Update Oct 2007 The Kompakt player is now discontinued, and I can't get it to work on Vista anyway. There is a "Play" upgrade in the pipeline, but that requires a fee and an iLok. I had email exchange with the company re the out-of-tune instrument ... after initial denial they eventually agreed that a group of samples is out of tune, but would only recommend that I buy Kontakt and manually tune the offending samples myself. Oh deary me! I've spent an awful lot of money to get the run around like this!
Original review. My interest began with the stunning demos - I knew that I would have to get hold of this one at some point!
Installation is ok. Kompakt installer, then manual copy of the sound files from the 8 dvds to the library directory (I nearly forgot the sound files on the Kompact installer dvd). A proper automated installer would probably be preferrable, and is extremely simple to create. Why not?
C/R Registration worked eventually (NI servers down for a couple of days), but you can run unregistered and I already had the Direct from Disk extension with Stormdrum.
Low CPU use with my Dell 2.4 + 2g ram (Tracktion 2). Won't max cpu with long fast piano trills.
Kompact does a more than adequate job. Samples load quickly enough - and there is a progress bar.
I love almost all of these sounds which are across-the-board more realistic and expressive to play than the other sample libraries I have (Sampletank 1, Sonik Synth). Strangely one drum kit doesn't use choke on hi-hats, but the others do and the drums with round-robin feature are very good. Electric guitar patches are expressive and fun - an astonishing blues "leadmaster".
A more than decent bit of everything. Truly excellent Steinway piano, Hammonds, Rhodes, Salsa trumpets, Drums, Basses, Jazz Trombone, Orchestral stuff, Electric and most of acoustic guitars (see below). More than adequate choirs, saxes. Synth pads and leads are OK. Drones are interesting.
Only a Kompact instrument manual. Would have been nice to have a sounds manual covering the 160 instruments, explaining how they were designed to be played (eg you have to work out some of the chorded guitar patches by trial and error). But there is no fancy keyswitching so most things are pretty self-explanatory.
Colossus has now become the instrument I start off with. If the synth sounds won't cut it then I turn to Rhino and I have GPO for the detailed orchestral stuff and its fabulous organ. But if I had to manage with only one sample library then this would be it!
Only one rather surprising downer: the classical guitar patch has an entire octave which is unplayably out of tune (about a quarter tone sharp). This is not a cheap product and I would have expected an online update correcting this. Perhaps it's in the pipeline.
Finally - a purely personal opinion - I do feel that the pricepoint is likely to restrict the number of users - particularly those who already have libraries covering much of Colossus. This is a pity. Half the price would have - I suspect - led to considerably more than twice the sales. I searched hard for the cheapest price - I would not have paid full price as I already have a very good Yamaha piano, Stormdrum, Ultimate Bass Kit, Sonik Synth, Rhino and GPO already. I do love my Colossus though!
First, let me state, I'm doing a full review that will be available at musicFAQ, http://www.musicfaq.net in conjunction with TraxMusic where I also review, http://www.traxmusic.org Having gotten that out of the way, here's a little bit about Colossus you might want to know.
If you want a General Midi library that is the last word on real, this is it. At first I thought, "great, just what the world needs, another GM synth." But that opinion changed the second I heard what East West was trying to do, which is, create a complete selection of sounds that are way beyond what we've come to expect from other libraries. These sounds are an order of magnitude above anything I've heard in a good sample based synth and at times is shocking how detailed and damn musical it is.
There's 16 gigs of GM based sample data. Ok, pianos...There are two gigabytes of acoustic piano. I don't care how it's marketed, that's a lot of piano and I'm happy to say it's the finest sounding piano I've heard. No matter the controller used, the pianos played and sounded great with percussive high end notes and thundering lower notes.
I suppose part of Colossus is a GM synth as long as you take all you've thought of previous General Midi and had a new look with the blinders off.
This is the most incredible collection of meat and potato sounds you will likely hear. That's because everything is played in real instrument ranges using techniques from actual players, all instruments are in the correct key and in range, so you will be changing sequences more than you might think. Your arrangement may change a little, but if you want reality, you'll find it here. It's GM but at it's absolute truest presentation, and unlike anything you've come to expect of GM libraries.
The electric pianos are nothing short of spectacular. Wurlitzer, Fender Rhoads and a to die for Yamaha CP electronic grand piano.
Orchestral instruments are courtesy of EWQLSO. The massed and solo strings have a wonderful quality which is closer miked than the Silver or Gold libraries, but this is sensible within the sound of this set and can be easily manipulated in the Kompakt front-end.
Choral sounds are also familiar, from the "Voices of the Apocylypse" collection and Guitars from the fairly recent guitar library release.
Especially nice are the percussion and ethnic instruments. I play many of these instruments and it's good to hear their actual playing technique. Will it change your GM sequence, hell yeah! And you'll find yourself thinking of changing things because these instruments are in their natural keys and note ranges. It is a shocking to hear this 24 bit, no compromise library of music that isn't insultingly lacking in depth of performance. And best of all, there's not one bad sound to be found! Every patch has a natural quality and many articulations as well as those you decide to create with the Kompakt GUI.
A bit about Kompakt now. I've written about the Kompakt specialty interfaces for several synths at this point along with the Intakt interface.
Within Kompakt you get amplitude, filter, 2 LFO and modulation envelopes. It is possible to create thick, beautifully expressive timbres with minimal programming. Best of all, Kompakt is laid out like a synth and makes sense to anyone familiar with synths. It's easy to learn if not.
So, if you like your marimbas a bit hotter and with more emphasis on the initial impulse hit, no problem, there's a 4 band eq or filters available that can be assigned AHDSR envelopes. The extra hold function is especially useful on drums and percussive sounds. If you program, you'll want to give this interface a spin. It is simple, yet highly capable.
As Kompakt has a total of eight multitimbral channels and each channel can easily handle 32 notes polyphony, your arrangements can be huge. Your old general midi files will recieve recessitation through the first dead serious treatment of General Midi instruments. To get the most out of Colossus, you'll end up rearranging your GM files, but it is worth that extra time and effort.
There are many old school organs, from hammond to farfisa. The acoustic and electric guitars range good to outstanding, and there are the truly ingenius programs such as the Stormdrones; multiple synths at the touch of a mod wheel, and incredibly creative in the programming department. There's even a 'Lost' Stormdrum library that is of exceptional quality.
That is the wonderful thing about Colossus. 32 gigs of sample data that, I dare say, has no filler material. While some of the set has been part of other libraries, a great deal hasn't and the mix isn't noticible in the least.
There are many categories of sounds, some with duplications, but in a senible way. Why trudge through GM setups to find traditional pads as the library has many extra timbres to their catagory, and it's consistant in Colossus.
Colossus isn't inexpensive, but if you want the absolute best at what it does, here it is.
Wow, and I thought the good old workstations sounded good.
This thing sounds infinitely better and the resolution is crisp and crystal clear.
All instrument categories have something special that anyone could find a use for, the saxophones in particular are beautiful.
The beefy 2GB Fazioli (after using the DFD extension) is phenomenal, just about every velocity you could imagine is there in all it's glory.
Listening to the demos, ranging from ethnic, jazz, rock, blues, even the synthetic soundscapes, I can easily work out how they were built and written. The number of sounds and combinations at your disposal is truly amazing. If anyone is looking for the perfect collection of highly usable instruments then look no further. Chances are Colossus has just about everything you'll need. A hardware version is also planned, so if you've got a good keyboard and want to set up a rack, and want a great collection of instruments that are always playable at your fingertips, then Colossus will almost certainly cover your needs!
General MIDI never sounded so good. If you're looking for a swiss army knife to cover up just about every hole in your collection, this is the mother bomb!