Total

Personal Orchestra - simple and effective

I'd forgotten to do this review, until it popped up when I did another, so as I've been using it for a while now, my comments may well help people. I bought it to work beside my old Colossus sampler that is a bit long in the tooth, but still working. I was concerned that Cubase 8 would refuse to work with Colossus, so figured the Garritan would be a backup. As it happens, I now use the Garritan 90% of the time in preference to the older one. It installs easily, but takes a while for the samples to install on the drive. I also have the Garritan Jazz Band, and the two integrate into a shared player which is very handy, if you buy another of their products - the interface is the same. You get the choice of loading samples into a single stereo version, or a multiple output version when you create the instrument track in Cubase, or any other sequencer it supports. It makes no difference to the operation. The samples are grouped into logical sections, and while Colossus often warns me memory is getting short, Garritan doesn't, indicating a better method of managing the samples. Many of the samples are individual playing styles, staccato, legato, and of course all the weird brass stuff like stutters and falls - but many samples can be loaded as a group and then switched from the bass end of the keyboard - so you play with your right hand and switch the note style as you go. I'm not actually that good at this, but I'm getting better, and key switching of the sound types does save time - you just need to practice!

I've had no issues loading up lots of different instruments, and as long as you keep track of the performance of you computer, it works without grief. Your samples are quite dry, and then each sample slot (16 of them) can then have various reverbs added individually, and panned too if you wish. A separate page gives you access to general and convolution reverbs that are quite realistic. One slight annoyance for me is that some samples are quite quiet, and it's easy to run out of volume - solved by simply reducing the volume of the other tracks - strings and brass sounds are quite loud compared to some of the solo instruments. Talking about solo instruments, pianos and flutes are important to me - and the two most common flute samples, one with vibrato and one without are simply excellent - and even in isolation, hold up very well. I'd estimate I use it nearly every day. It does take time to get the best sounds - for example, there is a complete strings sample - a typical orchestra string sound, but you can create a better one if you have the patience from the section samples. The combined one sounds ok - but a bit 'thinner'?

I'm glad I bought it - as I said, I originally wanted it as a backup, but it's now my primary orchestral instrument. Some of the more unusual samples are ok, but a bit pointless, but that's normal.

What don't I like? I have a small glitch, which could be my PC, but I don't know - when you load samples, it's a series of drop down menus, and you select the broad type of instrument, so strings, then slide down to violin, viola etc, then you pick from a number of different ones - eventually getting to the one you want - which might be violin II, version 2. In the control panel for the sampler, each sound sits in one of 16 slots - bit there is an up down button to change version 2 to the next one for comparison. On my system, this often selects a totally random sound in the list, not the next one. I can live with it.

What are the sounds like? Mostly pretty realistic once a bit of panning and reverb is applied. A few are a bit lifeless. I hate the harp, for instance. I don't like some of the brass sounds either - very clever ones with tonguing or other tricks, but for me, not enough simple ones. Small point, but just a tad more selection here would have been good. Would I buy it again? Yes - with no hesitation. If it helps, the Jazz Band version I also have contains electric guitars and a few stabby type pop brass sounds - the lack of these is why I didn't give it top marks, plus the slightly annoying selector system. In fairness, I can't think of a better way to access so many samples, but that is for Garritan to think about - but it's why it isn't 5 stars. It's also unreasonable of me to moan about the lack of pop sounds in an orchestral sampler, but it's so useful, just a couple of extra samples would have been nice - but I'm just expecting the earth.

I can't see anyone being unhappy with this. It's never crashed on me when I've used it, and sounds damn good.

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