ProjectSAM Symphobia 4: Pandora review – A first look

ProjectSAM Symphobia 4: Pandora review – A first look

It’s here! ProjectSAM’s Symphobia 4: Pandora is available now to take your musical expression to new levels with rousing orchestral effects and blockbuster-quality cinematic sampling. It’s an exciting addition to ProjectSAM’s Symphobia line, so we wanted to take a moment to dive into Pandora, introduce you to some of its new features and share the hottest new elements of ProjectSAM’s latest Kontakt library.

ProjectSAM Symphobia 4 Pandora: the latest in a world leading collection of cinematic sample libraries

For almost 20 years, virtual instrument and sample library manufacturer, ProjectSAM, has been a leading name in the world of orchestral sampling. Their mission is to create the warmest cinematic sounds possible for TV, film and gaming composers to access playing techniques, instrument combos and cinematic effects that you won’t find anywhere else. From the get-go ProjectSAMmade a name for themselves with their signature multi-mic recording setups, a technique that wasn’t being used in sampling much around the time.

Over the years we’ve seen the release of great Kontakt libraries such as the Orchestral Essential series, True Strike, and Swing. But at the heart of their collection, lies the Symphobia series. And this week, ProjectSAM announced the exciting release of their fourth addition to the line – Symphobia 4 Pandora. Here we’ll take  an in-depth look at Pandora, covering some of the new features and providing a general first impression. Enjoy!


Symphobia 4 Pandora’s Orchestral Effects

Let’s first discuss the focus point of S4 Pandora: orchestral effects. The library features a hugely detailed collection of every orchestral effect in the book, plus way more - risers, falls, pulses, clusters and swells to name a few! This makes Pandora a very strong orchestral tool; these decorative effects can be applied to any project that feels like it’s lacking excitement and instantly bring excitement and movement.

Layering on the fly with the Combo’s feature

The effects are covered across strings, woodwind, brass, piano and percussion, and thanks to Pandora’s Combos feature you’re able to layer sections of the orchestra together whilst having individual controls for each on one page. Perfect to manipulate the sound easily on the fly. Combos are one of the seven instrument folders that can be found inside Pandora’s Kontakt Library structure, the rest of which can be seen on the left-hand side of the GUI shot below. These folders will make more sense as I run through the interface and will each be discussed in detail when I get to the necessary section. Now let’s dive into the interface and take a closer look at some of the new features!

ProjectSAM Symphobia 4 GUI shot

Our favourite new features of S4 Pandora

As you can see the interface is divided into 4 modules; though some of these are known as ‘variable modules’ which means their function will change depending on the selected instrument; the first module on the left is a good example of this. The instrument loaded up in the screenshot above features a string crescendo, which takes advantage of one of the most exciting features included in Pandora: Adaptive Sync.

Easy Quantisation with Adaptive Sync

Adaptive Sync allows effects such as crescendos, rolls and risers to easily quantise and sync to a specified number of bars, beats or seconds. It also ensures that the most exciting moment of the effect (known as a ‘hit point’) happens exactly where you want it. What is most impressive about this feature is that ProjectSAM have recorded all the samples at various tempos so the technology will intelligently select the closest sample to match your tempo, this means there are no low quality time-stretched samples (although this is also an option if desired and can be useful for creating some interesting stretched sound design textures).

Adaptive Sync meets the needs of composers who are often on very tight time schedules and spend too long moving these effects around manually. As I mentioned earlier, this module is variable depending on the selected instrument so if we were to change to a new patch, Cluster Pulses, the interface will change accordingly as below.

ProjectSAM Symphobia 4 Cluster Pulses GUI

Add drive and tension with Cluster Pulses

Cluster Pulses are another key feature that make S4 Pandora unique. These are a collection of rhythmic, looped patterns for strings, brass and woodwinds that take advantage of the Articulation module. Each note you play on the keyboard will produce a different repetitive cluster of notes which can very quickly add drive and tension to a static sounding piece. Keyswitches come in very handy here as you can use them to switch note lengths whilst you play, this means you’re able to play long varying sequences without having to stop and start all the time.

Manipulate samples in Sound Design Mode

Sound Design Mode is another feature you can access in this module. It displays a waveform of the current sample and allows you to manipulate it in a variety of ways including looping, reverse and sample start position. On top of these modules I’ve mentioned, there are even further editing possibilities within the expanded view which can be accessed via the expand icons in the top right corner of certain modules. See below an expanded view of the far left module, offering further controls for adaptive sync, articulation and dynamics.

ProjectSAM Symphobia 4 Pandora Expanded View GUI

Reviewing Pandora’s Microphone Channels and Audio Quality

ProjectSAM have once again applied their excellent multi-microphone recording techniques to Pandora. There is individual gain control and toggle buttons for 5 different microphone sets: Close, Stage, Far, Wide and Mix Mic which is a prepared mixdown of the first four microphones. This leads me on to the audio quality... Due to the advanced recording technology available today, we’d expect this library to offer the highest quality samples... which of course it does. But the multi-mic setup takes this a step further. You’re able to really shape the sound of the patches - particularly useful in Combos where you can  choose which sets of instruments you want to sound close up and others that you want further away in the mix.

Symphobia 4 Pandora’s Effects & Control Modules 

The effects module in Pandora features a selection of real-time effects available within all patches. This is another variable module which will change to either percussion layers, synth layers or sub sweeteners depending on the instrument and when in Sound Design Mode, will offer a dedicated time-stretch control. Similarly to the first module, users are able to expand this module and find all necessary parameters for the on-board effects which include reverb, delay, stutter, EQ, limiter, filter, screamer and a pitch envelope so plenty of modulation can be applied on each patch.

The final module features basic amplitude envelope controls and some quick toggles that perform functions such as octave shifting, octave layering and fixed velocity but once again, this module can be expanded to offer a more in-depth set of controls. See the expanded view of both modules below!

ProjectSAM Symphobia 4 Pandora Effects GUIProjectSAM Symphobia 4 Pandora Control Settings GUI

What about the Library Info and Presets?

Symphobia 4 Pandora runs within Native Instrument’s Kontakt sampler version 6.1 or higher and will work in both the full version, and free Kontakt Player. It comes fully equipped with NKS compatibility, allowing users to control a huge range of parameters from their Komplete Kontrol keyboards.

The uncompressed audio pool size comes to around 140GB which is spread across 150 presets, but these don’t sound like your average orchestral presets. It is clear that the ProjectSAM team have spent a lot of time ensuring that each one is optimised for performance, as well as providing enough controls for them to be deeply customised.

ProjectSAM Symphobia 4 Pandora: Our verdict

There seems to be a certain level of expectation when a new ProjectSAM title is announced, due to their strong history of previous releases and, once again, the team have exceeded these expectations. Symphobia 4 Pandora is an all-round essential orchestral tool that we’re certain will bring completely new textures to composers and sound designers alike. To see the library in action, take a look at some of these great videos from ProjectSAM that showcase Pandora’s new features!

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