The VSL libraries have always had big fans and big detractors because of their sound. They were famously recorded on a “Silent Stage” and for me the sound was clinical and sterile. Many others however loved them, especially those who liked the driest possible sound. But apparently enough people felt as I did so now VSL has embarked on another approach as well, recording on the Synchron Stage in Vienna.
This is a wonderful sounding room and the libraries sound very different. VSL is taking two different approaches, both recording new samples and “SYNCHRON-izing” existing ones. On forums, it is fair to say they are getting a mixed reception, with some people actually preferring the SYNCHRON-ized libraries. I will leave that discussion to the forums and instead will focus on their new Synchron Player that they designed for these, which I am very Impressed with.
Note: If you pre-order Vienna Ensemble Pro 7, you get the new Epic Orchestra 2.0, a much bigger and nicer collection meant to work with the Synchron Player, for free. Here is a picture of the Vienna Instruments player that has been the engine for past VSL libraries.
Admittedly, I spent little time with it because I did not have their libraries, except for the original Epic Orchestra that came free with the purchase of Vienna Ensemble Pro. When I did try to explore it, it made my head hurt. Here is a picture of the new Synchron Player with no instrument loaded.
Even before I load an instrument, it is much clearer to me what I am seeing: tabs to access parameters for performance, controls, editing, and mixing and when I load an instrument it comes to life. Here I have loaded a Synchron Strings 1 1st violin patch. Be aware that the Synchron Player is mono timbral. It is their design intention that you have a separate Synchron Player for each instrument in your DAW or Vienna Ensemble Pro.
Across the top, you have easy access to all kinds of information: a velocity histogram, volume knob, volume meter, MIDI player for their Synchron Power Drums, scale button, key info that I have enabled , CPU. display, settings and so much more. Ten minutes with it and you can explore it all.
Dimension Tree View
In the middle you see slots for velocity range, articulations and type that are easily customizable. You can control the velocity range by note, or program change or white notes or “dimension control” (more on that later.) The same is true for control of articulations.
Reordering the articulations is as simple as dragging the slots to different places in the list. I like my legato, then long, then short etc.
The articulation you highlight will give you different choices for it regarding Type and in the case of the legato and longs, vibrato choices. All can be assigned to be controlled in your preferred way and re-ordered. Your choices will make a big difference in the way it performs. There are 8 available “Dimension Controllers,” labelled A-H, and you can assign them to MIDI ccs, pitch bend, speed velocity, aftertouch or aftertouch release.
In the Perform tab below you can easily assign how you want them to behave, so customizing is quick and easy.
Enabling Parallel Mode by clicking on the blue buttons allows you to use the assigned controller to crossfade through the slots, something I think I can be useful but it does increase CPU usage.
Slots can be added, disabled, recolored simply by clicking on the plus sign to add, right-clicking to disable, copy, etc.
The Control tab gives you a place to modify your MIDI controls curve, range and polarity, which is not necessary with the factory presets but useful if you wish to create your own. I will not go into this but the manual explains it clearly.
What this tab shows you Is instrument-specific. With the Synchron Strings 1 instruments, I see no “humanize” features but with the SYNCHRON-ized Appassionata Strings included with the Epic Orchestra 2.0, I do. I am informed that this is because with reverberated sounds, the reverb could also be humanized and the end result could be dicey.
There are multi-mic and stereo versions for each of the Synchron libraries. There are three views in the Mix tab. That you can click on: Basic, Aux, and FX. (There is also a Bleed View for the Synchron Power Drums.) The Synchron Player comes with a full suite of useful FX, including EQ, compressor, delay, algorithmic and convolution reverbs, saturation, chorus and other modulation plug-ins, and VSL’s famous Power Pan, and many more.
There are Mix presets with Room mix, Decca Tree. Multi-Mic, and Surround and Stereo Downmix from Surround presets. Of course, you can create and save your own. You may want to take advantage of (de)activating channels in your mixer to optimize the performance (especially for live playing). This will
unload samples in the background, resulting in a lower RAM usage.
The Synchron Player is so deep that you can spend a lot of time exploring all the control it gives you and yet easy enough to understand that you can get to work right away, When Vienna Ensemble Pro 7 comes out, which also promises significant improvements, your workflow will be customizable and efficient.
Cons: Mono-timbral is a con for some users who prefer a multitimbral workflow.
Summary: The Synchron Player is a major step forward in user friendliness and control with a great suite of FX that I really like. If you like the sound of any of the Synchron or “SYNCHRON-ized” VSL libraries, you will enjoy working with it.
Price: Free with the purchase of any Synchron or “Synchronized”. VSL libraries. Also, free with the Epic Orchestra 2.0 with a pre-order of Vienna Ensemble Pro 7.