The original Symphobia by ProjectSAM is a comprehensive orchestral sample library with very solid quality across the board. Sonically, it's one of the best ones out there. Its successor, quite conveniently named Symphobia 2, focuses less on replacing or improving the already existing samples, and instead features quite a few legato ensembles and solo instruments.
Symphobia 2 overall
I should admit, ProjectSAM’s samples don’t quite sell themselves to me. They are very good, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that they sound quite generic. Symphobia 2 does little to assuage this, however one strength that I noticed straight away was that the solo legato instruments have a nice round creaminess to them, so much that I’m disappointed that there weren’t more of them.
The Flute, Horn and Low Whistle are the best parts of the library. They’re are very sonically pleasing and it’s not hard to get them sounding good straight away. The legato is very well programmed, the legato transitions (if a bit too ostentatious at times) slot neatly in between the notes and they come with polyphonic sustain and staccato keyswitch patches.
The worst, I’m tempted to say, is the legato violins in octave patch, which is quite strange when you think about it. Such a pivotal instrument I would’ve thought would be the best of the bunch, but alas, it’s not very good at all. I gave it several chances to change my mind but the range is very limited owing to the octave programming, the legato is weak, some of the release trails are out of tune and the overall sound is really forced. Especially in the lower region, the notes sound almost strangled, as if the violins are nursing awful colds and really don’t fancy being played.
The symphonic effects are as good as ever. I shouldn’t need to say anything other than that if you like symphonic effects in general, you can get this library only for their sake. They’re high-dose idea juice and you can build entire ambient tracks around them.
The low whistle
After I’d loaded the library in Kontakt, my eyes went straight to the legato ensembles category and then to the low whistle. While it was loading, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was then greeted by such a pleasant and dulcet sound, I felt like I’d stolen some Scottish countryside. This is such a pleasing instrument to use, so much that I’m going to forego talking and instead give you something to listen to (Isn’t the new SoundCloud HTML5 player beautiful?).
Yes, the title is completely predictable, but it’s just a demo piece of a low whistle sample so what else could I have called it? I should mention that the very lowest note played in the melody doesn’t exist in the actual range. I had to record one of the notes and shift it down manually. The strings harmony is the Symphobia sustains patch that comes with Symphobia 2, and the percussion is from Spectrasonics Stylus RMX.
In a word, yes. This flute is very soft and creamy and it’s well produced to use some of the best timbre qualities of the instrument. This instrument is a good example of what I said before, that some of the legato transitions are a bit too ostentatious. The demo below demonstrates this around 30 seconds in when the transition is ostensibly portamento. Nevertheless, I like working with this patch even though I don’t think the flute is an instrument I use regularly in my music.
I got a comment by someone who wanted to play Through the Valleys from Oblivion on the flute, so the demo for this patch is a simple arrangement of that. It’s inspired by the core melodies, features the more prominent ones, but the original track as a whole doesn’t make for a particularly good solo woodwind iteration so some of the themes have been left out.
This demo is a first recording, without any editing performed. Compression and reverb have been added.
You can download the sheet music to the Through the Valleys flute arrangement here:
The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion – Through the Valleys (Flute Arrangement)
This patch reminds me quite a lot of the ’90s film scores by Silvestri or Horner (the latter of course being an ingenious pun by yours truly). Just like the flute, it’s quite comfortable to use though some of the transitions and release trails are a touch muddy. The horn parts in Winterfoot demonstrate this quite well, especially in the higher velocities.
Since we’re on the Jeremy Soule theme, we might as well run with it once more. This is my favourite atmosphere track from the score. It’s number 8 and is entitled Far Horizons. It features a very pleasing horn melody right from the start and a good use of a B♭ Major in first inversion (Typically, you’d see a D Minor in its place but Soule really knows his harmony by now.). Sadly, the solo horn from Symphobia doesn’t go high enough to keep with the original key (G Minor), so I’ve transposed it down to E Minor for this demo. Interesting to note about this song is that it’s not tuned to the standard tone register. Play along to it on a (tuned) piano and you’ll see what I mean.
This demo has been lightly edited. I turned off the release trails, added a CC11 curve and some extra reverb to go with Soule’s tendencies, and layered some Symphobia strings harmony below. All in all, Soule’s version sounds better by leaps and bounds, but for less than half an hours work, there are certainly worse legato horn samples out there. I do really like how the softer middle notes nicely flow up and down above and below the backing texture. Often, a soft horn sample will get lost in the mix but not this one, owing to a very clear timbre even when the instrument is playing ever so gently. Very well done by ProjectSAM.
I don’t think I’ll be purchasing my own copy of Symphobia 2 but for those who make frequent use of its predecessor, it’s definitely a worthy addition. While all the legato patches aren’t equally good, most of them are, and some are great. As for the other offerings, given the rather parochial nature of the official demos (I was pleasantly surprised to see Michal Cielecki’s work on there. He was on Silgrad Tower the same time as I was before it went dark.), it seems most get the same kind of ideas from the patches. That is, to make stings and dark disturbing music pieces with it.
In the spirit of that, I threw together one myself.
All the best,