EASTWEST VOICES OF SOUL – SWEET SOUL SISTER
Hi and welcome to Studiowise. This week we’re reviewing Voices of Soul, a solo vocal instrument library from EastWest. Following hot on the success of the company’s Voices of the Empire release earlier this year, this looks to follow in a similar vein with a soloist performer and clever use of articulations and phrases.
2018 seems to be a great year so far for high-quality vocal sample libraries, with a number of groundbreaking titles released. We are spoilt for choice now, so it’s good to see EastWest developing some genre-specific products. With the ethereal choir stuff well covered, I’m happy to see something more down-to-earth.
EastWest Voices of Soul is a VST-compatible sample library featuring performances from noted vocalist C.C. White. The 14GB library includes 76 patches with legato, polyphonic and phrase performances, three mic recordings and an extensive mix processing suite.
The automated installation is painless using EastWest’s excellent Installation Centre app, your purchases simply show up ready for you to initialise when ready. The library is available as a one-time purchase or as part of a monthly Composer Cloud subscription.
EastWest’s context-sensitive proprietary interface Play is required to load sample libraries, and though it is similar to Native Instruments Kontakt or UVI’s Falcon that offers a very synth-orientated workflow, Play is a virtual mixing sandbox-style environment designed specifically for mixing and layering expansion libraries.
Included is a full SSL channel strip effect section with various rack processors (depending on the library), all sharing the same global interface and basic layout design allowing for quicker familiarity with the product.
Interface and Layout
EastWest has, with Voices of Soul, made much better use of the screen real estate than other libraries I have reviewed; the front page is well laid out and is all business. System preferences and envelope settings take up the left side with global mix and effect settings on the right. The centre contains the full articulation plot for the patches selected.
Opening the browser tab reviews the eight default category folders for the library. Obvious things like sustains, legato and phrase choices are clear, but abbreviated terms like KS, RR and MOD require a quick scan through the manual for an explanation. I’m not sure why words need to be abbreviated, there is plenty of space to elaborate and save the user 5 minutes of manual hunting.
The cool blue-on-red GUI looks excellent, and although I find repeated swapping between the player and browser in the Play interface clunky, everything is well laid out and easy to find.
Performance is always a strength of the Play system, with all patches loading acceptably quickly and with no real issues or lag. Once a patch is fully loaded everything plays like a dream. You can easily deactivate articulations and mic channels to reduce system processing (especially with the mic channels)
In The Studio
Right off the bat, this library sounds fantastic. The well-designed reverb and microphone recordings showcase CC’s vocals perfectly; it is not hard to lose yourself for some time exploring the patches and articulations.
The single-octave, true legato recordings are good, though the velocity sensitivity takes some getting familiar with. The MOD patches put velocity control to your modulation wheel allowing for greater control over the expression and defiantly my favourite way to work.
Combo MOD patches load a small selection of articulations you can cycle through using your modulation wheel. I found the ability to hold a chord and then mod-wheel select a new articulation during the chord quite handy. Sometimes using a different articulation as a passing note or subtle solo brings more realism to a passage.
Conversely, the Round Robin Combo category provides bakes-in articulations in a sort of linked loop, so each time you strike a note you get a new articulation. At first, this felt too ad-hoc for me, but I found some great applications when used in a mix as part of a textured background; adding notes to a held chord brings in a nice randomness.
The Mod Xfade Chords category is the closest option for dynamic control. This allows you to crossfade between two preset velocity levels using the modulation wheel again, which effectively gives you performance dynamics. There is a fair degree of crossover doubling making this not so convincing when played solo, but as a chord behind the music, it is quite effective. I found timing is everything, each patch has its own unique intricacies, and finding the best time to crossfade takes practice.
The phrases category contains full performances to a specific key range. Though it’s largely freestyle performances, it’s a great place to find a nice fill or quick solo performance. Unfortunately, the performances aren’t mirrored across the key ranges, so if you find something you like you’ll need to use the pitch-correction controls to transpose to another key.
The unusual microphone selection includes the singer’s main front mic, a slightly distant room mic and a third microphone behind her. Each of the secondary mic locations provides an extra dimension to the sound, with the room being fantastic for adding a really immersive, larger-than-life sound.
EastWest’s Play interface always represents excellent value, considering the effect units included. The SSL channel strip is excellent, as too is the bus compressor. In this instance, I wouldn’t want to engage the amp simulator or Ohmicide effects unless you’re looking to mangle CC’s beautiful voice beyond recognition.
Voices of Soul includes a bonus and rather nice sounding delay effect, plus an ADT chorus double tracker thing that I could take or leave. As always though, the reverb effect is outstanding and they have included a massive selection of awesome impulses to choose from.
Firstly, I need to comment on CC White’s outstanding vocal performances. The consistent level of control is impressive across the hundreds of samples. Pitching is right on the money, and her phrase performance contains many absolutely gorgeous performances you will only hear from an accomplished artist, there is no doubt she is a talented singer.
The library is titled “Soul”, though there are many additional style inspirations here. CC’s smooth timbre is very reminiscent of early Motown, gospel and R&B; with a fair amount of Harlem sass thrown in for good measure. Playing through the phrase collection often reveals brilliant little one-shots that would bring the house down at a live performance.
Within the limitations of the vocalist, there is a surprising amount of flexibility with the simple sustain performances. Of course, you won’t find operatic mezzo-sopranos or apocalyptic baritone choral patches, but I can see many uses in everyday production for these samples, more so than the more extreme stuff out there.
I found the presets mostly fit well with arrangements I have made, though some tweaking of the envelope is usually required to set the feel. Other than the phrases, most other patches work best as simple background chords and when blended correctly add a fantastic organic embellishment to your tracks.
It’s such a shame that you can’t control the note-release timing, as most of the samples have incredible release tails that occur too late to be usable most of the time.
The lack of velocity dynamics is not as limiting as I first thought, riding the volume provides mostly all you need. Considering this library is mainly used as a supportive background texture, extended dynamic control would most likely have gone to waste.
There is a good level of scope here for sound designers looking to weird things up a little. As mentioned earlier, the included delay and convolution reverb transform the environment well, with the rather heavy-handed Ohmocide and amp simulator purely for the crazy people wanting to mess things up.
In an increasingly busy market, EastWest has produced a simple yet charismatic and playable instrument that will no doubt offer a wide appeal to producers in all genres. The clever balance of playable legato and sustains with the static phrase selection allows plenty of flexibility for many types of music or sound design.
The Play interface is optimised well and performs excellently, even on even mediocre specced machines, though next to the latest Kontakt’s and Spitfire Audio’s excellent new GUI, the dated platform is starting to show its age.
Though I would have loved to have seen a larger gospel ensemble or possibly a few more singers to choose from, there is plenty of scope here for EastWest to expand on the series in future releases. With the company’s extensive heritage in the subculture, surely no one else is better equipped to pull that off.
Another worthy addition to the rapidly growing ComposerCloud catalogue, expanding its diversity and offering straight-up fantastic value for money.
For more details on this and other titles in the EastWest lineup, check the official website right here www.soundsonline.com
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