Rating: ***** 5/5 Stars
I absolutely love celestes, so forgive me if I get a little carried away during the course of this review. As the name suggests, Celestial is a celeste (aka celesta) Kontakt sample library. Originally made in Paris by the Mustel company, this vintage keyboard was maintained and restored by technicians in Milan before being given a new digital lease of life by Chocolate Audio's Simone Coen.
The celeste's distinctive sound is created by hammers striking metal chime bars, producing a melodious, high-pitched bell-like attack not unlike that of a glockenspiel or Fender Rhodes electric piano. Its iconic timbre is impeccably captured in this 500MB library, the only minor imperfection being a low E4 note attack which sounds slightly dull and 'thunky' compared to the pristine chime of other pitches — but that's a flaw in the instrument, not in the sampling process. Spanning four chromatically sampled octaves from C4 (Middle C) to C8, the celeste is evenly balanced, free of tuning issues, dynamically expressive and eminently playable across its entire range.
Celestial incorporates four audio channels: 'Spot' brings you the instrument's unadulterated dry, close–up sound, while the traditional 'Decca' miking adds abundant room ambience. The remaining signals are processed samples — the lush, pitch-modulated long reverb of 'Diffuse' reminds me of my old Lexicon PCM70 (but minus the hiss), and the equally reverberant 'Hyped' introduces a shimmering upper octave, adding a heavenly halo which lives up to the 'celestial' tag. You can blend the four channels to very good effect, effectively covering all stylistic bases from straight pop/rock and orchestral to psychedelic sound design.
In addition to the processed channels, there's an IR-based reverb with 102 custom impulse responses taken from hardware reverb units and real spaces comprising halls, rooms, chambers and scoring stages — my favourite is 'Taj Mahal Hall', which rings on forever. Three-band EQ and compression are also available, the latter ranging from subtle dynamic-range squeezing to over the top distortion. I don't think a celeste really needs compression, but if you want to get away from its cute 'Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy' stereotype, you can switch in extreme saturation effects which are more in the 'Battle Of The Angry Trolls' vein.
Other useful performance aids include velocity scaling (which I found essential), envelope settings, a great stereo width control and 17 presets which include good spacey and reversed material. I also appreciated the four alternative patches which give a name check to a user who requested a sample fix — that's good customer service for you! This delicate instrument requires the full version of Kontakt 5.5.2 or newer, and will not work with the free Kontakt Player. It's as pure and twinkling as its name implies, a stellar and affordable keyboard which can add a delightful sparkle to your tracks.