Product Review | VI.ONE

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Article Author
 
Keyboard Player Magazine Tony Cliff
 
I have already reviewed Vir2's excellent MOJO horns collection so I was looking forward to
testing out VI.One from the same company, Vir2 Instruments which is part of the Big Fish
Audio Group based in California. The product box contains three DVD's with all the sample
content and a concise instruction booklet. In total there are over 2,000 instruments with
numerous drum kits and sound effects and the installation requires 21GB of storage. The
program includes the well-established NI Kontakt Player 2 to host the samples but since I
have Kontakt 4 already installed I did not need this.
Installation is very straightforward allowing you to decide where you want to store all the
samples and the installers for both PC and Apple Mac are contained on the first disc along
with plug-in formats VST, AU, RTAS and Dxi depending on which you require. The samples
are then copied onto your hard disk and once the first disk has completed then you simply
load disk 2 and copy all the contents to the folder you have created for the samples and then
the same for disk 3. As always copying large sample libraries does take quite a while to
complete so you have to be patient.
VI.One is described on the box as 'the complete virtual instrument' and the samples and
instruments certainly cover a huge range of styles. Within the Kontakt Player interface the
VI.One instruments are lined up with 'instruments' on the left and 'multis' on the right. When
you click the 'instruments' column then you see all the folders containing the samples. These
folders are: Bass, Drum Loops, Drums, Ethnic and World, FX, General MIDI, Acoustic Guitars,
Electric Guitars, Keyboards and Electric Pianos, Orchestral Brass, Orchestral Percussion,
Orchestral Strings, Orchestral Woodwind, Organs, Acoustic Pianos, Prepared Pianos (for all
you John Cage fans out there!), Pop Horns and Brass, Modern Synths and finally Vintage
Synths.
A very wide-ranging list but I noticed there were no vocal samples (apart from a couple
of sounds in the general MIDI folder) so it has already slightly failed to be 'the complete
virtual instrument' as advertised. However, the samples cover classical, pop and ethnic styles
so should have appeal to a wide range of musicians. The main question, of course, is how
good are the samples? I will delve into some of them but can't promise to test all 2,000! One
of the folders is a full general MIDI soundset, including eight GM drum-kits, all optimized for
very fast loading and only intended for quick MIDI mock-ups.
Under Acoustic Pianos there are over 20 listed which consist of concert grand pianos,
saloon pianos, upright pianos and 'white grand'. I loaded Black Grand and this was a pleasing
and full-bodied grand piano with a good ringing treble section and strong bass. This same
piano is also available with different ambient versions simulating the instrument in different
acoustic spaces. The basic instrument is offered as a dry sound, although you can add reverb
directly within the Kontakt Player, but you can imagine the effect of loading Black Grand
Cathedral or Black Grand Chapel.
Saloon Piano is a slightly beaten-up sounding old grand with some tuning issues. It is
actually good to have some less-than-perfect instruments included which may give more
realism to your music and suit the idiom better. It is also interesting that the top end notes
were the most out of tune as this is invariably where pianos go out of tune first. There is a
More Detuned version of the Saloon Piano and even a randomized Version. This latter one is
most weird as each note played is random so producing a very strange effect and maybe this
could be useful in creating some unpredictable film music. The acoustic pianos were all very
usable and offered a good degree of genuine character.
The Keyboard folder contains about 30 instruments ranging from accordion to
harpsichord to clavinet and both Rhodes and Wurlitzer pianos. The harpsichord was slightly
odd in that it offered dynamic louds and softs depending on touch whereas a real harpsichord
of course would not. The clavinet instrument is available as a dry sound but also flanged,
phased, or with a wah-wah pedal effect and these variations are very useful.
The Rhodes electric pianos are very effective and once again there are variations, with
special effects such as distortion and an excellent phased version like the piano in Billy Joel's
'Just the Way You Are' which I guess shows my age! The Wurlitzer pianos were also very
impressive and once again the phased version works really well and also the Slightly Crunch,
which adds just a little distortion.
The Prepared Pianos folder was very interesting and I imagine these instruments are
more suited to creating atmospheric aural effects with string scrapes and harmonics. There
is even one called 'John Cage Prepared Piano' with the kind of altered piano timbres achieved
by placing objects on certain strings. The organs are mainly dominated by B3 type sounds
and varying the modulation wheel on your keyboard changes the Leslie speaker effect and
these were also very convincing and usable sounds.
The bass instruments are grouped into acoustic, electric, synth (mono) and synth (poly)
folders. In the Acoustic Bass folder the first sound is called exactly that and when playing it
sounded more like a deep acoustic guitar when I expected a double bass sound. It was then I
realized that it was in fact a baritone guitar. The double Bass is actually listed as Upright Bass
and is a very impressive sound. Once again there are various altered versions, such as added
chorus effects or upright bass with compression. The electric basses include a similar
generous variety and all are very convincing.
There are around 60 mono synth basses representing a huge variety of powerful sounds
from clean to distorted moog and these mono basses also have a portamento control
allowing you to glide from one note to the next or switch off this function if not required.
The synth Poly collection offers the same sounds but polyphonic.
The Acoustic Guitars folder has a copious array including mandolin, banjo, nylon string,
steel string, 12-string and ukuleles. The samples incorporate string noises and the ones I
tested were all convincing instruments. The electric guitars include clean and muted or
distorted and there are also power chords, distorted minor and major sustain chords playable
from single notes. Producing authentic-sounding guitar performances from a keyboard, no
matter how good the samples are, is no easy matter since there are just so many tonal
variations produced by a real guitarist.
Orchestral instruments are grouped into separate brass, woodwind, percussion and
strings folders. The brass sounds are impressive overall and many instruments include key-
switches, which can change the sound to mutes or quick or slow swells. The booklet was
rather sketchy on all these aspects and really should have contained more information. There
were also some brass ensemble sounds and brass quintets.
The percussion section was a generous selection with both pitched and unpitched
percussion. The harp also contains a separate harp dedicated to glissando effects.
Woodwind included piccolo, alto flute, bass clarinet and cor anglais as well as all the expected
instruments. There is a very generous string selection covering all sections of the string
family including samples with or without vibrato plus all kinds of effects such as marcato, col
legno and pizzicato.
There is a huge range of drum-kits on offer including acoustic, 80's, electronic, hip-hop
and R&B, plus a folder full of percussion such as vibra-slap, guiro, congas, cow-bells or
tambourine. The drums and percussion instruments I selected to try all sounded vibrant and
well-sampled and there is huge choice available. In addition there are 380 drum-loops in a
wide range of styles all grouped according to category from dance and funk to jazz and
pop/rock and when loaded in a DAW program the loops will match the tempo of the project.
In the Ethnic and World category the instruments are subdivided into Australia, Celtic,
India, Middle East, Pacific and South America. In some of the categories there were only
percussion instruments, for example the India selection strangely offered no sitar. Overall
there are some useful sounds within this section but it is by no means comprehensive.
Pop Horns and Brass is a small collection of the common solo instruments plus separate
trumpet, trombone and saxophone sections. There are also trumpet section fall effects and
trumpet Harmon mute. The synthesizer collections are grouped under modern and vintage
and then further grouped into lead, pads, FX, rhythmic and so on. There are some highly
usable sounds here and a very generous allocation. There is also a separate FX category,
which might be very useful if you are writing music for a film or video.
Vir2's VI.ONE offers a huge selection of high quality sounds covering a very wide range of
musical idioms. Naturally, there is some variation in quality but overall the standard is very
high. The main minus point is that such a huge selection of sounds deserves much better
documentation than the brief one that accompanies it.
At the time of writing VI.ONE is available for just over 150 Euro from UK distributor
Time+Space, which represents very good value for the quality and number of instruments
contained within. VI.ONE is certainly a collection I would highly recommend.
 

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