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Garritan Orchestral String Lite

Sample Library
By Mark Wherry

Formats: Akai / Giga. Score = ***** 5/5 stars.

Regular readers of SOS will be familiar with the Garritan Orchestral String library, reviewed in the May and September 2002 issues, a product that set new standards in the world of sample libraries. However, GOS was (and still is) only available for Gigastudio, and while it's possible to use the library with many Giga-compatible software samplers, there's no way you're ever going to fit its 18 CD-ROMs into a RAM-based hardware sampler. Even if you do own Gigastudio, though, with an introductory price of £666, GOS is out of the budgets of many musicians whose ears turn green when hearing the library in action.

To answer the prayers of these potential users, Gary Garritan has released GOS Lite, a three-CD version of GOS available in either Akai or Giga formats using samples from the full library. So, of course, the inevitable question is what's missing? And the answer, fortunately, is not as much as you might think.

For starters, the grouping of instruments is identical: all, first and second violins, violas, cellos, basses, and full strings. However, because space is a consideration, the violin articulations are shared across the groups, so 'all violins' contains sustained, sordino, tremolo and grand detaché sordino articulations, while the first violins play grand detaché, marcato, sautille, pizzicato, sustained with and without vibrato, tremolo, portato, and half- and whole-step trills. The second violins' articulation list comprises sustained with vibrato, grand detaché, martele, marcato, staccato, spiccato and pizzicato.

The violas offer sustains with and without vibrato, sordino, grand detaché, portato, martele, spiccato, pizzicato, tremolo, and half- and whole-step trills. The cellos play sustained with vibrato and rich vibrato (typical cellists!), grand detaché, portato, marcato, pizzicato, spiccato, martele, tremolo and half- and whole-step trills. The basses offer sustains, grand detaché, staccato, pizzicato, tremolo, and the Full Strings consist of sustains with vibrato, sordino, pizzicato, tremolo, marcato, spiccato, and half- and whole-step trills.

While this reads like a bit of a shopping list, it also demonstrates the comprehensive range of articulations provided, and I recommend reading the original reviews for a more sonically orientated guided tour. However, it's also worth noting that most of the instruments in GOS Lite feature additional versions for warmth and expression controls, or leaner 16MB versions, for those who are really limited in terms of memory.

I have a few minor niggles: as with the first release of the full library, only the Full Strings sustained patches are looped. Also, there are a few places where the splits aren't completely seamless, which leads to the occasional tone or tuning anomaly. However, this is very minor, and it's inevitable that the instruments aren't going to have as much depth as the full version.

One of the highlights of GOS was the attention to detail, and this is certainly reflected in GOS Lite: the 24-page staple-bound manual, for example, is a joy to read, and the detailed list of contents is easy to understand. An added bonus is the inclusion of a special version of Chicken Systems' Translator, which can translate only the sounds on the GOS Lite discs into native versions for software samplers.

When you consider other Akai string libraries in this price range, even without its heritage, GOS Lite blows the competition out of the water. The string ensembles were never the strongest aspect of Peter Siedlaczek's Advanced Orchestra, and at £130, I don't think many musicians will choose this single-CD-ROM option, even if it does include col legno samples. That said, GOS Lite is an ideal companion to Siedlaczek's woodwinds, brass and percussion.

Although GOS Lite is basically a cut-down version of a larger library, it still comes across as a carefully thought out, sonically inspiring and comprehensive tool for anyone requiring orchestral strings. There's even an upgrade path if you later want to move up to the full library.

£199 including VAT.

Time+Space +44 (0)1837 55200.

Published February 2003