Arturia has never been known for its recreations of acoustic instruments (though, there are decent pianos included as part of its V Collection). And frankly, that’s probably not going to change after today, but it is branching out to orchestral and string sounds with a decidedly experimental edge. Augmented Strings is the first entry in a new series of instruments from Arturia. The idea seems simple enough: take some orchestra and string samples, then “augment” them with various synth engines and effects to create something new.
The core concept is similar to what Output offers with its Analog Strings instrument. The results are a bit different, though. Where Analog Strings can get truly wild and chaotic, Augmented feels a bit more grounded in what you imagine when you hear “string instrument”. (Though, that’s not to say there are some interesting textures here.) It also doesn’t offer you quite as much control over the underlying engine. In fact, from an interface perspective, it has more in common with Spitfire’s stripped-down Labs series.
There’s one giant knob in the middle of the UI for the Morph macro, and that’s surrounded by seven other macro knobs. Morph, is the beating heart of Augmented Strings, though. Each patch is made up of four layers which can include string samples alongside virtual analog, wavetable, harmonic, and granular synthesis, and as you turn the Morph knob it blends between them.
The other seven controls further shape the sound, but don’t really offer you fine grained control over specific parameters. Only Reverb and Delay really have clear labels, but even those aren’t controls over any particular parameter. Other than that there’s Time, Motion, Color, FX A and FX B. Color tends to do some filtering and tone shaping, while Motion usually introduces some form of modulation, but what exactly they’re doing behind the scenes is a mystery.
For a company that has made its name meticulously recreating vintage synthesizers and then beefing them up with additional controls and modern amenities, the shift to something purely preset-based is a bit odd. But at the end of the day all that matters is how it sounds, and Augmented Strings is definitely a win. It leans towards the cinematic, with lush orchestral sounds often brushing up against thick analog-sounding pads and subtly glitchy granular effects. And I’ve even got to give Arturia props for the background images that subtly shift and react as you play and tweak macro knobs. Everything feels well thought out and polished. Just be warned that it is a pretty demanding instrument, and on a few occasions brought my 2019 MacBook Pro to a crawl
If all of that has piqued your interest, well, I’ve saved perhaps the best part for last. Augmented Strings Intro is free to download until April 30th.