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Native Instruments Action Strings 2

Sample Library By John Walden
Published March 2022

Native Instruments  Action Strings 2

NI and Sonuscore take assisted string arranging to another level with Action Strings 2.

Native Instruments’ original Action Strings, produced in collaboration with Dynamedion, was an undeniable hit when first released nearly 10 years ago. It combined an impressive sample‑based string section instrument with an innovative performance engine that made it easy to create convincing string parts even if you had little knowledge of orchestration.

While Action Strings is still a perfectly capable tool, the last few years have seen a number of alternative products, also combining sample‑based strings with performance‑based features, which have pushed the concept forward. Sample Logic’s Symphonic AI, UJAM’s Striiiings, Kirk Hunter Studios’ recently released Kinetic: String Motion Engine are obvious examples, but perhaps the most high‑profile competition comes from Best Service’s The Orchestra, produced in collaboration with Sonuscore. All of which makes it interesting that Action Strings 2 is actually a collaborative product between NI and Sonuscore. However, Sonuscore’s roots lie in Dynamedion, and they have already collaborated with NI on products such as Mallet Flux. So, what does Sonuscore’s expertise developed from The Orchestra bring to Action Strings 2, and do the two products tread on each other’s toes?

Sections Of The Virtual Section

Action Strings 2 consists of three main components. First, you get a 30GB sample library. It features a full orchestral string section and, in the playback engine, the instruments are divided into high strings (violins and violas) and low strings (cellos and basses).

Second, you get a mixing engine, allowing you to blend four different microphone positions (Close, Spot, Tree and Far), adjust a three‑band EQ and apply a simple but very nice convolution reverb. This allows you to take the sound from up close and intimate to grandiose and Hollywood‑esque. Turning off an individual microphone position will unload the samples associated with it.

Finally, you get the performance engine and, for both the high and low strings, this allows you to trigger complete phrases from as few as one MIDI input note. Keyswitches can be used to switch between different phrases on the fly or to switch to individual string articulations if you want to play your own string lines as you would with a more conventional string library. While these three main components are, in principle, the same as in the original Action Strings, as described more fully below, there are considerable improvements in all three areas.

Shiny New Strings

The sample library component features an all‑new 41‑piece string section sample set recorded in Budapest specifically for AS2. The recordings captured a combination of single articulations and ‘live modules’. The latter are mini phrases recorded at both different pitches and dynamics levels. These are then combined in various ways to form the two‑bar phrases that form the heart of AS2’s impressive performance engine.

With a deep underlying sample set and multiple microphone options, AS2 offers plenty of choice for your overall sound.With a deep underlying sample set and multiple microphone options, AS2 offers plenty of choice for your overall sound.

Auditioning the high and low ensemble sounds using just the Close mic position (and no added reverb) reveals a well‑balanced, precise, and consistent sound with plenty of dynamics. The single articulations include staccato, staccatissimo (both very effective for fast runs), marcato, sustain, tremolo and (for the high ensemble only) trills. These are all excellent, but I was a little surprised by the lack of a pizzicato articulation. Of course, as AS2 offers a well‑implemented MIDI export feature, you can export some suitably staccatissimo phrases for playback by...

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