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Audio Imperia Solo

Sample Library By Dave Stewart
Published April 2022

Audio Imperia Solo

A new collection adds expressive solo instruments and voices to the company’s orchestral range.

New from the team that brought us the Jaeger orchestral collection, Talos epic brass ensembles, Areia cinematic strings, Cerberus percussion and Nucleus symphonic essentials comes a collection of solo instruments designed to add lyrical expression and emotion to your music with a minimum of fuss. The library contains three solo strings, five solo woodwinds, three solo brass and two female sopranos, giving you a baker’s dozen of melodic top‑line timbres. In a piece of product labelling which should satisfy the most stringent advertising standards, it’s titled simply Solo.

This all‑new collection was recorded in conjunction with Budapest Scoring, previously suppliers of brass and strings for Audio Imperia’s production music label AI Music. The sample recordings took place over a period of a month at Budapest’s Pannonia scoring stage, a facility which specialises in orchestral film score recordings.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. According to Audio Imperia’s Jan Hoeglund, the original plan was to spend the time working on the keenly anticipated choir project Chorus (another masterpiece of honest product naming) in collaboration with his pal Jasper Blunk of Performance Samples, a company with a distinguished pedigree in sampled choirs. Unfortunately the pandemic buggered that up. Hoeglund explains: “It would not have been responsible to put that many people in a room together at that time. And even with the soloists, we took every precaution possible: Covid tests, masks, social distancing, etc. It was quite a challenge! It just wasn’t safe to travel at that time, so the sessions were all remote.”


Solo focuses on a specific expressive lyrical style in which a slight crescendo swell is combined with progressive vibrato — in plain English, notes start out straight, then vibrato is added after one or two seconds and persists throughout the note’s duration. This delivery was captured in two true legato styles and looped sustains, augmented by spiccato/staccatissimo short notes, pizzicato and tremolo (strings only) and woodwind trills. Meanwhile, the singers keep it simple and stick to legato and sustained ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ vowels.

Only first chair players and actual soloists were booked for this project. The musicians worked from scores and were also given verbal instructions (beamed in via Zoom from a safe distance, I imagine) to emphasise the musical effect the producers wanted to achieve. Happily for all concerned, the soloists and studio staff appear to have emerged unscathed from the sessions, and their clear, unmuffled sound suggests that the wind players and sopranos removed their masks before recording their samples. Solo runs on Kontakt and the free Kontakt Player version 6.5.2 or higher, and is 83.6GB installed.

The Advanced page shows the microphone mixer and instrument transpose/range controls. Real‑life ranges are marked in blue with stretched low and high notes marked in yellow. Note the velocity‑switch ‘combined legato’ patch in the top slot — you can uncouple the two artics by clicking on the small orange icon on the right.The Advanced page shows the microphone mixer and instrument transpose/range controls. Real‑life ranges are marked in blue with stretched low and high notes marked in yellow. Note the velocity‑switch ‘combined legato’ patch in the top slot — you can uncouple the two artics by clicking on the small orange icon on the right.

Solo Strings

Played by the versatile Csongor Veér (who took the role of doomed bandleader Wallace Henry Hartley in the 2012 Titanic TV mini‑series), the solo violin epitomises Solo’s musical and technical scope. The instrument’s ‘slurred legato’ style features small, graceful portamento slides between notes, while the rebowed legatos offer a more distinct attack. ‘Legato combined’ multi‑patches let you switch between the two artics via velocity or MIDI CC — alternatively, you can decouple the patches and use keyswitches to select the one you want. Either way, switching between these two legato styles on the fly produces impressively organic‑sounding melody lines.

Mr Veér‘s violin has a robust tone with plenty of body and presence. Played with a fairly strong vibrato, its legatos sound romantically expressive, great for impassioned cadenzas, heart‑tugging sentimental melodies and wild Romanian folk workouts. There’s no non‑vibrato option, so if you’re looking for a plain, astringent violin sound you’re out of luck. Other artics include superior biting spiccatos executed with slide‑rule precision, expressive sustains and nicely tuned tone trills which sound fine when played chordally — players often pay insufficient attention to the tuning of the upper notes in their trills, but these are right on the money.

The excellent solo cello is a highlight of the library, combining a dignified, august and stately tone with a highly expressive legato style and sustains which work well for dark atmospheric chords. I occasionally wished its top note of C5 could be extended, so was pleased to see Solo allows you to edit instrument ranges — however, when stretching their upper extremities you might notice a quickening of the vibrato caused by the sample tuning hike!

I had fun playing melancholy autumnal chords on the solo viola’s sustains patch, and also enjoyed its cute pizzicatos, emotional ‘slurred legato’ portamento slides and vigorous spiccatos. The latter short‑note style is brilliantly performed by all three solo strings: positive, quick to speak, instantly responsive to touch and ideal for rhythmic ostinatos, these are a good supplement to the excellent ensemble spiccatos in Audio Imperia’s Nucleus.

There will always be quiet passages where a solo instrument can make its voice heard. These are the moments Audio Imperia’s Solo is designed for.

Solo Woodwinds

Enter the woodwinds, headed by Anita Szabó, principal flautist of the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra. Her performances are another highlight, featuring a gorgeous lyrical flute tone which works wonderfully for slow, dreamy melodies. Discreet expressive swells add subtle motion to melodic lines, tightly played staccatissimos are lightly propulsive, and fast, liquid‑sounding trills create bursts of swirling orchestral colour when you play close‑voiced chords. A great resource for pastoral melodies and lively, piping piccolo‑like parts, the player’s sustains also work a treat for three‑part flute chords, a classic orchestral sonority.

This stellar instrument is joined by a super‑smooth, mellifluous solo clarinet played in the traditional vibrato‑free orchestral style. Its long notes consequently sound unwavering and somewhat dispassionate, with expression limited to pronounced crescendo swells which can get overbearing in the high register. On the plus side, the player performs perky staccatos and animated trills which automatically end with a staccato iteration, great for creating the dancing woodwind figures heard in the opening of John Williams’ ‘Adventures on Earth’ (from the movie ET).

Normal vibrato service is resumed by the library’s oboe. Performed with a plaintive, subtly swelled delivery, it’s a serviceable instrument for expressive lead lines, and its unmistakeable cutting tone is a useful texture when constructing woodwind chords. The player (a gentleman named Fruzsina Káli‑Fonyódi, oboe teacher at Budapest’s prestigious Liszt Academy) also whips out some rather alarming semitone trills.

While the oboe sounds lyrical and a little sad (in a good way), the lower‑pitched English horn has a more serious, pensive atmosphere. This is a lovely instrument — mellow‑toned yet clear and tuneful, its highlights include great staccatissimos and well‑tempered tone trills in the manner of the solo violin. Accompanying these reedy top‑liners is a solo bassoon distinguished by a languid legato delivery and an evolving slow vibrato ideally suited to slow‑moving high‑register melody lines. A pleasant, reflective reedy timbre for low‑pitched sustains, this versatile bassoon’s fine staccato short notes also tick the jokey ‘Tears Of A Clown’ box.

Solo Brass

In over 20 years of orchestral sample reviewing this is the first time I’ve heard a descant horn. A smaller version of the French horn, the descant horn plays an octave higher than its big brother and is often brought into sessions by horn players to cope with the unfeasibly high parts inexperienced composers sometimes throw at them.

Built‑in ADSR controls give you control of instruments’ attack speed and release time.Built‑in ADSR controls give you control of instruments’ attack speed and release time.With this unusual instrument, high‑pitched sustained chords take on an eerie, almost distant quality. Its sound is not immediately identifiable: on hearing is very high top note (A5) you might think you’re listening to a clarinet, but as the pitch descends a delightfully pure, warm, classic horn tone emerges. Long notes with built‑in small crescendos are delivered with unswerving precision; the subtle distinction between fingered and retongued legatos is an important expressive asset, and the combined legato multi‑patch once again offers great potential for enhanced melodic realism.

Also included in Solo is a full‑sized French horn. The player handles the library’s trademark smooth, expressive legatos well and maintains a good performance standard apart from a slight wobble on the front of his low D3 long note. Though the library’s stylistic ethos rules out over‑the‑top ‘epic brass’ sonorities, the satisfyingly brassy timbre of the horn’s energetic loud staccatos is a good bet for rousing chord stabs.

Rounding off the small brass section is a solo trumpet played with a very light vibrato, a break with orchestral tradition. Its carefully controlled legatos benefit from clean note attacks and steady, well‑tuned sustains. In keeping with the house style, the delivery never gets aggressive, so if you’re in the market for blazing cinematic fanfares or a dominant lead voice in a hot soul brass arrangement, this is not the trumpet for you. Nonetheless, it’s a pleasant, sensitively played instrument which would work well in exposed, sensitive and lyrical settings.

Solo Singers

Though it’s not entirely clear from despatches, I’m guessing that Solo’s so‑called ‘angelic’ (hate that word) and ‘operatic’ sopranos are respectively Orsolya (Orsi) Sapszon and Katalin Vámosi. Although both are classically trained, online videos show the first singer working in a broadly pop vein while the second seems to do more classical gigs. Apologies if I inadvertently switched their credits, but rest assured both achieve a high professional musical standard regardless of the style tags.

Both sopranos perform a single legato style and long notes using the vowels ‘aah’ and ‘ooh’. Orsi (if it is she) utilises an agreeably plain, unmannered style with very little vibrato, delivering smooth, flowing legatos and steady, true sustains which create an almost synth‑like timbre when layered in high‑register chords. There’s a huge volume disparity between this singer’s piercing top C6 and delicate bottom G3 note, which makes it very difficult to use her full range — turn down your speakers to prevent the high note shattering all the glassware in your house, and the low G becomes inaudible. I realise singers’ low register pitches are a lot quieter than their high notes, but it’s a simple matter for a programmer to even out the volume of individual samples within a patch. This massive mismatch should have been corrected at the programming stage.

Though not a big opera fan, I enjoyed the purity of the second performer’s ‘oohs’, which sound wonderfully ethereal in the high register. The developing operatic vibrato kicks in at around two seconds and gets quite strong, but unlike with some classical singers, you can still hear which note is being performed! Some inter‑sample low register volume disparities are apparent, but you can probably iron them out with CC1 volume automation.

Sound Design & Pads

Solo’s 13 pitched pads share a majestic hybrid orchestral sound. On‑screen controls allow you to adjust their start points and reverse playback direction, as well as automating filter and volume settings.Solo’s 13 pitched pads share a majestic hybrid orchestral sound. On‑screen controls allow you to adjust their start points and reverse playback direction, as well as automating filter and volume settings.Solo’s sound design section contains pads derived from each of its 13 sound sources and a bunch of effects to apply to them. Despite their disparate origins the pads are surprisingly homogenous — all are pitched, well‑tuned and benefiting from a grand, subtly evolving quasi‑orchestral sound, so you can use them for virtually any style of music. I enjoyed the ethereal, mystical atmosphere of ‘Parlare’, the subtle textural undercurrents of ‘Crepusculo’ and the denser, more threatening ‘Luminosa’. If I needed a bass drone I’d go for ‘Ecliptic’, a heavenly horns pad with a solid bottom end.

The sound design bit really kicks in when you dial up the effects, which are only available for the pads. Some are frighteningly transformative — moving swiftly past the usual suspects (delay, reverb, chorus, rotary speaker, phaser, flanger) we find a powerful distortion effect introducing an overdriven electronic edge. Add the lo‑fi effect, and you can bit‑crush your mangled hybrid orchestra into oblivion — who knew a beautifully recorded bassoon could mutate into something resembling the snapping of twigs or the horrid crackling and spluttering of a faulty pre‑war Soviet radio? Trent Reznor might enjoy it (I certainly did), but if you’re trying to snag your first Hollywood film scoring gig it’s probably prudent not to include such deranged sounds.

The library’s suite of effects (available only for its pads) range from subtle chorus and delay to obliterative distortion and bit‑crushing.The library’s suite of effects (available only for its pads) range from subtle chorus and delay to obliterative distortion and bit‑crushing.

Space & Time

Though spaces such as Air Studio’s Lyndhurst Hall add an impressive natural reverb to recordings, the medium‑sized Pannonia scoring stage used for Solo was chosen for its more intimate ‘close‑up’ sound. The samples were recorded from two close spot positions and a Decca Tree, with outrigger and far mics picking up more distant room positions. While the latter mikings’ real‑life ambience would be helpful in a surround mix, they don’t sound particularly reverberant.

Recordings took place at Budapest’s Pannonia Studios.Recordings took place at Budapest’s Pannonia Studios.

In the GUI’s Basic page, a single Easy Mixer slider allows you to quickly fade between close and far mic positions, and as in Nucleus (reviewed in SOS February 2020) you can choose Classic or Modern mix presets — for this library, I opted for the brighter, louder sound of the latter. Additional on‑board room and hall reverbs are also available.

Another useful facility carried over from Nucleus is the sample start feature. In the interest of realism the producers left the natural attack of samples untrimmed, but when it comes to rhythm parts it’s essential that string spiccatos and wind staccatissimos speak quickly. With that in mind the makers include a ‘tight’ button which automatically trims the sample fronts, a great help when programming rhythmic ostinatos. The degree of tightness can be altered in the GUI’s Advanced page.

Solo’s focus on core melodic instruments inevitably means that some common orchestral timbres are absent — there are no supplementary instruments such as piccolo or bass clarinet, and percussion was always a non‑starter. The most notable omissions are solo trombone and solo tuba. While that’s understandable in this context, completists might bemoan the fact that no Audio Imperia library currently includes that particular pair of solo brass instruments.


The crash‑bang frenzy of action‑oriented media productions leaves little space for reflection, but in the wider world of music there will always be quiet passages where a solo instrument can make its voice heard. These are the moments Audio Imperia’s Solo is designed for. The emphasis throughout is on lyrical expression, and the 13 musicians have risen to the occasion with a fine set of sensitive performances. As hinted previously, if you’ve been hired to compose the soundtrack for Death Race 2030 it would be advisable to look elsewhere for your samples, but when it comes to more tender, nuanced musical settings and delicate atmospheres requiring a subtle expressive sensibility, these soloists come through with flying colours.


Solo’s instrumentalists and vocalists perform a small menu of essential articulations.

  • Strings: legato rebowed/slurred, sustained, spiccato, pizzicato, tremolo, trill (half/whole tone).
  • Brass: legato fingered/retongued, sustained, staccatissimo.
  • Woodwinds: legato fingered/retongued, sustained, staccatissimo, trill (half/whole tone).
  • Singers: legato aah/ooh, sustained aah/ooh.

The library’s legato performances were played at a single dynamic level — the makers’ explanation is that crossfading between multiple dynamic layers can introduce undesirable artefacts, so to maintain continuity of tone they limited the legatos to one dynamic layer. By contrast, short notes have up to five dynamics and incorporate five round‑robin variations.

In practice, the single velocity layer is not a handicap, and it certainly avoids the tuning and phasing issues which sometimes arise in dynamic crossfades. Since the legatos’ and sustains’ volume is controlled by the mod wheel, you can program additional expressive swells and diminuendos to your heart’s content. As in Audio Imperia’s Nucleus, the legato patches are super‑smooth and agreeably playable, and although the legato transitions are optimised for slower, lyrical and expressive melodies, you can adapt them to faster passages by setting the sample start to around 60 milliseconds, thus getting notes off to a flying start!

Solo Legato

Solo features two different legato styles: rebowed or slurred for strings, and fingered or retongued for woodwinds and brass. All instruments have a dedicated patch for each style, but for users’ convenience the makers also combined the two into a single playable unit with no need to keyswitch. Though it’s sometimes hard to hear the difference between the two legato artics, I found that judiciously using both in a melody has clear benefits for the expression, fluidity of line and realism of these solo instruments, particularly the woodwinds — once you’ve got the hang of the facility, you won’t want to stop using it!

As is common in orchestral libraries, legato patches default to monophonic playback (meaning that although the sound remains stereo, you can only hear one voice at a time). If you want to hear two simultaneous legato parts operating in a single patch, you can select polyphonic legato mode — this creates a velocity split so that (for example) notes above velocity 64 trigger one legato line, while notes with a velocity less than 64 trigger a second independent legato line. You can adjust the velocity split point to taste.

One caveat: simultaneous legato parts are CPU‑intensive. I found that playing the two soprano’s legatos in two‑part harmony generated loud clicks on note transitions which only disappeared when I increased my soundcard’s buffer settings from 512 to 1024 samples.


  • A fine collection of sensitive, expressive performance by 13 hand‑picked musicians.
  • Includes solo strings, woodwinds, brass and two soprano singers.
  • Features two highly effective legato modes and excellent short note deliveries.
  • The simple layout of the GUI is a pleasure to work with.


  • No dedicated manual.
  • There’s no way of controlling the amount or timing of the vibrato.
  • The vocal samples’ volume levels need some work (NB. not the singers’ fault).


Audio Imperia’s Solo adds a fine set of solo performances to their orchestral catalogue. Comprising 11 string, woodwind and brass solo instruments and two soprano singers, the library avoids loud, overbearing sonorities and focuses instead on lyrical and expressive performances which will grace quieter musical settings. Featuring excellent true legatos and zippy short notes, it’s a versatile, easy‑to‑use collection capable of adding subtle expression and musical detail to your scores.


$299 including VAT.