Strings are notorious for being the least life-like patch in any sample library, and as of a couple years ago, I believed that I would never work with a realistic string sample without taking out a loan. However, after demoing Dan Dean Solo Strings Advanced, I gleefully announce that my search is over.
DDSSA is not your average sample library, but we'll get to its bells and whistles later. First and foremost, the raw samples are beautiful. Mr. Dean has not only achieved an incredibly-low noise floor, but by recording in a totally "dry" space, has eliminated any sort of room noise. The pure sound allows for seamless integration with your reverb of choice, that is, if you don't want to use the surprisingly-capable reverb impulses that are included. DDSSA contains samples of violin, viola, and cello -in arco, spiccato, pizzicato, tremolo, and both half and whole-step trills.
Solo Strings Advanced is the first sample library to incorporate Timbral Impulse Tonal Modeling. Like an impulse response captures the acoustic fingerprint of a particular space, DDSSA incorporates the timbral fingerprints of some of the world's greatest recordings for use with the samples. This is a quick and easy way to immediately apply a classic character to the strings, or match them with an existing recording for some reinforcement.
Another great feature is what Dean calls the Cloaking Device. Aside from making the disc and its packaging disappear (unless you're lucky enough to have a tachyon heterodyne detection grid handy), the cloaking device allows for repeated notes without repeated samples. If you're just looking for a straightforward string patch that doesn't sound like a distant lawnmower or accordion, DDSSA offers its Legacy Programming; a set of plug-and-play patches that allow you to quickly and easily experience the samples without diving into DDSSA's extensive features. It should also be noted that if you're in the middle of your new adagio and have a fast passage that you'd like to perform in real-time, you can engage Short Attack mode via your pedal to tighten your articulation.
While the high quality of the samples is apparent during the first five minutes of use, the clarity and realistic timbre of the samples still surprises me after hours of sequencing. As a composer, the samples allow me to hear a surprisingly accurate representation of my arrangements, or if I'm just beginning to come up with ideas, I can get a better idea of what a particular cluster of notes might sound like -something that is frustratingly impossible with most low end string samples. Overall, I take my hat off to Dan Dean for offering terrific sounding samples at an affordable price -something that I consider invaluable in both writing and arranging.
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.