Introduction

In this article, we review Fluffy Audio’s Trio Broz Solo Violin, Viola and Cello.  It is amazingly playable, has tons of features that you can control and customize via the pitch wheel, and a build in compensator that makes legato transitions smooth as silk! There are lots of available articulations In fact there are two types of vibrato, those that are recorded and a “synth” vibrato that allows you to control the amount on the fly – and it doesn’t sound “synth-y” at all.

The founder, Paolo Ingraito, is a master craftsman, and he never rests until his instruments are the best they can be.  He considers himself to be like the violin makers of old – meticulously refining the product until it is very playable and sound sounds as much like a real player as humanly possible.


Pros: Hand crafted sound and brilliant articulation engine that adapts to play style and speed and also allows for user customization, especially in the violin library.


Cons: No con sordino, sul ponticello or sul tasto bowing, and interface is powerful but takes a bit to get the hang of.  The viola and cello don’t handle runs very well, and are missing bow-change legato.  Also, there is no way to edit Round Robin cycles, so if you run into a RR that you don’t like, there isn’t a way to get rid of it.


Price: Solo Violin: $129, Solo Viola $79, Solo Cello $109, Special Bundle Price: $249


Demo Piece by Lawson Madlener

I wrote this piece in a more traditional, classical style, to try and fully show the extent that Trio Broz is capable of.  As you can hear, the shorts are quite nice (I especially like the low notes in the cello), and the sustains sing out.  I did add a little bit of QL Spaces on to the master, but other than that it is completely out of the box.  The one little nitpick I had while writing this is that the shorts don’t blend together from different dynamic layers as much as I would’ve liked.  In traditional classical style, there are usually small accents on downbeats, especially with repeated notes.  I tried to do it with this demo, but it would usually turn out to be a bit louder than I would’ve liked.  You can especially hear this on the recap at the end; the antecedent phrase has quite an obvious accent, and the consequent phrase has none (I preferred it to have no accent rather than a big one there).  Other than that, the library is super easy and fun to use.  All I had to do was input the notes, add a keyswitch for each corresponding note(s) and articulation, and adjust velocity and CC1 accordingly.  There are also built-in crescendos and accented sustains controlled by the pitch wheel, but they weren’t necessary for this piece.

Features



  • 17,559 samples

  • 16.46 GB ncw compressed sample pool (30 GB original sample size)

  • 3 mic positions

  • 3.5 octaves note range

  • Vibrato, non-vibrato + synthesized vibrato

  • Staccato, Spiccato, Pizzicato articulations with 4 Round Robins

  • DCE Engine to blend sustained dynamics

  • 3 dynamic layers for articulations

  • Pitch-Wheel controlled sub articulations like crescendo, accented attack

  • True-legato

  • Humanized tuning

  • Automatic legato speed based on the analysis of your performance

  • 17 Impulse Reverbs

  • Animated GUI with many configurable parameters

  • Ready-to-play presets

Interview with Paolo Ingraito – Founder of Fluffy Audio

Designing Music NOW: How did Fluffy Audio get started, and what is your background prior to starting Fluffy?

Paolo Ingraito:  I have been using virtual instruments since I was 15 (I’m 34 now). I was a self-taught composer, but after the college, I studied both Computer Engineering at university and Composition at the Conservatory of Verona. Meanwhile I was involved in many different musical projects in Italy, ranging from theater plays and television ads. I also worked with Racoonstudio in Milan (the same team who did the beautiful video for the Trio Broz Teaser – see below) throughout the years. After a while I was realizing that I enjoy more the illusion of hearing a real orchestra inside a computer than to actually compose music with it. It’s like the same magic of 3D graphics, you can build a reality from scratch and make people believe that there’s something living behind the 0s and 1s of the digital realm. After some years I often compare this job as the job of a violin maker, who work calmly each day trying to refine his developing process and to make better each time.

DMN: Fluffy is a great name, how did you come up with it?

PI: Haha, thank you for asking! Fluffy is actually a small fluffy racoon toy which my ex girlfriend gave to me. It’s original italian name was Ciuffi, but Ciuffi wasn’t sounding right in English, so I tried for assonance find another name that was resembling the same tender idea.

Why tenderness? Because I thought that it was one of the least things that you can associate with audio and music, and so, the name, along with the drawings by Valeria Armeni, could easily be remembered. I think that when you hear the name you really can’t forget it and this is one of the most important things these days. Also Fluffy is our mascotte and we want to continue to feature new drawings and material with the same tenderness 🙂

Raccoon

DMN: Where is Fluffy Audio based, and tell me about your team.

PI: FluffyAudio is based in Italy, in a town near the Garda Lake. Look for it! It’s a lovely place to visit..!

But I’m often living in Barcelona (and considering about moving everything here) with my girlfriend Gabriela.

There are three people, besides me, currently involved in the FluffyAudio team. Olmo, gifted musician, longtime friend and essential Fluffy teammate, which handles all the preproduction phase of the latest libraries, from contacting the musicians, to find the studio and handles part of the boring burocratic stuff. Gabriela, my girlfriend, who sometimes works with me in the editing phase of the samples, and Sebastian, a great guy I met in Barcelona, who also takes care of the editing part of the samples.

Since my editing process is very custom and refined, I need to work in close contact with my collaborators, because, even if the singular steps are quite easy to follow, I’ve developed quite a number of editing tricks, including the use of custom made software to cut and classify all the samples, which can be tricky to understand sometimes.

DMN: You have focused a lot on solo libraries – it seems that solo libraries are even harder than ensembles to create a convincing simulation of real players. What special things do you include in your libraries to make your solo instruments so special?

PI: Yes. Solo libraries are much more difficult than ensembles to make. Solo Strings in particular. The woodwinds series, to me, it’s a lot of improvement over the Broz series, due to the better acquired experience and, sometimes, the fact that the woodwind instruments are a bit easier to make.

First we developed the DCE, that solves many issues of legato transitions that afflict many libraries. What the DCE does is adjusting the first moments of the legato transitions to ensure that they are matching in volume. This gives the ability to make a legato phrase much more smoother. There are another tricks here and there, which are often really technical and boring to describe 🙂 Another thing I like of our libraries, is that they handle the legato like a synth, so if you still keep a key pressed the instrument will go to that note until all the notes are released. This is useful to improvise trills, fast phrasing, and makes the whole experience much more natural to play.

DMN: What do you look for in your players? They all seem to have tremendous skill and virtuoso technique.

PI: Pro tip: if you want to make a good library choose the best musicians you can reach. This is something we’ve learnt with trial and error, but this is essential, it will be more rewarding in the end, you won’t have to spend weeks to correct the mistakes with massive editing and processing, often with humble results. Skills apart, the positive approach towards the project is also an essential attitude.

DMN: Tell us about the development of your Kontakt engine – it seems to be one of the most sophisticated available for playing and constructing articulations

PI: If we don’t want to reinvent the wheel at each project, the only choice we have is develop and engine which is improved release after release. The articulation editor was developed at the start of the woodwind series. This is a great tool, because I just need to compile a separate list of the groups available and their properties, to have the instrument done. Then, inside the Kontakt GUI I can make the list of the available articulations and let the user to customize/create/delete them as he wishes.

DMN: One of my favorite features is the “synth vibrato” – it really gives you a lot of control over the vibrato. Of course you include recorded vibrato (in 2 variants for the violin). What made you want to add the synth vibrato variant to the library?

PI: While developing the engine, one of the first thing we were asked was “Can I control vibrato like I do with Embertone?”. So we’ve done this mini-optional synthesised vibrato which can emulate the vibrato. It’s useful over non-vibrato samples, but to make it better we should have added a quite stressful CPU technique which we ultimately avoided (basically moving a filter along with volume and pitch). So, for me, it’s there, but it’s not perfect because it’s really not the main point of the library. Because I really think that the vibrato, the way a performer does it, is something really difficult to reproduce convincingly with samples (But, I have to credit Alex, from Embertone, for being the best on this area).

Every developer chooses a specific strategy for developing the instruments. We are going in the direction to keep the original performance (which often includes his vibrato) as untouched as we could. On the other side, we have to be very careful about the quality of the original material, since there’s not a lot of space for post editing and correcting everything later. If the samples are played badly, there’s no way to spice them up with editing. But that’s why I think that our clarinet and a little upcoming violin release are so lovely: we have specifically requested our musicians to perform the material as a proper piece of music and play with passion and heart.

Thanks!!!

Fluffy Audio’s Trio Broz: Solo Violin

Now let’s move on to each individual library and dive into the features and functionality of each one. Before we do, let’s get an idea of how these libraries were created:

We sampled a string trio of talented Italian musicians, Barbara (violin), Giada (viola) and Klaus (cello), at the amazing Teatro delle Voci in Treviso. The Violin features up to 3.5 octaves, 4 dynamic layers for sustained articulations, 2 legato types, 4 Round Robins for short articulations like Spiccato, Staccato andPizzicato. We provide you the ability to create your unique sound by mixing the 3 microphones positions (Close, Mid and Far). The sampling was made top quality gear: Schoeps and AudioTechnica microphones, Neve and Millennia Media preamps. The violin is a 1839 Gaetano Guadagnini made in Turin. It is played by Barbara Broz since 2010.

Overview

 

Solo Violin In Depth

 

Solo Viola In Depth

 

Solo Cello in Depth

 

Interface

The interface is beautiful and easy to navigate.  I really like the visual feedback the interface gives to the player, and the incredible ability to “program” each patch if you desire.

Special Features

DCE – DYNAMIC CONTROL ENGINE

One of the special features of the Fluffy libraries is an automatic volume control engine.  Switching it on and off shows how special this really is!  In their own words, here is a description of the DCE:

When developing the library we tried to avoid over-processing the samples by using compression and normalization. Therefore we needed a special scripting device which could blend all the samples transitions in a very smooth and realistic way. We developed an external tool which analyzes the samples and imports this data into Kontakt called the Dynamic Control Engine. Thanks to the DCE, Kontakt knows the volumes of the samples currently playing in the instrument and matches the volume of the incoming samples with the previous ones. In the end the DCE works flawlessly “under the radar” leaving the user free to enjoy playing and building his expressive legato phrases.

In action, The DCEis what controls and matches the samples’ volumes. If you look at the status bar, you’ll see that when playing legato a little meter appear under the main bar (image below). This is the compensator adjustment, that changes the volume of the new new notes to match the volume of the previous ones.

bars

PITCH WHEEL CONTROL

Furthermore, as you can see from the video below, the instrument features dynamic articulations like accented and crescendo attacks, as well as glissando/legato articulations; dynamically controlled by the Pitch Wheel. This allows you to craft beautiful musical phrases with a smooth beginning and a faded ending or abrupt accented notes with slurred passages along the way. The versatility of the DCE engine handles smoothly all these techniques.

Conclusion

Paolo is a master craftsman, and rather than crafting instruments made of wood and strings, his instruments are made of bits!  As both a programmer and a composer, he bridges the world of technology and art, the real and the mimicked with precision.  This library sounds lovely with its default settings, but if you are not happy with those, you can tweak until your hearts content, making new articulation chains and playing around with the many settings that come packed into this amazing set of solo instruments.  It’s very easy-to-use; the playability right of the box is just great.  Paolo has dedicated his life to this pursuit, and his instruments keep getting better and better with each iteration that he lovingly releases.

 

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