Music Software Review: Spitfire Audio ÓLAFUR ARNALDS EVOLUTIONS – Haunting Frozen Strings

Lost In Strings

You ever find yourself just playing around with a sample library, and you simply forget about time? You have a silly smile on your face while discovering and enjoying all the sounds while the world just keeps turning. ÓLAFUR ARNALDS EVOLUTIONS – Haunting Frozen Strings by Spitfire Audio has the potential to be one of these libraries, boasting a refreshing approach for string based sound design.

This library is designed for the full version of Kontakt, requiring 15.2 GB of free disk space (30.4 GB during install) for 3,695 samples. Spitfire‘s walkthrough videos tell you everything you need to know about the library. You can purchase the library right here.

The Man Behind The Library

BAFTA-winning, multi-instrumentalist and producer Ólafur Arnalds created and curated this library. Ólafur gained huge notoriety with a new audience for his BAFTA-winning score to British crime drama Broadchurch, featuring haunting strings, pianos, and electronics. He has drawn heavily on the techniques he explored for that project for this selection of evolutions.

Spitfire ÓLAFUR ARNALDS EVOLUTIONS was conceived in Reykjavík, Iceland, recorded in Berlin, Germany, and realised in London, England. Ólafur‘s hand picked quartet features the talents of multi instrumentalist, composer, and oft co-collaborator Viktor Orri Árnason, alongside the searing talents of cellist Sebastian Selke.

The Interface

The main attraction here is the Evo Grid, based on the EMS VCS3 synth. You can play around with the grid to discover and activate all 48 “Evos”, and each of them can be panned and tweaked. The Evo dice produces random results. You can mix the different mic positions, control the dynamics, variation, and expression. The FX controls are for reverb, delay, and tape saturation.


Evo-Grid view


Compact view

However, there’s a reason that I am not a big fan of the interface. I have a screen with a resolution of 2560×1440, so all the controls are super tiny. Some of the stuff that’s written on the GUI is not legible at all, and the help text is also barely legible. This might be different on more standard resolutions.

Patches, Articulations, and Mic Mixes

The patches are organised into main mic patches and warped patches, each featuring curated presetsindividual evolutions, and individual instruments. The curated presets are tagged with interesting names like A Soft Entrance, Breidavik WavesEerie Ponticello, and Iced Trems. The individual evolutions and instruments patches are quite a bit more technically descriptive, such as Sul TastoMulti WavesTasto to PontDissonants, and Slow Pitch Bend. The microphone mixes featured are:

  • M – Mix
  • C – Close
  • V – Valve
  • R – Ribbon
  • X – Warped
  • XXX – Even More Warped!

The Sound

Now let’s talk about the sound. This is NOT another string library. This is a paradise for sound designers. Play some keys and see what happens. Tweak some settings and enter a different world. This is not the place to talk about round robins, legatos, staccatos, or such things. Haunting Frozen Strings is a term that describes it pretty well: you can create disturbing soundscapes, mesmerizing ambiences, tender soundbeds, and much more with this library. I can also hear it in prog-rock, ambient, experimental music, or even in a pop song. In fact, Nine Inch Nails instantly came to mind while playing around. There are no limits but the ones you make for yourself. The controls and FX give you even more possibilities to create new sounds. With the Evo Grid, you have thousands of different sounds ready to create something new. The concept is top notch, and I am sure that many sound designers will fall in love with this library.

The mix of beauty and cold freeze takes this library to another level. Even though you can play chords and single notes, there is always a bit of a surprise in the result. Some scratches, squeals, and atonal artifacts appear as the sound evolves to give it a little extra spice. I’ve never found it as hard to describe the sound of a library as I have now. For me, this is more a synth that sounds like real analog strings – without sounding like strings. Sound strange to you?


The price tag is £199 / $299 / € 279 – definitely not a no-brainer. However, you will get a unique and excellent library for your money, with tons of great sounds. This is not a library for a wide user audience, but rather the experimental sound designer who’s searching new inspiration and fresh sounds.

More information and purchase options can be found over at the official product page.

Written by: Oliver Amberg

Oliver Amberg played in various metal bands (Coroner, Celtic Frost, Lick'n A Promise). His current bands are "The Boris Karloff Syndrome", "Artificial Rain" and "Postmortem Party". A couple of years ago he started to compose and produce music for film and games.

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