Miroslav Philharmonik

It’s been something like three years since I added Miroslav Philharmonik to my arsenal, and to this day I have yet to find more than one-off uses for what surprisingly many people claim to be a “unique” and “musical” orchestral library. To be perfectly honest I think it effing blows.

Case in point: the latest week or so I’ve been trying to use Philharmonik for setting up a portable orchestral template for use on my laptop. My laptop, being what it is (an ASUS X401U), is not really suitable for any heavy music production duties, but lighter stuff it can handle just fine. And Philharmonik is just that. Lightweight. Yet it has a ton of different stuff to choose from, probably more than I will ever use for on-the-go, roughing-out-ideas type of compositions. Even better, its library path is relative so a project can easily be transferred between computers as long as both machines have their Philharmonik library paths pointing at the right place. Finally sync it with Google Drive so that as soon as I save the project on my lappy, I can then open it up on my stationary machine when I get home for fine tuning and/or listenining to what everything sounds like on studio monitors instead of cans.

Sounds like a neat setup doesn’t it? Yeah it does, if it weren’t for the fact that making Miroslav Philharmonik sound good is like making a cat take regular baths. It just ain’t happening.

Now, I have worked with a lot of older orchestral libraries. In fact, I still do. Advanced Orchestra, the Roland libs, Prosonus, some of the libs originally created for E-MU hardware (and now available from DSF). And I make good use of them. I know perfectly well that you can’t expect super-duper HD sound quality and realism from samples created in the early years of orchestral sampling, and the Miroslav Vitous samples were indeed among the first of its kind (maybe even THE first? I’m not sure). Still, unlike all the other oldies, the Miroslav samples somehow defy my every attempt at making them work for me.

I really don’t know how to describe it. So instead of trying, I’m going to just let you hear it. This is just some random thing for trying out the balance between sections, so please disregard the composition.

Example 1

OK. Now let’s try it WITHOUT all the corrective EQ on the strings. Yes, that’s right, that first version was EQ’d.

Example 2

See what I mean?

For a “musical” sample library, there is a lot of VERY UNMUSICAL frequency buildup going on there. The strings are the worst offenders by far, but there’s a plethora of other problems as well (such as some section trumpet samples sounding like they’re clipping, and pretty much everything being out of tune with everything else).

So tell me. How do you actually go about making this thing sound good? Considering how many people are singing Miroslav Philharmonik’s praise, there should be no shortage of examples, but strangely my searches aren’t turning up anything that doesn’t sound equally screechy and lo-fi.

Maybe I’m not using this right. Maybe I’m supposed to go in and EQ and tune every single sample so they can work together as a whole. Maybe I’m supposed to adjust the ADSR envelopes of 7GB of samples so that releases are consistent and one articulation doesn’t have 3s tail while the next has 300ms. Maybe I’m stupid for thinking that this is the sample developer’s job.

I don’t normally slam products like this, but it irks me to no end seeing this highly mediocre orchestral library being lauded left and right like it’s some hidden gem. It isn’t. It’s a decade-old library based on samples that are more than TWO decades old, released by a company with little interest in customer care and at best a spotty reputation as far as sound quality goes.┬áIf you’re going to invest in an older library, almost everything else is better.

You have been warned.

This entry was posted in Music, Plugins, Samples. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Miroslav Philharmonik

  1. Kurt M. Landre' says:

    Personally, I think Miroslav is most effective when it’s doubled/layered in with other samples. Yeah, making it play nice is a complete pain. First thing I did was turn off all the fx/eq/whatever on the native patches, then bring the fader up slowly until whatever instrument I’m doubling.

    I’ve done a few pieces with just Miroslav, but they ended up sounding somewhat “synthetic”…

  2. Hi, Mattias.

    I understand what you think. In some cases the big companies don’t care about the costumers.

    Of course, everyone wants there samples sounding realisticly, but not all can buy the “great” samples libraries (like VSL).

    In this moment I can’t buy even the Miroslav or the Garritan, but I have in my personal wish list the GPO (I liked more it’s sound). Because of that, I only use SSO (I’m not going to use any cracked software).

    Here comes the one million dollars question: what’s is the best affordable Orchestra Sample Library for thoes who are starting the Composer journey?


  3. Mattias says:

    Kurt M. Landre: Synthetic is a good way of describing it, yeah. The sound quality and expressiveness (or rather the lack thereof) brings me right back to 2001, working with Yamaha XG to create orchestral(ish) sounds. Actually I half suspect that the original samples aren’t to blame as much as the SampleTank engine itself, which has always sounded kind of crap compared to other stuff IMO.

    Nestor Arellano: Not everyone can buy VSL and other expensive libs, no. Me included. Actually I’m not overly interested in all those fancy libs TBH, because at the point where I’m at (doing this only barely above amateur level) I couldn’t motivate the expense even if I did have the money to spend. Having high-end libraries doesn’t make you a better composer or arranger, it just gives you better sound quality and added control of musical nuances. So I prefer sticking to the stuff I have and focusing on getting better at the things that matter.

    As for a good starter library for a budding composer, that’s a tough one. I did some googling and it appears little has changed in recent years. There still appears to be no real contenders aside from GPO and EWQLSO Silver, same as ten years ago. Which is kind of sad :/ Considering the overwhelmingly positive reception of SSO one would think that basic orchestral libs must be a big and potentially lucrative market niche. But, no.

    I mean, how hard can it be? There are several sample developers (VSL, ProjectSAM, Spitfire, CineSamples, Kirk Hunter, Sonivox etc) who offer massive, expensive, high quality orchestral suites. Why not pick the basic articulations needed and release them in a really affordable “starter” bundle in some format everyone can use (i.e. Kontakt Player compatible)? I seriously don’t understand why this isn’t happening. Are they totally unaware that pretty much every other business in the world who offer expensive products also have budget friendly alternatives?

  4. Hi Nestor Arellano-

    If you’re notation-centric like me, I’d highly recommend Notion 5 by Presonus. It’s $150 at the moment (though have occasional sales, however), but that includes a high-quality notation based editor and a full range of orchestral instruments (as well as the appropriate templates for variously sized ensembles) and it very easily supports other VST sample players (like EWQLSO’s “Play” engine, Kontakt, and Garritan’s new engine). It fits very nicely with SSO in whatever flavor you prefer as well (Kontakt, SFZ, etc.).

    The only real drawback as I see it is that the native sounds of Notion *can’t* be hosted by other VST hosts. However, this is somewhat obviated by it’s ability to hook into any Rewire compatible DAW, such as Reaper or Cubase. I’ve done setups with both and while it took a bit of work to get Rewire setup due to idiosyncrasies of both Reaper and Cubase, it worked seamlessly once it was done.

    I use Notion for absolutely everything and love it. It’s extremely easy to get started with it, but like every piece of software it takes a bit of effort to learn to make it be as expressive as possible.

    Anyway, I think there’s a demo for it now, too, though it would take quite sometime to download due to the size of all the instrument files. If you’re interested, you can find out more here: http://www.presonus.com/products/notion-5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.