Rating: 5/5 Stars
Under the careful direction of sound designers James Thompson and Dan Powell, Soniccouture have assembled a distinctive range of sample libraries since the company started in 2005. A fascination with unusual ‘niche’ instruments such as the Skiddaw Stones (a 19th Century Cumbrian lithophone) and the enchanting Cristal Baschet (a ‘crystal organ’ constructed of metal and glass rods, part of the Glassworks collection) has given the company a reputation for innovative esotericism, but their latest release focuses on more traditional tuned percussion: tubular bells, crotales and glockenspiel, collectively known as the Orchestral Chimes Collection.
Confusingly, our Transatlantic cousins refer to the first instrument as ‘chimes’, but I must say I prefer the more descriptive British name. Though these long suspended metal tubes look nothing like church bells, they do a remarkably good imitation, to the point where a single strike can induce feelings of reverence. The model sampled here is the Musser Symphonic Chimes M661C, played with felt, rawhide and plastic mallets over a C4‑G5 pitch range. The rawhide hits sound the most natural to my ears, and the ‘Space’ effects preset (based on an Impulse Response taken from London’s All Saints Hall) adds a fabulous large concert hall reverb to this classic orchestral sonority.
...the library’s Paiste Symphony crotales produce exquisitely pure, ethereal high‑pitched chimes which sound like signals from the edge of the universe...
Crotales are sets of small, tuned thick bronze or brass discs resembling miniature cymbals. Sampled over a C6‑C8 range, the library’s Paiste Symphony crotales produce exquisitely pure, ethereal high‑pitched chimes which sound like signals from the edge of the universe. In a similar vein, the library’s lovely glockenspiel (a Yamaha Orchestra Bells YG‑250D model, F5‑C7) is ideal for adding twinkling, penetrating stellar chimes to arrangements.
Both instruments were played with plastic, brass and rubber beaters: the plastic option creates a classic full tone and the brass is more ethereal and ‘fairy bell’‑like, while the rubber beaters produce a softer attack. Delving into the built‑in effects, I was able to create a fabulous shimmering keyboard patch by adding a Leslie cabinet‑style rotator effect and All Saints Hall reverb to the glockenspiel’s rubber hits.
Surprisingly, no sound‑design patches were included: apparently these went missing in the initial release version for some reason. Soniccouture’s generative sequencer/arpeggiator tools were also omitted from the review copy on the grounds that they tended to sound messy when applied to such resonant instruments, which is understandable. Happily, both omissions will be rectified in a v1.1 update, which should have been made available by the time you read this.
I can unhesitatingly recommend this pristine, deep‑sampled collection. Studio‑recorded from two mic positions at up to 17 velocities, the instruments have an ultra‑realistic dynamic response and are presented in a choice of ‘free ring’ and sustain‑pedal modes, the latter giving control over their natural long decay time. Orchestral Chimes Collection (13GB) requires Kontakt 6 or the free Kontakt 6 Player version 6.2 or later.