I was careful this Black Friday. I only bought one new sample library. While this alone is probably one of my greatest feats, this isn’t about me. This is about the library that grabbed that one spot, and that is the Audiobro Genesis Children’s Choir.
There are many great choir libraries out there, and more coming all the time. But some areas are just not sampled as much, and one of those is the children’s choir. They are out there, but I can count the prominent libraries on one hand. Genesis is one of those.
This will be a long review as I believe Genesis deserves the space (but worth reading, if you ask me!), so if you’re looking for some advice up front, here you go: BUY IT. If you’re needing a children’s choir or want something to compliment your other choir libraries, Genesis sets the bar. I’ll cover quite a bit of detail below, but you’ll find it no secret that I find Genesis to be excellent.
So let’s dive in.
Genesis Children’s Choir- Oh So Beautiful
I’ve got to mention this up front with complete transparency. The Genesis user interface was one of the reasons I wanted to buy this library so badly. Yes, I’m aware that the interface doesn’t make anything sound better. I’m not naïve to the placebo effect that happens among even the most finely-tuned ears. But anyone who tells you that the interface isn’t important is lying to you.
But I digress. Genesis Children’s Choir has one of the most gorgeous interfaces I’ve seen in a Kontakt instrument, or any instrument for that matter. As a web and graphic designer by trade, I really appreciate a properly designed user interface. And Genesis gets almost everything perfect, from the colors to the contrast to font sizes…it all just makes the experience better.
One thing I love is that the Genesis interface takes advantage of the full size capabilities that Kontakt allows these days. Of course, there is a downside in that Kontakt library interfaces can’t be scaled dynamically, so on a smaller monitor (and by ‘smaller’, I mean even 1080p), the interface will take over a good portion of the screen. But on my QHD 32 inch display, it’s wonderful.
More Than A Pretty Face
But Genesis doesn’t just look good. Its interface is highly functional and manages to pack in a boatload of extra features without appearing cluttered. Extra settings appear through the use of cogwheels and extra buttons or tabs (I’ll show more of the interface throughout this review, so scroll down to see more). Unlike many Kontakt instruments that utilize separate unlinked pages and dropdowns, this is more like a fluid app. Genesis goes the extra mile, and as a result, it FEELS like an autonomous piece of software.
Even further, this interface isn’t just about looks and user experience. It is actually a part of a larger engine overhaul for Audiobro, allowing you to do things that weren’t possible with their previous instruments, while also looking downright beautiful in the process. Under the hood is a lot of cool intelligence.
Well done, Genesis. Well done.
Worth Noting: As mentioned above, the Genesis Children’s Choir engine and interface was actually built for a much larger purpose. While Genesis was the first of the Audiobro libraries to utilize this new engine, it was designed to handle other orchestral libraries. In fact, Audiobro’s newer orchestral brass library, “Modern Scoring Brass” already uses this engine. And the soon to be released Modern Scoring Strings (the spiritual successor to L.A. Scoring Strings from Audiobro) will also use it. We will be publishing full detailed reviews of both over the next few weeks, so definitely be checking back for those.
The Sweetest Sound I Know
All this gushing over the interface is nice, but you probably care more about the sound. So enough rambling by me! How does Genesis Children’s Choir sound?
There is something innocent and believable about the voice of children singing. As a choir leader in my church, I love incorporating children into the program because not only do people love watching children sing, but they add an air of sweetness to the sound.
The Genesis Sound- My Opinion
Of the children’s libraries I own, Genesis is by far my favorite. You can really go from action-orchestral to shimmering-tender very easily. But my favorite dynamic, and one that is commonly an afterthought in these libraries (why?), is the softer side of the sound. The almost pads-like atmospheric sound wash that comes from Genesis Children’s Choir is exactly where I feel a children’s choir should stand out. I could hear something in the demos that I’ve just found lacking in other libraries. That doesn’t mean the other libraries are bad, but they just weren’t designed to hit what I feel is the best “sweet spot” of the source material.
Out of the box, Genesis just sounds wonderful. A perfectly tuned and balanced tutti of voices that doesn’t take a lot of effort to get something useful. You have four parts; soprano girls, alto girls, soprano boys, and alto boys. And when played as a whole (which is the default for the main patch, with all voices loaded), none of the parts stick out. The blend is very nice.
You can, of course, turn on or off the parts that you wish. Audiobro does not provide individual patches for each voice section, but it’s not difficult to create your own combinations.
The Genesis Sound- At Its Core
All the vowels and syllables in Genesis can be played as sustains or staccato variations. Sustains are just that, sustained notes, with control over attack and release, along with the syllable length, which helps to ensure that the entire syllable is heard even if you cut off the note, or the other way around if you wish.
Staccato notes can be “long” or “short” versions. If there was one slightly negative aspect of Genesis, it would be that I found the short staccato notes too soft on their attacks. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be used for emphatic syllables, but it does lack a little bite. I realize this is a little ironic since I have praised Genesis for being a softer library. Don’t get me wrong, this is a minor complaint.
You also have a selection of syllables that are more “prepared” and designed to be used as pads. These work well and have synth textures added on, but are more of a bonus for me.
Genesis comes with 4 different mic positions, including a close mic, stage mic, far mic, and a mix of the three. The close mic has a small amount of ambience still, but is not overwhelming, which makes using external reverbs (or the built-in reverbs) easy to do. But I found myself using the mix mic the most as the venue used by Audiobro has a very nice sound, and this mix is well rounded. We’ll talk more below about this as there are additional space features that make Genesis extremely versatile.
Genesis contains 5 different vowel sounds, along with humming, and all 6 of these contain real sampled legato. You will also find 31 Latin consonants and syllables, plus 20 different prefix/suffix sounds. This gives a fairly large amount of sound you can produce with Genesis. We’ll talk about the word and phrase building engine below, but the core building blocks are solid.
Genesis Children’s Choir has a feature that I believe is fairly unique among choir libraries, and that is Melisma. This is essentially an extension to the Legato engine that allows you to move notes without retriggering the sample. In other words, you can play an entire lead line with multiple notes and pitches, all without switching syllables or retriggering the attack of the sample. Genesis will continue to play the vowel of the current syllable as you flow through your melody.
Melisma is an amazingly useful addition, and it really does add flexibility that restricts me from using other libraries for melodic work.
Dynamics and More Sound Control
Genesis also offers some great features that affect the sound, such as their auto-divisi engine and polyphonic legato. We’ll discuss these in a section below. But the result from these features are a library that sounds full and dynamic, and reacts well to your playing. And the beautiful blend of the voices in Genesis really makes those features shine. But again, more on that in a moment.
The dynamics switching in Genesis is very smooth to my ears. Using your mod wheel or other assigned controller, you can create wonderful swells without much noticeable stepping of the sound. If you prefer to have velocity control dynamics, you can set that as well. You can adjust the velocity curve to fit your keyboard better, and you can even add dynamics smoothing, which effectively interpolates your input to avoid abrupt dynamics changes.
In addition to being used as a children’s choir, Genesis surprised me a bit with a mixing engine that’s super deep, allowing you to literally mangle and massage the core sounds to be an endless engine of atmospheric pads. In fact, it’s so flexible that it could have literally been a product of its own. I’ll speak more about the mixing engine in a section below, but just imagine using a children’s choir as a sound source for a pads synth.
You do also get a couple of tools designed to change the core timbre of the library. One is a simple but surprisingly useful filter with 10 different filter curves, and the other is a detuning function. The detune function is a wonderful sound design tool and allows you to alter the tuning of each of the four voice sections, but you can also detune every note of the scale independently. You can adjust the detuning in real time and morph your sound using CC controls, and there is also an LFO (called “Pitch Motion”) that can do some automatic fluctuation.
In theory, you could use the detuning function to add a slight bit of humanization to the sound as well. It’s just another tool in a toolbox full of other great tools.
Ultimately, Genesis Children’s Choir is a fantastic sounding library with a core sound that I just love. It’s one of those “out of the box” great sounding libraries, which is refreshing. The samples are clean and I didn’t notice much in terms of ambient mistakes (pens dropping, people talking, etc.) that typically find their way into libraries with tens of thousands of samples.
I couldn’t be more pleased with how Genesis sounds. But the sound is enhanced further by the engine and the control you have over everything.
Having an instrument with the complexity of Genesis will often lead to a less than ideal playing experience. And while there may be some programming needed to get things just right, it was quite enjoyable to play Genesis in real time. The legato and melisma described above are wonderful, but only part of the puzzle.
You can, of course, just play the vowel sounds and get some beautiful background vocals out of it. But you would be selling the library vastly short by doing so. Let’s dive into a few of the highlights.
One of the greatest features in Genesis is the intelligent auto-divisi engine. There is great flexibility here. At the core, you can play multiple notes and Genesis will automatically divide those notes among the 4 parts. You can switch between playing a single note to playing two, or four, and back and forth, and Genesis divides the parts and keeps rolling.
But you aren’t stuck with a simple 4 part harmony. You can select anywhere from 1 to 4 total sections, and decide which one takes the highest note, the next note down, etc. Plus, you can set each part to play in a higher or lower octave. It’s all very flexible.
You can then save your different voicings and divisi rules as a preset, and even trigger different combinations using the Genesis keyswitch/CC system called The Switcher. So moving between different banks of voice combinations is easy and powerful.
Along with all this is a polyphonic legato engine that is surprisingly effective. It’s difficult to judge user intent when playing chords with divisi, but Genesis does a great job of choosing which part should move when chord notes change. And what makes it even better is that even if it doesn’t get it exactly right, the blend of the Genesis parts means nothing stands out. It just flows.
You also have some control over the allowed time between notes and chords that help Genesis determine when to revoice a note or all notes.
If you want to avoid the sterility that often comes from playing multiple parts on a note, Genesis also provides some humanization options so you can randomize the start of the various parts.
Then you have the “Switcher”. This is one of those features that doesn’t seem to get noticed as much in online discussions, and I’m not sure why. It’s fantastic.
The Switcher is a customizable system used for switching between different phrases, different auto-divisi setups, different voice groupings, etc.. This allows you to set up rules for triggering different phrases or mixer presets or divisi voicings. There are four Switcher banks that can be assigned to one of these types of changes (or you can create four banks of divisi voicings or mixer presets, if you really want).
There is a compact view that is shown by default (that gives you a good amount of control in a small space), and an expanded view, shown below.
Each of the four banks can have it’s own unique rules. You can choose to trigger these changes using MIDI CCs or keyswitches. With keyswitches, you can also trigger based on note velocity. You can go even further and set two of these rules for each Switcher bank. So you can have a bank respond to note range and/or velocity.
There are twelve slots in each bank, so you can essentially trigger between 12 phrases or whatever you want. And as mentioned above, you can use the four banks any way you wish. Each of the slots will then react to a particular keyswitch or CC range threshold, or whatever.
Being able to completely change ensemble voicings and the entire mixer section (which is far more than a simple mixer, as you’ll see below), all with unique phrase combinations, and all at the same time or based on specific rules as you play, is just mind-bending. It’s a lot of power that works so easily in real-time with just a bit of setup.
This system is one of the easier control mechanisms I’ve seen. It isn’t exhaustive, but it’s perfect for Genesis.
Genesis has a multitude of ways to tweak how it reacts to your playing. From chord windows to attack and release settings, the whole thing is highly customizable. But the most important thing is that it is inspiring to play. It kind of leads you along and makes you want to find ways to use it. It just feels right when I play it, and it’s difficult to explain why.
But Genesis also takes into account some of the problems that can occur as well. Choir libraries are known to need a little MIDI adjustments afterwards due to the variance on attacks, especially when a word or phrase builder is present. Genesis has a look-ahead function that helps with playback. It essentially adds some latency (so you probably won’t want to play with it on) so the engine can look ahead and adjust the note-on times, making everything line up better with the beat.
I feel like Audiobro virtually thought of everything when developing their new engine. It really is a joy to play, and that is largely because the engine is built around real-time dynamic playing.
Building Words, Bending Phrases
Many choir libraries have included word building and phrase building tools. And I appreciate when they do. I’ll be honest though, I rarely use them. They are sometimes clunky, but usually, it just takes too much work to get something that even close to resembles English-language phrases. And that’s ok. If you’re buying these kinds of libraries to replace a real choir, you’re probably in for some disappointment. But still, I find a hard time getting much use out of tools like this.
Genesis Children’s Choir takes a slightly different approach. The end result is something that I feel is a slight improvement over other phrase building tools, but it does come with a bit of complexity. Not in a “hard to use” kind of way, but just in a “more to think about” kind of way.
The Building Blocks
You can create up to 32 different syllables for each phrase. These blocks can either be one of the self-contained Latin syllables shown above, or you can assign a simple vowel sound. However, you can go further by adding up to one prefix and one suffix to each vowel, along with a diphthong sound if you need your vowel sounds to be more complex or multi-staged.
With these tools, you can put together the blocks you want to create words. For example:
You can get pretty creative here and depending on the words or phrases you want to create, you can get pretty close. Of course, as with any other word builder, you should have tempered expectations when it comes to how far you can go with recognizable phrases. This is simply not meant to be that way. But it’s still pretty powerful. And even these custom words work perfectly with the melisma feature (sustains on the vowel until release).
You can then string together up to 32 of these syllables and play them in order automatically, random order, have the phrase start over each time you let up on the keys, and more. You can copy and paste your phrases, save them as presets, trigger them using The Switcher, and more.
You can even assign syllable switching to a MIDI CC or a control on your MIDI controller, so you can switch between syllables by turning a knob or fader.
The Little Details
To fine-tune the blend of your phrases, you have a variety of controls available at the bottom that allow you to set the volume of each part of your syllables. So if the pitchless elements (prefix and suffixes) are too loud, you can turn them down, for instance. These knobs are a phrase-level control, so you can’t change them for each syllable.
I could spend more time on the phrase builder as it is a core part of the library, but the rest of this review is going to be long enough as it is. But it’s important to see the level of thought that went into the Genesis phrase builder. No, we’re not at a point of accurately recreating clear English choir singing, but what you can do is quite nice.
Manipulating Genesis Childrens Choir- Sound Designing Tools
Audiobro has done a tremendous job of adding additional sound design tools into the Genesis interface. It’s refreshingly deep, but well thought-out.
For starters, you get the virtual stage, which allows you to place each of the 4 parts into a pseudo 3D ‘room’ by simply dragging and dropping each part to the position you want (you can also turn this stage off and just use standard volume and panning controls).
The stage is really just a better way of handling panning and depth. Genesis ships with a large number of custom impulse responses from different recording and performance spaces, most of which sound very good to my ears. It seems to me like these spaces adjust more than just volume and panning though. I felt a little delay adjustment and some dry volume adjustment.
Something that I found quite unique and cool is how you can use the mic positions and the stage impulses together. Normally, if multiple microphone positions are present, built-in reverb isn’t included or is not prominent. Instead, Audiobro has done some clever scripting that actually meshes together these space impulses with the four mic positions. In fact, you can even adjust how much influence each mic position has on the sound stage, which is very cool.
I’m not exactly sure how the engine combines the mic positions and the impulses, but it works. Pretty well, in fact. And this is another one of those things that may normally be overlooked, but instead different parts of the instrument are aware of each other.
The Genesis Mixer
I’m going to split the Mixer page into two sections here because it really is a fairly robust tool with two ‘parts’. Most libraries include some kind of mixer, particularly when multiple microphone positions are recorded. But the Genesis mixer is more than that.
At the core, the Genesis mixer is exactly what you would expect. You have volume control, a pan fader, mute and solo and group buttons (so you can adjust multiple mics at once), and an output selector.
Below these you will find a button that allows you to turn on or off any of the mic positions, which also unloads samples from memory if you need to free up some RAM.
Above these controls is a list of inserts, 8 per mic position to be exact. In each of these slots, you can add any one of the 81 included effects pre-fader. These effects are just the built-in Kontakt effects, but the fact that Audiobro gives you the ability to use virtually all of the included effects is impressive.
In addition to the included effects is the ability to add a “send” on any of the insert slots. We’ll talk about the sends system in a moment, but sends allow you to control how much of the signal is sent to the effect, along with being able to send multiple mics to the same effect, and even more than once to the same effect in a single insert chain. The possibilities are vast.
I love that all 81 effects also have pop-out controls that let you adjust all the parameters without having to switch pages or dig into the Kontakt editor. You can see an example of this in the image below for the “Chopper”
Speaking of which, at the top of this main section of the mixer, you have what’s called the “Chopper”. This is kind of like a rhythmic gate or volume LFO on steroids. It’s fairly powerful and offers quite a few options on how the sound is chopped up. It gets better when you mix the chopped sounds with the modulation and other features that we’ll discuss in a moment.
On it’s own, this main mixer section is more powerful than most Kontakt instruments get. It’s well thought-out and simple to use. But there is more to the Mixer page that brings it to an entirely different level.
Sends, Modulation, and Automation
I ignored this section at first. Why? Because I just wanted to have a children’s choir sound. That’s why I bought Genesis. I knew this section was there, but honestly, couldn’t even figure out how to use it all. But as part of my process when doing reviews, I made sure to look into it more. That was a good choice because it opens up some new possibilities.
On the right side of the mixer page is a set of three tabs; Sends, Modulation, and Automation.
Let’s start with the Sends section, as this is the most straightforward. You have a total of 6 available sends. These sends can hold a Delay, Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Convolution Reverb, Algorithmic Reverb, and Gainer (which is basically a volume gain control).
As mentioned above, you can send the signal from any of the microphone positions to one of these sends. You can send the signal multiple times in the same effects chain if you wish, and you can send multiple mics to the same sends. This gives you some flexibility for controlling the amount of effect you want to apply, among other things.
The next tab is the Automation Tab. It’s just four sliders, as you can see, but you can assign these sliders to ANY parameter from any effect in the mixer (except The Chopper, for some reason). This serves two purposes. One, you can assign the same slider to as many parameters as you want. So if you want to assign a slider to the filter cutoff of a filter insert on each channel and control them all at once, you can. Or you can get much more creative. But they can be assigned to any parameter on any insert effect on any mic position, and as many of them as you want. Then you could automate that one slider in your DAW, or control it in real-time, without having to MIDI learn every parameter.
Finally, we have the Modulation tab. This works similar to a modulation section on most synthesizers. You have four total modulators. Each one has the ability to set the number of steps, the musical time value of a step, and a lag time. Lag time is basically a smoothing mechanism that interpolates the values from one step to another. So instead of jumping from one step to another, it moves gradually. You can set the speed of this move as well.
And as you may have guessed, each modulator can be assigned to any parameter of any effect in any insert slot of any mic position. And a modulator can be assigned to as many of those parameters as you want. This includes send levels.
The end result of all this control is that you have the mini workings of a sample-based synthesizer, with a children’s choir being the sound source. This works best for pads and evolving atmospheres, but you can get pretty gritty as well. With 81 effects, 6 send slots, 4 automatable sliders, and 4 modulation sources, Genesis really is one of the best pad machines I’ve seen. And that isn’t even its primary function!
And even better is that it’s fun to use.
To make things even better, you have presets you can choose, or save your own presets, and then using the controls available in The Switcher, you can switch between entire mixer presets and settings with a simple keyswitch or MIDI CC value. With some imagination, it’s quite insane what you can do.
Some Final Thoughts
WHEW! So here we are. I realize that some readers may not reach this far into the review, and it’s been longer than a typical review. But I wanted to draw attention to a library that I truly don’t think gets enough of it. Much of this review contains information that can be found on the sales page, but I wanted to explain it with a little more depth because even I wasn’t fully aware of what I was getting myself into at first.
There is no such thing as a perfect sample library. But I have played hundreds of libraries, and Genesis stands near the top in terms of the overall package. It sounds amazing, looks beautiful, and has enough sound design possibilities to warrant two separate products. All this in a children’s choir.
I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with Genesis and learning the ins and outs. I can’t wait to see how Audiobro expands on the engine they created for Genesis because it really is one of the most fluid and enjoyable experiences I’ve had with a library.
Audiobro really knocked it out of the park with this one.