The eagerly anticipated Mural Symphonic Strings Volume 1 from Spitfire Audio's British Modular Library (BML) range has arrived.
The questions on everyone's lips are, what does it sound like? and how easy and expressive are the articulations in recreating an authentic symphonic sound? and is it worth the money?
Let's start with a quick breakdown on first impressions and what exactly is on offer in Mural.
So – first impressions.
If you have used Spitfire's other orchestral libraries (especially the BML range) then you are instantly on familiar ground with the interface except with a few welcome additions such as the new release control, however if you are a first timer then don't worry its a very user friendly system you will be presented with in Kontakt.
Amazingly Spitfire have taken the infinitely complicated (the articulations, mic positions and control panel) and presented them in simple yet fully realised detailed and I do urge you to go to the Spitfire Audio YouTube channel to watch their walk-throughs which demonstrate how easy Mural is to use.
Whats on offer?
Mic positions in interface are close, tree, ambient and outrigger whilst articulations are longs nonvib, longs vib, legato fingered, longs con sordino nonvib, longs con sordino vib, longs harmonics, longs flautando, longs tremolando, longs sul Ponticello, spiccato, pizzicato, bartok bizzicato and col legno.
All of the above are performed by Britain's first call musicians then deep sampled at the Lyndhurst Hall in Air Studios onto 2 inch tape from 16 players in 1st violins, 14 players in 2nd violins, 12 player in violas, 10 players in celli and 8 players in the bass section.
Yes I know it all sounds very impressive but what does Mural actually sound like and do the articulations reproduce an authentic symphonic sound?
Upon loading up the celli I was instantly taken by how the legato just made the section come alive in front of me with a rich full tone and this applied to the legatos on all the instruments allowing bold moves of melody on all string sections.
The longs are sublime and with a little time in production post-performance on the modwheel you can really massage some expression and emotion into the strings on all the articulations.
By surprise the spiccato articulation seems to be a favorite amongst everyone I have spoken to and I would say I am in agreement. There is real controllable bounce that has been a vital missing ingredient in other string libraries thus far.
The tremolos are mind-blowing doubly so with the basses.
I am not going to go further into the articulations because they are covered nicely on the Spitfire YouTube walk-throughs and you can hear for yourself how they all sound there.
So, yes it all sounds great and is superb at recreating an authentic symphony orchestra because in reality it is a symphony orchestra. But to me the absolute selling point is how intuitive and expressive Mural is in helping the composer realise a symphonic sound.
Okay, so is it worth the money?
Without a shadow of doubt it is excellent value for money, you only have to look at the spec of what you getting for the price and the great thing is most of Spitfire's products are all recorded in the same location therefore blend perfectly when layered with other products of theirs.
There is almost an air of mystique surrounding Spitfire and it was good friend of mine, producer and lecturer in music technology, Rory Meredith (who first introduced me to Spitfire Audio) that summed up in a recent conversation what the real appeal is with their products.
Rory said "I love the boutique nature of what they do." and I personally think that description is spot on.
Purchasing each library download feels like going to a shop in some exclusive London postcode tucked away down a cobbled street and waiting to be served by a retired Sergeant Major from a regimental band who is ready to sell you Ralph Vaughan Williams's baton that he first used to conduct his Sea Symphony with.
From the artwork and control panel presentation to the choice of musicians and recording techniques/final mixes the whole thing is very evocative and screams British quality at it's very best.
This brings me quite neatly to the desire I had to write something that reflected this British feel using Mural whilst trying my best to remain impartial with these lush string sounds.
Over the weekend I managed to put together a little composition (video below) of my own using just Mural with no effects what so ever.
I went for a balance of ambient, tree and close mics with a small splash of outrigger and leader mics which I deliberately set the former mic position quite high in proportion to the other four (…..yes I went and used them all at different levels per instrument) in order to demonstrate the ringing out of the strings across the Air Studios Lyndhurst hall.
There are also a few pauses in the composition to highlight this natural reverb of the Lyndhurst hall, after all it is this the sound of this legendary hall recorded onto 2 inch tape that you are paying extra for.
The composition has a nod towards the early 20th century composers that captured my heart as a homesick nine year old lad in music lessons at Cheltenham College Junior School and this is why it is a very stylised tester demo that leaves out many of the articulations in order to get the symphonic sound that I wanted to test.
However if you want to hear more on the articulation front then simply go to the Mural page on Spitfire Audio's website and there are some incredible demos that showcase those articulations perfectly.
In particular listen to Jacques Mathias's Journeying Inside Bach's Head if you are looking for a Baroque approach to your compositions which is also found on the Spitfire website.
Speaking to The Economic Voice, lead guitarist and co-founder of legendary band The Alarm said "these strings are tremendously good, I would have to study any given piece recorded using them in great detail and would be hard pushed to notice any difference between Mural and a real symphonic performance scoring."
So to conclude I will say Mural is sure to become a staple even integral feature on the soundtracks of major Hollywood film and network television scores.
I give Spitfire Audio Mural Symphonic Strings Volume 1 a rating of 10/10
Please change the YouTube channel settings to 1080p HD for this video to help get rid of some of the audio compression that will affect what you hear.