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Elite Orchestral Percussion |

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If I'm honest I have to admit that I probably would not have purchased Elite if it weren't for the fact that Vir2 made me a rather kind offer which I simply couldn't refuse. After all, I already own plenty of percussion libraries, so adding yet another huge one to that lot is just a bit sick and inexcusably acquisitive, I feel. Still, I did it and now, after playing with Elite for a few days, I can say that the pecking order among the flock of percussion libraries on my harddisk has changed around completely, with Elite quickly having settled firmly among the higher ranks.

Before I continue: the opinions expressed here are in no way influenced by Vir2's offer. Anything I say here, I say because I really do feel that way, and not for any other reason. I did promise Vir2 this review, yes, but its contents, as they appear here, were arrived at completely independently.

Elite really is a remarkable library. Not only is it the most extensive collection of superbly sampled percussion instruments ever brought together in one library, but Vir2 also took great care to make sure that the programming and presentation of all these instruments is musical, intuitive and, at times, quite inspirational. More about that later.

So, what's in the Elite box? Well, there's the KontaktPlayer2 and then there's 19,55 gigabytes of samples. There's also a professionaly designed and well printed manual, which adds to the overal feel of 'high quality'. I do like a good and well-made manual if only because it shows that the developer is very serious about his product and, furthermore, the attention and care that goes into a good manual is usually also an accurate reflection of the quality of the product itself. (One tiny detail in the graphic design that annoys me everytime I look at it, is the letterspacing between the 'R' and the 'C' of the product name: a rather ugly gap - which unfortunately even appears twice: once in 'orchestral' and once in 'percussion' - which should have been kerned differently, I feel.)

But back to the main business: the library itself. I could give a whole listing of all the instruments which are included in Elite I suppose, but all that info - and it's a lot - is nicely displayed on Vir2's website, so there's little point in repeating it all here. To give a quick overview: most every percussion instrument that ever made it into an orchestral score is well represented in Elite - more often than not in a bewildering amount of variety and choice (16 different tambourines anyone?) - and adding to that, there's a huge and colourful collection of instruments ranging from ethnic/world-type instruments to highly unusual, even bizarre sounds such as balloon noises, police whistles, car keys, wine glasses, piano clusters, various 'slapstick' sounds, plus some debris from the recording sessions which, while perhaps not useful all of the time, may prove just the thing if you need to add a little extra oddity to a certain track. There's also a staggering amount of marimbas, vibraphones, xylophones and glockenspiels. A bit of overkill in this particular department perhaps, but it's there anyway. Really, it takes more than a day to discover all that's included. And several days to really get to know Elite's contents.

Unavoidable with such a vast choice of instruments I guess, is the fact that they're not always sampled with what would have been 'nice and helpful consistency'. Even instruments belonging to the same group - like the snaredrums, for instance - don't all include the same type of samples (and thus have inconsistent mappings as well), which is a bit of a pity because it makes it rather difficult to replace a snaredrum part if you want to explore how different snares sound when performing the same part. Also, there seems to be a certain randomness in the way some articulations are performed which, again, makes it difficult to quickly replace sounds. And while some instruments are covered quite extensively, others have to make do with just a couple of samples. This, by the way, is about the only negative thing I have to say about Elite and it really is more a 'problem of wealth' than anything else. Libraries which only feature one snaredrum don't have this problem of course, Elite however has six different snaredrums, and that's not counting the 'marching snaredrums', the 'field drums' or the 'tenor drums'...

Another minor point of possible criticism is this: Elite doesn't have a homogenous, identifiable sound like, say, True Strike or the EastWest percussion has. Elite seems to be compiled with samples from different recording sessions (maybe even in different studios, I don't know): some of the instruments sound real close and upfront, while others are recorded from some distance and there's no real logic to this, it seems to me. But again, there's so much material here that little inconsistencies such as this hardly matter. The main thing to remember is that Elite, on the whole, is recorded fairly dry and from not too big a distance. Which I actually much prefer to the way TrueStrike or EastWest is recorded, as it gives you much more options for positioning the sound wherever you like. If you've ever tried panning the TrueStrike snaredrums to one side of the stereofield, you'll also know the serious problems that such a move brings with it. No such problems exist with Elite.

All of which leads me to the next feature: Elite ships with its own convolution reverb, EZRoom, built into the KontaktPlayer, and this was one of the nicest surprises of the package: the quality of the included IR's is pretty amazing. People who frequently have to place sampled percussion in 'a space' - big or small - will know how terribly difficult it can be to find the right reverbs, even with high quality tools such as Altiverb. Well, even though I haven't tried all the IR's that ship with Elite, it definitely looks like Vir2 have found nothing but the right IR's to add convincing ambience and reverb to percussion instruments. It really is quite remarkable: small spaces, medium-sized spaces, chambers, halls, large spaces, huge spaces ... it's all there and it all sounds tailor-made for percussion.

Then there's the 'Humanize Engine': a built-in, fully adjustable midi-processor which allows you to introduce a certain amount of randomness into an Elite-performance: there's parameters for pitch, timing and volume. This 'Humanize Engine' is perhaps set a bit too enthusiastically on some of the presets - resulting in slightly unnatural pitch changes from one hit to the next - but tempering the Engine is just a click away, so that's easily corrected.

And that's not all: to add to the fun, Vir2 have also included a very clever feature called 'triggers' which is basically a sort of mini-sequencer inside KontaktPlayer, triggered into action by pressing certain keys, allowing you to play articulations or patterns (in perfect sync with the tempo of the song) with the instrument that's loaded. All the playback parameters of these triggers can be completely adjusted, offering a wealth of possibilities. For example: instruments which don't have certain articulations sampled - say, flams - can easily be made to produce a flam (virtually indistinguishable from a real flam) by playing the 'flam'-trigger. Works very, very well. Among the preset triggers are various rolls, triple hits, flams and a number of looping patterns ranging from the realistic to the unrealistic (where the instrument is doing things well beyond its 'natural' capabilities). I really wish I had the time to do some extra sound demo's, adding to the ones which are available on the Vir2-website and illustrating some of the features which I mentioned above, but unfortunately that will have to wait for a while. Luckily though, I'm about to start a project which will require loads and loads of prominent percussion parts and I intend to do most of that with Elite, so from the moment these pieces are ready, I'll definitely post them here. So, to wrap this up: if you're in the market for a professional percussion libary, Elite really should be at or, at the very least, near the top of your list. Yes, there are many other superb packages available, but Elite's sheer range, depth, power and versatility - not forgetting its very reasonable price, considering the size of its contents - is simply unmatched by any of the other libraries which are available today.

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