Review: Orchestral Tools' The Berlin Series Main Collection
Erik Vlietinck
Issue: July/August 2022

Review: Orchestral Tools' The Berlin Series Main Collection

MANUFACTURER: Orchestral Tools

The Berlin Series Main Collection: $1,900
Berlin Con Sordino Strings: $497
Time Macro: $497


After having tried 23 sample collections, including the free ones from Orchestral Tools, I am impressed with the company’s SINE Player plug-in and samples. The quality of sound, the articulations (or techniques), styles, modes and customizability are the best I’ve tried.

Orchestral Tools’ flagship collection bundle is The Berlin Series Main Collection, which I finally got a chance to review a few weeks ago. With 40 years of “experience” listening to live concertos and recordings on CD and SuperDisc of mediaeval, baroque, classical and romantic music, even I can’t hear a difference between a string concerto played from a recording and that same piece created using SINE Player, except for the performance itself.

A major reason for this is that Orchestral Tools has unlimited access to the acoustically ideal Teldex Studio in Berlin, the largest independent recording facility in Germany, with a 455-cubic-meter live room that has almost the same size and proportions as Abbey Road’s Studio One. The Teldex Studio, however, has something special that makes its recordings stand out — it has one of the biggest collections of maintained vintage Neumann microphones in the world, with direct access to Neumann for advice and replacement parts.

So far, I had reviewed specialist collections over the past year, including the sample set of original Andean instruments, the Miroire sample collection of baroque instruments with choir syllables from Bach’s Passions, and the Time Macro and Micro collections that contain samples of temporal textures performed by a symphonic orchestra.

Then, a few weeks ago, the company allowed me to take on their flagship bundles. These consist of the Berlin Strings Bundle, which includes special bows, first chair strings and playable FX, and the latest Berlin Con Sordino Strings collection, as well as the Berlin Series Main Collections, holding a full Philharmonic Orchestra with strings, woodwind section, brass section and percussion.

A Filmmaker’s Dream

These series offer a complete range of playing styles and section sizes, as well as detailed solo instruments and unique playable effects. The level of detail is a composer’s dream, with more than 550 articulations. You can literally transpose the soundscapes and music themes that are in your head to the DAW with every detail and playing technique imaginable.

Blockbuster movie composers will undoubtedly always insist on conducting a live performance with a live orchestra, but that doesn’t imply that “conducting” an orchestra in front of a computer screen is inferior or can’t sound right. Films with a smaller budget than, let’s say Dune or Interstellar, can have a soundtrack that’s equally appealing for a fraction of the cost.

As an example, composers of film and game music will love the “Berlin Series Main Collection” because all these strings were recorded on the same scoring stage with the exact same setup, which means you can’t get closer to conducting a top-end orchestra than this.

Even more important is that I found everything works perfectly together, including those special series, like Time Macro and the Berlin Con Sordino Strings. That allows you to create blends in endless combinations, and they will all have a consistent sound and mic setup.

The performance plug-in, SINE Player, ensures that what you compose will stay within the boundaries of what each instrument is capable of. There’s a reverb component that is tuned to each instrument, which you can customize within the range that makes sense for that instrument. Loudness and other playing elements follow the same principle.

The special purpose collections have benefits of their own. For example, you can enhance a film scene with an element of temporality by using Time Macro or Time Micro. Film scenes that appeal to emotions, like romance, frustration and anger, benefit from the use of the Berlin Symphonic Strings — a part of the Berlin Strings Bundle — which is a library that’s tailored to the needs of grand film scenes.

Scenes of break-ups or other dramatic events that are close to a burst of emotion will benefit from the Berlin Con Sordino collection, where the orchestra plays with mutes on the strings. The Con Sordino collection is the latest offering and playing with the mute ensures a lot of precision with appealing structures.

In short, with the Orchestral Tools flagship bundle you can have a formidable musical component for any movie without the cost of hiring a top-end orchestra and conductor. The Berlin Series Main Collections and Strings Bundle are available from the Orchestral Tools online store.