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Orchestral Tools Amber review

These new Creative Soundpacks are more than sample packs – they run in a player that gives Kontakt a run for its money

  • €149
Orchestral Tools Amber
(Image: © Orchestral Tools)

Our Verdict

As part of SINE, Amber is a great instrument and a fantastic way to experience Orchestral Tools on a budget.

Pros

  • Free SINE is a great player.
  • Oodles of atmosphere.
  • Quality of the audio recordings is second to none.

Cons

  • We did have some issues getting to grips with SINE but the videos explain everything well.

What is it?

Orchestral Tools are yet another Berlin-based music technology company – what is it in the water there? – and one who specialise in producing, you guessed it, orchestral libraries. However, these can be a little different, to say the least. 

The company’s award-winning Metropolis Ark collections supply everything from bombastic orchestral parts for trailers to deep and epic sounds, while Junkie XL Brass is their ‘artist’ title, a collab with the famous composer and producer. 

However, these retail at €549 each and €749 respectively, so how do you fancy some Orchestral Tools manoeuvres on the cheap, and a free player to go with them?

Sine me up

Orchestral Tools’ Creative Soundpacks are just that: packs of distinctive, themed sounds that run within OT’s new SINE Player that you can download for free.

It’s a kind of easy-to-use Kontakt player with neat OT touches within which you can download individual parts and presets of the Soundpacks, or the whole lot should you wish. You can load them up and play, with extra mixer and dynamic controls and more. 

Yet importantly for many of us – and in particular those who might have been put of by the knowledge bar to entry required for some orchestral libraries – you don’t need to know much (indeed anything) about an orchestra to get the best from them.

Anyone familiar with the kinds of soundtracks that have been dominating everything from games like The Last of Us to Scandinavian ‘noir’ crime dramas will love Amber

We’re focussing on Amber which provides “a left-of-centre sound; a compelling string quartet that gives your music an unconventional and vibrant quality”.

It is the most expensive of the three packs at €149, the others being Arbos (for natural world percussion at just €49) and Babel (“soft vowels, elegant textures, and unexpected vocal patterns” for €79).

Performance and verdict

You first download the SINE player which runs standalone or in your DAW and then choose which presets from categories within the pack to download which, with Amber, can be up to a total of 8GB.

You get different mic positions and other variations to download and you can do this by instrument (titled more directly as Violin or Cello, or more descriptively as things like Sci-Fi Drive) or by type. Then simply load up and play articulations – which are automapped to certain keys – via the virtual keyboard or your own controller.

Drama from up north

Anyone familiar with the kinds of soundtracks that have been dominating everything from games like The Last of Us to Scandinavian ‘noir’ crime dramas will love Amber.

It’s a sound that can be melancholic in its understatement, barely shimmering, or then developing into heart-tugging string-based drama, as the revelation of the murderer or the death of the main protagonist you didn’t expect takes place.

Also consider...

(Image credit: Spitfire Audio)

Spitfire Audio Albion Tundra
This title is even more Scandi noir-esque, with sounds “on the edge of silence” (their words).

Presets like Nebulous Traces from the Pads section will have you thinking you’re some kind of successor to Thomas Newman scoring Shawshank or Zimmer ‘doing’ Interstellar and all of them will have you reaching for your DAW to compose with or add ambience and sweeping emotion to any existing pieces.

Sure there’s work to be done with SINE – there are surely features to be added – but what OT are capable of filling it with is sublime. These recordings are second to none and the emotion and detail that is invested here is undoubted. Incredible sounds, incredible value.

MusicRadar verdict: As part of SINE, Amber is a great instrument and a fantastic way to experience Orchestral Tools on a budget.

The web says

"The recorded sample content has also been processed to produce a series of additional instruments, with a number of beautiful frozen, scratchy and twisted pad textures, dusty keyboard sounds and foreboding drones. They’re all highly playable and evocative instruments."
MusicTech

Hands-on demos

Orchestral Tools

Specifications

  • TYPE: Sample library
  • FEATURES: Intimate String Quartet library: 1st violin, 2nd violin, viola, and cello (tuned down a fourth), 19 articulations, true legato, 2 spots and 1 room mic; Processed: 1 ensemble, 11 pads, 4 plucks, 2 keys, and 5 drones), 17.3GB of samples, Sine player included
  • SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.13, i5, 4 GB RAM, Windows 10, Intel Core i5 or similar [NB: Windows 7 not supported]
  • CONTACT: Orchestral Tools