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Soundbake Fractured Strings & Broken Strings

Kontakt Instrument By Dave Gale
Published May 2021


Rating **** 4/5 Stars

Soundbake are a beautifully quirky sample company, under the creative direction of British‑born composer and singer Kirsten Evans. The latest in their Kontakt instrument line includes one freebie and one paid product, both with links to string sounds; both beautiful and distressed.

Fractured Strings offers a fair degree of simplicity in operation, lending itself to cinematic and visual score work. It is equipped with four main voices, which contrast well, offering scratchy bow‑on‑string sounds or unravelling tones, often with an almost metallic or wavetable quality. These four sounds may be blended to create straight pads, or controlled in real time through the increase/decrease of the circular pots on the Kontakt instrument. Controlling these via MIDI CC opens up the potential of Fractured Strings, although the generous length of each sample results in immediate undulations. There is a four‑stage ADSR envelope, which initialises with predictable slow attack and release phases, underlying the evolving nature of the instrument.

Fractured Strings offers a fair degree of simplicity in operation, lending itself to cinematic and visual score work.

In addition to the four main voice tones, a further four tonal colours are available, under the guise of ‘richness’. These offer similar timbres which are generally richer in harmonic colour across the board, and not just in the upper echelons. Located below this section, the basic low‑pass filter offers straight cutoff and resonance, which can be driven into self-oscillation very easily. It’s overtly digital in sound, offering more functionality than sonic colour.

Working with the richness, filter and envelope sections does highlight one of the difficulties of the instrument, which relates to its ease of use visually. It appears beautifully charming on the surface, but the richness pots, being small and shaded in pastel, are incredibly difficult to see, particularly being placed upon a white background. Similarly, the filter and envelope may be enabled or disabled via a button which is barely visible, unless active.

The final available timbral element relates to noise, and is accessed via an XY pad in the centre of the instrument. It offers an independent volume fader, with real‑time movement across the XY zone, blending between white noise and lower noise‑based rumbles.

While Fractured Strings is a fully paid‑up product, Broken Strings is a freely available instrument, with samples drawn from a warped‑Nyckelharp and a broken Autoharp. The overwhelming nature is again cinematic, but alongside the basic tones and a similar XY‑based noise source, there’s some fairly gnarly distorted possibilities on offer. Tonal and amplitude control is available via a low‑pass filter and envelope, but it is the relatively brutal and colourful distortion which provides the real interest. It’s a usable little suite, made better by the non‑existent price tag.

While Broken Strings is a worthwhile download, Fractured Strings has limited capacity, due to its pad‑like manifesto. There is also a lack of demonstration presets, but it is undoubtedly the visual aspect of the GUI that generates the biggest issue. It’s just quite difficult to see certain controls, even when you know they are there.

Fractured Strings £45, Broken Strings free.

Fractured Strings £45, Broken Strings free.