Cinematique Instruments from Cologne/Germany is well known for its odd, rare, and unique sounding sample libraries. They first caught my attention with their minimalistic library Sägezahn, released a few years ago. Since then, their product portfolio has grown constantly, and today I am happy to have a closer look at Ensemblia.
What is Ensemblia?
Ensemblia is a sample library for Native Instruments Kontakt dedicated to the sound of a modern chamber orchestra. The library contains two main patches – shorts and longs – and is aimed at creating a modern minimalistic ensemble sound for cinematic suspense, drama, comedy, as well as modern pop or electronic dance music.
- 11 Instruments
- Two Kontakt Main Patches “Shorts” & “Longs”
- Classical Instruments: Violin, Viola, Cello, French Horn, Baritone Trombone
- Mallet Instruments: Marimba, Alto Glockenspiel
- Additionals: Upright Piano, Shruti Box, Bowed Psaltery
- Articulations: spiccato, staccato, pizzicato and long notes (normal, ponticello, harmonics)
- Up to 5 velocity layers and 4 round robin variations
- Scripted special voice engine
- Scripted 16 step ostinato engine
- Scripted Mixer, Master and Arranger Page
- Price Tag: 179 €/$200 (plus VAT for EU customers)
Installation is easy and straight forward. Copy the downloaded content to your preferred hard disk location. That’s it. This library does not support the free Kontakt Player, however, and does require the full version of Kontakt; subsequently it will not show up in Kontakt’s Libraries tab. You can instead access it via the Files tab or through the Quick Load menu.
Longs And Shorts
Ensemblia comes with two main Kontakt Instrument patches called Longs and Shorts. In the Mixer page, the instruments are split over 7 slots, and both patches contain several tabs to configure the ensemble to your needs. The patches come with following instruments:
Shorts patch: violin – viola – cello – horn – trombone – piano – marimba/ muted baritone ukulele/ alto glockenspiel
Longs patch: violin – viola – cello – horn – violin harmonics – violin ponti – bowed psaltery/ shruti box.
The Master page contains a presets section, as well as buttons for resetting Ensemblia or load/ save the current state (in the case of the Shorts patch, the arranger settings also get saved). The presets of Ensemblia are separated in three categories.
Largo: for wide, warm and full ensembles,
Fragile: for thin, organic and fragile ensembles,
Solo and Lead: well suited to monophonic playing.
Classical: for typical orchestral classical colors,
Modern: for contemporary styles,
Perc./Pizzi: for percussive patterns, mostly played with pizzicato articulations.
In addition to the presets section, there is a section for FX like reverb, delay, filter, and general sonic enhancements. Even those settings get stored in the presets.
The Mixer page is the place to mix and edit all 7 instruments of a patch. A great feature is the ability to keyswitch presets with the keys between C0-E0. By doing so, you can program several presets or preset variations into particular keys, and switch between them on the fly. The Shorts patch also contains an additional Arranger page that allows you to define and build up polyphonic 16 step patterns.
The Voicing Engine
One of the most interesting features of Ensemblia is the voicing engine. It can be toggled with the voicing button. Toggled ON it lets you easily spread up to 5 voices separately to particular instruments. While playing notes or chords, Ensemblia automatically analyzes the pressed keys and splits all the incoming notes into 5 separate voices: low – midlow – mid – midhigh – high. The voices are represented by circles, and clicking on a circle assigns the corresponding voice of your playing to this instrument.
With this very clever feature you can stack chords over different instruments without loading any extra Ensemblia instances. Also very cool is that the instruments are not limited to the voice range of the voicing engine. If voicing is turned off, you can play the instrument in the sampled range. This is also interesting if you only need a viola or a violin, for instance.
Another very useful and clever feature in Ensemblia is the Arranger, which is, in a nutshell, a polyphonic 16 step sequencer. By clicking on the instrument icon on the left of the step sequencer, you again get the voicing engine (similar to the Longs patch) with the additional ability to set voicing and velocity globally for the whole selected instrument.
By click and dragging on the single sequencer steps you can set the velocity of each instrument for each step individual.
p = piano (low vel.)
mp = mezzopiano (mid-low vel.)
mf = mezzoforte (mid-high vel.)
f = forte (high vel.)
ff = fortissimo (very high vel.)
Conclusion & Future
I have to say that I love Ensemblia and I love Cinematique Instruments! Ensemblia is THE tool when it comes to intimate organic sounding cues. Ensemblia is not going to cover a whole orchestra – this is simply not the aim! It is inspirational, sounds totally organic, and I am in love with the GUI, the sound, and the idea. The manual is very well written, and the tutorial videos on Youtube help to understand how Ensemblia works within minutes. I personally feel that Cinematique Instruments have given us composers a great tool, and I am sure that I will have lots of fun with it in the future.
Oh, by the way, yes, the future. A product is only as good as how it is cared for by the developer.
After a small chat with Cinematique Instruments, they told me that they are preparing an update that will have new EQs, single audio outputs for each instrument, free selectable slots, and more instruments. But this is not enough for them! There will be another update later this year with lots of other stuff coming, and I love this. I love it when a developer cares about their products, and I therefore feel good about having invested money in what they offer. I think if you are in the target user range of Ensemblia, you cannot go wrong with it.
Last but not least here is a little demo track I came up with. Enjoy!