VSL Synchron Winds & Brass for NPPE - thoughts?

Wow, I’m really grateful you pointed me in this direction as well as the correct expression maps to use, and for taking the time to run that through. It sounds significantly better than the NPPE rendering of VSL, and all around better than the BBC or SSO I’d been using. It handles fast articulation alternations and sprightly grace notes rather well. On top of that I enjoy hearing a bit of instrument noise like keys and breathiness. While it’s not perfect, it is much closer to what I expect to hear based on the page, which is exactly why I’m interested in leaning into VSL.

Also rest in piece to any Oboist who has to play this piece, yikes!

Just installed the correct maps from the assistant installer - on MacOS Ventura but no issues on my end.

One other thing - VSL had screwed up initially with Synchron Woodwinds by accidentally labelling the second oboe as the first and vice versa, so now they can’t fix it because it could break peoples templates. I have this correct in my template where I have the Oboe 2 sample on the Oboe 1 track and vice versa. If you’re using the built in VSL playback templates installed by the installer, you should initially load up two oboes so that the first one has the first oboe and the second one the second oboe, and then drag the second oboe above the first in setup mode and tell Dorico to renumber them via the option in the setup menu. Then you get the correct first oboe samples (the VSL patch labelled second oboe) on the first oboe stave.

This is especially important because only the real first oboe (mislabelled “Oboe 2” in the VSL library) has the lyrical/virtuosic legato patch, and that’s exactly the patch you would want to use on prominent solos.

I might actually suggest to VSL that they consider changing this default in their Dorico template, and have their template load up the second oboe samples into the first oboe slot and vice versa, because it shouldn’t affect existing projects and would only take effect in new ones.

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After watching a handful of YouTube samples of full orchestrations using VSL in Dorico (mostly via NPPE), which compare those to BBC, I was struck but how much noticeably more clear brass and wind sections sounded on these same compositions (all else being equal other than playback engine). BBC (and SSO)'s brass especially tends to turn to mush in a dense arrangements. Whereas VSL you could actually hear all the individual short notes and articulation changes.

So I went ahead and bit the bullet on both the SY Brass and Winds! Just as an initial test ran them through some chamber pieces and compared to previous they definitely do sound more articulate and clear for my needs. I’m happy with my purchase.

I do look forward to playing around with their native playback templates too. However there were some immediate quirks I ran into – I loaded a Woodwind piece and for some reason both Oboe and Flute were not respecting dynamic markings at all, in spite of the fact they are definitely correctly connected to the expression maps, and there is dynamic automation data in the key editor. When going all the way down to p. possible they still would sound around mp. The flute has a hairpin from p<ff and nothing is happening there, so I am trying to figure that out.

Also I feel those templates are a surprisingly wet out of the box, but it looks like there’s a good page here to study up on how the templates work and some tweaks to make, as well as mixer presets for closer mics etc. I say surprising as well because my other experiences with VSL is that they tend to be more dry out of the box.

But overall in spite of a few of these quirks, this is promising, and the NPPE version also sounds more balanced even if it’s lacking in some ways as mentioned in earlier posts. I may experiment with a combination, bringing in VSL maps manually for an exposed instrument that really needs that extra touch. But even the NPPE is much more useable. The trumpet immediately stood out to me, loading parts I’d recently written that BBC just chokes up on, the trumpet was instantly crisp and articulate in ways I’ve never experienced before. So I’m pretty excited about that.

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In some of the playback templates, VSL turns off the dynamic crossfade by default. Go into the instrument and make sure the dynamic crossfade is active. They say in the manual for VSL for Dorico or whatever to manually set CC28 to 127 for dynamic crossfade, but I just reload the preset to one that has it active by default.

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The cause of this problem can be that the CC for VelXF in the Synchron Player is different from the secondary dynamic CC in the expression map. The easiest way to fix this is to change the CC in the Synchron Player. (From my memory, I’m away from my computer right now, change CC 1 in CC 2 in the Synchron Player).

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This should not be the cause if the template is being used to load the instrument. The templates are designed to load the instrument with the correct settings to match the expression map, so unless you’re loading the samples manually, there should not be a mismatch, and if there is, it is a mistake on VSL’s end.

With a lot of the Synchron-ized samples people get these mismatches like you’re talking about when they do manual loading because the Synchron-ized expression maps are set for CC2 and the actual Synchron-ized presets are set for CC1 (but loaded in a way to use CC2 instead in the templates) so if they are loaded manually you get CC1 and then the map uses CC2 and then everything gets messed up. But with the newer Synchron libraries they are using CC1 already as a secondary dynamic in the expression maps, and this should match the presets. (It’s still a little confusing because this means that now some of the VSL expression maps use CC2 and others use CC1 by default, the differences existing for no good reason).

So I think it is probably instead just that CC28 is not set to 127, which can also be handled by manually hitting the “on” button next to the velocity crossfade control in the player. For some reason they think people might not want this on by default.

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