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Spitfire Audio Abbey Road Two: Iconic Strings Professional review

Adopting an intimate persona, Spitfire’s latest sample-based suite pops iconic strings right inside legendary surroundings

  • £449
Spitfire Audio Abbey Road Two: Iconic Strings Professional
(Image: © Future)

MusicRadar Verdict

Feature-laden package, catering for all stringed instruments, providing unique Abbey Road character and clean signals.

Pros

  • +

    Full inclusion of samples, from all sections of the orchestra pit.

  • +

    Superb acoustic representation of Abbey Road, Studio Two.

Cons

  • -

    No Vibrato control of the Legato patching.

  • -

    Spitfire’s player does not support multitimbral operation.

  • -

    Sample loading times seem very slow.

Spitfire Audio Abbey Road Two: Iconic Strings Professional: What is it?

Enter into discussion with anyone with an interest in studio history, and the mention of Abbey Road probably won’t take long to arise. The recording studio’s iconic status was sealed many years ago, thanks to a certain band-of-four from Liverpool, but despite the long-time association with the Beatles, as well as an enormous wealth of musical talent from many other musical circles, Abbey Road has also always been associated with film and media scoring. 

And while many fine scores, such as Star Wars, were recorded next door in Studio One, the smaller surrounding of Studio Two provides the latest home for Spitfire’s newest string library.

While the ethos for this library feels more intimate, Studio Two is still quite a large space, and more than capable of housing a small orchestra. Today, though, we’re talking about a string quintet; think of a string quartet of two violins, viola and cello, but add a double bass! This welcome extension deepens the bottom end register nicely.

Iconic Strings Professional operates within Spitfire’s very own player; it adopts a view that we’ve seen before, but with an altered colour and branding to reflect the library. Most seem to agree that the player continues to look inviting, but it does still feel like a lot of space is wasted. You can adapt the plugin’s visual construct, to make the space work for you, and even resize the window, but there’s still a sense that it occupies more screen estate than necessary. 

Operationally, sample patch selection happens from the very top of the window, but it does highlight what feels like an incredibly slow sample loading time. In our tests, we found that even smaller patches of around 500mb could take up to 15 seconds to load, and that’s from a USB-C connected SSD, which normally exhibits loading times of at most half that time, and the Spitfire Player does not support multitimbral operation, arguably extending the loading process further, with multiple deployments.

It’s likely that many of these minor gripes will be cleared up with future updates, but it does serve as a slight distraction when you really want to be thinking more about the sound.

Spitfire Audio Abbey Road Two: Iconic Strings Professional: Performance and verdict

As usual, Spitfire has gone to great lengths to cater for most eventualities; the articulation count is pretty large, with individual instruments offering long, short and legato patch examples. The longer sustained articulations include regular long notes, sul pont, sul tasto, harmonics, trills and tremolos. 

Each of these include realtime control of release time, reverberation, tightness and in many cases, vibrato. These elements run alongside the more usual timbral and expressive dynamic control. Articulations are also open to key-switching, and offer a variety of mix and mic options.

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It’s possible to mix and match various mic signals, blending them with room ambience or specific mic colours, such as ribbons. Worth remembering that every time you activate another signal into the resultant chain, you’ll be adding a fresh set of samples, so to assist with RAM allocation and the loading times, Spitfire has prepared some beautiful stereo mixes. 

Two of these can be considered more contemporary and tight, while two vintage mixes use some of the tricks of the Abbey Road trade. These include the use of the REDD mixing desk, vintage compression and the use of the legendary J37 tape machine. There’s plenty of choice, with the mixes providing a great start if you just want to get writing.

Three legato articulation elements are also catered for, but within their own patch, which, given the lack of multi-timbral operation, will require the loading of another instance of the plugin, should you wish to swap from the previously mentioned samples. The legato patches are described as Performance, Slurred and Portamento. They cater for everything from slower, meandering movements, all the way up to full-on runs, and they do so pretty well. 

Bizarrely, there is no independent vibrato control while in legato mode, leaving any emotive element of oscillating expression up to the player. It’s a shame because, in this setting, the purity of the non-vibrato sound can be truly beguiling, but there is nothing to stop the use of the longer patches, without vibrato, albeit without the true legato option.

The available shorter patches include the usual spiccato, staccato and pizzicato articulations, which also offer up to six round robins, in each instance. These can sometimes feel so exacting that they don’t always sound like new samples, which is testimony to the player's consistency, although it can sometimes result in a less believable result.

Plain Iconic or pure Professional?

The folks at Spitfire are a decent bunch! Any orchestral library worth its stripes, is likely to attract a price tag that may make it feel expensive, but the cost to us as the end-users could be deemed as a bargain; the hire of five of the finest string players in the country, not to mention the hire of the engineers and the studio at Abbey Road, for this amount of money, feels like a fair price indeed. 

However, you either have the money, or you don’t, and if there’s one thing Spitfire try to do, it’s encouraging composers and producers, making its products as affordable as possible. Its Labs series is a fine example; an expanding library of free samples, all of which offer something, in their own way. The Soft Piano, previously known as Felt Piano, is an example of a freebie that has entered the pro arena, and still remains a favourite.

Accordingly, you don’t have to plump for the full Professional version of Iconic Strings, as there is a regular version below, coming in at £249. Furthermore, if you have previously purchased the cost-effective Originals: Intimate Strings, Spitfire will offer you 25% off the full price of Iconic Strings. If you’re a student, you’ll get a discount across all of their libraries. Something for everyone, at just about every price point.

Spitfire Audio Abbey Road Two: Iconic Strings Professional

(Image credit: Future)

Final summing!

Spitfire’s organisation of patches allows for a degree of versatility, from the division of Long, Short and Legato articulations, to its often seen All-In-One patch, which provides a one-stop-shop for the most used articulations. There are omissions here, so you may need to defer to the individual patch configurations. 

There’s a lot of control available, with sound generation ranging from über clean through to vintage

There is also the inclusion of a very welcome Ensemble patch, which provides the full frequency range of the included instrumentation. Furthermore, Spitfire has included a useful Multi-voice feature, which allows for user-control of the crossfading between each instrument’s register, within the ensemble domain. Thanks to the generous mic capacity and placement, there’s a lot of control available, with sound generation from über clean to vintage.

You can’t argue with the amount on offer, albeit with limitations in certain areas. The Vintage Abbey Road signal path used in this library endorses its Iconic status, but the clean signal paths are equally stylish and sharp, and incredibly useable. There’s something for everyone, making it ideal for many forms of general music production and media work.

MusicRadar verdict: Feature-laden package, catering for all stringed instruments, providing unique Abbey Road character and clean signals.

Spitfire Audio Abbey Road Two: Iconic Strings Professional: The web says

"Abbey Road Two Iconic Strings is a library unlike any I’ve heard before; it feels real and alive and sounds organic, clean, and detailed. This library is simply fantastic!"
Sample Library Review

Spitfire Audio Abbey Road Two: Iconic Strings Professional: Hands-on demos

Spitfire Audio

Sample Library Review

Guy Michelmore

Spitfire Audio Abbey Road Two: Iconic Strings Professional: Specifications

  • 46GB download size. 
  • 46GB disk space required during install. 
  • Mac OS X 10.10 to OS X 11. Minimum: 2.8GHz i5 minimum (quad-core), 8GB RAM. Recommended: 2.8GHz i7 (six-core), 16GB RAM. M1 Apple computers are supported and 64-bit DAW required. — To use the multi-voice arranger. Minimum: Intel Core i7 (or Xeon from mid 2015 models or newer). 
  • Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10 (latest Service Pack, 64-bit). Minimum: Intel Core 2.8GHz i5 (quad-core) or AMD Ryzen 5, 8GB RAM. Recommended: Intel 2.8GHz i7 (six-core) or AMD R7 2700, 16GB RAM. — To use the multi-voice arranger. Minimum: Intel Core i7 7th gen and later or AMD Ryzen 7 2700X. 
  • CONTACT: Spitfire Audio

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