Cinematic Strings 2.0 is impeccably beautiful. And because CS 2.0 is so elegantly and simply designed, you’re productive in a snap because it’s a breeze to learn. At virtually every level, Cinematic Strings 2.0 is quality management and design at its finest. In fact, the design is so good, I think Cinematic Strings should submit it to Fast Company magazine.
And the happy news is this: You get a great sound right out of the box without having to work hard to make it happen.
String Ensemble Size
Let’s start from an orchestration perspective, ensemble size:
12 1st Violins
8 2nd Violins
This size fits into what’s typically called the “standard” orchestra string section, but it’s recorded in such a way that it has the sound of a much bigger ensemble.
Patch Load Design
Don’t mistake simple for simplistic. CS2.0’s elegant patch load design often hides what’s going on under the hood, which is why it’s so easy to use!
For example, you’re not overwhelmed with articulation choices. Instead, you load five patches one per track: V1, V2, Violas, Ces, and Basses. Once you’ve loaded these five patches, you just loaded your string section – on five tracks!
Under the Matrix tab, you see that each patch has eight bowings, each selectable by keyswitch. Keyswitches are consistently placed for each string section, even the basses, which (as in a traditional score), are positioned an octave higher than they sound.
The benefit is learn once.
Be aware than when you load a patch, you’re loading all eight bowings which is about 1.2GB for Violins 1 and slightly less for the other patches. So if you’re not using a particular bowing, you can literally turn it off, and that purges the samples for that bowing.
Overall, patches take up around 400-500mb per patch if you only load up the Mix mic position.
The included bowings, in order, are: arco, tremolo, half step trill, whole step trill, run mode, staccato, marcato, and pizzicato. Here I have one minor critique. I would have ordered the bowings in their most frequent use, which would be arco, staccato, marcato, pizz, then the remainder of the bowings. Happily, part of the design is that you can re-order the list with a couple of clicks.
Arco - already set to legato (monophonic). To turn legato OFF, click the legato button at page bottom. The arco contains a staccato overlay which is triggered by velocity when playing velocity above 60.
Staccato - You can choose between staccato (longer) and staccatisimo (shorter) bowings, and under the hood, (the Advanced tab), you’re given sliders to control length. The sliders are also available for pizzicato.
Marcato - This is a sustained marcato so that when you strike the keyboard, you get an accented note but the pitch sustains.
Playing Position – This is another tool that keeps the track count down. I don’t know which string position these reflect, but you have a choice of Low vs High. The Low means all the pitches available are recorded in the lower string positions. This provides a very rich sound. High means all the pitches are recorded in the higher string positions which creates more intensity the higher you write.
Yes, there is vibrato control!
This can either be handled by velocity (playing above 60 increases vibrato) or with CC2 breath controller, which you can also draw in. I prefer to draw it in as too much vibrato creates an unnatural string sound in vertical harmony.
Velocity Crossfade – On the mod wheel. Volume is controlled by CC11.
Patch Loading Summary
On the surface, it appears as if you’re only getting eight bowings per patch. But that’s not true. By the time you factor in Low/High Positions, Vibrato, Staccato/Staccatisimo, Legato/non-Legato, and note length options under the Advanced tab, you have many more. Additionally, you have close, stage and room mics, each of which has the same number of bowing choices per patch.
To the right you see a knob for hall reverb. Per Mr. Wallbank, this is the standard algorhythmic reverb that comes with Kontakt which he felt had a nice neutral sound for quick work. Mr. Wallbank tried to match the sound and feel of the hall as much as possible with it and suggested turning the dial to around 4.5dB. While it’s a good sounding reverb, I chose to turn it off so I can pick from others in my collection that can be used on the whole mix.