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…
- 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 sonivoxmi.com
let me know what you think, leave me a comment below