Very few strings libraries actually push the envelope these days. Nothing new under the sun, so to speak. So it’s refreshing when somebody take take a leap and create something a little different. 8Dio set out to do just that with their Adagio strings series. Starting with the violins, the Adagio strings series puts it’s focus on previously “under tapped” areas of string sampling.
So we’re going to take a look at Adagio Violins Volume 1 and see if it manages to stand out from the pack. Following this review, we also hope to take a look at the other three sections; cellos, violas and basses. So stay tuned for those.
Tale Of The Tapestry
Adagio Violins is available exclusively through 8Dio as a downloadable library. Using what seems to be a custom built downloader, you will need around 25GB of space to house the 44.1kHz/24-bit library(compressed down from about 50GB using Kontakt’s NCW compression). 25GB is a lot to download, but the custom downloader makes things pretty easy. It handles corrupt files and lets you pause and resume downloads.
You’ll need the full version of Kontakt 4 or 5 to really use the library. Kontakt Player won’t do as you’ll be restricted to 15 minute sessions. But then again, you DO already have Kontakt, right? Kontakt 5 is preferred due to it’s vastly superior Time Machine quality, which will benefit you greatly with this library.
We’re reviewing version 1.1 of Adagio Violins, which was a huge update from the release version. For a quick rundown of what was added, before we get into the details, see this video from 8Dio:
Understanding 8Dio Adagio Violins
Upon loading Adagio Violins, the first thing you’ll probably notice is just how simple the interface is. Really, when compared to many newer Kontakt libraries, Adagio Violins is pretty darn basic. But that’s just on the surface, as you’ll see throughout this review.
Adagio contains three section sizes. You get a full violins section of 11 players, a 3 player ‘divisi’ section, and a solo violin, allowing for great flexibility with part building and splits. Each section has a unique selection of articulations and playing styles, but the core idea among the three is the same.
You also get three microphone perspectives; Close, Far and Mix(a combined Close and Far). You can mix each of these as needed, or keep them off if desired.
I’ll be honest. It took me a little while to “get” Adagio Violins. When I first played the library, it didn’t feel quite right and I kept thinking that there was something wrong. And there was. Me.
Adagio Violins is actually very easy to play. The interface is extremely simple, and you don’t need to micromanage multiple knobs and controllers to get a good sound. You just need to understand the various bits of the library and know how to use keyswitches(which is how you switch playing styles in each patch), adjust a knob or two, and you’re good.
Adagio Violins doesn’t work the way that most string libraries do, but it was natural to try and play Adagio in a way that would have worked with those libraries. While most libraries throw all articulations and playing styles together into a single patch and call it a day, Adagio focuses on unique variations of each element, placed together to work together. You can almost consider Adagio to be a collection of tens of thousands of individual single note performances spliced together to create YOUR song.
Adagio Violins is about expression. More importantly, NATURAL expression. With most string libraries, you shape notes manually with controllers, and Adagio allows this as well, but Adagio Violins breathes on it’s own. The samples were recorded that way. The key is learning the slew of different recording types and how to put them together into one coherent, flowing piece. It’s not hard at all to do either. The recordings capture the instrumentalists playing their instruments in the same way they would do during an actual performance, full of sways and turns and expression, instead of just a bunch of straight and static notes.
Adagio Violins contains an almost exhaustive list of different playing styles and articulations, and the key is knowing what works where. So I’ll get through the different core aspects one at a time.
Keep in mind that Adagio Violins is VERY deep, so I won’t necessarily cover EVERY detail, but I’ll try.
Getting From Here To There
The biggest focus of this library is on two primary areas: transitions and expressiveness. And really, this is WHY you would likely purchase Adagio Violins above the rest.
Most string libraries these days include legato transitions. Some are even quite in-depth with recorded transitions from every note to every other realistic following note. Sometimes, you’ll get some portamento samples, or glissandi even. The problem? Violinists are more fluid than that. They adjust their playing based on the material and this often requires different speeds and character in that precious space between the notes which holds the melody together. Most libraries include static, universal “legato”, and that’s that.
8Dio Adagio Violins goes far beyond this by including several variations of legato. These range from the abrupt to a slow portamento of a player settling into their pitch. These legato types are named after the composers and work which inspired their sound. Names such as Perdition Legato, E.T. Legato, Instinct Legato and Village Legato are designed to represent the styles of popular composers such as Thomas Newman, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and James Newton Howard, among others.
There are ten advertised legato types included, but keep in mind that these are split among the three section sizes. There are seven different ensemble legato types, two different divisi types and one solo legato type. So ten in all, with no overlap between sections.
Dolce Legato is designed for slow passages. Most libraries don’t include transitions that work well with slow and dramatic pieces, but Dolce Legato was designed for this. The transition is not over the top, and doesn’t emphasize itself too much. It just flows softly and gradually into each note.
Instinct Legato is a very refined and “even” legato sound. You could call this the “general purpose” legato, as it sits somewhere in the middle of quick and deliberate. Capable of faster paced transitions than Dolce, you also get slightly more attack out of Instinct. As this will likely be one of your more used legatos, it also helps that 4 round robin variations of each legato sample are present. Very welcome indeed.
Extraterrestrial Legato(ET for short, of course) takes a leap upwards from Instinct in terms of speed and emphasis. More attack and a faster “settle” time make ET ideal for faster passages where you really need to move along. The more abrupt attack can be a little bit distracting if you’re not careful, and I found myself needing to redo some of my playing to accommodate. But all-in-all, this will be a commonly used transition for most people.
Village Legato takes the faster moving aspect of ET legato, but drops down some of the attack emphasis. Village almost has a sense a tension because of this. When using Village legato, you get the impression that each player is making the tough yet conscious decision to move on. An ever slight delay in this legato means that you get emphasis without the attack, and it works well for the big Hollywood score sound. Multiple round robin variations are included with this one as well.
Perdition Legato is different from all the rest because it’s sole focus is on the softer sordino(muted) sound. It’s a slower sound in general, somewhere above Dolce but below Instinct, but it moves very quickly due to enhanced attacks(not sharp attacks, but notes come on faster). Being a sordino playing style, the use for this is obvious. Perdition is all about passion and reflectiveness. And it does it very well.
Emo Slur and Soft Emo Slur are closer to portamento than a true legato, with the Soft Emo Slur being the less emphasized transition of the two. These are quite good when you need emotionally drenched transitions. The Emo Slur transitions almost tell a story of pensiveness that is quite refreshing. While not something that I’ll use with every piece, this is the kind of sound you TRY to write for because when in the proper context, it’s very pleasing.
The Lost Legato 1 & 2 are the only Divisi section legatos. There isn’t a whole lot of built in emotion to Lost 1, which makes it a good default legato for your chamber arrangements. It also works best for faster passages compared to Lost 2, which is more of a deliberate legato with the feel of being pulled along. While Lost 1 works well for smaller arrangements, Lost 2 would fit in well even with medium sized orchestral arrangements due to it’s more expressive nature which makes it cut through a little easier. In fact, even the simple differences from Lost 1 make Lost 2 feel twice as large, which is quite a feat.
The last legato is the lone solo transition, called the Schindler Legato. It’s easy to see where the inspiration came from for this one. Schindler is definitely not in the “all rounder” category, but instead leans towards the aggressive. Fast passages are a piece of cake, and slower sensitive passages are not typically ideal here.
There are also a few multis included in Adagio Violins that allow you to use up to three different legato types within a single phrase. You can choose to either use a MIDI CC to switch between legato patches, or you can use note velocity. These patches are really where you have a chance to shine with Adagio Violins because it allows you to create fully dynamic recordings without loading multiple tracks and patches. I do wish that more multi variations were included though as you’re kind of stuck with the specific combinations they give you. But what’s there is still welcome.
NOTE: In the coming days, we’ll be posting examples of each legato type here on ProRec.com, so stay tuned for those.
The series of different legato types included make for a much more versatile library than you will find anywhere else. And I’m a fan of many libraries out there. But these transitions pretty much make this the only kid on the block with the cool new sneakers. It’s very VERY fun to mess around with these and to see such variety in the types of performances you can get. But it goes beyond just the legatos.
Making It All Dynamic
The patches in Adagio Violins are each based around their respective legato types. So you will find various differences from one to another besides the legato type itself.
The patches are designed to work alongside the traditional crossfading of samples to shape dynamics. If you prefer, you can use your mod wheel and expression pedal to form your notes and guide them along, just like virtually all other libraries on the market. But also included are a series of what 8Dio refer to as “Dynamic Bowings”. These are bow strokes that could be considered single note performances of their own.
You’ll find variations of vibrato in case you may need a note to be emphasized with a fuller vibrato sound. You will find differing intensities and arc swells to trigger, variations of long and short bows, etc. If you want a quickly fading, almost detached note, you can trigger this with a keyswitch. If you want a more long and drawn out note with a more defined swell, you have it. And each patch is different.
You’ll find things like Marcato legato in the solo violin patch, while you’ll find more varieties of deep legato in the Emo Slur patches. Each playing style is designed to work inside the “big picture” of each legato. And this is something I’ve never seen before, maybe because nobody has ever put this much attention on the transitions. But it works very well. It takes some getting used to, so don’t think that it’s just going to work perfectly the first few times you play around with it. But once you dig for a while, you ‘get’ it. You’re going to love this new way of playing. I sure did.
In addition to these dynamic bowings, you have control over the dynamics of your notes using a MIDI CC, which allows for more controlled swells. This works well as it uses appropriate filtering to allow for varied intensity in your notes. Also, you’ll find an expression knob which can also be triggered by MIDI CC. This is essentially a volume pedal and allows you to fade notes completely in or out as desired.
Vibrato control is also included. Now, many of the playing styles have a built-in vibrato that works well and doesn’t stand out. But if you want a bit more, or if you want to add a little to the non-vibrato samples, this knob allows you to do it. This changes a bit of the character of each note as well, allowing it to break through the mix with a more full tone, or letting it set back a bit.
Finally, and in my opinion this is every bit as important as the rest, is the speed control. Out of the box, all legatos play at their slowest realistic tempo. But the speed knob allows you to slow down or speed up each transition to eliminate the “over the top” nature of some transitions. So you can adjust a little of the emphasis and attack using this knob.
These four controls alone allow you to COMPLETELY transform a phrase. It’s worth taking the time to map each one and adjust to taste. I personally found myself mapping the dynamics and expression to the same expression pedal, with vibrato mapped to my mod wheel and speed control to an available knob.
There are a couple of minor gripes that I have with the legato system in general. One is that at times, there are very slight bits of inconsistency in volume that can throw things off a bit. The legato transition samples seem to play at nearly the same volume level no matter where you are in the envelope of a note. So if you trigger a new legato note while at the tail end of the preceding note, just as it’s dying down, the legato transition will jump out at you a bit. You can fix much of this in your editor of choice by going back and making sure to cut off the previous note before triggering the new one, but this leads to the triggering of a new phrase and not a smoothly transitioned one.
This could have been solved with a simple volume knob for the legato samples, but unfortunately, there is none. You’re stuck with the built-in levels. Maybe 8Dio will consider this for a future patch. I hope so.
Also included are special “Dynamic Bowings” patches that include all the variations of dynamic swells and arcs in one patch.
These are useful if you need even more flexibility outside of the legato patches. But these don’t include any legato transitions and are a little more challenging to use on their own. I highly recommend working within the legato patches for best results.
Portato ‘de Loure
I put this in it’s own section because I want you to make sure not to miss it. We’ve seen portato (often referred to as Loure) articulations in plenty of libraries in the past. Adagio takes it further by integrating them into the legato patches.
This playing technique is when a player slightly relieves bow pressure in a way that creates a new subtle attack emphasis in the middle of a note. Most commonly used when continuing the same note, this technique feels as if it’s a “floating” sound. I personally love using this to help a rather slow piece to move along a little easier. It almost adds rhythm to your slower passages. And Adagio includes several variations of this. See the picture below for the full list of Loure variations(taken from the Adagio Violins manual):
Each legato patch includes multiple Loure variations, typically between 1 and 4 repetitions. So you can keyswitch to each one depending on your needs. The best thing is that they work alongside the legato transitions so you can flow right into a Loure style and right back to full sustain at will. In addition, the Loure samples are synced to your host tempo so they feel like they belong.
You also have a dedicated Loure patch which contains all variations in one patch in case you need to specifically pick out a certain dynamic.
I can’t emphasize enough how important having Kontakt 5 is here. The timestretching in K5 is far superior to K4, and these Loure samples DESERVE the improved quality.
These are a fantastic, and unique addition to the already nearly complete Adagio feature list. But to make them even better, you get numerous round robin variations of several Loure types, which makes this feature even more fluid and realistic.
The Long And Short Of It
Adagio Violins comes with several additional patches in addition to the legato variations. In particular, you’ll find patches that contain sustain articulations, and patches that contain the shorts.
The sustain patches are separate from the normal legato patches, and while there is a little overlap, they are mostly unique articulations that don’t really fit into a legato line.
For the ensemble sustains patch, you get a whole slew of fun stuff to work with. In addition to more than one variation of the basic sustain and a sustained sordino, you get a wonderful sounding, quick moving tremolo(non-measured, though we’ll discuss that in a moment), along with a full complement of harmonics samples. But the highlight of the ensemble sustains is without a doubt the large variety of trills included.
You’ll find all intervals from a half step trill to a fourth trill. To make things better, you also get a variation of each of these that includes a dynamic swell throughout the trill. These trills are soft enough to use in more thoughtful passages, but you can really let them loose to ratchet up the tension as needed. As with other parts of Adagio Violins, 8Dio went further with this feature than most libraries do, and you’ll love it.
In addition to the single generic tremolo in the ensemble sustains, you also get a dedicated patch for measured tremolos. These are tremolos designed to work within the timing you have set forth in your piece. You have two different speeds of tremolos that are tempo synced to give you more flexibility, along with two different speeds of sordino tremolos. Plus, as an added bonus, two types of tremolo glissandos are included for extra effect(perfect for the whimsical or horrific, should you choose!).
The Divisi and Solo sections also contain a selection of sustains, but they are much more limited in this area. For instance, you don’t get a full compliment of measured tremolos with the Divisi section. You get a single variation. The downside here is that doing exact matches alongside the ensemble patches may prove difficult if you need them to sound identical. But it should be noted that these smaller section sizes are really supplemental, so it should be pretty easy in most cases to fit them in with the more full ensemble patches.
The shorts in Adagio Violins are superb. It’s one of the more complete collections out there. The round robin recordings for each of the shorts really help create a sense of movement within notes that have little movement of their own. Apparently, more than 10,000 recordings are included in this section, though I’ll be honest…….I didn’t count them(I gave up at 2,358).
Five(yes, five)spiccato variations are included; feather spiccato, on bow, tapped, bounced spiccato and arp spiccato, which allows you to trigger a spiccato sound on both note down AND note release(in case you need some really fast, or on-tempo spiccato). These variations give you loads of flexibility for crafting a spiccato that bits just enough, or blends in. It’s really quite refreshing to see the attention to these.
But spiccato isn’t all that you get. A Staccato articulation is also present in case you need a little more body to your short sounds. The staccato is wonderfully lush and present, and doesn’t sound like it’s trying too hard to be abrupt, something I can’t say about all string libraries.
Want Marcato for a more flowing and nearly sustained short bow? Check. Pizzicato for enhanced rhythm ? You betcha. How about Bartok Pizzicato for the extra resonance and snap? It’s there too. You’ll even get the wonderfully backwards Col Legno sounds for those times when you’re just tired of the horsehair getting all the attention!
Ok, kidding aside, this is an excellent and very complete collection of shorts. And they are very very smooth sounding. There is a great sense of sturdiness in the Adagio Violins shorts that allows them to really punch. There is so much detail there that the shorts could have been a library of their very own and people would pay for it.
You can adjust tightness if you need, or you can have a slightly “sloppier” sound, but all-in-all, you won’t find a larger collection of shorts in this quality in ANY library. Sharp enough to be noticed, but slick enough to be subtle. Don’t miss these.
As with the sustains patch, the Divisi and Solo sections are also quite limited when it comes to the short notes. As already mentioned, this isn’t necessarily debilitating because these sections are meant as complements to each other. And honestly, with the hugely vast amount of content in Adagio Violins, it’s very hard to complain about. But it’s worth mentioning.
Sounds Like Candy
Adagio lends itself to a wide range of applications. It’s comprehensive articulation list makes for quite a flexible set of tools. But the specialty here is the most definitely the sensual and passionate film score type compositions. When you play it, this feeling is just drenched all over every note. You could define Adagio Violins as “sweet”, if it had to be put into a word. It’s a softer sound, though the upper registers retain the ability to pierce through.
The Ensemble patches are lush and bold, but are surprisingly “airy” to allow other instruments their own space. The 11 person ensemble here is a nice balance between getting lost in the mix and overpowering it. While there are a few exceptions, the ensemble parts are, for the most part, very solid and play as a very unified section sound. In addition, you’ll find by FAR the most articulations and playing styles in the ensemble patches. There is more here than either of the Divisi or Solo sections.
The Divisi sections are a little more biting, but to be honest, they don’t lose a lot in terms of size. Some chamber section libraries have a thin and tinny sound to them. The Adagio Violins Divisi section is the opposite of that and can hold it’s own. You get some of the more intimate sounds from the Divisi section as you can hear enough bow scrapes and strings twisting to really pour on the dynamics. It’s a bigger sound than a lot of libraries, which may be good or bad depending on what you are looking for, but it works very well.
You will find the short articulations lacking in the Divisi sections, as you only get Spiccato and Staccato repetitions. Plus, a very limited tremolo variety and no trills to speak of. So if you need a full-on chamber section with all articulations, you may need to supplement elsewhere.
The solo violin is recorded well, and it sounds great, but it’s a little more limited in scope compared to the rest of the library. Because of the limited Schindler legato type, you’re kind of restricted from doing anything TOO slow and emotive. This doesn’t mean it’s not useful, but it’s just not meant for that, in my opinion. In addition, there are less available articulations in each of the solo patches. You don’t get the full compliment of shorts that the Ensemble has, though you do get slightly more than with the Divisi section(Spiccato, Arp Spicatto, Marcato, Pizz). I found that the solo shorts were slightly weaker in sound than the rest of the solo violin sound as well. Some compression and EQ worked wonders for me though and brought out the intricacies of the sound that I was needing.
The solo sustains were also quite limited compared to the rest of the library, though you do get some essential tremolo and sordano articulations to play with. In the end, I don’t think this solo violin was meant to be a full-on library of it’s own though. This is a supplemental section designed to work alongside the other section sizes for extra emphasis. And for this, it’s absolutely perfect.
There is a certain raw nature in the Adagio Violin sounds. The kind of feel you get when playing is almost one of pulling you along with a slight degree of tension as you wait for notes to resolve themselves to the next note. The emotion in the players is obvious, but yet the dynamics manage to stay rather consistent.
The natural ambience of the church where Adagio Violins was recorded is also quite obvious. But it’s more of a character ambience than a spatial one. As a result, Adagio works rather well with external reverbs. I think my favorite setup was to let the natural ambience remain for the early reflections, while adding a nice external reverb tail to help fit it perfectly into the rest of the arrangement.
Adagio Violins isn’t perfect. In fact, when listened to without any other tracks around it, there is a very raw sense of color to the samples. The audio QUALITY is good, but this isn’t anything near an anechoic chamber. You can sometimes hear the instrumentalist playing the instrument, and even the occasional non-violin noise will creep in here and there. But on the flip side, you almost come away with the sense that you could visualize the player as they rocked the bow back and forth. You don’t get the sense that these players are recording a library in a static controlled environment. You instead get to hear what it would be like if you asked each player to sit down in front of you and “play something” (man, I REALLY hate it when people ask me to do that, by the way……..I know a million songs, but ask me to choose just one and I’m clueless……). They are playing, not recording. There is a distinct difference between the two, and Adagio Violins hits the mark.
There are also some pitch and tuning issues, if you want to call them that. Players don’t always hit their notes imediately, particularly when using legato. Of course, I’m not talking about being a full semi-tone off or anything. The issues really are minor. And of course, they are MUCH less obvious in the context of a track. Solo out some string players in most any recording, and you would probably find a similar set of issues. This is just the natural adjustments made during a performance, and when the alternative is a very “clinical” sound, I’ll take natural any day.
Intonation is pretty solid throughout most of the library. I did, on occasion, hear what sounded like a bit of comb filtering in the full section patches. I can’t tell if this was due to some sloppy crossfading or just natural swelling of tones between players, but it is definitely there.
With all this being said, let me get one thing clear: Adagio Violins sounds REAL. In the context of a mix, these little issues provide a rather organic and “played” sound, which is actually quite refreshing compared to some libraries that try a little too hard to be perfect. And don’t get the wrong impression that you’re getting a messy library. That’s absolutely not the case. NONE of these issues in any way interfere with the library sounding great or being useful, even in a solo fashion. But in case you’re looking for perfect recordings of single notes that don’t sound like real players played them……Adagio may not be for you.
If you need violins, there is a world of exploration to be had inside of Adagio Violins. If you need something soft and full of passion, Adagio shines like NO other. If you need something larger and bombastic, Adagio holds it’s own. And if you need pure exhaustiveness of sounds, Adagio rises above the rest. Here are a couple of the official demo tracks for Adagio Violins, in case you need more of the sound. We’ll also be showing some of our own examples in the coming days.
As If That Wasn’t Enough
There are some additional features that are worth mentioning that make Adagio Violins even more complete.
While Adagio Violins doesn’t include a 2nd violins section, it does provide the option to make every patch into a 2nd violins section. With the push of a button, the tone of your patch will change to a slightly darker sound with a varied amount of processing to place it separately in the spatial panorama. This is done very well. I am always afraid of these types of “features” because I’ve seen so many libraries just add it to make the “easy way out”, but it still sounds artificial. Adagio accomplishes what I would hope for a 2nd violins section, and while a full 2nd section would have been great, I have no complaints.
You’ll also find lite versions of almost every patch in Adagio Violins. These allow you to stream more samples from disk if you prefer that instead of loading into RAM. So they are there if you need them, though Adagio Violins isn’t a tremendously demanding library by default.
As previously mentioned, you have three different microphone perspectives; Close, Far and Mix. Adagio Violins allows you to route each of these perspectives to different outputs if you need it. This may come in handy if you’re doing some surround, or just want to process each mic separately in your host.
In addition to the plethora of articulations and playing styles included, 8Dio have also included a small but useful collection of ensemble and solo phrases. These are merely pre-recorded runs, solo lines, special fx and other pieces in a similar style to those found in 8Dio’s other library, Studio Solo Violin(see review here on ProRec.com). While these don’t make up a significant portion of the library, they are there in case you should need them. This is more a bonus than a selling feature though, in my opinion.
Finally, 8Dio have used the core sample set of Adagio Violins to create a series of ambiences to include in your recordings. From pads to drones, these are very creatively put together and often include external non-violin samples and effects to create some truly unique “score candy”.
8Dio Adagio Violins is something special. Is it the only violin library you’ll ever need? No, I wouldn’t say that. But it can very well fit at the forefront of your string arrangements and orchestral scores. Whether you write for Hollywood videos or video games, there is so much content here that Adagio needs to be on your hard drive.
It’s not the end-all, be-all of string libraries, and it’s not without it’s faults. But it’s amazing how much 8Dio has put together in this one library. And not only that, they did what many library developers fail to do, and they have created a different way of working. One that makes sense, indeed. The money you pay for Adagio Violins is very much worth the returns you’ll get.