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Miroslav Philharmonik 2 CE (a review-ish kind of thing) - Printable Version

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Miroslav Philharmonik 2 CE (a review-ish kind of thing) - Mattias Westlund - 06-08-2018

I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone that I have no great love for the Miroslav Philharmonik library, as I have done a lot of complaining about it over the years. Now don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for Miroslav Vitous and all the work that went into creating the original samples -- especially considering it was all done in the early nineties. I just happen to think that the samples have become very dated-sounding and their usefulness limited. That's why it has irked me to no end seeing IK Multimedia passing the library off as some kind of magical, natural-sounding wonder of technology after they aquired the rights to it (some decade after the samples actually were cutting edge!). 

As for my personal experience with these samples, I got Miroslav Philharmonik CE in... I'm guessing 2011 or so? I don't remember how much I paid for it, but it was on sale for something like $10 or $12. I wasn't too keen on it -- in fact I thought it sounded terrible -- but it had a handful of things that were useable and for that amount of money one can't expect too much. Besides, the CE version was a cut-down, feature-limited budget variant of the full Miroslav Philharmonik which, at the time, still retailed for around $300 or more. You get what you pay for, right? So I always assumed CE was more of a paid demo version of the full library, and it made sense that IK wasn't going to give away all the goodies in the budget version.

About a year later, the full Miroslav Philharmonik went on sale for, I think, $50. I sprung for it immediately, expecting it to have everything that the CE version lacked and much, much more. It weighed in at 7GB of samples as opposed to CE's paltry 2GB. So while I knew the samples were old, there was a ton of stuff in there and my hopes were high. But alas... after having paid for, downloaded and installed the whole thing I quickly realized that the bits missing from the CE version were not significantly better than the stuff that I was already familiar with. Sure, there was a lot more to choose from which made cherry picking useable things easier. But overall it was all the same out of tune, lo-fi-sounding mess. I paid like 1/6th or less of the original cost of the library and still felt ripped off. I feel truly sorry for people who paid full price for it back in the day! And there began, I think, my distaste for IK Multimedia in general and the Miroslav library in particular.

Anyway, with that bit of background out of the way, let us move on.

Last year I was kindly gifted Miroslav Philharmonik 2 CE along with some other IK stuff. When I got it, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd heard a few demos of IK's new flagship orchestral offering when it was released, and I remember discussing it with Otto a couple of years ago. I don't recall the exact words, but I said something along the lines of "well it does sound good -- but not $650 good!" -- which was roughly the retail price of Miro 2 at that time. It's now down to a bit less than that. Still, that's a lot of money, IK isn't a company I trust with orchestral libraries, and if that's your budget there are probably better alternatives. And given my experiences with the original CE library on top of that... let's just say I wasn't expecting wonders from their new budget-friendly orchestral title.

Surprisingly though, I found that Miro 2 CE is a much more useable affair than the original CE -- which honestly sounds more like a Mellotron than a real orchestra. In fact, once I managed to get my negative expectations in check and give the thing a fair shake, I found myself liking the library a lot. Yes, it has its quirks and limitations, but overall it does more things right than wrong and to be honest I'm a little surprised that it isn't mentioned more often in VO circles. Then again, maybe I'm not the only one with bad experiences as far as IK goes? Still, credit where credit is due and I'm not going to dismiss a good thing because it's from a company I dislike.

First of all, Miroslav 2 is smaller and more intimate-sounding, which is not only refreshing overall but it's also something I'm leaning more and more towards myself as a composer. The UBER-EPIC TRAILER ORCHESTRA ™ thing has been done to death, I'm sick of it and I want no part of it. Most of the big players in the orchestral library department are still going down that road, and I can't tell one library from the next because they all sound more or less the same. Along comes a library that is more honest and... well I'm not going to say real-sounding, because Miro 2 definitely has realism issues (more on that later), but at least it's not jumping on the trailer music bandwagon. And that makes me want to like it despite its flaws. Props also to IK for recording an entire new orchestral sample set rather than licensing an existing one like they did with the old Miroslav sample library. That is no small feat and I honestly wasn't expecting it.

Funny thing is, I remember when the original Miroslav Philharmonik came out, and IK marketed it as an "expressive" and "natural-sounding" orchestral library. In my experience it's anything but that. That is however a pretty good description of Miroslav 2. It's sort of gritty (though not in a lo-fi way as its predecessor) and most instruments/sections actually sound like real instruments/sections rather than a slick, processed version thereof. Did I say that's refreshing? Sure, if you want samples that are 100% set-and-forget then it might not be for you, but I'm a tinkerer and DIY-kind of composer so that's definitely a big plus in my book.

There's not a ton of articulations to choose from in the CE version -- unsurprisingly, of course -- but all the meat and potatoes are there and working with the library I've only found myself reaching for other stuff in a handful of cases. Meaning, you can build your project around Miro 2 CE and just substitute the things that are less good with other libraries. As opposed to the original Miro, which was more of a "layering" library than something you'd put front and center in your mix. The samples on offer are by and large very good -- in fact I would go as far as to say they're inspiring and fun to work with, albeit idiosyncratic -- and if you let them do what they're good at rather than forcing them into a style and sound they were never made to reproduce (which should be a rule of thumb for all sample libraries, really), I think you might be surprised at what this $130 library can achieve.

Of course, not everything is rosy in the land of Miroslav. I've tried my best to talk about the overall positive aspects and not get bogged down in details and nitpicking, because I honestly think the library as a whole is good, and complaining about things on a detail level might give you the wrong idea. But some things should definitely be mentioned as a heads-up.

- Tuning is... off, in places. Just like with the original Miro library. How hard can this be to get right?
- Staccato articulations in the strings are not good. If you want to do chugga-chugga definitely look elsewhere, but some RR's are downright bad and sound like dud notes that should have ended up on the cutting room floor so to speak.
- Some articulations have an artificially limited range, e.g. FF trumpets and FF violins. 
- There is no rhyme and reason to the ordering of the keyswitches, which makes finding an articulation that you want nigh impossible without opening the Philharmonik UI.
- No legato sampling. Not a deal breaker for me personally, but worth mentioning.
- No disk streaming. If you want to load all KS patches plus whatever extra libraries you might want, you're going to need 16GB RAM at the bare minimum.
- All percussion as well as some other instruments are plucked straight out of the original Miroslav library.

All things considered, Miroslav 2 was kind of dated even on its release just a few years ago. While it may be fairly modern in terms of sample content, technologically it hearkens back to an age where two velocity layers and two round-robins were considered state of the art. I'm completely fine with that, as I have a thing for older libraries and I think the obsession with realism in in modern stuff is a little over the top. Still, IK pretends like nothing has happened in the past 15 years and set their prices accordingly, hoping that their customers won't know better until they have paid and it's too late. Just like with Miroslav Philharmonik. Which annoys me, but still. That's capitalism for you.

Big question I guess is, would I consider getting the full Miro 2 library? In fact, I definitely would if the price is right. My crossgrade price right now is listed at $199, which is maybe a bit too much as I don't know exactly how much better the upgrade would turn out to be (like last time around). But if the price goes down a little bit, I'd go for it. Miro 2 might be primitive compared to other stuff around these days, but it's sort of honest and doesn't sound like everything else out there, and that's worth a whole lot to me.


RE: Miroslav Philharmonik 2 CE (a review-ish kind of thing) - bigcat1969 - 06-09-2018

Interesting review, well written. Thanks.


RE: Miroslav Philharmonik 2 CE (a review-ish kind of thing) - Viktor - 06-09-2018

Nice review, Miroslav 2 CE was the library I started with. My relationship to it started with the magical fondness of "wow all the things I can do know" but i was very quickly sobered up. Now, after having seen other libraries, I grew more fond of it again. Everything has it's weak points and as long as you got enough alternatives to not have to use them, the strong parts can more easily grow on you. Also being better at VO and orchestration in general really makes all the difference Big Grin

There are some other weak points I'de like to add, while I agree with everything you said so far.
- I think it's also worth adding that IK has the audacity to add to some instruments a legato patch, that doesn't provide legato. I still reaaally don't understand what purpose that patch serves at all.
- On top of that some patches, especially in the woodwind solos are kinda arbitrarily expressive, meaning they just get louder while holding a note or add soo much vibrato. That can make crafting a whole melody with them really hard, it sounds a bit glitchy. Maybe more skillful VO programmers find there way around it, I rather just used the ensemble woodwinds, which are more stable in volume and expression.
- While were at expression, there are no x fades, which makes parts where a section gets louder kinda weird to programm. You have to decide at which point you wanna raise the volume via automation and it which point you wanna use a keyswitch. For swells that stay in the ppp to mp register just using volume uses like a charm actually, but everthing else can really get messy. Also some ff articulations are more quieter then the mp counterparts, when you put the velocity to the max, which is more of an inconvenience then a real complaint, but I have trouble understanding why.
- It's really fucking hard to make the strings sound powerful. I'm really missing some articulations where I feel some grit from the players, going really aggressively into their strings. If the powerful section has brass on it, that gets hidden quit well anyway, but if you only have strings and woodwinds it gets hard to make it sound like their really giving their all, not just talking about trailer music. (It sounded like you had quit the opposite experience, care to go into detail about that?)

But now after being so nitpicky I have to point out, that I still like the Brass and the Woodwind Ensembles a lot, especially for ambientish parts. But also the strings work really nicely in that part. I would though never let the strings play the main melody, since I can't really get much expression out of them, could be programming skills, but other libraries (even the Kontakt default x fade violins) make it far easier. Miro 2 CE definitely has it's charms, if it's not the only thing you have to work with, because that can be quit limiting,. It's nice sounding in a lot of parts, but I really wouldn't call it flexible.

I also thought about crossgrading, but for 200 dollars, I could also buy another library at this point that serves one special weak point in my libraries really well, then rather one libary that might or might not be useful for some things, that I can't quit pin down without having it.


RE: Miroslav Philharmonik 2 CE (a review-ish kind of thing) - Mattias Westlund - 06-09-2018

(06-09-2018, 09:52 AM)Viktor Wrote: - I think it's also worth adding that IK has the audacity to add to some instruments a legato patch, that doesn't provide legato. I still reaaally don't understand what purpose that patch serves at all.

You're right, I should have mentioned that. I have no idea what these so-called "legato" patches are for either, and there's a ton of them. Are you supposed to use them as a sort of transition between notes or what? If so that's just a usability nightmare, your project is going to have more keyswitch notes than regular ones once you're done.


RE: Miroslav Philharmonik 2 CE (a review-ish kind of thing) - Paul Battersby - 06-09-2018

(06-09-2018, 10:57 AM)Mattias Westlund Wrote: "legato" patches [...] Are you supposed to use them as a sort of transition between notes or what?

In legato mode, I would expect that if note B overlaps with note A, then the attack portion of the sample from note B would be skipped. If the notes don't overlap, then note B is played using it's normal attack. This means that you wouldn't be jumping in and out legato mode, you'd set it and let the overlap of the notes determine if a legato note or a regular note is played.


RE: Miroslav Philharmonik 2 CE (a review-ish kind of thing) - Mattias Westlund - 06-09-2018

(06-09-2018, 01:54 PM)Paul Battersby Wrote: In legato mode, I would expect that if note B overlaps with note A, then the attack portion of the sample from note B would be skipped. If the notes don't overlap, then note B is played using it's normal attack. This means that you wouldn't be jumping in and out legato mode, you'd set it and let the overlap of the notes determine if a legato note or a regular note is played.

Normally, yes. But these aren't normal legato patches, they're just weird little blips of notes of differing durations. That's the whole thing, dubbing them "legato" is misleading.


RE: Miroslav Philharmonik 2 CE (a review-ish kind of thing) - bigcat1969 - 06-09-2018

I've studied some 'real' legato in Kontakt pretty closely, the best ones often have hundreds of these samples embedded in a single legato patch. Sam can probably explain how they are triggered, I couldn't figure out the details. It is all very clever scripting based on the 'from' and 'to' notes and velocity. There 'legato' samples seem to be the same as the samples I examined on deconstruction but it seems that the folks behind Miro 2 didn't have the technical ability to create an engine to utilize them. One could presumably string them together as you have suggested with endless keyswitching. I presume they were recorded without the knowledge that they could not be used correctly in the Sampletank Engine but were retained for PR purposes to claim 'real legato' as a feature. IKM too me often seems more interested in PR than performance.

Having listened some libraries such as Inspire or even the somewhat maligned Orchestral Essentials, to me Miro sounds entry level at best. However as you have proved you can wring magic from most any samples in ways the rest of us can only dream of, I accept your fairly optimistic review of Miro 2 and wait eagerly to examine the silk purse you make from this sow's ear.


RE: Miroslav Philharmonik 2 CE (a review-ish kind of thing) - peastman - 06-10-2018

Maybe this is going a little off topic, but I'm curious which you think are the best libraries in that price range?  The full Miroslav still costs around $600, which is way more than I'm willing to pay for something with that many flaws.  And you implied that you think there are better options for that price.  Which ones would you recommend?


RE: Miroslav Philharmonik 2 CE (a review-ish kind of thing) - bigcat1969 - 06-10-2018

I'm gonna suggest Sam's VSCO2 of course which I much prefer to Miro.
http://vis.versilstudios.net/vsco-pro.html

VI-C conversation on the topic
https://vi-control.net/community/threads/starting-orchestra-sample-library.66815/

A good topic about less expensive orchestras here
https://www.newgrounds.com/bbs/topic/1418685

Limited but beautiful
http://www.orchestraltools.com/libraries/berlin_orchestra_inspire.php

I see this mentioned a lot on sale now (requires dongle)
https://www.vsl.co.at/en/Special_Edition_Complete_Bundle/Special_Edition_Vol1

EastWest always has sales, I won't touch ILok or the Play engine but if you don't mind them they are probably the best bang for the buck

I would consider crossgrading to Kontakt for $125. I would take the included and very old / at best OK orchestral stuff in kontakt over Miro2 or GPO myself. Then you could watch for Kirk Hunter Diamond on sale for about $100. Or in theory crossgrade to Komplete for $200 and Symphony Series Collection for $300.


RE: Miroslav Philharmonik 2 CE (a review-ish kind of thing) - Viktor - 06-10-2018

(06-10-2018, 12:57 AM)peastman Wrote: Maybe this is going a little off topic, but I'm curious which you think are the best libraries in that price range?  The full Miroslav still costs around $600, which is way more than I'm willing to pay for something with that many flaws.  And you implied that you think there are better options for that price.  Which ones would you recommend?

What kind of music do you wanna make? Classical, Trailer, Ambient...?