Symphobia 2 by ProjectSAM Review
Today we’ll be looking back at a stellar library released nearly a decade ago – Symphobia 2 by Project SAM, a cinematic orchestral library designed for fast and inspired composing for trailers, games and other media. With all the hype surrounding the rush of similar cinematic orchestral libraries of late, we’ll be studying how this near-decade old library holds up against its current peers.
Many composers know Project SAM for creating acclaimed libraries like True Strike and the original Symphobia, and its creators have always stuck by their products by releasing yearly updates and even bonus content for free, which makes Project SAM’s libraries a worthy investment for any cinematic composer – and Symphobia 2 is obviously no exception. Project SAM did send a review copy with no strings attached.
Symphobia 2 ships with a wide range of content, including sustains, staccatos and effects for full orchestra, various essential techniques and true legato for mixed strings and single string sections as well as brass and woodwinds, a trove of orchestral phrases, moving notes and aleatoric effects, and a healthy selection of brilliant sound design content for hybrid scoring. The library even comes with expertly crafted multis for high speed music creation and inspiration.
Installation to your chosen folder is a breeze via Project SAM’s library download manager, and a quick registration via the Native Access program you can download from Native Instruments.
The sound of Symphobia 2 is bold, lush and full of energy – much like other libraries by Project SAM. The close mics are dry enough for intimate applications, and the stage mics are full of character without sounding washed out.
The full orchestra patches sound regal but controlled (they are actual recordings of all sections playing simultaneously) and offer an instant Hollywood sound reminiscent of 70’s and 80’s film scores. Playing these patches are instantly gratifying and it’s hard to resist the temptation to play your favorite film score phrases with them over and over.
The mixed string sections and separate sections have all the articulations you could want for scoring, including a highly useful ‘grace-note’ articulation for violins and violas that captures quick halftone transitions both up and down – great for energetic movement. These strings sound strong yet maintain a velvet-like texture, which is essential for that Hollywood tone.
The brass is bold and graceful, with soaring sustains and focused staccatos as well as soulful arcs for the horn section that are great for softer moments.
The woodwinds are genuine and lavish. The library presents them in various classic instrument combinations that sound great together in unison, and for those who find it harder to compose for woodwinds, this controlled selection will streamline the process.
Adding to all this, the carefully curated legato ensemble and solo instruments are unique, gratifying to play and sound stellar – of particular note is the solo flute, which sounds absolutely amazing, with no phasing issues to be found (as can be heard in many libraries containing legato woodwinds), and a great Uilleann Pipes patch.
The hybrid sound design is presented as a list of patches with names related to the sounds’ cinematic application (like ‘Announcing The End’ or ‘Demolition Tools’). These wonderfully inventive sounds are a library in their own right, and offer hard-hitting trailer bashes, industrial grit and grime, mysterious soundscapes and even a fully functioning sampled chainsaw – a rare find in any library. The sounds compliment the orchestra perfectly and work just as well on their own as experimental scores.
Finally, the orchestral textures and phrases are a refreshing addition to all of the above – gently moving notes, powerful cluster stabs, rips and glissandi and other various effects for individual sections provide a goldmine of inspiring and unique content for a plethora of film score applications, and it all sounds fantastic.
So how exactly do these sounds match up to current peer cinematic orchestral libraries? Well, I’m happy to say that with SAM’s constant updating of its collection, the functionality of Symphobia 2 remains rock solid. Keyswitching for articulations and phrases, the ability to stack articulations for larger sounds, the ability to use a midi CC to sweep through articulations, a handy slider for mic position control, and all the extras you could need – attack and release, reverb, velocity control, round robin selection, midi octaver and transpose, and release tail volumes are all on the menu – allowing the user to get what they want and how they want it quickly.
In fact, Symphobia 2 provides many features other current peer libraries don’t (such as a top-notch collection of multis), which is interesting, considering that the library’s price has been adjusted over the years to match its peer libraries’ pricing. This is smart product care at its best, and Project SAM know exactly what they’re doing with their libraries.
All in all, one would expect Symphobia 2 to fall by the wayside when compared to modern epic cinematic orchestral offerings with twice the gigabyte size – but that is simply not true. Symphobia 2’s careful sampling and expert curation of instruments and unique ensemble recordings have captured something that other libraries of its kind still have not bothered to attain so many years later. Symphobia 2 is a library in which its creators have displayed just as much creativity in its creation as the composers who create with it… and that’s a lot of creativity!
Rating: Five out of five stars
All in all, this library set the standard that inspired the imitations which came after it, and it still manages to outweigh them in one way or another, which is a genuine feat to behold. Symphobia 2 is inspiring, magical and somehow manages to work with the composer. It really is a monument to sampling.