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Best Service/Sonuscore Elysion Ambient Synth Library – the Exclusive Synth and Software Review
Kays Al-Atrakchi rides this other-worldly soundscape-creating instrument on a rocket to all eight planets.
Elysion is one of the more recent offerings from renowned sample developer Sonuscore, produced and published by Best Service. While the Sonuscore name is mostly associated with acoustic and orchestral libraries (Best Service produces a very wide range), Elysion explores a world of synthetic sounds and arpeggiated textures that should make any fan of Jean-Michel Jarre quite happy.
This 15GB Kontakt/Kontakt Player/NKS-compliant sample library features 142 instruments and 230 animated “themes” named after the eight planets of our solar system (sorry Pluto).
Anyone familiar with Best Service/Sonuscore’s previous offerings such as The Orchestra will instantly feel on familiar ground here. Each “theme” is comprised of up to five individual instrument slots, which are each equipped with an arpeggiator or envelope filter, and an audio effects stack.
What I always appreciated about libraries with the Sonuscore name is just how intuitive the interface feels. Elysion is no exception.
The library can be loaded and played instantly without the need to read the manual, except perhaps to learn about the more advanced customization features. All of the presets react to the Mod Wheel (cc1, with the option to use cc2 or cc11 instead), which is used to great effect to control dynamics, filter envelopes, and even the animated arpeggiators and envelopes themselves.
As the Mod Wheel value increases, you’re rewarded with a visual transformation of the interface itself as the planetary vista morphs from a dark silhouette to a bright sunrise, complete with lens flares and a glowing atmosphere – a nice touch. I also want to give the developers kudos for enabling the Pitch Wheel bend on all the instruments, I find that far too many sample developers tend to forego this very useful feature.
The idea behind the “themes” being named after planets is that that each one has its own vibe. For instance, Venus features more peaceful and introspective sounds, while Mars is comprised of more aggressive in-your-face type of offerings. Jupiter is more lively and bouncy, and Neptune is mysterious and dark. In theory this is a cute approach to helping a user narrow down their search, but in practice I found that the planetary associations weren’t always a good indicator for the type of sounds I might be searching for.
Using the preset subcategories, however, tends to be much more helpful for locating specific types of presets. The “Spheres” category features a generous assortment of “Pads,” and the somewhat deceptively-named “Hits” are not, as the name would imply, percussive slams, but rather short attack/short decay instruments well suited for melodic lines or arpeggiated ostinatos. “Pulses” features moving arpeggiated instruments, helpfully organized as 4ths, 8ths, 16ths, or triplets, as well as a handful or 6/8, 3/4, and even 5/8 and 7/8 rhythmic sequences. As expected, all of the tempos and delays will automatically sync to the host DAW’s tempo.
But it’s the “Animated” category that contains the “themes” that truly showcase what this library is all about. Here you find dozens of well curated presets that combine complex sustains with polyrhythmic arpeggios and delays. The depth of the sounds is truly inspiring, as I found myself lost in swirls of pulsating synths and textures that take great advantage of the full stereo field of my monitors. (Note: I primarily tested the library through my trusted stereo monitors, but options are available to route the outputs for a full surround experience.)
While most users will be content with the wealth of curated “themes,” I would be remiss not to mention the incredible amount of customization that Elysion offers. Each preset consists of up to five individual instrument slots that can be changed by simply clicking on the name. Doing so opens up a panel to select between Sustains, Hits, and Ambiance FX, with Soft and Hard subcategories available for each.
Each instrument slot can be transposed in octave increments up or down. One suggestion for a future update: the same instrument can’t be assigned to multiple slots at the same time. This prevented me from being able to have the same instrument processed by different arpeggiator patterns or effects simultaneously.
In addition to the instrument selection, each slot can be assigned a fully customizable arpeggiator or filter envelope (note that the filter and stutter envelopes are only available to Sustain or Ambiance FX instruments).
Last but not least, each instrument slot has its own FX chain of EQ, Modulation, Saturation, and Filter. Without going into the nitty gritty, I will mention that each FX (as well as the arpeggiators and envelopes) can be configured to react to the Mod Wheel input yielding a staggering amount of sonic depth. Customized presets can be saved in a User Themes page, and since those are saved as single .nka files in the Data folder of the library, custom presets can be easily shared with other users of the library.
In addition to the Instruments customization, a Pan panel offers two user-configurable Pan Engines that can be used to great effect to animate each sound. A Mix panel gives the user the ability to change the levels of each individual instrument slot, as well as control the sends to a global Compressor, Delay and Reverb.
Last but certainly not least, just like in The Orchestra library Best Service/Sonuscore have created a very useful MIDI drag-and-drop function that allows you to capture a performance (I assume only limited in length by the computer’s RAM cache). You can drag the resulting arpeggiated MIDI notes into the host DAW, enabling the ability to assign the arpeggiator patterns to external libraries (note that the Envelope filters translate into cc1 values).
Bottom Line. I’m a fan of the Sonuscore-branded libraries, and I own several. The Orchestra is one of my go-to libraries. They’re onto a very interesting concept with Elysion, one that warrants further development and sonic expansion. On one hand, the primary goal of the library is to create floaty and subtle atmospherics, which it does well; on the other hand, I still found myself wanting more grit and impact from its more aggressive instruments.
So Elysion is a niche instrument. But combined with other sample libraries – including Best Service/Sonuscore’s The Orchestra, which it’s designed to pair with – Elysion is a worthy addition that can complement more traditional instruments and add beautiful layers of synthetic complexity and rhythmic activity with very little effort.