Today I'm gonna review Spitfire Audio's new choir the Eric Whitacre choir. This is a beautiful, lush choral standalone VST. It doesn't require Kontakt.
Note: this review is based on a free review copy of the plugin, I was not compensated otherwise.
Here is a video review of the Choir so you can actually hear it in action:
The Eric Whitacre Choir sounds great for so many different types of choir sounds - especially these lush arrangements. Sounds that sort of move effortlessly.
But there are also shortcomings to it though which we'll get into in a second.
The interface is very easy to understand. This is a standalone VST, like I said, so it's not a familiar Kontakt player(for better and for worse).
I think it works pretty well it's not too different from the Kontakt VSTs that Spitfire makes. And it's very similar to Spitfire's free line of Labs instruments.
This plugin is loaded with techniques: shorts, longs, evolving sounds, legatos, and FX. All of these sound great, except for the shorts, which just don't feel convincing to me. Additionally, some of the legatos sound a little synthetic, but most are beautiful.
Additionally, the Eric Whitacre Choir doesn't have a vocabulary builder function, so you don't have much control over the sounds the choir makes. You're generally locked into: "oooh," "aaah," "mmmm," "meh," and "oh." But the Evos and effects have some different sounds as well. But some choirs out there give you a ton of flexibility to script the sounds. Instead, this plugin is focused more on the texture of the voices, which sound incredible.
I'll add that I've tried other choirs that really only excel at the short sounds. For example, I've got a Oceania, which has incredibly powerful, epic dramatic short stabs. I've never used one choir that is all things to all people, and I'd say that the Eric Whitacre Choir definitely succeeds in the long lush world of choral music.
Another cool feature is this thing called the Evo choir grid, which creates these incredible evolving sounds. It will just evolve in its own unique way and is a great method of just getting really interesting textures that would take forever to program. It makes for a really rich sound that you can apply in the background very well.
There's also loads of transitional swells and articulations. You've got swells, a soft breathy "ah," short shouts and more. Plus there's this pitch clashing stuff and then some effects as.
It's arranged so that you've got the MIDI controls and all the settings up top, then at the top you have a menu where you can both choose the presets. The Eric Whitacre Choir has a really great preset browser where you can sort by type from legato to effects, shorts to longs, and then also by which voice you're looking for: e.g. soprano, bass, or all of them.
Voila - if we were to go to long tenor you should just see all the long tenor patches so it's really easy to use and find what you're looking for.
Below that you have the main interface panel. This sliders control the volume, one of which is automatically mapped to the mod wheel and controls the dynamics. It makes it really easy to do swells and fades.
The big knob is sort of a universal control with variable functionality. By default it does reverb (and the reverb sounds pretty good). But depending on the patch, you can click on knob and it will also let you control some other parameters, like release, tightness, or vibrato.
In EVO mode, which is a slightly different take on the main plugin, there is a grid that lets you assign semi-random evolutions to notes over time. This allows for these crazy, wonderful episodic techniques. You just hold a note, and automatically things start to happen.
Below the main panel, there's a technique browser that lets you choose the different techniques within the preset you've loaded. And if you move to the next section of that panels, there is a mixer where you can choose the microphones. This lets you choose to have a more ambient sound, for example by putting the ambient microphone on or the galleries probably even farther away.
But then you also have the option of mixing in the individual sections as well! So let's say you want the bass section to really come through, you just mix in a little more, which can be really helpful in dialing in the exact sound you want. It also comes with a few pre-mixed sections. So if you just want it to sound small, for example, or big, it automatically will pick the right mics. You can also control the stereo width.
Finally, in the last page of the bottom panel you've got the effect section. Like I was saying, it's contextual based on the patches, but it lets you control tightness, vibrato, etc.
In conclusion, this is probably one of the choirs that I would put on my short list if I was looking for the swelling sort of Cathedral style choir or if I was looking for something that was kind of modern and a little scary. But I don't think this is an aggressive choir suited for epic orchestral sounds. But lord it sounds really lush, and it's very playable and I've enjoyed using.
Please let me know what choirs you're using I'm always interested in that I've been looking around for choirs for a long time and this one is one of the ones that I like the most.
I've got five great affordable holiday stocking stuffer gifts for musicians I'm gonna recommend to you guys today this can either be to stuff your own stocking or to stuff somebody else's stocking.
Now all of these are great for most types of instruments (I've done things before that
focus more on guitar players or like home recording people) but I think that these gifts are gonna be welcomed by any musician.
They're very comfortable they're portable they sound really musical and these are great because they're not only good when you're practicing if you're in a band but they're also good for going to live shows because they still maintain a lot of fidelity.
No joke - musicians really need to protect their hearing so that's why I would totally recommend these.
The next thing I'm going to recommend is these cable stays. These are basically pieces
of velcro color-coded that you can use to wrap around your cables.
If you're a musician you basically you have nothing but cables. It's just a horrible, infuriating mess. A rat's nest of cables.
If you've ever seen a musician's gig bag (unless you're a drummer in which case you don't need this) you know how frustrating cable management can be.
And not only do the musicians have many cables that they need to keep together so that they don't go to all over the place, they also have different types of cables. And that's why I think the color-coded velcro works way best. Because you can at a glance know what type of cable you're picking up instead of having to fumble around and see it so those have made my life way easier and they're fun to have in the stock and you can also use them for other things.
The third thing I'm gonna recommend is basically some new consumables. If it's a guitar player you know something like new guitar strings. Now, everybody's got their own personal preference so just maybe snoop around and see what brand they like.
If you know the person you care for is a drummer maybe new drumsticks or new drum heads.
If it's a piano player you know maybe get a somebody to come and tune it up for them
These sorts of things are kind of like the equivalent of socks you always need them and want them but you never buy them for yourself so they make great stocking stuffers. Like guitar picks as well that you never seem to have enough but you know you always want.
The next thing I'm gonna recommend is a portable digital recorder. Something like the Tascam DR-05.
It's way better than just astandard phone because it can handle much louder sounds the problem with your phone is if you're like recording a live band it just goes basically like "#$#@$@$%!%%$$%" because the microphone gets overwhelmed and so you lose a lot of the detail. Whereas a recorder like this is designed for much louder sound.
So if the musician you're interested in buying a gift or play is in a band this makes it much easier for them to record the practices and sort of get things going.
The final thing I'm going to recommend is some percussion. You know a tambourine, shakers, maybe some claves. It's these sorts of fun percussion instruments that not only can people use when recording but if a friend (or you!) comes over that's not really talented musically they can still jam with you if you've got a tambourine or some shakers. This makes it more fun and participatory.
Is the Nektar Panorama P4 the best keyboard for Reason? This review of the Nektar Panorama P4 tries to be nuanced, because the keyboard really does succeed in most ways. But it's not going to be for everybody. I really respect what Nektar was trying to do here, and if you're more of a producer than a musician, I think you'll enjoy it.
It depends on your needs. It does a great job acting as a DAW controller, and if you're just using stock Reason devices or the occasional Rack Extension, you're probably making a good choice. But its basic keyboard functions are average. And if you're mainly using VSTs, like those by Native Instruments, it leaves a lot to be desired.
So I'd give it a 4 out of 5.
My honest review of the Nektar Panorama is that it saves me a lot of time, but it still has a lot of short comings. Once you integrate it into your workflow, using it to mix, tweak effects, and even record becomes much more streamlined. I especially like that it has 9 faders that easily map to a mixer. Or to instrument controls - like on a draw bar organ.
I honestly believe that the Nektar Panorama is probably the best keyboard for Logic or Reason if you're focused more on controlling your whole DAW. It takes about five minutes to install the firmware and drivers, and the process is very easy. The LED screen in the middle of the keyboard, while not super HD, is clear and conveys useful information even in bright sunlight.
But as a physical keyboard, the Panorama has some issues.
But the drum pads on the Nektar Panorama are garbage. So bad as to be nearly unusable at anything other than fixed velocity, and even then, it just doesn't feel right.
The keyboard keys are good on the P4, but I would't say they're inspiring. The entire unit is very deep, which makes it impossible to access all the controls when its under my mixing desk. I'd definitely think that it is too bulky for gigging, though it's not too heavy.
The knobs on the Nektar keyboard all feel pretty good with a nice amount of resistance, as do the sliders. The Nektar Panorama also features a great mechanical fader for more detailed mixing rides. It does inspire nice mixing performance.
I mainly use Native Instruments sounds, so if I was starting over again, I would seriously consider getting a Komplete Kontrol. The difference in Komplete Kontrol vs Nektar Panorama, it seems to me is, that Komplete Kontrol gives you a much sleeker way to interact with instruments based on Native Instruments platform, but not nearly as much power to interact with your DAW.