Recorded on the Teldex Scoring Stage, Orchestral Tools’s collections of sampled instruments and orchestras are unparalleled for two reasons: the instruments are recorded with multiple microphones that you can select in the plug-in and the people playing the music scores are a selection of musicians from the Berlin Philharmonics, Radio Symphony Orchestra or DSO for your production. The company’s sample collections have been used in movies, TV series and even games (e.g. “It Takes Two”). I was given the opportunity to review one of their latest collections, Miroire, which is a collection of baroque instrumental and choir sounds.
The first thing you do when you buy a collection of sounds at Orchestral Tools is downloading the SINEplayer. This is an app, compatible with Apple’s latest OS, that allows you to organise and manage the collection of sounds you buy through either the website or the SINEplayer itself. It somewhat resembles the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol plug-in but is unique as you’re dealing with true instrument and choir recordings instead of synths. The SINEplayer is also an AU/VST plug-in.
What makes the SINEplayer unique is the way it lets you interact with your sounds. Imagine the artists playing and singing the Miroire collection: they are all seated or standing the way they would be when performing live on stage to ensure the acoustic quality is as close as a real performance as possible. In addition, in the case of Miroire, two mic setups are available for each instrument so you can pick the one that you need.
Just like Orchestral Tools’s other plug-ins, Miroire was recorded at the Teldex studio. Teldex have an amazing collection of microphones, including Neumann M50s and U47s. These are all vintage mics, but the studio bought them back when they originally came to market and they still keep this equipment in pristine condition. If something does break, they have connections with experts, and with Neumann themselves who are also based in Berlin. Neumann tested a large number of microphones at Teldex, so the relationship between the two is close.
The sound of the Neumann mics used for Miroire instantly becomes clear in its quality. None of the available articulations sounds less than perfect. More importantly, each instrument has two mic positions you can use: AB and Tree. This configuration is more or less a basic setup to Orchestral Tools that gives you the choice between a Decca tree mic setup and a spaced pair (AB). 1
The AB option was, to my ears, the least interesting of the two in the Miroire plug-in, but whether you agree with this subjective opinion depends on what kind of scene you are using Miroire for in a movie.
The SINEplayer lets you audition each articulation of the instruments and change many of its parameters. For instance, each instrument by default has its own customisable MIDI channel, each articulation can be recalled with the mouse, by key switches, MIDI CC values or Program Changes.
You can change other parameters as well, including Attack and Release, dynamics, etc. The reason for doing it in the SINEplayer rather than in your DAW is that SINEplayer will not go outside the parameter values that are suitable for the instrument (and a choir is an instrument too). You can also opt for polyphonic or monophonic (with or without Legato) mode.
I tried Miroire’s oboe d’Amore, baroque violins and violas, and its choir extensively and found that it is actually quite easy to master SINEplayer in order to compose a music score for a movie. SINEplayer may offer much functionality, but it sure doesn’t get in your way.
I also found the sustain parts of the string instruments extremely useful, which is something that can’t be said of the sustain parts of synthesised violins like the ones you’ll find in Logic Pro X’s built-in plug-in collection — those are much too short and “dry” to be useful if realism is your goal. If you want to add reverb to your recordings, my sense was that it is best to use a true convolution reverb like NUGEN Audio’s Paragon. The choir placed in a church using Paragon was awesome.
I would love to hear the samples of a collection such as the Berlin Strings or Symphonic Strings — I can only imagine those must have an even richer character than the baroque Miroire collection.
Perfection comes at a cost and Miroire is no exception. The collection retails at 399 EUR, directly downloadable from the Orchestral Tools website. Collections are pretty big in terms of Gigabytes too, so expect to have your computer to be tied up downloading for a good couple of hours or even half a day if your ISP offers a slow connection or throttles down as you download more.
If you’re a Youtube influencer, Orchestral Tools will probably not be useful to you — although that entirely depends on what your influencing is about. Documentary and Indie movie makers, however, should visit the site and at the very least go through some of the short movies presenting the collections. Well-composed orchestral music or soundscapes using real instruments by themselves or in addition to synthesised sound, will improve your production dramatically.
As for the Miroire collection, I can imagine a composer using this for any sort of scene that needs to communicate a quiet or darker mood. Unless you’re going to mess with it afterwards bringing in a sampler based synthesiser, in my opinion, you can’t use Miroire for anything else. Action and such require a higher orchestral dynamic that simply isn’t present in any baroque music — but again, you might disagree.
- A Decca Tree is a T-shaped bar suspended over a sound source. The supports the mics and allows you to positions them at a certain distance from each other. In addition to capturing a solid stereo picture, a Decca Tree, by its nature, provides the opportunity to change the perceived depth and scope of the sound during mix-down, which is exactly what you get with Miroire. The AB pair is just a pair of mics on a straight bar at a distance of usually 50cm of each other. ↩