Big Fish Audio | Virtual Instruments Magazine Jason Scott Alexander | Acoustic Legends HD Product Review
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Acoustic Legends HD | Virtual Instruments Magazine

Reviewer: Jason Scott Alexander Back to Acoustic Legends HD product details

Vir2 Instruments' mission was to present $40,000 of the world's finest acoustic guitars and plucked instruments in a single package. Acoustic Legends HD is very competitive, both in price and in the variety of instruments and models it contains.

This library contains five "picked" steel string guitars (Gibson J200 acoustic and J45 Rosewood acoustic-electric; Martin DC1E acoustic-electric; McPherson MG 4.5; Taylor 914 acoustic), fingered versions of a Lowden 025 Cedar Top and Martin D35 steel string, plus two gorgeous nylon string specimens from Hofner and Langejan.

Acoustic Legends also includes Taylor's 955 Jumbo Body and Vantage 12-string guitars. This folky area has been overlooked by a lot of developers. And to spice things up further, Vir2 included a Taylor AB-3 acoustic bass, Ode Style C Banjo, mandolin, and ukulele.

The 19GB library comes on three DVDs, and since it runs on a Native Instruments Kontakt 2 player, it uses their online code registration system for copy protection. Recorded in stereo at 24-bit 96kHz, the samples sound more natural and openly present to my ears than any guitar library I’ve heard.

As anyone familiar with these instruments would expect, the Taylor and Martin presets have a lot of bright detail on top of a warm, full-bodied sound. They have a crisp snappy attack when you really pluck hard.

The Gibson is considerably rounder and brassier sounding, with more mid-range emphasis and less sparkle in the high end. That would seem to make it an ideal choice for a mellow fingerpicked style, but there’s only a picked version. Still, it's a drop-dead gorgeous sounding guitar patch.

The Lowden impressed me just as much, with its mellow and smooth resonant character and sweet overtones. This instrument is perfectly suited to fingerpicking, and indeed that's how it was sampled. It's become my go-to ballad guitar program.

The nylon guitars are outstanding, and they include playing styles such as chopped, finger, nail, thumb, tremolo, etc. While the bass, banjo, ukulele, etc. sound equally authentic and are just as playable, it would be good if the mandolin had a range of hard and soft tremolo programs at different speeds.

The variation patches with delays, phasers, distortion, choruses/flangers, compression, and so on aren't my personal favorites as a group, but the Multis bank and bonus Special Effects bank are right up my alley. These programs are based on the original samples, but they've been warped in adventurous ways, with everything from harmonically rich trance guitar taps and panned stutters (both ideal for playing as arpeggios) to mushy space-bogs and metallic atmospheres that would work very well for scoring.

If sound quality was the first goal with Acoustic Legends, then attention to authenticity is a close second. It's hard not to be impressed by the sheer variety of playing styles; plectrum-picked notes, finger-picked notes, pick and finger strummed chords, natural and artificial harmonics (including some brilliant harmonic overlays sampled from a Gibson L-130 for yet another color option), harmonic chords, mutes, release layers, and even fret and finger noise samples for each guitar.

The Kontakt 2 player is multitimbral over 64 MIDI channels (16 in plug-in mode), and the interface is highly performance-oriented. You have control over things like EQ, reverb, and stereo width. There are also a lot of controls that depend on the instrument, such as release rates and the amount of fret noise. There is no control over rattle amount and flageolet, nor is there a slide mode.

For constructing rhythm guitar parts, chord banks provide 6- and 12-string diatonic chords with up and down strokes. These capture various positions over the sound hole and are spread across separate octaves.

Keyswitching select from among a dozen chord types/inversions, including major, minor, dom7, sus7, maj7, diminished, and half-diminished (min7b5), and multiple takes for each velocity alternate to avoid duplicate strums. Single notes from the lowest octave of the guitar are included for integration with strumming patterns, and a whole bunch of cool augmenting effects such as mute strums and body knocks fill out each chord preset.

When a chord bank preset is loaded, GUI parameters change to reveal relevant controls such as a capo knob. This gives you an instant virtual capo over your rhythm guitar playing, as well as keyswitched layer information not present in standard picking mode.

Each of the instruments in this library has a level of expressive playability that you'd normally find in libraries dedicated to one or two instruments. As a sound designer and remixer, I love the special effects bank for its unorthodox nature, and the 12-string, bass and "bonus" instruments ensure that you have a little bit of everything at your fingertips.

The programming is extraordinary, with convincing transitions between articulations and chords mapped and script-controlled most intuitively. It's the little things that are most impressive - things like the capo function limiting the range of low notes and inversion choices, as it would in the real world; and patches with tremolos remaining at uniform speed across the keyboard.

Bottom line, I've yet to hear of another guitar library that touches Acoustic Legends HD. It deserves to become a legend.

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