrangements and orchestral pieces.

Most producers don’t need the $600+ string libraries, and many find it hard to navigate some of them because the names of the instruments and presets are of specific articulations, sections, and other string/orchestra specifics that many just may not be familiar with.

I always get questions on a good string library.  One that’s easy to use but still has the quality that doesn’t sound fake.

SONiVOX Hip Hop Strings is definitely worth looking at…and the price is definitely right.

They set out to make a “Hip Hop Strings” collection, and I think they totally nailed it. It’s not just about the sound, but how it fits into the workflow of the modern urban/electronic music producer.

check it out at

let me know what you think, leave me a comment below


  1. yo that is official! & that is my cup of tea lol! i just wanted to know if its for power pc g5 or is it intel? & does it make sence to get thier sampler aswell or this has it already?

  2. I like it a lot, I love the sound of rich strings and I like what you can do with the functions on this thing!! I would buy it because I don’t have anything like this!!! Good lookin Out!!!

  3. Saint,
    These VST’s are great but I’m having issues keeping them running solid in Acid Pro 7. Is there a sequencer out there that can run VST’s rock solid?
    Propellerheads Reason is the most reliable piece of software ever. I want VST instruments to run like that. Thoughts?

    Pastor Kam

    • Acid is cool but not really the best host for running vsts. Something like reaper, ableton live, flstudio, energy xt, etc…ones where vst hosting is a major part of the program.

      I know people that host vsts in acid, it just never seemed very stable for that to me.

  4. Sounds nice.
    If it wasn’t for the Komplete 5 sale I was leaning towards getting Sampla/Playa (based on price). I like the simplicity of their layouts yet it would be nice to have a “pro” mode where you could get deeper into shaping the target sound (that’s where Kontakt got me). Also it would be nice (in my opinion) if Sonivox made these instruments an add-on/pack. I say this for it seems that they’re using the same engine and GUI found in Sampla & Playa. This might make things more cost effective and efficient for the end user. It’s understandable to not want to be too similar to products like SampleTank & Kontakt, but call it an object oriented design of sorts, plus a better library browser would be a plus.
    With all the options available to the consumer these days individuality stands out yet a comfortable workflow will bring a repeat customer. *(yeah, that means you to Maschine..*lol*)

    • I feel you man, I do like their interface. They are so simple, and they aren’t multi timbral so it’s just as easy to just open up another one on the next track. I will have to check, but I’m almost sure you can load the sounds in the various players, they are the same format so the main difference is the interface/features.

      It’s cool to leave things separate. I mean, at first I loved the idea of having all IK products in SampleTank….but then I realized, even just loading the individual sounds sparks a different mood.

      Moog, Tron, and Miroslav…in their own player have something different going on, more customized to the editing of those specific sounds.

      But I feel ya tho!

  5. Nice overview of the software man. I just picked a copy up last week. Its very similar to the other Playa products so for me there is no need to read any manuals being that I already have the other Playa series of applications (I was actually a Beta Tester for Sonivox Sampla). The strings are excellent quality for the type of music I do so I can see myself using it a lot in addition to other string packages I already have. You can never have too many string apps. I will have to see what I can produce with this application soon.

    btw Joe, my Native Instruments Maschine will finally get delivered tomorrow via FedEx. I’ll be digging into that and see what I can come up with.

    • thanks fam! yeah man, I like how they keep it the same across their apps man, that’s really helpful for the workflow!

      lemme know when you get that Maschine man! You prolly won’t be stoppin by as much for a minute you’ll be so busy with that joint lol.

      I love it!

  6. string sound good man , but I gotta comment on you still rolling with that pc….saintjoe ,YOU NEED TO GO AHEAD AND GET THAT MAC ! I saw the mac pro and u can soup that joint up with 8tb, 32gig ram …you can damn near build a space ship with all that.
    keep up the good work

    • Hahahahah lol, I feel ya. But I can do the same thing with a pc lol…and they would end up costing the same. Right now it’s just down to how I wanna roll pretty much and what will let me move quicker.

      I’m still up in the air, I like them both for different reasons.

      I may end up with both eventually. lol.

  7. Hey Saint I bought Sonivox Sampla and it sucks. first I tried to record a sample into recorded samples a dialog box appears saying I don’t have permission to that whould I like to save into music folder. Then the drum sounds really suck some of the pads sound good some leads do to and some basses. The slice function well I think I’m back to recycle no I’m getting that Emulator x3 waisted $107.00 on sampla I advise all not to get it. one thing though I guess if you work with importing samples and slice them and work with the S and E points it could work the mapping does work and it does sound nice after I loaded the after hours kits into it so buy at your own risk spread the word.

    • Dang! I hear ya man…sounds like you didn’t feel the workflow. I appreciate the feedback, I’m still going to do a review on it and see how it lives up to what it says on the box. Remember, you gotta judge stuff for what it says it can do, not what it didn’t say it couldl. I’ve had to learn that the hard way.

      So I try to judge stuff based on it’s own merit and goals, so I will take a look at Sampla and what it aims to do…and make my judgement accordingly.

  8. Let me retract my statement about somethings I said it does not totally suck I would’nt say its a total waist manually chopping is good load pads with same loop zoom in and adjust start and End points for each piece you want to slice on all the pads one thing though in Vst mode all four banks disappear. I should have not said it sucks sorry because I just bought it a day ago. so as I learn I’ll post it and if Saint don’t mind send me an E-mail you I just want to let people know since you have done the sonivox strings so as I learn more I’ll let you know.

  9. Sonivox Sampla is better than it used to be so they are trying.
    Back in October 2009 when they dropped version 1 of Sampla there was a lot of issues I found and right after I reported the issues they started fixing some of this stuff.

    NOTE: See some of the issues I found prior to the Sampla 1.2 update (A LOT OF THIS STUFF WAS FIXED OR WILL BE FIXED IN THE FUTURE):

    SONiVox Sampla is missing the following which I have already emailed the company asking if the next update can include the following:
    1. There is no One-Shot triggering. You will have to hold the key or pad down for the amount of time you wish your sample to play UNLESS you increase the Release BUT that leads to #2

    2. There is no Choke feature (or Mono as the MPC has) to prevent triggered samples from being muted once you hit another pad. So basically the samples are being played polyphonically.

    3. For Pitch & Root Key adjusting Sampla can only adjust in Semi-tones. I’ve asked SONiVOX if they can add Pitch adjustments for +/- Cents as well.

    4. Allow us to keep a sample looping indefinitely without having to constantly press a pad or trigger so we can adjust the Start & End points of a sample on the fly while the sample is looping. (Note: Currently when I have my DAW playing the sample via MIDI notes and I attempt to adjust the Start or End Points of the sample in Sampla I lose sound and I have to restart my DAW).

    5. When zooming in to edit a sample there is no way to zoom directly into the area that you are trying to edit. Sampla just zooms in then you have to scroll through the sample to get to the area you intended to edit. (Note: being that you are zoomed in its hard to know where the area is that you are trying to find also it takes a lot of scrolling to get to where you think you should be because the waveform is magnified).

    I’ve asked when zooming in make the zoom focus on a area I specify like where I click on the waveform before I zoom in and let the zoom lock to that point or such as zooming into a specific start point or end point so once I zoom in I don’t have to move the waveform with the mouse to get to the area I’m trying to edit.

    6. When in the Slice Mode it seems that you can’t preview the slices you have set up before Auto-Mapping to a pad or manually assigning the samples to pads. Previewing samples prior to committing to auto-mapping or even manual mapping to pads or keys would save time and would allows us to know if we have the start & end points in the approximate area for chopping the sample.
    Of course we could correct the Start & End point after we Chopped/Sliced the sample but that seems backwards.

    Other than the above points I’ve stated everything else is awesome not to mention the PADS, LEARN, MAP, KEYS, the Sound Library, the Retrigger Mode & Pattern mode…Very very nice features!!!

  10. Yo I got Sampla for sale for 75.00 Hit me up 314-397-0023 no checks I will take money orders send it to 2623 Oregon Place St.Louis Mo. 63118 and I will ship priority the day I get it I am trust worthy you will get the box and everything even registration code. leave it blank E-mail

  11. Ok the truth about sampla

    good thing is does sample, you can slice, and automap to pads 1-64 bad thing tidious in the scroll department, drum sounds really not that good


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