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Topic: Symphobia - A different opinion

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  1. #1

    Symphobia - A different opinion

    I recently got my hands on Symphobia and after about ~12 hours of trying it out I just felt like sharing some of my opinions on this library, because everyone is touting it to be some kind of revolutionary saviour of all things sampled. Which I think it's not. So here are a couple of points:

    -Yes, the sustained strings sound great. Without a doubt the best thing in this library. It should however be kept in mind that the string ensemble sustains really only work as a sort of pad instrument. Making melodic lines just doesn't come naturally as the sound is very slow to react. There are also lots of discrepancies in sample starts. Meaning that there are samples that have too much silence in front of them which is a PITA. You cannot edit the samples because they are locked.

    -There is a serious lack of velocity layers in 95% of the patches which makes a lot of the stuff just unusable unless you're doing something really simple. Most patches have one velocity layer. Sure, the tremolo strings sound nice when you play big chord on your controller, but as soon as you actually need to use them for a piece you notice how inflexible they are.

    - The woodwinds are horrible. I'm pretty sure the entire woodwind section is sampled with only one velocity layer and there are lots of patches here (and in other sections) where there is cheating and detuning of samples going on. Meaning that instead sampling things chromatically for each note, one note is used and pitchbended to cover many others. Unless you're using the staccato patch or some of the effects, this section is entirely unusable when compared to VSL or EWQL, it just sounds bad.

    -The patches are generally very messy. If you take a look inside most patches in the group editor or mapping editor you will see that these things were put together in a hurry. Group naming is all over the place, there are lots of groups that have no function whatsoever and could have been consolidated, the mappings reveal frequently that things haven't been sampled chromatically as pointed out already, the envelope parameters are very weird etc. etc. Things just generally aren't consistent and organized. There is also some cheating going on regarding round robin alternating. E.g. the strings staccato patch has spiccato groups in it to get more RR variation etc.

    This general messiness is what bothers me the most really. Lots of bad samples with bonks, clonks and bad timing, lots of missing stuff that has been covered up by pitchbending neighbouring notes. Also the blending of the ensembles is generally very bad with the sole exception of the string ensemble. If you have a melodic line somewhere, chances are that it will cross some kind of instrumentation border sometime and end up sounding awful. In the end Symphobia just seems to me like a big pile of mess with a few diamonds in the rough in it. Most of it sounds ok when you punch a big chord on your controller but you quickly realize that you can't make very interesting music for long on only big sustained chords.

    End verdict: Definetely not worth +1000$ IMO.
    Don't buy all the hype.

  2. #2
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    Re: Symphobia - A different opinion

    I guess my question is: what kind of music are you using it for?? I don't think that this library is geared for traditional musical applications, but it's very specific, mostly for film type aggressive type of music... If you're trying to do Haydn with this, it may not be the best tool for the job...

    Also, listening to patches in isolation is not always the best way to judge the usability of any library... This library is designed to be used in combination with other patches within it... And then again, it works best for some types of music, and not very well for others...

    Considering that a lot of people are doing good work with this and speak well of it, perhaps you should contact them and find out how they're using it successfully...

    Being you already bought it, you may as well get something out of your investment...

  3. #3

    Re: Symphobia - A different opinion

    I agree that there are a lot of good demos made with symphobia out there. Now as I have the product before me I realise that the best parts of those great demos are from the effects section, which I think is bad because working with prebuilt phrases (essentially what most people outside the orchestral sampling scene would call 'loops') is very inflexible. Making music with symphobia feels a bit like Magix MusicMaker, you just pick and mix premade stuff with the press of a button over a big sustained minor chords that admittely sound very, very big but after a while very, very boring.

    My main gripe with this library however is still the extremely sloppy "craftsmanship" regarding the patches and samples themselves, particularly when you take the price into account.

  4. #4

    Re: Symphobia - A different opinion

    I'm one of those people who's loving Symphobia, for these reasons:

    - gorgeous, realistic string sounds, recorded with a perfect sense of space around them

    - the orchestral effects, like the full-orch "whomps" and risers and things like that. For trailer-type music, these are invaluable and using them even sparsely helps to add a bigger sense of space to what I'm writing. There are so many effects here that are un-create-able with any of the current orch libraries out there.

    - if you use the strings, and the string-brass combos, and the woodwind combos, all together, you get a super-cool result. This type of thing puts you head and shoulders above the rest if you're doing TV doc work, like for Discovery, History Channel, National Geo, etc.

    But Symphobia definitely isn't for intricate or intimate-type work (aside from the soft sustain and sordino strings) -- for that type of thing you really need a library like VSL. But the guys at SAM never marketed this as the Swiss Army knife of orch libraries -- they were really clear about its content and cinematic nature, and it being best used to do big orch mockups, like their product demos demonstrate. I think it does come down to what type of music you're writing with it... but that said, yeah -- it really sucks when you invest in a library and realize that it doesn't work for you. If I could return sample libraries that let me down, I'd be a zillionaire. But as someone who uses Symphobia in just about everything these days, I think the hype was warranted (for the type of music I'm creating).

    Kerry

  5. #5
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    Re: Symphobia - A different opinion

    Quote Originally Posted by user002 View Post
    which I think is bad because working with prebuilt phrases (essentially what most people outside the orchestral sampling scene would call 'loops') is very inflexible. Making music with symphobia feels a bit like Magix MusicMaker, you just pick and mix premade stuff with the press of a button over a big sustained minor chords that admittely sound very, very big but after a while very, very boring.
    I heard a piece of music the other day that sounded - (NB: sounded) great. I soon realized the whole thing was put together with a single pedal note in low strings and the rest was effects, horn rips and some low bangs on percussion.

    This has nothing to do with music of course- which is what you're talking about. This is about sound design - which still can sound great.

    If you sit at the keyboard and play an 8 note chord of a string ensemble, it's not the same as getting a real orchestra to play it. A real orchestra sounds different obviously. But that doesn't matter if you're using a sample library and you're going for sound. The sound definitely matters - and I would reiterate what I and others said on another thread - Symphobia sounds pretty good - BUT it is definitely limited to playing pad type chords where you just want to wing it with blocky style chordal work.

    I agree with you and at the same time see where you've gone wrong. This is why I brought up the issue of legato previously. No legato. Maybe important to you and to me - but not so important to other musicians and sound designers.

    Therefore, I would say Symphobia has a good sound but because of the 'playable' thing - is probably not worth the dosh - to me - because of the lack of velocity and legato. But to others it will be of course be worth it, especially those that have to work fast.

  6. #6

    Re: Symphobia - A different opinion

    PaulR, I think you nailed it spot-on. Works great for some, but for others it may not be what the doctor ordered. I don't mind the missing legato feature because I use VSL for stuff like that. But when I need sounds that tend towards textures or sound design (and let's face it, if you're working in TV these days, half of the composing you're doing is actually sound designer-type work) I grab Symphobia first. I love, love, love the sense of space that surrounds these instruments.

    Kerry

  7. #7
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    Re: Symphobia - A different opinion

    Yes I know your music Kerry and of course know you have VSL. So this combination must great for your style of working. No one having to work fast has the time or can sit around wondering what a real orchestra would cost and sound like anymore.

    Out of interest Kerry - how much is Symphobia in US $$$? And does it mix fairly easily with VSL?

  8. #8

    Re: Symphobia - A different opinion

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulR View Post
    Yes I know your music Kerry and of course know you have VSL. So this combination must great for your style of working. No one having to work fast has the time or can sit around wondering what a real orchestra would cost and sound like anymore.

    Out of interest Kerry - how much is Symphobia in US $$$? And does it mix fairly easily with VSL?

    I got it at the pre-order price of $1399 -- right now it's $1499. And if I had to buy it today, I still think it's a bargain for what you're getting -- as long as it's a palette that will serve the style you're writing in. And if you're given only 2-3 weeks to score a 2-hour show with wall-to-wall music, something like Symphobia is a gift from the gods.

    It mixes perfectly with VSL. My default setup is VSL with Altiverb (usually the Sydney Opera House 6m, 12m, 18m settings) and if I use Symphobia dry, it sounds like it's in the same space as the VSL orch. If I want a bigger, more cinematic sound, I'll put an Altiverb on the Symphobia track but will dial down the reverb time or tail a bit. If you've ever had the experience where you add one real instrument to a virtual orchestra mix, and it instantly makes the whole mix sound more real, that's what Symphobia does for me -- it automatically tricks the ears into thinking that there are real instruments in there.

    And just for the record, I don't know the SAM guys and I'm not any kind of shill for them -- I just love the stuff they create and consider myself one very happy customer.

    Kerry

  9. #9

    Re: Symphobia - A different opinion

    I dunno about anyone else but whenever I try out Symphobia at TrySound.com I come up with ideas like I haven't on piano. The sustained strings also work exceedingly well when you use the mod wheel to control the attack. It can have a very quick bite to it. I also think the winds are well sampled. I don't care to use their legato scripts as it messes with the release trails IMO.

    But as far as string samples are concerned, I have not heard better and I own EWQLSO PLatinum, Miroslav Phil, Appassionata Strings, Vienna SE, pretty much every sampled orchestra lib available. I ordered Symphobia a couple weeks ago and I'm like a little kid awaiting x-mas. Between this and Omnisphere, I'm going to be really busy in the studio for quite some time.

    I can see how this lib might not appeal to everyone but I do think the quality of the sounds and its immediate playability is intrinsic to its success.

    $1500 is pricey to be sure but considering I used to drop $4000 on a Motif ES8 which had a fraction of the quality of samples, it's not too much to ask.

  10. #10

    Re: Symphobia - A different opinion

    Hi Guys, thankyou for your insight into Symphobia, very interesting reading. As with all cases, there will be someone who will be not happy and someone else ecstatic about a product, but in this case it does seem like the application for which you're using Symphobia is the key.

    It comes to my question, I have been sitting on the fence for weeks about Symphobia, hearing all the demos and the views of the professionals that so generously give their time and oppinions.

    I have a simple question, is Symphobia for me? I write music in the vein of Josh Groban ( big lush ballads), Andrea Bocelli, pop ballads, I guess what you call contemporary crossover classical and I love the sustain strings and low end horns of Symphobia...Would I be wise in investing in this library? Can anyone advise please. I am just about to start an instrumental piano contemporary classical project, Symphobia seems always sit there in the back of my mind. I've come to a point where either add this to my pallete and start or move on. By the way I own and am an avid VSL fan.

    Can any users out there please point me in the right direction? Appreciated.

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