© Hans Josef Winkler 2020
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Excerpt: I wanted to give a heads up and first impressions on Xsample Contemporary Solo Strings. This is a Kontakt (full) library of 4 solo string instruments (violin/viola/cello/bass). There are plenty of articulations on tap - good consideration for senza vib as well as vib, stac, spic, sfz, marcato tremolo etc. A single lovely flautando, Several artics each in sul pont and con sord. Plus a ton of harmonics, glisses, pizz variants and other esoterics to support 'contemporary' composition. The demo video emphasizes these but the meat and potatoes here are very good. The base sound is completely dry (though there are lots of included IRs, and fancy room control  too). Just a beautiful chamber string sound with plenty of wood and rosin. It appears to be recorded chromatically, with most core artics having 3 velocity layers. For the core long artics, separate velocity switched and CC crossfaded variations are supplied. It works wonderfully in MIR. Speaking of crossfades, a highlight of this lib for me is the excellent (seems phase aligned?) xf support. The library is remarkably free of the phasing and doubling that can make expressive solo sampled instruments so difficult to achieve. It is easily the best of any solo string library I have, and I have far too many. Consistency of artics/control between the instruments is extremely high - there's none of this "violins can but violas can't" stuff. Consistency of dynamics is very good. The legato is scripted so nothing for legato-heads to get excited about. There's a single timing param with CC control. I found it quite satisfactory. Trills are also scripted and somewhat awkward to access. I'll probably just perform them myself. RRs are also emulated, with lots of control. Another area of interest for me is single-tracking in DAW and use within notation programs and it is clear that this is one of the design targets. This is a single track per instrument library. You load the violin patch and all 88 of the violin articulation presets are available, switchable via a single CC. Coupled with the high-quality xf support for dynamics and hairpins, and inter-instrument consistency (identical preset maps), and huge articulation set, I think expression/notation maps for this library will be a breeze. I am super impressed and very excited about this library. It sounds really good. It's lightweight, loads fast, saves fast. Control is straightforward, musicality is high. It's kind of old school but wow, it jumps to the head of the line for me in sound quality and utility. Rich Hickey
Excerpt: This library must be considered one of the best. Pros: excellent sound; easy to install and configure with Sibelius; good documentation; good support; well chosen selection of instruments
Excerpt: So Where Does It All Fit In? The variety of what XCE offers for its price (especially in terms of the percussion and keyboards), the quality woodwinds in conjunction with the legato script (even without legato samples), the growl possible in the spiccatos and the simplicity of having just one patch to work with for each of the instruments are all good reason to look at the library, especially if you dont own many of the instruments covered. If youre looking to replace or augment your existing samples, it may be helpful to think about exactly what you want or need. If you have a library with a lot of ambience and need something drier, XCE is an option. If you want samples that were just performed a little differently or want to additional chairs to your arrangements (maybe you need another couple solo violins, for instance) then XCE is a good option. If you need something with low system requirements, XCE is a good option. If you dont have Kontakt or hate dongles, its a good option. But if youre mainly looking for a library based on the “built-in” sound (something recorded in position in a larger space or at least with preset panning, etc.) or with multiple microphone positions, then XCE doesnt fit the bill. If you want controllable modeled vibrato, then XCE doesnt fit the bill. If you want interval legato samples or lots of round-robins (exempting percussion) or dynamic layers, then it doesnt fit the bill. As for me, Im going to go back to enjoying those growling spiccatos and the woodwinds with the legato script as soon as I finish this article.
Excerpt How does XCE sound? Very simply put, these sounds are EXCELLENT, extremely realistic, and excite me to compose with them, and listen to them, as a good virtual instrument should. They are all authentic sounding, perfectly sampled instruments with flawless looping for sustained sounds. But as always the best way is to judge for yourself.
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Hans Josef Winkler Komponist & Pianist