CSS’s list of patches is refreshingly short, with one patch for each of the 1st Violin, 2nd Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass sections, plus Full Ensemble and Lite Ensemble. The Lite version contains three basic articulations, and has no Legato mode; all other patches offer the full shooting match. All articulations and functions are accessible from one very clear, uncluttered GUI, rendered in what you might call a post-modern graphic style. The number of players in each section is as follows: 10 1st violins, seven 2nd violins, seven violas, six cellos and five basses.
Marcato is an especially versatile articulation; its dynamics are controlled by a combination of mod wheel and key velocity, together with an optional velocity sensitive spiccato overlay, ideal for adding extra emphasis to specific notes in a phrase. With Legato engaged, fast runs and arpeggios take on the characteristic ‘blurred’ effect of multiple players’ hands scurrying (albeit very accurately) up and down the fingerboard — particularly effective on the violins. With the spiccato overlay on, marcato’s two-way dynamic control and long sustain make it excellent for performing incisive expressions such as sforzando and decrescendo, full-on emotive melodies and forceful cello and bass lines.
Staccato presents four options: spiccato is the shortest, with a lovely feathery bounce; staccatissimo is short and played on the bow; staccato, slightly longer; and the longest, sforzando, which decays to silence, rather than swelling up again as might be expected. As mentioned above, the marcato articulation is the place to go for sculpting custom-made sforzandi and other incisive dynamic shapes; nevertheless, this ‘short sfz’ is a welcome inclusion, handy for delivering emphatic punctuations and endings.
The pre-made Mix sounds great out of the box, so you may well opt for just using that! There is also an in-built hall-style reverb, but the developers are so confident about the natural sampled acoustic of the Trackdown Scoring Stage that they suggest you won’t need the reverb. And you know what? They’re right. Finally, I haven’t yet mentioned the Con Sordino switch lurking in the corner of every patch in the library. This is a convolution-based emulation of the classic silky, muted sound, typical of intimate passages accompanying scenes of romance, sadness, pastoral bliss or Philomena Cunk’s profoundest Moments Of Wonder.
CSS has all the essential elements needed to produce expansive, expressive string arrangements with a distinctive Hollywood flavour. The refreshingly uncluttered GUI and simple operation applies across the whole library — once you’ve learned how one preset works, you’ve learned them all."