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Roland Orchestral II & Special FX Collection

JV-Series Expansion Cards By Paul White
Published August 1999

Roland Orchestral II and Special FX Collection JV-Series Expansion Cards

Two more JV‑series expander cards have become available, and both have managed to excite me rather more than the Asia card reviewed in the July issue. Orchestral II provides 256 new orchestral patches based on 153 waveforms, and though there's already an orchestral card in the series, this one has a distinctly different flavour. Inevitably, there are various permutations of orchestral strings, but less than a quarter of the available patches are overtly string‑based, and they all have a warm, natural character that helps them sit nicely in a mix. All the usual orchestral wind and percussion is also present, again sampled to a very high standard, but it's different enough to the original Orchestral card to be worth having, even if you own the original card.

Less usual is the inclusion of a number of Celtic and ethnic instruments, including Uillean pipe, Celtic fiddle, tin whistles, flutes, bodhrans and all the other accoutrements you might need to create a soundtrack for Titanic II. Add to that African harp, bouzouki, a generous selection of choirs and Enya‑esque vocals, and it's obvious this is much more than just another stock orchestra compilation. Even the percussion patches come arranged as an orchestral set and a Celtic set, though it's interesting to note that this eclecticism is at the expense of any piano samples. If you don't have the original orchestral card, Orchestra II is a must, but even if you do, it's still very desirable.

Next into the expansion slot was Special FX Collection, a card produced in conjunction with sample developers Spectrasonics. From what I can tell, most of the patches are based on waveforms from the Distorted Reality CD‑ROM and in all, there are 256 patches based on 248 waveforms, as well as three rather wacky percussion sets. The source waveforms include cars starting, along with air pumps and other industrial sounds, but the patches themselves include hauntingly beautiful, evolving pads and textural backdrops that wouldn't disgrace a Wavestation. All this is accomplished by processing the original sounds almost beyond recognition — something Spectrasonics are very good at — but no matter how weird the sounds, they always manage to retain an organic element. Not all the patches would sit comfortably in a pop mix, but for ambient or film‑score work, they're excellent. There's everything from ambient backdrops and one‑finger cues to the sound of a space cruiser complete with subsonic rumblings, but don't expect pianos or string pads! Recommended. Paul White

Roland Orchestral II and Special FX Collection JV-Series Expansion Cards