Mark Jenkins updates us on the goings-on at Arturia, the French hardware and software company.
Arturia maintains a healthy balance between hardware and software products. Synths like the Polybrute, Matrixbrute (now in an all-black “noir” edition), and Minibrute attract just as much attention as their virtual instruments and effects.
The company’s software virtual synths – including devastating impersonations of the MiniMoog, Oberheim and other instruments – can usually be found packed together in the V-Collection, which has now updated from Version 8 to Version 9. Their release is below.
They’ve also introduced an all-new virtual instrument line called Augmented. The first, Augmented Strings, has been downloadable free of late, and it’s now included in V-Collection 9.
All these virtual instruments run in all the standard plug-in formats as well as stand-alone, so are accessible to almost any software user. It looks like the Augmented line is set to expand pretty quickly.
But what is an Augmented instrument exactly? In the case of Augmented Strings, the package starts with just what you’d expect from any symphonic library. That means strings solo or in sections, plucked, bowed, staccato, or legato – all the common currency of movie soundtrack composers and musicians in many other styles.
But soundtrack composers (and others) are being asked to go far beyond the conventional orchestral sounds. Composing for film has become much more like creating audio atmospheres, with unexpected and often frightening (exciting/dramatic/mysterious) effects much in demand.
Look at movie composers like BT and Junkie XL (who came from the world of electronic dance music), the Canadian Trevor Morris whose symphonic background got him the job on the (mostly electronic and percussive) “Vikings”, and of course Trent Reznor, whose background with Nine Inch Nails couldn’t be more remote from the sort of movie soundtracks he creates today.
All these composers and many more will use symphonic sounds, but then distort, process, and mangle them until you have something with all the power of the classical orchestra but much less instant recognition.
And this is what Arturia’s Augmented Strings offers on a plate: high-quality orchestral sounds, with massive processing and alteration built into each preset.
Augmented Strings. The basic Augmented Strings screen display consists of a large Morph dial circled by seven other parameter controls. Morph mixes one sound into another, while the other controls add Effects (A and B), Delay, Reverb, an overall tone or Color, and two parameters to create changes within the sound – Time, and Motion.
Take the first preset, Beautiful Swell.
This is a fairly clean string section morphed to the left, but on the right filtered for a smoother sound. The filter is modulated with a saw shape of variable speed.
Falling Strings is another preset.
On Falling Strings, any played notes pitchbend downwards after a second or so, but the morphed version holds on longer and again is filtered for a slightly smoother sound.
Blue Universe is very different, though.
To a basic cello drone is added soft, clanking mechanical sounds (of the body and strings of instruments being struck, most likely). It’s on this sort of sound that the boundary between an Augmented instrument and a sampling synthesizer starts to blur.
Augmented Strings has just a single stereo output and is fairly demanding of processor speed – my old Mac running High Sierra with Logic 10.0.7 handled it well for single notes but not for big chords.
The package’s second page will be familiar to Arturia users, offering presets organized by type. These include Pad, Bass, Sequence, and Sound Effects. Notes to the right of each patch indicate what mod wheels and other controllers will do, and there’s a Search by Genre function, though with only 50 presets initially it doesn’t take long to become familiar with what they all do.
Augmented Strings is a terrific addition to any set of software instruments and has some really inspiring patches. Most likely it will be expanded in the future, while other Augmented instruments are already appearing.
V-Collection 9. Augmented Strings has been added to V-Collection 9, which now offers a huge range of Arturia’s instruments – 32 instruments and 14,000 patches. You’ll also find Augmented Voices there, along with the recently released (Ensoniq) SQ80 clone, and a new (Korg) MS20 virtual instrument.
The (Yamaha) CS80, (Sequential) Prophet 5 and Prophet VS (previously merged together), and the Piano V instruments have also been upgraded.
V-Collection 9 standardizes the save/load layout for all instruments, and improves MIDI mapping of controllers. Fast access to the best sounds from all these classic instruments is an enormous aid in composition and performance.
I’ve relied a lot on sounds from Arturia’s V-Collection in recent recording projects. The Mellotron is great, with all the mechanical and tape noise options of the original. Its Prophet 5/VS is massively versatile (“sync” sounds on the 5 are always very cutting), and the (Oberheim) Matrix 12/OBXa/SEM patches are always rich and smooth.
All sorts of pianos, organs and vocoders are readily at hand too. If Arturia is looking for suggestions to add to V-Collection 10, mine is a a good PPG Wave 2 impersonation!
Current price for V-Collection 9: $499