Words and Video by Ian LeCheminant
Versatile, Affordable, Wealth of articulations, Generous Number of Mic Positions, Expansive instruments lists to choose from. Core Versions available for all three libraries, are a great option for laptop producers, students, and for those of you who are just getting started, and are looking to own a set of orchestral samples out of the gate over other subscription models available on the market. Most importantly they sound great and are inspiring to use!
Inconsistent keyswitch mapping and a lack of identical articulations and universal keyswitch mapping across the board. Not a major issue for me but may be for some, the Professional Version requires a generous amount of free disk space. Fortunately SSD storage gets cheaper by the minute, if you decide to invest in this set of tools (especially the Pro versions – 425.6 GB required during install) now might be the time to consider adding an additional SSD to your rig. Both internal and external storage expansion are a viable solution and a welcome addition to any rig. I recommend a 1TB SSD drive addition at minimum, that way you have a bit more wiggle room for additional content and so that way you can have the drive “trimmed” or “over-provisioned” properly for peak performance and lifespan.
The 1TB version of both of these drives are excellent as well. They are linked below.
Samsung 860 EVo 1TB
Samsung 1TB T5 Portable Drive
A great more budget conscious option are the QVO version of these drives. One of which I currently use as my main Projects Drive with my Mac Mini. It’s been great so far and it comes in Space Gray! Drive options linked below.
Samsung 860 QVO 1TB
Samsung 860 QVO 2TB
Spitfire Audio just may be my favorite sampling company. Why? They sample musicians being musical, in great spaces, with great instruments. Resulting in sounds that come alive with great intimacy and detail. Not to mention that their company outreach and support is second to none in my own personal experience.
Looking to invest in your first set of “matched” (samples recorded in the same space) orchestral libraries? Wanna add another full orchestra to your palette? Fall in love with the Bernard Herrmann Toolkit? Then these are the libraries you’ve been waiting for.
Dry stage samples full of expression, generous articulation lists and instruments not available anywhere else. The last point is especially noticeable in the Pro Winds and Brass. You have access to deep sampled Contrabassoon, Contrabass Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Bass Flute, Piccolo Trumpet, Bass Trumpet, Contrabass Trombone, Contrabass Tuba and perhaps best of all a gorgeous Solo Euphonium. A welcome substitute for Solo Horn in pieces that Require intimate soft brass and serve as great layering tool as well on the ensemble a4 Horns patch. All of which I love. You can mix and match to create your own custom orchestras. Especially good for composers inspired by the likes of Alexandre Desplate, Jerry Goldsmith and Hans Zimmer.
If the Pro version/s fit your budget it and you have the disk space available I would most certainly recommend going with the Pro version of this collection. If you are more modular with your library selections and investments and wanna buy one at a time go Pro for the Winds and Brass the extra instruments are worth it and Go Core for the Strings. I’m assuming most of you already own several string libraries. Which I think would pair great with both the Pro Winds and Brass. Assuming you have a nice reverb to blend and tie everything together with. For reverb, I recommend Valhalla Room.
To me the crown jewel in this collection, to my own surprise, is actually the Pro Strings in both iterations. Why? Because they are truly the most versatile set of String Samples I’ve ever used. When people think Spitfire, “Chamber Strings” often comes to mind or mouth soon after. Rightfully so, however I’d make the case that Studio Strings can hold its own against any iteration of the Chamber Strings and in some cases provide an even better string solution for composers looking for bold but intimate and more controllable type samples, that can be both aggressive and subtle on the fly.
In the context of my Velvet Green Music track, Commanding Forces, listed below they are representing a film scoring studio orchestra, but they can also do intimate crime, drama and upbeat animation styles as well. As well as pass for a symphonic orchestra if you dial in enough verb and use the “Large Band” patches (184.108.40.206.4). I think the divisi sections would even work great in the pop landscape or in an Olafur Arnalds style composition entirely on their own or in the context of a dense mix.
The divisi options, captured ‘in-situ’ in the Pro versions really help you to cut down on the synthetic build effect of hearing too many samples playback block chords and more than one single note at a time. They also blend very well with Spitfire’s own Solo String library captured in the Hall at Air Lyndhurst. I have another playthrough in the works showcasing these two libraries paired together. It sounds awesome so far!
If you go Pro with the Strings you essentially get two string libraries in one. One 30 piece Studio String Ensemble (8,6,6,6,4) and one Large Band (16,12,12,12,4). Try the 12 violas and 12 cellos with 8 first violins and 6 second violins. You fall in love with the warmth, depth of sound and strings that sit perfectly under dialogue in most contexts, especially when you engage the signature soft Spitfire Flautando and Sul Tasto articulations. The Sul Tasto G and C patches are really something else, all notes sampled on the instruments lowest string.
My only real gripe with this collection of tools is the lack of universal key switch mapping across tracks. As well as the lack of matched articulations across patches. Which hasn’t hindered my use of the library. It would just be nice to have articulations as identical as possible across the instrument size ranges. That way composers can orchestrate or “synthestrate” (whichever term you prefer), the sections passing around the same idea on the same technique across the various sections at all times. However, I fully understand that this may have been done to keep the library affordable and in most real world use scenarios you are covered with a wealth of highly usable and beautiful articulations across the instrument ranges.
The divisi patches in my beloved strings lack the FX articulations found in the larger (8 and 12 player) patches for example. I’d also welcome the addition of Viola and Concert Bass FX samples for the strings. I’d really like to see additional .nki’s added so that way composers working fast can copy a Vln1 brushed con sordino spiccato patch and have it copy pasted to a Vla con sordino spiccato patch without having to open up the Key Editor/Piano Roll and double check that you are triggering the right articulation. Yes, I know we have expression maps in Cubase, not everyone has the time to make and test a full set of those for every single library they own and use, while staying active on projects etc. But maybe one day?
The standard Spitfire GUI works, I prefer “The Spanner” view, this collection of sounds will provide you with an expansive set of tools for years to come. The legatos across all three collections are fantastic as are the 3 different short articulation options (Short Marcato, Short Staccatissimo, Short Tenuto) in the Brass and Woods. These are awesome sounding and extremely useful. As are the generous and beautifully sampled shorts in the Strings such as Spiccato, Brushed Spiccato, Con Sordino Spiccato, Pizzicato and my favorites the extensively sampled with round-robins Bartok Pizzicato and Col Legno patches.
I see this Studio Orchestra collection being an integral staple in both my mobile and desktop based workstations for years to come. The response from fellow musicians, composers, directors and producers has been nothing but positive when I present professional tracks on real world projects for which these library collections are the core sampled sonic elements contained within. This set of tools sounds great on it’s own, together as a collection and even better as both a primary sample set and blend tool with libraries you already own. It all adds up to help you sound like you!
A great buy and value for anyone interested in exploring the tremendous sonic depths of the Western orchestra in a slightly more contemporary, less traditional symphonic way. A set of tools that can be moulded to your compositional needs as you shift gears from one project to the next.