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Sonic Zest Ambient Cinematic String Theory Collection

Kontakt Instrument By Tom Flint
Published July 2019

Sonic Zest Ambient Cinematic String Theory Collection

Rating: ***** 4/5 Stars

This instrument comprises all of the electric and acoustic guitar libraries that Sonic Zest have made for the Kontakt platform over the last six years. In other words, the sample content is not new, although the company haven't combined the libraries quite like this before. What is new is the interface, which provides ADSR envelope controls, a filter section, plus a number of effects and processors. These include a reverb, delay, distortion and chorus, most of which offer no editing options other than a level dial. Although these controls are clearly not as extensive as those benefitting some virtual instruments, they are more than enough to turn a simple guitar pluck into something utterly unrecognisable. The preset Skyscraper Breeze, for example, seems to have started off as a tonally dull electric guitar note with lots of reverb and a clean tone, but the application of delay and filtering, and the intelligent editing of its ADSR envelope, have transformed it into a smooth, gentle, vocal-like pad.

The one feature that's clearly missing is an arpeggiator, which almost every Kontakt instrument includes these days. Kontakt has a built in arpeggiator that's found in the sequencing menu of the software's Script Editor, so usually developers make a direct link to it in their designs and add their own skins. Sonic Zest have left it out, but users are only a few clicks away from it, in practice.

Rather than having all the instrument's sounds accessible from within a single interface, Sonic Zest have chosen to take the multi-interface approach, where each sound patch has one all to itself. That said, seven of the 45 interfaces are actually the nkm type, which simultaneously open two (or more) interfaces within Kontakt's Rack window. This arrangement allows various pads and leads to interact so that, for example, in one interface, moving the mod wheel morphs from a plucked acoustic guitar to plucked octave harmonics.

Of the remaining 38 instrument interfaces there are 10 bass patches, 15 lead sounds, 10 pads and three effects. Most of the sounds fulfil the 'Cinematic' brief by being heavily effected, but it's usually possible to strip the processing back to get something a bit more instrument-like, if required.

Although ACSTC is not supposed to be a library of bread and butter guitar and bass sounds, there are a few fairly straightforward guitar patches. For example, Acoustics + Harmonics (Mod‑Wheel) provides a clean acoustic sound that a young William Orbit might use, after a bit more delay and reverb is added. Then Telecaster (Mod-wheel) achieves a jangly, clean sound that screams mid-to-late 1980s pop.

My only reservation is that there are not always enough round robin variations and/or velocity layers, but overall, this is a well priced, nicely programmed product that sound designers will be able to put to good use very frequently.