Music Software Review: Acoustic and Electric Saz Bundle by SoundIron

The first sampled Saz I ever heard and used was in Hans Zimmer Guitar Vol 2 for AKAI released …. over 15 years ago. Up to 4 velocity layers, including tremolo patches this was a very “realistic” sounding Saz. Some parts of it found it’s way into next products by Spectrasonics.

Now as we all now sampling technology has changed a lot from the 8 bit Steinway samples in an Ensoniq Mirage, over the  full 44Khz/16 bit of the AKAIs and Emus to the Software samplers like EXS and the gigantic Gigastudio (with read from disk technology) to todays Kontakt and others with multiple velocity layers per single note, extensive round robins, scripting, etc etc.

Although it seems that all this technology is used to recreate the big orchestras there are quite a few sample developers who are implementing (if not inventing) the latest sampling technologies in smaller projects like SoundIron does.

PegsSaz Neck

The acoustic and electric Saz is one of these “smaller” projects, even though the work that has been put on it is not really that small. From the manual: “We painstakingly sampled all three “runs” of strings (low octave, middle single and high unison) with a massive 12x round robin and up to 6 velocity layers for open notes on an octave and a half per string. Continuing the depth are palm mutes, string chokes, release samples and a slew of percussive effects all at 12x round robin with multiple velocity layers.“ I get tired by just reading this.

Download and Installation

Downloading via Continuata worked as flawlessly as expected besides one thing, which was my fault. Instead of reading the whole email I received from SoundIron regarding the download and do as I was asked “Please download each library one at a time for best results. Once the first library is finished, you can paste in the next download code and proceed through the same steps until all libraries are downloaded and installed.  

I copied and pasted the first code, started downloading and copied and pasted the second one into Continuata. The result was that the first download stopped and the second started. Now this being my fault and all, I would really appreciate it if Continuata Connect would warn me in such a case that a download is already active and running and I am about to cancel it. 

Luckily Continuata also provides direct links which I still prefer and I could get my downloads from there at the same time (thanks to fast internet connection).  Other than that, the installation ran smoothly and I was ready to go.

Instruments Specifics

SoundIron’s Saz is a 5 string baglama saz. The word Saz is used for several differently sized, long and short-necked lutes so it’s not uncommon to finds Saz’s with 7 or, more usual 6  strings  (i.e the Cura — which is a half-sized bağlama usually does not have enough room for 3 strings in the highest course).

The turkish musical scales differ from western scales in that, like many other non-western scales they is based on just intonation rather than equally tempered interval. The octave is divided in 15 intervals (the octave is the 15th fret. Usually sample libraries in these cases provide patches with natural tuning and a equally tempered ones for easy use in the western music. SoundIron having sampled a fretless bağlama can easily have an equally tempered tuning by just sampling the right tones (so no pitch processing is necessary  to “tune” the samples).

And this is what SoundIron aimed for with this release: Saz libraries that are designed to be playable more along the lines of a guitar, rather than strictly intending to be used as a traditional ethnic saz library. And this is what is mostly needed too from a sample library these days. However according to SoundIron there are plans to expand the tuning and arpeggiator options in a future update to allow microtuning (quartertones, etc) beyond western intonation. And that would indeed be nice, even if most of us will never use it. 

soundiron_sazacoustic

Usability & Patches

The Saz libraries are “… open format Kontakt libraries, so they all require the full version of Kontakt to run. These products are not compatible with the free Kontakt Player and cannot be added to the special Libraries tab. They do not require activation through the Service Center.” 

I honestly really like that. I did like Kontakt library tab when I had only Komplete 5 and 2 more libraries but today. It’s just … oh well I won’t go there. 

You can load the nki instrument presets for each library into Kontakt by using the normal Files or Database browsers, as SoundIron states. Personally I use my finder (on Mac) for browsing and finding my files (I have saved searches for .nki .nkm and other formats)  and then I drag the files to the open Kontakt interface. Works like a charm and I am really fast with it. 

Each library has abound 6-8  patches in full and lite versions with a vast amount on configurations and articulations (even the lite versions) and one “Ambiences” patch. The electric Saz provides also patches for Neck or Bridge only pickups. 

Here’s a list for the Acoustic Saz:

  • Acoustic Saz – Performance.nki – The primary instrument preset for the Acoustic Saz. It simulates the real-world behavior of a Saz as closely as possible. Includes all major articulations: slides, hammer-on/pull- off, palm mutes, chokes and standard as well as the Strumulator functionality.
  • Acoustic Saz – Performance (Simple).nki –A simpler version of the above preset.
  • Acoustic Saz – Performance (Simple Uber).nki – This preset is similar to the other “Simple” patch, but replaces the Strumulator with the Uberpeggiator.
  • Acoustic Saz – Performance (TMPro).nki – This preset is like the main performance preset except the slide samples have been configured to stretch and compress using Kontakt’s built-in Time Machine Pro machine mode
  • Acoustic Saz – Performance (Simple Ext. Range).nki – This simple preset lack slides and hammer-on/pull-offs and has the string ranges extended beyond their real-world limits.
  • Acoustic Saz – Tuned Percussion.nki – This special preset type is a dual layer patch that is very simple and straight forward to use. Users assign any articualtion to each layer, each of which has independent sound-shaping controls.This preset-type includes all three arpeggiation modes: Uberpeggiator, Strumulator and Glissatron.
  • Acoustic Saz – Ambiences.nki – This preset contains a selection of ambiences and drones created from the source Saz material.

There’s an additional sound source for both libraries, one I personally like a lot too. SoundIron provides the samples open as Wav files on the drive. So you can use any of them directly in your daw or even do crazy things like remap, create new instruments and all shorts of stuff. I may not ever invest the time (it’s so easy to do realistic or crazy stuff right out of the box) to do so, but I love the option to be able to. The libraries are securely watermarked for each user and require the full retail version of Kontakt to run. They are not supported by the Kontakt Player.

The sound is great. The playability (with a little practice) fantastic. Do have a listen to the demos they are really representative of what the library can do. 

There is a lot of performance controls on the front panel that allow deep real-time performance customisation.  You have full control over each string, including key range, string selection, hammer-ons, pull-offs, legato and pluck type, all with key-switch support. Working with the  keyswitches and CC automation it is relatively easy to create realistic performances or … experimental ones :) 

I really like the concept of having every string able to use different techniques independently (i.e slide the lower string but not the higher ones) and being able to stay on the same string while plain higher is a great addition for adding reality to the playing. Especially staying on the string in the octave course is a very common technique to create a certain sound. 

Arpeggiator

My favourite part  is the built in arpeggiator. The arpeggiator provides three modules depending on the patch you loaded. The Strumulator for chords as above, the Glissantron for scale runs and the Uberpergiattor for patterns.

Chords  can be played with the Strumulator in one-finger-style based on standard Saz fingerings. So you will never have to think of fingerings or positions etc . Playing on the low course gives you a three voicing accord (selectable with the Chord knob) and playing on the top course simply does not give you an accord … (while playing on the middle strings triggers both the middle and the top strings). Knobs for randomness. directions and tightness (simultaneously struck or arpeggiated) give you even more options for your accompanying Saz track.

Strumulator

 

The Glissatron is designed to let users easily arpeggiate a variety of scales with a single keypress. Again here the available knobs give you a big set of variation. Set the scale to anything else than minor and major, the range parameters to 3 or 5 and the direction to up/down and you have instand-eastern-osti™. The Glissatron is fully polyphonic so it can play a scale starting on multiple notes at the same time.

 gilssatron

The Uberpergiattor is a flexible, custom arpeggiator system wich expands the creative potential of the Saz. The notes are played either with the defined velocity or their real velocity (as you press them)  in the order defined by “Note Order” . Again here experimenting with the knobs and buttons provides enormous creative possibilities. I had a lot of fun using odd meters (18 steps with 1/8 values or 9 steps with 1/4 values) and a light swing for a groovy middle eastern pattern. Or use fast note values, higher duration and turn off the velocity to imitate tremolos. Or set the quarter tone pitch knob to 4 and you’ll love it.  The possibilities are endless and automating some of the knobs add to the palette of variations. 

 uberpeggiator

FX

What is an electrified acoustic instruments with pick ups but with out an amp. Both libraries  include a guitar-style effects rack and even though you’d probably use it more in the electric sax library i find its addition to the acoustic saz a major bonus. The Effects Rack control panel, features multi-effects (chorus, flanger, phaser), compression, drive and distortion, amp simulation, a variety of different speaker cabs, parametric EQ, tempo-synching delay and reverb. That’s a lot and it sound good. You can of course use your own amps and multi effects but having them build by the instrument with 45 real-world spaces and 25 original FX impulses does make things more efficient. 

EFX

It’s been a long road from Hans-Zimmer’s Guitars to SoundIron’s Saz libraries. In the meantime I have bought and used my own 7 string Saz. Very often though I did wish to have access to a decent Saz lib in order to fast sketch out a tune without setting up mics and preamps, or while traveling. With the Sound Iron Saz library I not only have quite the sketch tool but also a different sounding Saz than mine and an electric one which both will certainly find their way into my productions.

The first sampled Saz I ever heard and used was in Hans Zimmer Guitar Vol 2 for AKAI released …. over 15 years ago. Up to 4 velocity layers, including tremolo patches this was a very “realistic” sounding Saz. Some parts of it found it’s way into next products by Spectrasonics. Now as we all now sampling technology has changed a lot from the 8 bit Steinway samples in an Ensoniq Mirage, over the  full 44Khz/16 bit of the AKAIs and Emus to the Software samplers like EXS and the gigantic Gigastudio (with read from disk technology) to todays Kontakt and others with multiple velocity layers per single note, extensive round robins, scripting, etc etc. Although it seems that all this technology is used to recreate the big orchestras there are quite a few sample developers who are implementing (if not inventing) the latest sampling technologies in smaller projects like SoundIron does. The acoustic and electric Saz is one of these “smaller” projects, even though the work that has been put on it is not really that small. From the manual: “We painstakingly sampled all three “runs” of strings (low octave, middle single and high unison) with a massive 12x round robin and up to 6 velocity layers for open notes on an octave and a half per string. Continuing the depth are palm mutes, string chokes, release samples and a slew of percussive effects all at 12x round robin with multiple velocity layers.“ I get tired by just reading this. Download and Installation Downloading via Continuata worked as flawlessly as expected besides one thing, which was my fault. Instead of reading the whole email I received from SoundIron regarding the download and do as I was asked “Please download each library one at a time for best results. Once the first library is finished, you can paste in the next download code and proceed through the same steps until all libraries are downloaded and installed.   I copied and pasted the first code, started downloading and copied and pasted the second one into Continuata. The result was that the first download stopped and the second started. Now this being my fault and all, I would really appreciate it if Continuata Connect would warn me in such a case that a download is already active and running and I am about to cancel it.  Luckily Continuata also provides direct links which I still prefer and I could get my downloads from there at the same time (thanks to fast internet connection).  Other than that, the installation ran smoothly and I was ready to go. Instruments Specifics SoundIron’s Saz is a 5 string baglama saz. The word Saz is used for several differently sized, long and short-necked lutes so it’s not uncommon to finds Saz’s with 7 or, more usual 6  strings  (i.e the Cura — which is a half-sized bağlama usually does not have enough room for 3 strings in the highest course). The turkish musical scales differ from western scales…

Soundiron Saz Bundle


INSTALLATION – 90%


PATCHES – 100%


INTERFACE – 90%


SOUND – 95%


VALUE – 95%



94%

94/100

With the Sound Iron Saz library I not only have quite the sketch tool but also a different sounding Saz than mine and an electric one which both will certainly find their way into my productions.

94

Written by: Panos Kolias

Panos Kolias is a film, tv and concert music composer and musician. He regularly produces cues and other commercial music for major television programs like CSB ABC and others. He's a part of the electronic duo DubLion Project and works also as a musician, educator, orchestrator, and technical consultant. Besides composing for TV and film and composing concert music, he holds a lecturer position at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg, teaching Music Technology and Film scoring courses.

  • Chriss Ons

    Got this bundle when it came out; it’s a fantastic instrument (well, two really) and this review does justice to Soundiron’s effort.

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