Today we will be checking out 8Dio’s latest addition to their acclaimed Legion Series product range: the new Legion Series: 66 Cellos. After having sampled several other large-scale ensembles including 66-piece Tuba, Trombone and Bass ensembles, 8Dio gathered 66 of Europe’s finest cellists and recorded this epic string ensemble sample library.
In this review, we will find out all about the new cinematic string ensemble, spotlighting its various articulations, almost a dozen available microphone positions and other neat features. Let’s dive right in!
Hard facts first: Legion Series: 66 Cellos is sample library for Native Instruments’ full version of the KONTAKT sample player (version 5.8 and above). It features over 15,000 samples in 48Khz / 24Bit and is presented in 8Dio’s popular 3D rendered user interface. 66 Cellos comes with a host of different playing styles including sustains and legatos, shorts and tempo-synced ostinatos, string effects as well as 8Dio’s trademark Arcs – dynamically swelling bowings that retain a huge amount of the original performance’s realism.
In terms of microphone positions, 66 Cellos offers a wide selection ranging from 3 different hall perspectives (Decca, Wide, Far), 5 independent spot mics and two pre-processed “Main” and “Trailer” stereo mixes. More on those a little later.
THE POWER OF A CELLO LEGION
A typical symphonic cello section consists of anything between 8 and 12 players, balancing it perfectly with all the other instrument sections in the orchestra in terms of volume and tone. Transferring to the cinematic world, countless movie soundtracks were recorded using these section sizes. Why would anyone feel the need for a tremendously oversized cello section of more than 60 players you might ask.
Well, the thing with modern cinematic music, be it a movie soundtrack or trailer music, is that capturing the realism of a symphonic orchestra‘s performance is not necessarily the first priority, but conveying a certain type of mood definitely is. Utilizing 66 cello players is usually not so much about achieving volume – as that can be accomplished in the mix – but rather about creating a strong sense of width, depth and weight.
With Legion Series: 66 Cellos, 8Dio tried to accomplish exactly that: offering an epic ensemble that can sound both silky and smooth as well as thundering and punchy at the same time.
As mentioned before, Legion Series: 66 Cellos is equipped with the same modern, 3D rendered interface that was used for the other Legion Series products. Spread across 5 tabs, you find all articulations, mic positions and available effects in a neatly organized fashion. Further adjustments can be made using the rotary controls on the lower third of the GUI. These controls include parameters like attack and release times, glide options and sample offset to tighten up the samples if needed.
Apart from the articulation- and mixing-related options, the user interface offers access to various KONTAKT effects like filtering, distortion, reverb, chorus and so on. What makes the FX page special, is that it lets you control 4 effects at the same time, each having their own XY pad. For each of the 4 effects, you can assign what parameter X and Y should be and automate the pad’s movement via MIDI. This, for example, enables you to control the cutoff and resonance of a low-pass filter simultaneously or automate the timing controls of a delay effect.
Another neat onboard processor is 8Dio’s own Sequencer found on the third tab. With the Sequencer, you can quickly generate chordal string ostinatos or pulses, much like you would with a synthesizer and an arpeggiator. Besides choosing the number and volume of steps, you have control over the playback rate, different sequencing patterns and a few other parameters.
Positioned in the lower right area of the GUI, you’ll find a few buttons for the additional sound design of the samples. With these, you can reverse, stack or randomize (Chaos button) all of the parameters available on the GUI in order to create strange and interesting sounds.
66 Cellos features an extensive collection of what you would call “core articulations” – like sustains, spiccatos, pizzicatos and legatos but also comes with a host of special playing styles. These include sound effects like clusters, crescendos and seagull sounds, but also different monophonic and polyphonic Arcs and tempo-synced ostinatos.
All of the library’s articulations are grouped into 9 main categories which contain several variations or different styles of the overarching articulation. For example, the Shorts patch contains all the short playing styles ranging from marcato (short bowing) and spiccato (very short bowing) to pizzicato (plucked strings) and bartok pizzicatos (slapped strings). In addition to the grouped patches, you can, of course, load up each style variation individually by browsing the respective “Individual Patches” folder.
One of 66 Cellos’ playing styles really worth pointing out is the beautiful sounding Arcs technique. The Arcs technique is something 8Dio started with their Adagio product line quite a few years back I think and they perfected it over the years. In essence, Arcs are captures of an ensemble’s performance in which the players play a note while gradually swelling up and down in volume and expression (Spitfire Audio has a similar thing they call “Waves”). The nice thing with 66 Cellos is, that you get to choose both the lengths and the dynamics arcs of these performances to suit your needs. By taking a look at the screenshot below, you can see all different options for playable Arcs available.
For 66 Cellos, 8Dio sampled and programmed Arcs in two different ways: the usual way described above and the polyphonic way, deriving from their polyphonic legato. What the Polyphonic Arcs set apart from the usual ones, is that you can change the notes of a chord or progression in real-time while the new notes follow the dynamic curve of the performance. With the usual Arcs, the dynamic curve starts from the beginning each time you change notes. Also with the Polyphonic Arcs you have more exact control over the performance’s speed by using the Speed control in the lower half of the GUI.
LEGATOS & OSTINATI
Legato articulations come in two different versions in the 66 Cellos sample library: Looped and Non-Looped. While you can hold the Looped legatos for an infinite time, the Non-Looped ones will tail off naturally like they were recorded. In addition to the regular legato, 66 Cellos also offers a tremolo, a sul tasto and a marcato legato. The sound of the legato articulations is nice and passionate, allowing for beautiful soaring melody lines. It has its limits though, as the portamento (the connection sound between notes) is very prominent and upfront, which may not be the perfect fit for every arrangement. Also, because of the sheer quantity of players recorded, the legato reacts a bit slower and is therefore probably more suited to downtempo and medium tempo playing styles as opposed to fast action cues.
The Ostinato patch in 66 Cellos is a very useful tool to come up with convincing rhythmical passages quickly. This patch offers 14 different, live recorded ostinato articulations that vary in their time divisions. All you have to do is to hold down one or more keys and the cellos play tempo-synced rhythms. Each time division is connected to a key-switch, so you can change the tempo and feel of your ostinato lines on the fly. Since the ostinati were recorded live, you can hear the realistic bow changes and little slurs that are sometimes missing when playing rhythms using a plain staccato patch.
LEGION SERIES: 66 CELLOS SOUND DEMOS
MICROPHONES & MIXES
Legion Series: 66 Cellos was recorded in the same concert hall as many of the company’s other libraries including 66 Basses, 66 Trombones, 66 Tubas, Majestica, Lacrimosa or CAGE. Using a wide array of different microphone positions, 8Dio captured a variety of perspectives and tones. With 66 Cellos, you get access to 3 hall perspectives, 5 spot mics and two stereo mixes. While the hall mic positions capture the width and room tone of the instruments in the concert hall, the spot mics provide you with a closer, more detailed sound. With the Main Mix, you get a great sounding, pre-balanced stereo mix of all the different positions. Especially useful for energetic cinematic music and trailer music, is 8Dio’s “Trailer Mix” – which is a processed and hyped version of the Main Mix. While it may reduce the sense of realism, this special mix provides a clear and punchy tonal alternative that will cut through even the densest arrangements.
Legion Series: 66 Cellos is a huge sounding cinematic string ensemble that adds weight and space to any arrangement. The sample library offers tones ranging from smooth and silky to ripping and biting. The nicely curated set of articulations leaves little to be desired and the range of microphone positions and mixes helps to find just the right tone for your compositions, whether its cinematic pop, a movie score or trailer music.
With 66 Cellos, 8Dio keeps on pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and succeeds to present what has become an awesomely modern-sounding sample library.
66 Cellos is available through 8Dio’s webshop. During the company’s current Black November Sale, you can get the product for $178 (regular price: $298).