VSL Synchron Winds & Brass for NPPE - thoughts?

VSL is currently running some of their Synchron products on sale. Coincidentally I already own the both the SY Pro Strings and Elite Strings, along with the NPPE for these. Coming from BBC & SSO, I have to say they’ve quickly become my go-to for when I want something that just works. Dependable and predictable regardless of articulations, and the engine loads fast.

For winds & brass I’m still using a mix of BBC and SSO (with NPPE). It’s been really hit or miss. Many of the instruments struggle greatly with agile passages, and the fast back and forth combination of slurs and shorts - creating all kinds of volume and timing balance issues. Unpredictable– it’s hard to know what will or will not work well, so what I write is not necessarily always what I will hear in playback. Even if they sound nice, I have to spend way more time fighting them via automation than I do writing.

Whereas The VSL Strings pretty much always produce what I expect to hear from the page. This suggests to me that their Winds and Brass are probably very useable and predictable too… but before I drop any money, curious to hear any thoughts from someone who has used them specifically with the NPPE?

My personal opinion is VSL is at the top with winds, but I’ve always found their brass lacking. I say this as someone who is very invested in the VSL ecosystem owning most of the original VI library and a regular user of MIR Pro. For NPPE brass I typically go with Iconica which uses Berlin samples.

I find it the other way around - the Synchron Brass is great but my enthusiasm is slightly more muted for Synchron Winds. This is the opposite of their dry libraries where they were near the top of choices for woodwinds but had so-so brass.

In particular what I’m looking to solve is the ability to execute agile lines with fewer issues, even if it doesn’t sound as “exciting.”

Take for example this Oboe part from Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 (Adagio), bars 23-28:

Here is that part rendered by BBC (NPPE):

It’s actually not the worst example I’ve run into, but some notes sound further away, in particular fast legato, and longer notes or non-slurred shorts sound closer. There are times when I’m working on something similar and notes will squawk suddenly at pianissimo – especially noticeable with grace notes.

If anyone is willing to run this bit through Synchron Winds via NPPE just so I could compare, I would be most appreciative!

01 Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, BWV 1046.musicxml.zip (2.4 KB)

Just a question: is het possible that the notes that sound futher away are made just a little softer by Dorico, and that that notes use a softer sample than the other notes, because they fall just in the soft area?

I am not sure. What I can speak to, regarding my original point upon discovering Synchron strings compared to the Spitfire strings, is the fact that everything sounds consistent in a passage where the string player alternates quickly between staccato and several slurred notes. Sounds like it comes from the same instrument, in the same hall (I’ve noticed the Spitfire engines tend to have these funny shifts in reverb placement), and also rhythm is fairly tight which is crucial to me for sitting within an ensemble. So to that point, I found VSL (via NPPE) to remarkly fix almost all the issues of blurry notes, mushy playing, and volume disparities between techniques – with the flick of a switch, all other variables being equal within Dorico. So I guess I’m hoping for a similar result with the other Synchron instruments!

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Here’s the passage rendered with Synchron Prime, Iconica, and HOOPUS. Dynamic curve power set to 2.5, min level -3, max level 3. Humanize off, note dynamics Dorico default. On the NPPE, hall noise is off and reverb set to bypass.

Cool, thanks for doing that, it’s interesting to hear all these examples next to each other! Actually yes out of all of those options, I do prefer VSL, although it’s not perfect - it just feels balanced. Hoopus handles the legato quite well too. Surprised at how wet Iconica sounds here (similar weird reverb balance issues as I have with BBC).

As for the other settings you used, I haven’t played around with those very much – I usually leave them at default (which I think is curve 2.5, levels -6/6). I pretty much don’t touch any of the other stuff. Is there a reason you might recommend turning humanize off for example?

Here’s the same excerpt with CSW oboe, Synchron WW oboe and though you didn’t ask, VWindsV2 oboe 2 with a simple expression map. I included this one because except for one note that jumps out toward the end it handles the faster notes extremely well and clear.

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So the problem here is that I find Synchron itself does a better job at these sort of agile passages being used directly instead of through NotePerformer. VSL designed their agile and virtuosic legatos specifically for being able to handle rapid passages like this accurately, and NotePerformer doesn’t make use of it.

Here is an example of the passage done with Synchron Oboe but not through NotePerformer - the first with regular and agile legato, and the second with lyrical and virtuosic legato, so you can hear how much cleaner it is than using it in NotePerformer. I think it’s a huge improvement.

For direct comparison of how much better the above is, here is the NotePerformer version of the Synchron Oboe:

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Thanks for sharing! Was definitely excited seeing the latest VWinds 2.0 double reeds release. I actually own VHorns Brass & Saxes and they’ve been pretty fantastic. My only issue using them in an orchestral template is bringing them in manually and setting the right blend of reverb and panning to have it sit within the rest of an orchestral NPPE mix. So for lazy days, whenever I want to simply focus on writing, I do prefer the NPPE approach – but VWinds would be ideal for soloistic and exposed parts, as well as smaller ensemble works. I’m waiting to see if they’ll do 2.0 update to the clarinets, it would be awesome to have a template built around that exclusively for clarinet choir.

Wow, I appreciate you taking the time to explain and exemplify this. You’re absolutely right, the native VSL sounds much better, more clear plus the sound of key clicks and more expressive vibrato. For exposed and soloistic parts I would probably opt to switch over to native VSL for this reason.

With the native VSL + expression maps, how is the experience in general, switching between legatos and shorts and whatnot? One of the reasons I generally don’t enjoy my own expression maps is fighting all the volume and timing issues which NP and the engines mostly fix automatically. I find these issues to be most problematic when alternating between slurred and very short notes, as well as grace notes and trills. Something like this from Mozart:

Many of my expression maps and BBC or SSO via NPPE can’t really handle anything such as the third system.

Its generally a great experience. Their expression maps are very well designed (I don’t think I’ve had to make a single edit to their Synchron Woodwinds maps). Because they have minimal delay, you don’t really need to use any sort of negative track delay, the legatos respond pretty much instantly.

The only VSL libraries that I need to use some negative delay on when using them in Dorico are the brass libraries, so I often make edits to the Synchron Brass expression map to give the brass a bit of negative delay. The Synchron Brass also can’t handle agile passages quite as fluidly as the woodwinds in my experience. The Synchron Brass usually work slightly better in NotePerformer I think than out (so the opposite of the woodwinds).

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This shouldn’t be a problem at all for the VSL expression maps in Dorico. Can you send a Dorico file of this so I can export (or MusicXML)?

That’s great news. I was not even aware they had made their own. Is it the ones from this page? Do you know if they would support standard Synchron WW (it just says Synchron-ized)?

Sure, here is the MusicXML for that oboe - thanks again for having a look!

Mozart_Oboe_Concerto_in_C_Major.mxl.zip (38.1 KB)

They do support Synchron Woodwinds. That page is ancient and not updated. Synchron Winds didn’t exist when they last updated that page with what was new. They should take that “What’s new” away so it is less confusing. You download the latest installer from Vienna Assistant under the “Additionals” section:

I’ll download the MusicXML now of the oboe concerto.

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Going back a few posts, I must say that the VSL lyrical and virtuosic legato patch for the oboe was very impressive. It’s a shame NP doesn’t incorporate more of the available articulations in the NPPE libraries. It certainly looks like using the WW outside of NP for certain passages renders better results. I downloaded the VSL Additionals for Dorico package, but get this - very strange…Never had this before…any ideas?
Screen Shot 2024-06-03 at 1.33.02 PM

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Here’s the out of the box rendering with the default VSL expression maps, nothing changed, aside from adding a “vib.” at the beginning of the passage to have it use the lyrical and virtuosic legato instead of the regular and agile legato.

To me the biggest thing that is off is the staccato note at the end of bar 40 is cut off, because it’s using the “short staccato”. You’d want to do an override for that note to have it use the long staccato instead.

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Sorry, I don’t use MacOS generally, as I’m a Windows user, so not entirely sure how to deal with that. You might need to contact VSL support by email (support at vsl dot co dot at - the last one being the word at instead of the symbol)

Addressing this - I’m not sure it ever will, although you’d have to ask Arne that. Part of the issue is that it is easiest for Arne to work with basically all sample libraries in the most similar way possible, which often means going for the lowest common denominator regarding techniques. For instance, a lot of string libraries don’t have sampled mutes as an option, so NotePerformer simulates those. However, it even does this in cases where the library does have sampled mutes, because it’s much easier for him to not use the sampled mutes and continue to use the simulated mutes. Most libraries don’t have agile legato, so it’s easier for him to just layer legato with staccato in all cases (or something of that sort) and call it done.

What this generally results in is that those libraries that are least capable on their own gain a lot by the stuff that NotePerformer does (mute simulation, agility). Those libraries that are most capable (sampled mutes, sul tasto, sul pont, agile legato) will be most restricted by NotePerformer because it doesn’t make use of the special capabilities they have, instead focusing on the lowest common denominator techniques supported by other sample libraries, and simulating many techniques natively supported by those more advanced libraries.

As far as VSL is concerned, even though NotePerformer adds a ton of shaping, I don’t like using it exclusively b/c then I’m buying a 600 euro library and if NotePerformer only ever uses 25% of the samples and the other 75% of the samples are basically going to waste, I’m not really using that library to its full potential. NotePerformer is adding some things, but also taking some things away, so I’d rather manually add the shaping myself. I don’t necessarily feel this way when NotePerformer drives libraries that are more basic and generally less expensive, because in those cases, most of the samples are still used.

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