Strings have a unique ability to bring warmth and richness to music: there’s something about dozens of individual players melding into one sweeping soundscape that just seems to lift the hearts of the listeners. Of course, not every rock star is in the position to hire the London Philharmonic to score their album; hence the rise of the string synth – which replaces dozens of individual players with dozens of detuned oscillators to approximate the same richness of result. String synths are one of our favourite musical machines – and Vintage Strings is a homage to them.
At its core, Vintage Strings has both acoustic real-world string samples and electric string synth oscillators. You blend the two to your own taste using the Levels controls in the centre of the panel. You’ve also got a fully-functional LFO, control over tube saturation, and a gentle low-pass filter to adjust the tone of your hybrid string section. So far so good.
Requires a full copy of Native Instruments Kontakt v4.2.3 or higher. Kontakt Player is not supported: instruments will load, but will time out after 15 minutes.
Where things get more interesting, though, is with the two signature controls: Complexity and Vintage. Complexity dials in further electronic string components, adding two levels of Jupiter 6 supersaw to the initial Logan String Melody II waves for a thicker, warmer sound (which you can take still further by detuning it a little).
Vintage, meanwhile, is an unmissable chunky knob in its own little area, and cranking this changes the whole character of the instrument – from clean and clear through to dusty, crusty and erratic, taking in all manner of battered instability along the way. With Vintage at its minimum, you can use the other controls to sculpt a superb modern string section combining acoustic realism with synth expanse – or stick to one or the other for more precise sounds. But with Vintage at anywhere past the 12 o’clock position, the sound becomes unstable; the clean acoustic string samples are blended with, and then replaced by, vintage tape-based string recordings – while the electronic strings become uneven and compressed and start to lose both high- and low-frequency elements. With Vintage all the way clockwise, the sound is dustily aged and full of crusty oxide, with background crackle and hiss breaking through. It’s pretty awesome.
To put the icing on the cake, we have the Icon Reverb – convolved from our Lexicon PCM70. This adds a wonderful smooth period-appropriate classiness to your string sections, letting them breathe.
Vintage Strings is ideal for dialling up a suitably aged string sound to complement a particular era of music – great if you want strings in the background of your Motown track, for example – or for creating entirely unique string-synth patches which don’t mimic existing instruments but nevertheless sound authentically historic. (If you want to get strings that sound like a Chamberlin, Mellotron or Optigan, but have greater playability or a more defined sound, this may be for you.) Above all it’s intended to be inspiring and easy to use: you can twist a few dials and get something cool, or just hit the Glitch randomisation button and see what the machine throws your way. And all without having to even lift a conductor’s baton.