Spitfire Audio's Studio Strings Pro has quickly become my go to string library. It's full of lush, playable string articulations, and provides a wide tonal palette that any musician can start using immediately. More importantly, it is super easy to play.
You don't need to do a ton of programming to get realistic life like strings. This quick tutorial will show you how quickly you can start to make Neo-Classical music.
This review of Studio Strings Pro by Spitfire Audio is going to cover the following topics: sound quality, playability, what's included, and how it compares to other string libraries.
Spitfire Studio Strings Pro Review Video
For those of you who prefer to watch a video instead of reading, here's a video review.
Spitfire Studio Strings Pro Sound
The sound quality of Studio Strings Pro is phenomenal. These are some of the best musicians playing some of the best sounding instruments in some of the best spaces being record by some of the best gear. And they're also expertly sampled.
And it shows.
I made a demo video of a lot of the different sounds, articulations, and mic positions that are available. Start streaming it while you read the rest of this review so you can hear how incredible these strings sound.
One of the great things about Studio Strings Pro (versus the non-pro version), is that it comes with a host of different microphones that you can mix together to create your ideal sound. While this sounds like a gimmick, I promise, it's not.
As you can see in the demo, mixing between the various close mics, tree mics, and overhead/ambient mics gives you and incredible amount of control of your sound.
Want more reverb? Add in some more overhead mic. Want more string attack? Try close mic 2.
Unlike other Spitfire products, which are recorded in a performance hall, this was recorded in a studio space, given the strings a much drier sound. This allows you to bake in just the right amount of reverb for a particular project.
It also includes an onboard reverb which sounds great. However, you'll likely find yourself wanting more reverb, so having a good third party reverb plugin handy will help you get the most out of it.
Spitfire Audio Studio String Pro Playability
Studio Strings Pro is a joy to play. I'm a terrible piano player, but even I can quickly get realistic string sound out of this well-programmed, well-designed VST.
Each of the instruments - and more importantly each articulation - play subtly differently, in a way that naturally, unconsciously, drives you play they realistically. Harnessing these subtle differences is really, intuitive, though. Just like a playing a Stratocaster is different then play a Les Paul, but they're both just electric guitars.
To get the most out of your sounds you'll usually need to automate one or two parameters. Usually you'll want to automate the expression of the strings to give them a more natural swell. You'll also want to consider automating the vibrato so that they strings peak at the right point.
Spitfire also gives you the ability to tweak a few other parameters, like tightness and release. I don't recommend automating these, but they do need to be set at the right spot to make the strings sound more realistic depending on the tempo and style of performance.
All in all, the interface is straightforward, full of pop up help tips, and easy to navigate. If you've ever used another Spitfire string VST before, you'll immediately be at home, since it's the same.
What's Included in Spitfire Studio Strings Pro
Spitfire Studio Strings Pro is ginormous. More than 200GB installed, and it needs something like 400GB of space while installing.
The non-pro version includes a lot of the same sounds, but not as much detail. Additionally, the Pro version includes samples from way more microphone placements.
According to Spitfire: The Core version of Studio Strings features a standard (8, 6, 6, 6, 4) player setup, with access to the default Tree microphone position. With Professional, you have access to 7 extra unique microphone positions, a large band section (16, 12, 12, 12, 4) and 2 divisi sections (4, 3, 3, 3), on top of what is offered in the Core version. You can use these divisi options to create a chamber section, or even layer them with larger sections.
How Spitfire Studio Strings Pro Compares
Studio Strings Pro is going to be my new go to strings library. I've got Albion, which is great for big dramatic stuff, but it's got a huge, unfocused sound that doesn't lend itself to intimate moments. I've also got Spitfire's Solo Strings, which is also lovely, but it's very granular and is more of an icing on the cake type of library.
Honestly, Studio Strings Pro does the overall "strings" thing better than either of these, but used in conjunction, they create something amazing. Studio Strings could form the backdrop while a Cello from Solo Strings plays a stirring lead. Or Albion could form the gut punching backdrop while Studio Strings added a layer of harmony and melody.
I've also used all the Native Instruments Strings sections, and while they sound nice, they don't compare to the richness and flexibility provided by Studio Strings. And they sound a bit more unfocused and artificial. Though I think NI has an even easier to use interface.
I've also used East West Libraries Hollywood Strings and prefer Studio Strings Pro hands down.
Note: this review is based on a promotional copy of Studio Strings Pro I received.