This Kontakt instrument is an absolute cracker! It works in the free Kontakt player so anyone can use it and it offers an incredible feature set. There are three separate instruments in the product. One allows you to play strings like you would on any synth. The second one, String Designer, lets you shape the sampled strings into sounds that are more like a synth. The final instrument, Loop Designer, allows you to choose and play preset pattern loops, as played by the orchestra. They allow you to stack three layers - bass, cello and violin/viola - to create powerful string arrangements for your compositions.
You get 6GB of sample content and the quality is amazing. It includes multiple articulations - sustain, tremolo, pizzicato and staccato - and you can mix between the close and room mics to get the best sound. There are plenty of effects too, including a step sequencer in the String Designer that you can use to modulate certain parameters to create your own synth-like rhythms, It goes way beyond your average string sample set. The Loop Designer also has plenty of loops for you to work with. You can mix and match loops between layers for even greater variety.
The instrument is very deep, you can go crazy creating your own patches and it takes a lot of time and effort to fully explore everything on offer. I was really surprise dhow complex it all is. That said, it's presented in a clear way and I didn't find it daunting at all. Once you have your sounds, playing the instruments is even easier. You use your left hand to set the note you want to play, within a single octave, and then you use the three higher octaves to select your loops. e.g. I might want to play the bass loop that's mapped to the F in bass octave, the cello loop on the B key and the loop on E for the violin. I just have to press those three keys momentarily to select those loops. If I want them to play in the key of G, I press the G key with my left hand. If I go from G to A, it raises the pitch of each of the three loops by two semitones. So you play your melody with your left hand and you use your right hand to change any of the three rhythms (loops). It's dead easy and very addictive.
NOVO Essentials is one of those things that you probably have to experience to appreciate. The demo only includes a tiny proportion of the samples but it will give you a good idea of the potential of the package. If you want orchestral strings in your songs and you can't justify spending several hundred dollars on them, this thing will more than get you up and running. I envisage using it for years without having to worry about repeating myself or sounding like everyone else. Highly recommended.