It seems that 2014 could go into the history books as the “Year of the Choir libraries”. There have been quite a few releases already and when I’m writing this we still have half a year ahead of us. Impact Soundworks has released Vocalisa – Slavic Womens Choir, let’s take a listen and find out what’s it all about.
The download is about 2.1 GB and took only a few minutes on my connection. Sweet! It’s a RAR archive that expands to 2.29 GB. It contains 14 NKI’s and about 2300 samples. It is not a real “library” though so you need to have the full version of Kontakt (4 or later).
What you get
There are patches for separate sections of sopranos, mezzosopranos, altos, a soloist and a Full Choir Master patch. The latter only takes up about 45 MB (yes megabytes, not gigabytes!). You only get one ornament with the full choir and I miss the “OH” articulation but with the small memory footprint it’s a given in anyones project template.
Load all the separate patches and trigger them with the same MIDI channel and you get a bigger, better sounding (subjective I know) choir with a few more ornaments and the “OH” articulation as well. It comes with the price of being somewhat more memory demanding but 280 MB is almost nothing these days so it’s well worth it. Just to have the flexibility to go full on with all sections playing in unison or scale it down and split the chord between the sections is great. When you use the sections that way you get a much more intimate sound, lovely really.
The sound of Vocalisa
At first the sound struck me as odd or a bit off, hard to describe. After playing for just a little bit it starts to sound good. Real good. This choir has energy, and lot’s of it. I can’t describe it any other way. When playing the Full Choir Master patch you can almost see them standing outside and singing into the blowing winds. It sounds strong, brave and beautiful. I have nothing in my palette of sounds that conjure the same feeling as Vocalisa does.
The ornaments have quite a nasal sound, the same type of sound that the regular articulations have when the Mod Wheel (CC #1) value is in the 100-127 region. This makes it almost impossible to use the ornaments among the articulations when played softly. You really need to crank it up before you use the ornaments, so they blend with the rest. My guess is that there is not as many different layers among the ornaments to fade between, hence the difference in sound. I must confess that I’m not too familiar with slavic singing so it could be that ornaments are only used with louder singing, I don’t know. It is of little importance though, the ornaments sound real great and can add that little extra in-between the more regular articulations.
There are some features to let you sculpt the sound in some ways. There is a compressor, an EQ, a reverb, stereo width and tail dampening. I would use external options instead of Kontakts but what’s included works. You also have individual control of the articulations in form of level, offset (start-point in the sample playback) and brightness. I didn’t feel the need to tweak anything really in the sustain patches. Great options to have though.
- Full Choir Master
- Full Choir Clusters
- Full Choir FX
- Sopranos Master
- Sopranos Staccato
- Sopranos FX
- Mezzos Master
- Mezzos Staccato
- Mezzos FX
- Altos Master
- Altos Staccato
- Altos FX
- Soloist Master
- Soloist FX
As you can see from the patch list the soloist is missing staccatos. I wonder why? The FX patches are ok but nothing I would have loaded all the time and what’s called “master” should really be
named “sustains” since there are no staccatos in those patches. Also, there is no patch for fullchoir with staccatos, only clusters.
The staccatos are pretty basic with only two articulations, namely “DUM” and “YAH”. The “YAH” felt a bit sluggish for what I used it for but it was a quick fix with the setting “offset” which lets you start
further into the sample, shortening the attack of it so to speak. Nice.
What could be improved
I’m no fanboy of Kontakts reverb and the impulses that comes with Vocalisa are just barely “ok”. I used my UAD Lexicon 224 as well as some different Altiverb impulses and yes, Vocalisa sound
awesome! When used with the longer reverbs I found it really great that you can dampen the release tails in Vocalisa. Less mud that way.
There is also some damping EQ used in the Full Choirs Master patch that you only really start to notice when you switch back and forth between the sections played in unison and the full choir patch. Tweak the Full Choir patch to +24 in brightness and you’ll get pretty close. Also, the Full Choir has some more stereo width to it. These are just minor things and not a problem really, just some reflections.
The missing “OH” patch from the full choir and the soloist is perhaps not that important but I’d really like to have it as well as staccatos for the soloist.
The modes – grid and keyswitch
The master patches has a “Grid Mode”. Yes, when you don’t have Vocalisa loaded on another sample slave (tucked away in a rack or cupboard or whatever) and use it directly in your DAW I can understand that you want to use it. There are some frustration points though. If you want to remove or change a step in the middle of the pattern you’re forced to delete everything from the back until you get to the part you want to change. A minor issue perhaps but frustrating when you can’t remember how you had done the ending (chuckle). Since keyswitch mode let’s you have as many steps as you’d like and there are no advantage of the grid mode compared to keyswitch mode, I’d just use the latter every time.
Vocalisa – Conclusion
I really like Vocalisa. It won’t be my first choice for every choir job, but when it fits, it fits like no other. The sound lends a whole new tone or vibe to what I already have and you can go with a full, big womens choir or a smaller intimate one. When blended with other libraries it still gives that extra little flair of brave women singing. Vocalisa has a filled a spot in my palette of sounds that I didn’t know I was missing. It has a safe place in my template from now on.
- Kontakt 4+ full version (NOT player)
- Digital download approx. 2.1 GB
- Requires 3GB hard drive space
- Introduction price $99