VSL push out the boat with hall-recorded rock power drums and two top of the range grand pianos.
Vienna's Synchronhalle has had its ups and downs. Constructed in 1940 as a film studio scoring stage, it became a go-to classical recording facility during the 1960s, spawning legendary recordings by eminent artists such as Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan and Yehudi Menuhin. In later years it fell from grace and became dilapidated, but it was saved from demolition by a 2009 preservation order — ironically, this was mainly due to the hall's unique theatre organ, a multi-timbral mechanical marvel equipped with horses' hooves, bird calls, car horns, ocean waves and thunder sound effects (perfect fodder for your next ambient chill-out project).
In 2013 the Synchronhalle's fortunes took an upturn when the building was taken over by Vienna Symphonic Library, renowned for their vast database of orchestral samples. The company had been planning to expand for some years, and this acquisition provided a timely opportunity; according to VSL founder Herb Tucmandl, "We could not have built a building this size from scratch. We were lucky that it became available at the same time we were looking."
After two years of refurbishment, the site was transformed into a state‑of‑the‑art recording facility and re‑christened the Synchron Stage. Orchestral test recordings conducted with award-winning film music mixer Dennis Sands prompted the engineer to remark, "Truly a world class facility — certainly, one of the best rooms in the world." A rush of bookings followed, with Hans Zimmer's Remote Control Productions, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Netflix among the first clients, marking a return to the halcyon days of Vienna film scoring.
Hitherto, all Vienna orchestral libraries had been recorded in the Silent Stage, a purpose-built environment so effectively noise-proofed that even a helicopter hovering overhead failed to stir the VU meters. While this space is a great acoustic for capturing close-up instrumental clarity and detail, it lacks the flattering reverb 'wash' of a concert hall. With the Synchron Stage at their disposal, VSL could now produce their own hall‑recorded sample collections, joining the ranks of rival developers who had been taking a similar approach for years.
See the 'VSL Synchron Series' box below for an overview. In this review we'll take a listen to the three most recently released libraries, starting with a distinctly non-classical rock drum collection.
While it was obvious that VSL would use their new sound stage to create a fresh batch of orchestral libraries, no-one could have guessed they would also veer off into the world of heavy rock. For the Synchron Power Drums collection the company hired drummer Mario Lackner, veteran band member and professor at Vienna's University of Music & Performing Arts. Don't let the highfalutin' title put you off: this dude sports a no-nonsense beard, hits the drums hard and rocks out in a baseball cap, mercifully not emblazoned with the slogan 'Make Austria Great Again'.
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