Saturday, October 22, 2016

Native Instruments Symphonic Essentials Demos

I've spent parts of the last several days trying to download and evaluate Native Instruments Symphonic Essentials Demos for brass and strings. If you've run across my blog before, you know that I have bought and worked with several NI instrument plug-in products. My favorites are the Strummed Acoustic instrument for Kontakt 5 and the Rounds synth for Reaktor 6. Both of these have come in handy at various points in my stock music work.

Having heard some of the possibilities of the Symphonic Essentials Brass and Strings instruments from NI's promotional videos, I decided to download and evaluate the demo versions. This led me on an adventure that lasted several days. If you're trying to figure out how to get these things installed, read on (it's not an easy process).

I began by submitting my email address for access to the download files. I already have an account on the NI site, so  this is no big deal. The Brass Essentials file comes down as a 5 MB executable that downloads the sound files with an option to then automatically run the setup. The sounds take up close to 4 GB and I had a lot of trouble with their downloader. It failed a couple of times, and when I was able to download the whole thing, it then failed to execute the setup program.

To complicate matters, the files do not come down as a zip file, but as a disc image (.iso). Since Windows 10 killed my DVD drivers (thanks Microsoft!) I had no way to easily burn the image onto a disk to install. The String Essentials download doesn't even include an executable downloader; it just downloads the .iso directly.

With no way to burn the images to disc, I checked the NI support forums. Lo and behold, a lot of people there were experiencing the same problem as I was. NI recommended using a drive mounting utility to map a drive to the image in order to access the files. The one I found and used for Windows 10 was Pismo File Mount from Pismo Technic. It includes a number of utilities for working with disc images, not just file mounting. I found it easy to use, and it worked extremely well. My compliments to Pismo. Now I thought I was good to go, but not so fast!

It's not enough to merely mount the drive, because I couldn't actually run the setup file from the mounted .iso directly. I needed to copy all the files from the disc image into a folder on my C: drive. Then, and only then, could I run the included install utility to install all the file packages. After all that, I found out that the demo times out after 10 minutes.

Part of my problem was that I don't have the fastest or most reliable network connection where I'm currently living. But I suspect there were access problems on the NI end as well. In the final analysis, I conclude it wasn't worth it to spend time on and off from Wednesday night to early Saturday afternoon in order to get 10 minutes hands on with the product demos. If your network is faster and more reliable, and you're comfortable doing all the stuff I described earlier with drive mounting and so on, it might be worth it to you.

Otherwise, I would advise not to bother with the demos at all. Check out the NI videos, and then buy the full versions, or don't. I may eventually buy them, but I'm also leaning toward something like Garritan Instant Orchestra in order to get ideas down quickly where I want to work in orchestral styles.

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