Miroslav Philharmonik 2 Orchestral Sample Library
By Team HC |
Miroslav Philharmonik 2 Orchestral Sample Library
With 58 GB and 2,700 instruments, it's big - but how does it sound?
by Matthew A. Mann
IK Multimedia have established themselves as purveyors of excellent guitar-based products like AmpliTube and their iRig interfaces. They’re also known for their T-Racks mixing/mastering plug-ins, and their outstanding ARC room correction software.
They also make a range of quality virtual instruments, including the Miroslav Philharmonik orchestral collection. Several years ago, I saw a great deal on Miroslav Philharmonik CE (Classic Edition), a “lite” version of this instrument collection. I had been looking to add orchestral elements to some my compositions, but stock strings and brass in most DAWs never sounded very good to me. Well, the deal was too good to pass up, so I bought Philharmonik CE. It had quite a few instruments including sections (strings, brass, woodwinds) and individual solo instruments that sounded great compared to what I’d been using. My only real complaint was that the instruments were a little noisy, in the sense that you could hear hiss in the samples. For a collection based on Miroslav Vitous’ now famous sample library (previously costing thousands of dollars and only available for hardware samplers), this was surprising. I used it anyway, because the samples worked well with my rock/pop/electronic compositions and the noise couldn’t be heard in the mix.
Enter the Philharmonik 2
With that said, I just picked up Miroslav Philharmonik 2, a complete rework of the collection. It comes in at a hefty 58GB and features over 2,700 instruments, including:
• 868 strings
• 349 brass
• 393 woodwinds
• 119 choirs
• 774 percussion
• 96 chromatic instruments
• 8 grand pianos
• 48 other classical instruments
These instruments offers sections of instruments and different articulations of those sections, as well as solo instruments and multiple articulations. You get standard legatos, pizzicatos, spiccatos and staccatos… as well as many other useful articulations and dynamics…all sampled in beautiful detail. Each articulation is available from within the instrument itself (to keep the creative flow going) or as a stand-alone instrument. This new version also includes the original Philharmonik samples as well…and…they’ve been “enhanced.” I’m guessing “enhanced” means they got rid of the hiss that many people have complained about. It seems there are some performance enhancements as well. However the MP1 collection includes many instruments not found in MP2, so you'll enjoy plenty of variety if you have both.
MP2 includes several new instruments including a concert grand piano, glockenspiel, orchestral chimes, harpsichord, marimba and vibraphone. They put lots of thought into these instruments when sampling them in order to create rich and varied tones. The marimbas, for example, were recorded with different types of mallets (hard/soft) so you have a number of different tonal options. The piano was meticulously sampled and sounds great, but they went a step further and modeled the soundboard in order to provide the options for achieving different tonal characteristics and sounds, like in a real piano. The result is an excellent piano that fits beautifully with the rest of the MP instruments. It seems to work well with pop and rock in most instances, too.
MP2 also includes 30+ effects (5 EQs, 4 compressors, 7 filters/specialty processors, 9 modulation effects, 9 reverb/delay effects) from SampleTank 3. Additionally, MP2 includes their new ConvoRoom reverb so you can change the space your orchestra inhabits. This is a welcome added touch since it makes it easy to move the orchestra into different "rooms." Easy and powerful. Add to this the fact that all the instruments were recorded in the same space (the world famous CNSO Orchestra Studios in Prague), so they "gel" well.
It also comes with 4 mastering-grade effects processors from T-RackS, so you can tailor the sound just the way you want before you ever leave the MP2 interface.
It’s In The Tank
Miroslav Philharmonik 2 is powered by the SampleTank 3 engine. This means you can perform, mix and edit…just like in SampleTank. The “Play” page gives you 16 parts for composition. Each part can contain one instrument with 5 insert effects per part. You can also assign the MIDI channel for each part, which makes layering possible by assigning the same MIDI channel to more than one part. You can also create splits and set key ranges for different parts, which makes for some interesting performance setups.
8 macro knobs provide quick access to the most common instrument parameters like expression, attack, release, cutoff and EQ. It was pretty easy to assign these macro knobs to my keyboard controller for ease of use.
I was especially impressed with the number of parameters offered by the “Edit” page. There are several different filters, pitch-shifting and time stretching, resampling, velocity scaling, an LFO with 5 different oscillator types, and AHDSR envelope editing. It’s ridiculous the things you can do with the controls on this page. If you really needed to, you could turn an orchestra instrument into, say, a synth bass or synth lead sound with just a little experimentation. Try that with your typical orchestral sample library!
The “Mix” window is where, as you might have guessed, the mixing is done. It features 16 part channels, 4 return channels for overall effects processing, and a master channel for your final master bus processing. Each part channel features pan, solo, mute and volume controls. They also include the previously mentioned insert slots (5) and returns (4). This was fun to play around with, but I typically prefer to use my DAW's own processing plug-ins. Still, their inclusion is a bonus.
In The Orchestra Pit
So what does all of this mean? It means that IK have released an orchestral collection that’s fun to play and sounds great. Running it and opening the first instrument was a treat. I’m not an orchestral composer, but I found myself inspired to attempt some orchestration for my own personal enjoyment. I’ll leave the heavy-duty composing to Mr. Zimmer and Mr. Elfman, but it was still lots of fun! My only real complaint about Miroslav Philharmonik 2 was the pain involved in downloading it. There are 16 download packages in the full version. Each part is about 4.2GB uncompressed. I have a fairly fast connection, but the downloads kept timing out and it ultimately took me several days to download all 16 parts. On the flip side, each packet installs separately, so you can begin playing the instruments from the very first download. Kudos to IK on the forethought there. Oh, and did I mention it’s fun to play? The keyswitching works well and lets you, for example, go from a nice legato string section to a pizzicato without missing a beat. The instruments are as realistic as I’ve ever heard, and respond well to typical MIDI controllers when you want to wring loads of emotion out of their tones.
The Bottom Line
Miroslav Philharmonik 2 plays on a field with several big players. Spitfire Audio, Vienna Instruments, and EastWest are just a few of the “big boys” for cinematic orchestration. Even Native Instruments has joined the game with their Emotive Strings, Session Strings and Session Brass libraries (all separate packages). MP2 can easily evoke images of epic movies on the silver screen and can do this at a fraction of the cost ($399) of some of the others…and to my ears, they sit comfortably between Albion (Spitfire) and Symphonic Orchestra (EastWest) for playability and sound quality. It also sounds great when used in popular music. So, if you’re looking to put an orchestral sample library in your hands without killing your wallet, I’d suggest you seriously consider Miroslav Philharmonik 2. I think you’ll be glad you did. I know I am.
But wait - there’s more!
As of this writing, IK Multimedia announced the addition of a new instrument to be included with MP2 (and free to registered owners of MP2 who don’t have it yet) - a Concert Harp. This 3GB instrument is stereo, going from left to right up the strings. It can be played plucked or glissando and includes 4 glissando instruments and different playing styles. This is a stellar addition to the MP2 collection, and being free is certainly a plus!
IK Multimedia's product web page
You can purchase IK Multimedia's Miroslav Philharmonik 2 Orchestral Sample Library from:
B&H Photo Video (downloadable version)
Musician's Friend (download version)
Guitar Center (downloadable version)
Matthew Mann (Editor, Studio-One Expert) graduated Berklee College of Music with a Master Certificate, Music Production. Matt has been in bands and run studios for over a decade. He had a 3 year stint as a Sales Associate at GC Pro and has more recently been working in technical writing. As the picture shows, Matt rarely takes himself too seriously.