Big Fish Audio | Recording Magazine Darwin Grosse | Acoustic Legends HD Product Review
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Acoustic Legends HD | Recording Magazine

Reviewer: Darwin Grosse Back to Acoustic Legends HD product details

One of the most difficult instruments to "virtualize" is guitar, keyboard players and in-the-box producers have been searching for guitar solutions since the invention of synthesizers. Sampling provides some relief, but creating a sample set that can simulate a real guitarist has proven to be difficult if not impossible.

Vir2, a division of Big Fish Audio, has created Acoustic Legends HD, a sample set for the Native Instruments Kontakt Player 2 (included) that offers intriguing possibilities for the computer-savy producer. In addition to a high-quality sample set, Vir2 has taken advantage of Kontakt's real-time playing options to create a playable acoustic guitar simulation that pushes the envelope of acoustic guitar emulation.

Stuff to know before you start

Acoustic Legends HD is a set of 3 DVDs that includes Kontakt Player 2 along with a 19 GB collection of samples. The samples are recordings of what Vir2 claims is "$40,000 of the finest acoustic guitars," and are recorded at 24-bit, 96 Khz stereo.

The instruments include perennial favorites such as the Gibson J45 and J200, Martin D35 and Taylor 955 12-string, but also lesser-known instruments like a Hofner nylon-string, Vantage 12-string and McPherson MF4.5. Two "Xtra" sections include accessory sample sets: "Xtra Bonus Content" includes an acoustic bass, banjo, mandolin and ukulele, while "Xtra Special Effects" features warped effects using the raw guitar samples as source material. A full list is available on the Vir2 website.

The Kontakt Player 2 application works on both Windows and Mac computers, as a standalone application as well as a plug-in in the following formats: DXi (Windows), AU (Mac), VST and RTAS (both).

The license agreement for Acoustic Legends HD appears on page 23 of the User Manual. Summing up, it has no surprises: the user licenses rather than owns the samples, and the license cannot be transferred in any way. there are no royalties or limitations on musical works made with the samples - you just cant present then in raw form as part of another library.

The sounds

As you might expect with its Big Fish ancestry, there are some fantastic samples in this collection. The majority of the sample set i focused on rich single-string samples. A favorite is the Gibson J200 acoustic, which speaks wonderfully and cuts through a mix without sounding harsh. The langejean nylon string was a surprise - I generally think of nylon-string samples as a "gimme," with a bright sound that seldom offers the intimacy of a real instrument. The Acoustic Legends HD sample set transcends the genre, delivering a crisp sound that easily eclipses the generic "classical" sound we've grown accustom to.

The Acoustic Legends HD sample sets include many performance-oriented functions, with separate sets for harmonics, muted notes, finger- and plectrum-picked, as well as nail vs. finger articulation for nylon string guitars. Combined with real-time performance control of fret slides and other articulations (as well as some playback randomization) the results have realism not typically found in sampled acoustic guitar sounds. There are also controls that provide per-set eq, reverb, stereo width, capo emulation and fret-noise volume that cam be used to tune the performance to the production.

Vir2 veers(!) far off the typical sample playback path with a its chordal sample sets, which use the Kontakt 2 palyer's advanced swithcing capabilities to create a chord playback system that is almost as flexible as the real instrument. When using the Chord Banks, six octabes of the keyboard are used to control chord switches, single (bass) notes, down strokes, up strokes, muted strums, and body knocks. Luckily, I have an 88-key MIDI controller that I was able to press into duty; having access to all six available octaves is very important to achieving a convincing performance.

Once properly set up, playing complex chordal parts was quite easy: using my left hand to choose the chord type, my right hand could jump between up- and down-strums and mutes, with the occasional body knock to add realism. The chord type selection is more than adequate, with two alternatives for major and minor chords, and one voicing for major/dominant/minor 7th chords, sus2 and 4 chords, half- and full diminished chords and augmented (+5) chords. It took some effort to get used to the necessary playing style, but with a little practice I was making great chordal tracks in real-time.


Excellent recording quality and multi-DVD installs are becoming common in the sampled instrument market. Less common is playability and cut-to-the-chase programming and instrument selection. Vir2 has gathered a fantastic set of instruments and spent the time to create a playable and beautiful-sounding instrument. The Acoustic Legend HD collection is worth its price for the chordal banks alone, but when you include the single string and Xtra instrument banks, it is an exceptional bargain.

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