🔥 HOT! Black Friday 2021 deals & freebies (updated daily!)

SONiVOX Film Score Companion Review

7

The newly released Film Score Companion developed by SONiVOX features five powerful sample-based plugins stocked with over forty gigabytes of high-definition recordings captured in Futura Productions Studios in Massachusetts, and performed by members of the Boston Pops Orchestra. The result is a shining example of professional studio recording and engineering, combined with the skill and finesse of classically trained instrumentalists.

As a child of the 80’s, my peers grew up with Eddie Van Halen, ZZ Top, Aerosmith – but instead, my youth was spent envisioning the Millennium Falcon tail-spinning through an asteroid field as I listened to John Williams’ score for The Empire Strikes Back, or imagining camo-clad Arnold Schwarzenegger in a deathmatch with a man-hunting space alien while listening to Alan Silvestri’s score for Predator.

Now, twenty-something years later, as a composer and sound designer, I normally visualize my work within a cinematic landscape, but despite every fledgling attempt to recapture the magic of a scoring stage with unisoned supersaws layered with gobs of reverb and delay, nothing beats the real thing.

For years, I’ve been looking for a one-stop shop for string ensembles and orchestral instruments, which are usually buried in an ocean of factory content for romplers and power samplers, but I could never manage to find something entirely devoted to film scoring that didn’t sound like garbage and felt approachable and easy to use. At long last, my quest is over.

The Review

My first order of business was Orchestral Companion Strings. Upon startup, I was floored by the crisp, clear recordings. I could even hear the bow hairs scraping against the strings. Obviously, Futura Productions spared no expense in top-tier recording equipment. An extraneous amount of attention to detail was invested in re-creating the “front-of-hall” experience of a real string ensemble, and with members of the Boston Pops at the helm…well, let’s just say you’re in for a treat.

The samples take a minute to load, but if you consider how many velocity layers are at your disposal, it’s totally worth the wait. The first thing I noticed were controls for articulation such as sustain, staccato, spiccato, pizzicato and tremolo, all of which you can seamlessly transition between without waiting for individual samples to load. However, it’s important to note that these articulation controls only work with the top level sample sets. Other more specific articulations are available in sets like “Espressivo” and “Trem Ordinaire”, which are intended for whatever purpose their labels indicate. This actually makes perfect sense if you think about it. There’s no need to use sustain for “Trem Sul Porticello” for the same reason there’s no need to use spiccato for “Sus Down Bow”.

There are also a surprising amount of built-in effects on tap, including chorus, stereo delay, and a very natural sounding reverb, all of which have intuitive controls and a simple “on-off” toggle switch. I couldn’t help but noticed that the EQ module is actually just a lowpass and highpass filter in series with peak/notch and high-shelving EQs sandwiched in between the two. Considering that you can use these controls in tandem with the filter section, which has ten different filter types, you can color the sound in a variety of ways. If you really want to go nuts, increase the amount of feedback in the chorus module to create a weird flanging effect, then slather it with loads of reverb and delay. This is a great sound for scoring horror films, especially when you mess with the pitch wheel. Oooh, Creepy.

The rest of the controls are relatively simple, with AHDSR amp and filter envelopes, and depth and rate knobs for dedicated amp, pitch and filter LFOs. I was actually relieved by how simple the control surface is. I don’t have to worry about any hidden features. Everything I need is clearly displayed on the front panel, which is very conducive for a hassle-free workflow.

Orchestral Companion Strings, Brass and Woodwinds each share a near identical interface (other than the color scheme) with exactly the same controls. A “Learn” button allows you to sync MIDI to virtually every parameter available, except for the articulation controls and envelope handles. I could be mistaken, but the mod wheel appears to be just a visualization of its corresponding MIDI signal instead of it being its own modulation source, much like the pitch wheel.

I really must stress the high standard of excellence on display here, and all the hard work that went into the state-of-the-art sampling sessions, involving correct seating used to recreate the fullness and balance of a real-life orchestra. Two small diaphragm cardioid condenser mics were used to record the overall acoustic space while each individual instrument was captured with expertly positioned spot mics. In terms of truly superior sound quality, I can honestly say without batting an eye that this is the finest orchestral instrument bundle I’ve ever laid ears on.

The remaining two plugins (Eighty Eight Ensemble and Big Bang Cinematic Percussion) do not resemble their Orchestral Companion siblings, but even though they are available for purchase as individual items, they are still very much integral parts of Film Score Companion.

Eighty Eight Ensemble is a flawless emulation of a nine-foot Steinway Grand Concert Piano with up to sixteen velocity layers for each key. The recordings are amazingly detailed. You can even hear the dampers ever so faintly mute the strings, and you can determine the weighting with the “Pedal” and “Release” knobs. I’m really impressed by the sheer amount of realism here. A built-in limiter and a simple yet effective four-band equalizer give you complete control over the dynamic range and tonal characteristic of each ensemble, of which there are a handsome variety within the browser, indexing a broad range of categories and combinations, from piano choirs, synth pads, and a good number of key splits. I quite enjoy the “Piano Choir Ah Strings” slathered with reverb ala Harold Budd.

Big Bang lives up to its name, with a huge library of hard-hitting bass and timpani drums endowed with ultra-low frequencies sure to shake the pillars of heaven. There are also quite a few wonderful ethnic instruments, including congas and bongos and all sorts of interesting Latin and Afro-Cuban shakers, afoxe, guiros and vibraslap recordings. Almost thirteen gigabytes of factory samples are put to good use in a vast assortment of ensembles displayed within the browser section, with attribute filters split up into three categories: “Genre”, “Scene” and “Class”.

An “Intelligent Rhythm Control” lines up each hit with a specified time signature, and a “Note Repeat” button retriggers samples in accordance with a dedicated tempo value knob, allowing you to spontaneously create polished, professional sounding percussion without having to be a professional percussionist. However, it would have been nice to be able to pick and choose individual samples for each of the pads instead of being limited to the preconfigured factory ensembles, even though there are many to choose from. I tried to manually drag and drop one of Big Bang’s samples onto one of its twenty-four pads, which crashed my DAW. There’s a “Save SVX File” option, but since you can’t change individual samples, you can only save preconfigured ensembles with altered settings.

At first, I had difficulty troubleshooting these issues, but with a little help from a SONiVOX specialist I was able to get ahold of a user guide, which isn’t provided in the installer. Instead, the user guides are downloadable from product pages on the SONiVOX website, via the “Update” tab. I’m sure there’s a practical reason for this, but I would have prefered a user guide bundled within the installer and extracted to a “documentation” folder. Although, this isn’t that big of a deal in regard to the Orchestral Companion plugins, which are highly intuitive.

The Verdict

Aside from my previous criticism, Film Score Companion is very deserving of praise, and more than capable of producing quality scores for visual media. It’s fairly priced, very stable, and the sound quality is unparalleled. The Orchestral Companion plugins are easy to use and layer nicely without devouring vital system resources. Eighty Eight Ensemble is by far and large the definitive Steinway concert grand experience, and is possibly the best of the bunch, even though Big Bang is an awesome percussion tool, but I feel it should offer a little more control in regard to sample selection.

More info: Film Score Companion ($299.99)

SONiVOX Film Score Companion Review

8.0 Awesome

Film Score Companion features five powerful sample-based plugins stocked with over forty gigabytes of high-definition recordings captured in Futura Productions Studios in Massachusetts, and performed by members of the Boston Pops Orchestra. The result is a shining example of professional studio recording and engineering, combined with the skill and finesse of classically trained instrumentalists.

  • Features 7
  • Workflow 9
  • Stability 8
  • Design 8
  • Pricing 8
Share this article. ♥️

About Author

Bryan Lake is a sound designer and a musician. He publishes sound design tutorials and sound libraries on his website Sound Author.

7 Comments

  1. Just hope you never need customer service. Sonivox ranks the worst of any company I’ve dealt with, music or not. I’ll never use another Sonivox product.

    • I received a response in less than twenty four hours after asking for assistance regarding the installation of Film Score Companion. Perhaps things have improved since 2015.

  2. Big Bang Percussion crashes CONSTANTLY. Also, there is a bug in the other instruments where when recording in Pro Tools the track you’re recording to has to be physically selected, and you cannot have “loop playback” enabled or else the software will not work. The sounds are great for the money but the software just isn’t there unfortunately. I have also sent in two customer service requests in the past week and have not heard back.

  3. I love the sound of orchestral companion strings (the only one of these I have), but it’s pretty much useless to me in my productions now, because the amp envelope is garbage. I can’t get any kind of sustained release time out of these strings, no matter which setting I use. the release time value only goes up to “20”, which i must assume means milliseconds, because that’s what it feels like. anyone else experiencing this? I really need some nice lush strings and while these sound great, they just won’t do if they don’t have any kind of release time.

  4. Yes the Amp envelope is broken and makes this library useless. Whenever you release the key, there is and audible pop. It becomes more obvious when raising the Attack value. Good thing I got it for 1 dollar form Pluginboutique…

  5. I have just bying Sonivox Filmscore Orchestra Pack, but the sound is bad. Many years ago would sound prbadly to be ok, but today? No, so dont by the program, it is waste of money.

    You can get sounds there are the same quality or better for free, excample can you get Sonatina for free … so I can´t recommend anybody to bying Sonivox Filmscore.

    • I’ve used both and found Sonatina to be garbage. It sounds far too plasticky and legato runs end up sounding fake, whereas I found the Sonivox Film Score Companion to be superior on both.

Leave A Reply