Orchestral String Runs Review

The world of orchestral sample libraries has seen lots of nice additions over the last year. One of my highlights, besides NI’s very own Session Strings, is a new library produced by OrchestralTools: Their first release, Orchestral String Runs promises exactly that. String Runs. Lots of them.

One could say that String Runs indeed are one of the most underrepresented areas of orchestral sampling, so such an addition is most welcome. But how does the newest kid on the block perform?

Join me on my journey through the library in this review.


As far as sample libraries go, Native Instrument’s Kontakt seems to be by far the most popular platform at the moment with new releases coming most every day. The powerful scripting engine allows for very deep programming, which is beneficial to huge projects like OSR.

The Concept

OSR isn’t your standard Orchestral Strings library, quite on the contrary. Those of you familiar with Cinesamples’ Hollywoodwinds (an absolute must have!) are familiar with the basic idea: Runs of any kind are incredibly hard to reproduce faithfully with conventional samples because of the transitions between individual notes as well as the changes through the performance. A real „run“ just sounds totally different from just a series of single notes glued together in rapid succession. When it comes to ensembles (for strings even more than for woodwinds), this becomes even more pronounced throught minute differences in intonation of the individual players, not to speak from the unique blend of the sounds of different instruments and/or playing styles.
Cinesamples approached this problem with woodwinds in their Hollywoodwinds library, which in my opinion should get a Nobel Prize for its name and about a billion for its sound and ease of use. OSR now tackles the same for strings. Big strings. Epic big honkin’ strings. You get the idea.

The Content

OSR primarily consists of runs. Most notably here is the Runs Builder, which allows you to click together runs from predefined short sequences. Just imagine building a Lego castle.It works the same way and can be compared to the phrase builder i.e. in Tonehammer’s Requiem. The Builder works well, though it lacks chromatic phrases, which may be a suitable feature for a patch.

OSR also includes a run transitions patch, which is even more useful than the builder. It allows you to play runs on your keyboard. OSR’s scripts will then glue the notes together using real legato transitions and will automatically round robin for all repetitions. A bit of post-production in the piano roll and your run is ready. This patch allows you to play any kind of run, of course even chromatic ones, which kind of makes up for the slight limitations of the Runs Builder.

The library features a vast array of pre-recorded figures in all minor and major keys as well as lots of commonly used runs (i.e. scales or arpeggios). You’ll also find trills and sfx. Everything is tempo-synced with your host. So far I have not found any glaring bugs in the library, which is a commendable feat for a first-time developer!

One particularly neat thing are the included sustain and staccato patches, which are both incredibly useful for blending the library with others. You may want to use VSL or Kirk Hunter for the main parts, but switch to OSR for the runs. Slowly bringing OSR’s sustain and staccato patches in as a replacement helps blend the different libraries together in one seamless experience.
I have found the sustain patch to be a great allround patch for quick sketches. The attacks are pretty sharp, so for some quick and dirty „let’s see if it works“ you can even use it for marcato or staccato imitations. One might very well see OSR used in conjunction with NI’s Session Strings for popular music work.

Everything is recorded in three mic positions, which are loaded automatically with the patch. You can then choose the ratio of the three positions in the Kontakt interface.

The Bad

There are precious few bad things to say about OSR. The biggest complaint may be that the patches differ vastly between the instrument groups. You get a Runs Builder for Violins, Cellos and Basses, but not for Violas. Maybe the creators of the library were under the impression that Violists would not be able to play runs - if yes, I can assure you: They are not _as_ bad.

Basically it is a bit like with Symphobia: What is there is absolutely stunning, but sometimes you just miss certain combinations. The developer has already stated that at least chromatic runs for the builder may come in a patch. Maybe we will also see more consistent articulations then for all the sections.

The Technicalities

OSR comes as a whooping 7 GB download with good PDF documentation (you can see a PDF chart of all articulations on the OSR website) and resides in Kontakt’s Library pane. This means you do not need the full Kontakt, but can use the free Player! The Library uses NI’s ncw compression in order to squeeze the 12 GB sample pool into 7 GB.

The library is recorded in 48khz, 24bit with 16bit „eco“ patches provided as well. Registration is easy through the Service Center and worked without a hitch on my system. Patch loading is a tiny bit on the slow side - I suppose there are some script optimizations to be done.

The Verdict

OSR is a stunning library. When considering that this is the fist release of OrchestralTools, this achievement becomes even more impressive. It must have cost a fortune to record this huge library, not to speak of the post-production. OSR is very, very usable, very, very, very user-friendly and has the big „Hollywood“ sound we have come to expect. For film/game composers this is a must-have tool in their arsenal, both for demos as well as for production work. OSR closes a gap in the sample market and it closes it beautifully.

The small drawbacks mentioned above in my opinion are nothing that could not be rectified by a few patches. I’d say: Let the guys get a bit of money from this, let them deal with the first flood of support issues and then let’s see how they will care for their library. In assuming that some patches adding features will be releases in the future, OSR gets my total thumbs up.

OSR is available for download at OrchestralTools at a retail price of 399$ including VAT.
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