This month I got a chance to catch up with the guys over at Virharmonic to have a chat about their flagship product “Voices of Prague“. Voices of Prague is a word building choral sample library recorded with the Prague Philharmonic Choir for the UVI workstation (rather than Kontakt as the majority of other libraries on offer nowadays).
The sample library market place currently has plenty to offer in terms of SATB choral libraries – VOXOS by Cinesamples, Requiem by Soundiron, Symphonic Choir by EWQL. etc. Each of them has its own character, a different set of strengths/weaknesses and varying price tags. However, the only other word building SATB choral library is Symphonic Choir by EWQL. Soo how does VOP stand up against other libraries?
Voices of Prague Installation
As Voices of Prague is a UVI powered library, the installation process is a little more complex than a Kontakt library. You make the purchase through the Virharmonic website, then login to your account on their website, get your iLok activation code and sign into your iLok account to activate it. Thankfully iLok have updated their software recently, so registering VOP on my iLok was a fairly simple process. The download is approximately 8GB in size, so downloading can take a while based on your internet connection, and how their servers are holding up (I found it a little slow at times, but no big deal).
Once downloaded, I extracted the files, updated UVI Soundstation to the latest version, and just loaded up the patches. A little bit longer than Kontakt libraries take to authorise and install usually, but no big deal at all – I was listening to audio demos of the library while setting it up.
Voices of Prague Patches
VOP comes with 9 different “patches” offering different mic setups and 1 effects patch. The full patches are fairly large in size (around 3GB for some) and took around 2-3 minutes to load on my PC (not on an SSD drive). However, once loaded up, you’re ready to go, and no more waiting to load which I far prefer. The full list of patches are:
- Brighter Full Load
- Brighter Mics Off
- Close Only
- Darker Full Load
- Darker Mics Off
- Decca Only
- Scoring Stage Full Load
- Scoring Stage Mics Off
The “Mics Off” patches load the main patch allowing you to then chose which mic selections to load, and the “Full Load” loads all of the mics for that selection (hence why it takes longer to load obviously).
Voices of Prague Interface
It took me a couple of minutes to get used to the VOP interface as its pretty complex on first glance, but when I played around with it for a few minutes I really started to get a handle on it. Everything is actually laid out really well – below is the first screen you see when you load up a patch.
As you can see, the middle of the interface provides you with a way to quickly change the mic mix levels, panning and width and around the outside of that area are additional options. In the top right are basically “tabs” for the mixing panel, the word builder and the settings area. The word builder is laid out very intuitively (better than any other choral library I’ve seen actually) and comes with a nice sized list of pre-built words already.
Graphically it looks beautiful, and from a workflow perspective, its excellent. Two great features in the word builder panel are the option to select where you would like the phrase to start and end from along with the “pull to restart” button.
Other choral libraries with word builders give me a headache when I’m just recording part of a cue and want them to start and end at a specific point, yet they don’t make it easy to select it – luckily this is nice and easy with Voices of Prague. As you can see from the above image, there are a huge range of syllables, vowels and consonants to chose from in the word builder, which providing you with plenty of options for English and Latin phrases (along with other languages too).
One stand out feature of the VOP’s interface is the option to control nearly everything using MIDI CC data. Rather than manually selecting turning on/off poly legato, or changing the mic levels during a track, you can automate them by controlling them with a MIDI cc channel.
If I had to find a fault with the interface, it would be that the interface can be a little too complex, but like I said – after a few minutes of tinkering and watching the videos, you’ll get to grips with it pretty quick. Many choral sample libraries try to provide users with a simple interface, but by doing so leave out a number of useful features – Voices of Prague has found middle ground which offers huge flexibility, while maintaing as much “simplicity” as possible.
Voices of Prague Sound
Now – to the most important part of all! How does it sound? Different to how I was expecting actually (in a good way).
Many other choral sample libraries in the marketplace right now offer a cinematic choral sound. Voices of Prague can do “cinematic”, but to my ears, it works best when writing classical, religious and angelic music. Its more than capable of providing a choral backdrop for those big sounding cues (I hate to use the word “epic”), but it really excels in more religious styles of music. It also blends really nicely with other choir sample libraries and offers an extra layer of realism on top of the other choirs.
Have a listen to the two cues below to hear how it works for both modern orchestral music and classical/religious music:
As you can hear above, Mozart’s Dies Irea sounds pretty realistic and the library really excels here in this style.
The syllables are a little clearer than in most other choral sample libraries and the amount of consonants and vowels included is make it pretty flexible. One problem I did face with the library was getting it to sit further forward in the mix in orchestral cues, but I’m sure a bit of fiddling would resolve this.
I didn’t find much use for many of the choral effects included in the library, although I could see myself using them for horror / tension cues. I would have liked to have seen some finger clicks, and body percussion included for more flexibility.
Voices of Prague Value
Voices of Prague is currently on sale at $299, down from the normal price of $399. For $299, I think you’re definitely getting good value considering mic selections you can choose from, the beautiful tone and the flexibilty of the library.
Voices of Prague brings something different to the choral sample library marketplace. If you’re a choirmaster or looking to write quite choral mockups, its an incredible tool. If you’re looking to write religious / classical/ angelic music, its perfect. If you’re looking to expand your word building SATB choral sample library collection, it blends really well with others and can provide a powerful sound.
The demo and tutorial videos definitely need some better audio in them as I found it hard at times to hear what was being said.