Brass Ensemble Review
(Soundiron Symphony Series)
Have you been looking for a new brass library that is hassle-free and just lets you play? Well, if it also has to sound great, I might have just the thing you were looking for. It was my pleasure to have a look at Symphony Series: Brass Ensemble by Soundiron. The latest addition to Native Instrument’s Kontakt orchestral libraries within their “Symphony Series”.
When two big names like that team up it’s bound to produce something big, and indeed it did. There is a lot to look at so here is a list of features and facts for you to get an Idea.
- Created by Soundiron in partnership with Native Instruments.
- Holds 38 NI Kontakt instruments which are made up of over 45,000 samples recorded in 24 bit / 48kHz lossless NCW format.
- Compatible with both the FULL version of Kontakt and the FREE Kontakt Player.
- Over 100 articulations
- Several Round Robins for extremely realistic sounds
- Section mixer to control the weight within the whole ensemble.
- Microphone mixer with 4 different microphone channels.
- Cross-grade is available for Komplete owners.
- All dynamics are controllable by the Mod-wheel.
- Articulation change via customizable Key-switches.
- Dynamic Legato, Staccato, Sustain, Expression, and Effects instrument for each section as well as a full Ensemble instrument.
- Includes a high-quality convolution reverb, filter, compressor, and EQ.
- “Komplete Kontrol S-Series Keyboards” support.
So from this alone it is already clear that Soundiron went very deep when creating this library. The content exceeds what the “standard brass libraries” contained by quite a bit and is a successful effort to raise the standards in both, sound quality and usability for this type of sample library.
If you’d like to get a taste of what “Symphony Series: Brass” sounds like, before reading on, check out the video series by SoundIron here. I will be waiting for you.
Gives a good impression, right? So let’s have a look at what is actually in this library. “Symphony Series: Brass” contains 100 fully-playable chromatic articulations and 59 effects recorded with true legato and up to eight round robins and extended ranges.
Included are: true legato, a variety of sustain types, round-robin staccato with multiple staccato tonguings, trills, sforzandos, swells, crescendos, decrescendos, ultra-forte blasts, muted articulations, to just name the most important ones.
Among the included effects are clusters, sweeps, falls, risers, stabs, stingers, valve noises, and more. Even some more odd sounds like “valve clearing” or “tuning” loops, which might not be what composers fall in love with. But for sound designers, this is a wonderful material. With Soundiron being the one who made this it was almost expectable. It’s still a treat and something that sets this library apart.
I went through all of them one by one and have to admit I couldn’t find even one that sounded sloppy. All articulations and effects are remarkable as far as sound quality goes. There may be other libraries I would go to for a very specific type of character, but in most cases, this will be my first “go-to library” now, whenever I need a brass ensemble.
Judging by the Sound I would place this within the top libraries out there at the moment. I can only think of a few that match this one in sample quality. If I consider the interface and playability of “Symphony Series: Brass” it could easily rank at the top of the Brass libraries on the market. Only for composers that like to have control over every little tiny detail, this might be a little too “closed” in the way it is designed.
The overall look of this Library is very clean and simple but in an engaging and beautiful way. It contains 2 main Pages, “Performance” and “Mixer”. Apart from that there is only the “Articulations” Page, reached via the “Edit” button on the unfolded “Articulations” menu.
Within the “Ensemble” instrument is another Page. The “Ensemble” page. It offers a mixer control for the whole ensemble. Four sliders with flexible dynamic range give you a lot of control over the presence of each section within the ensemble.
The clean look makes the whole library instantly graspable and gives a sense of control supported by the structure and organization. It is refreshing to see a library with such a complex sound but such a comfortable, simple front.
The Main Page of the library is dominated by one big knob in the center of the page. This is the dynamics control and is wonderfully made. Turning this nob shapes the sound in a very organic transition, from soft note to clear brass punch, with just one twist. Below this knob sit separate controls for Attack, Release, Tightness, and Motion. After testing them I found, they make very useful additional tools for easily forming the sound into what you desire, beyond the dynamics.
The left bottom corner is designated to the color-coded articulations. Easy to see, easy to switch, easy to expand and adjust. Besides that is a little X/Y graph that shows the movement of the articulation over time. I really like this little implementation since it gives me a graphical equivalent of the sound and helps me a lot, especially when teaching.
In the right corner sits a little speed control which is more powerful than it leads to believe at first sight. Dependent on the selected articulation, it gives you control over spread, playback speed, repetitions, rhythm and more.
The “Mixer” page shows four sliders. “Stereo”, ”Close”, ”Mid” and “Far”, as well as panning for each channel. The samples were originally recorded with 14 microphones which you can manage here via the sliders. Below the sliders sit Equalizer, Convolution Reverb, Filter, and Compressor. They all sound tailored to the samples and offer great contextual control.
By default, the “Stereo” channel is the only active channel. It provides a solid “out of the box” sound, but sounds very big. For a smaller sound, I have to go and make my own mix. I like that they included a quick solution for beginners. But since it is possible to save and load mixer settings, it would have been nice to include a few presets as well.
The “Articulations” page is easily accessed from the Performance page and allows you to select one of the 100 articulations for each articulation bank. This variety combined with the option to change articulations via key-switch or Midi CC offers great flexibility without the risk of being lost in the options. All possible articulations are neatly sorted by type and category so that building your own custom articulation set only takes a few clicks and is done in seconds.
“Symphony Series: Brass” is definitely a very solid library. To me it is clearly intentioned for scoring and classical composition but definitely also useful for Rock, Pop, Electronic or
Hip Hop productions. I like this approach. It certainly isn’t the cheapest you can find out there, but it is one of the best I’ve come across so far. It is easy to get in and probably easier to master than most others. The sound quality is top-notch and I can’t find any major setbacks, not matter how hard I look. “Symphony Series: Brass” goes on my “top of 2015 libraries” list, and if you find yourself looking for a Brass library and have the extra coin to spend, I would recommend this one.
- Very high-quality sound.
- Intuitive interface.
- Great Workflow.
- High customizability.
- Vast library with lots of cinematic, expressive detail.
- Fairly expensive – worth it. But not in everyone’s reach.