Vienna Instruments Special Edition

Part 1

In time for Christmas, this begins a multipart review of the Vienna Instruments Special Edition. In part 1, I’m giving you an overview with pricing considerations. In part 2, I’ll give you my take on various musical tests I ran on the library.

Start With the Chart
To get a handle on what comes with the Special Edition, let’s start with the chart from their website. First look down the column labeled Standard Library. This is what comes with the initial package that you can get from any VSL dealer. The list price on the Standard Library is $445 US which means an approximate street price of $400.50 plus shipping and the Vienna Key for $39 US.

Special Edition is housed in the Vienna Instruments player.

Starting on approximately October 25, 2007, you also get the new Vienna Ensemble as a free download. The Vienna Ensemble, as we’ve written about extensively in this column, is a host program designed to be used on a computer you’re not sequencing with. The VI Player operates seamlessly within the Vienna Ensemble giving you, from what we’ve read, much greater control over mixing, especially panning. Since we weren’t provided a beta copy for review, that’s all I can tell you at this writing.

Standard Edition Contents
You get solo strings, orchestral strings (same articulations available for both groups), the basic woodwind section including bass clarinet and contrabassoon (with no articulations listed), solo trumpet, trumpet ensemble, tenor bone, bass bone, tenor bone ensemble, tuba (which type isn’t specified), basic percussion, mallets, Bosendorfer piano, and celeste.

So what’s missing?

What I’m disappointed about in the Standard Edition is the omission of the harp. That to me is a mistake because it’s the one basic instrument you need to round out the orchestra. I would rather have seen a $495 price and include the harp.

The Chamber and Appassionata Strings are also part of the Special Edition upgrade (column three) along with the saxes.

The Extended Edition must be bought directly from Vienna. So there’s no discount off the $595 price unless you have another registered Vienna library.

The question to be considered is whether or not what you get with the Extended Edition is worth the extra $595. From the way the material is presented on the Vienna website, I’m not clear as a customer just what additional articulations you get for each instrument outside the strings. This needs to be clarified for the customer.

I would have to say that unless you really needed the saxes, and the basic articulations given with the Appassionata Strings, I would skip the Extended Edition. But – if you’re doing a lot of writing, or want to do a lot of writing, for jazz big band, small horns (tpt-tenor-bone-bari; alto-tenor-bone-bari, etc.), then for $595 this might be a reasonable option. For those out there old enough to remember, you can do a Glenn Miller reed sound (clar-alto-alto-tenor-tenor). And in the Extended Edition you do get muted trumpet and trombone, unfortunately, the chart omits which mute was recorded.

What I Would Buy Instead
Skipping the Extended Edition, for the money, I’d get the basic Appassionata Strings, and budget permitting, the Harps.

And here’s why I’d make this buying decision.

As someone who owns the Symphonic Cube and the Appassionata Strings, my sense yesterday, today and tomorrow is that the Appassionata Strings collection is the workhorse library.

Let your ears confirm for themselves. Follow this link and listen for the harp in Debussy’s Danse Profane as realized by Jay Bacal then listen to his realization of Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia On a Theme by Thomas Tallis with Vienna Solo Strings and the Appassionata Strings.

Even on a laptop’s internal speakers, Jay Bacal’s work is magnificent.

In Summary
Use the Special Edition as your core library, then build around it with the Appassionata Strings and Harp.

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