Review - Pop Strings: UK by Q Up Arts
Anyone thats watched my YouTube channel for a while might know that I love to use orchestral sample libraries in electronic mixes. It creates a much more interesting sound than just some pad sound in Serum. So when I heard that someone had released an orchestral sample/loop pack with a focus on integrations with pop and hip-hop, I was interested! Pop Strings: UK is a collection of 6GB of loops and one-shots featuring solo strings, ensemble strings, bass lines, piano, keyboards, hip-hop beats, and synth parts. Regular $99, but on sale for $49 at the time of writing this blog post - available now here.
What Pop Strings: UK Includes
I don't think their website does the best job at portraying exactly what you're going to get with this sample/loop pack, so i'm going to break it down as clearly as possible. Basically a sample / loop pack is a collection of one-shots and loops you can use in your music royalty-free.
The loops provide you with incredibly realistic sounding parts because they were actually performed by musicians real-time, as opposed to you trying to program these parts using a Kontakt library (at least in the case of the string and piano arrangment). Another perk of loops is that they offer great starting points for songs, and give you parts you may never otherwise compose yourself. You may be a pro at writing parts for guitar, or synthesizers, but the world of orchestral composition is very different and you likely won't get as great of a result as people who do this for a living. You can tell that this pack was made by professionals who know exactly what they're doing.
Pop Strings: UK is broken up into 8 songs
Each song features the following:
Loops for all instruments (both Wet and Dry)
A MIDI file
Each song and all the sample files are labelled with their key and tempo information, as well as a description of the instruments in each file. Each song is broken up into sections, which is what the loops are exported as. This makes it quite easy to listen to the master export track, decide what section and instruments you want, and then go find the file to drag into your DAW to use in your music. In total there are about 900 files - this number is taken from the folder properties on my computer, not from Q Up Arts' own description, so this number is an estimate.
The drums are broken up into full exports, and stripped / top versions. This allows you to use part of the drum section, but use the one-shots to construct the rest yourself. Some sections have intro versions and tail versions in addition to the loops, which allows you to obtain both seamless looping and have realistic beginnings and endings.
Here is a video I made showing whats inside Pop Strings: UK, and I use some of the drums in a track i'm working on. Hopefully this explains my thought process for using samples in my music.
Performs / Producers
Pop Strings: UK features a number of well known names on its roster. Harry "Runone" Robinson is a beat-maker, producer, writer, and multi-instrumentalist who has worked with Grammy award-winning artists. Kate Robinson is a touring violinist and part of the Heritage Orchestra, having worked with Bjork, Aphex Twins, Stevie Wonder, and many more well known artists. They also joined forces with seasoned beat maker and producer Simon Tew.
Typically with products like this I ignore the price in terms of its review score because I want to focus on quality instead, but that doesn't mean we can't talk about it. I think the on-sale price of $49 is very fair - the pack is quite big and everything is high quality. Having said that the full price of $99 is kind of steep for a loop pack from the perspective of a consumer, even if it is very high quality and large in size,.
However there is something you have to consider about Pop Strings: UK - the pack is very high quality and likely cost a lot to produce (look at the credentials of the people in the section before this, they don't work for free!). There is also an advantage of higher prices that is often unspoken, and the advantage is that less people will have the sounds. If money is an issue for you but you still really want the pack, just make sure to take advantage of sales! The audio software / sample industry is very rewarding to the patient who can wait to buy around the holidays. As i've mentioned in the past for other reviews, music professionals who make money off of their music probably won't even think about the price if they know they can use it in their production.
Conclusion: Should You Buy It?
The answer to this question is very personal as it depends on your applications and needs. Perhaps you just need some high quality songs to use in your video productions - this is a very affordable way to get royalty-free music to use (VERY affordable). If you love the vibe of the pack and want to add high quality string or piano performances to your next song, it might be for you. If you use loops like this as the basis of your compositions on the regular, and write music around the loops, then you'll probably see the value that a pack like this can provide.
So if you fit in one of those categories I think you should consider buying Pop Strings: UK. As with many premium products, it has its own niche category. The sounds themselves are incredible, the melodies are catchy, and the drums are groovy - you'll definitely be getting a high quality pack that you'll find many uses for if you use loops in your products. In terms of quality alone its a 5/5 score, but I think the true definition of a 5/5 score is something that is a 'must-buy'. For this reason i'm going to deduct a star.