This Brass is Amazing
Ever wanted to get that big, bold, cinematic brass sound? Ever wish you could have beautifully sampled brass sections that included 8 pieces in each section (Trumpets, Horns, Trombones and Tubas?) Ever wanted a library that contained nearly every articulation from beautiful True Legato to crazy clusters for Aleotoric elements? Well, now you can have just that, and more, with Soundiron’s SYMPHONY SERIES BRASS ENSEMBLE.
The amazing sound engineers and composers over at Soundiron have created one of the best sounding brass ensembles I have ever had the pleasure to play. The logical layout and design of the instrument made it very easy for me to prototype the brass sections, then dive into the individual instruments and add tons of flair with all the articulations and expressions available to me. Another great feature is the True Legato, which includes sampled slurred legato intervals which sounds tremendous and smooth. They used a combination of sampling and scripting to achieve a near perfect legato.
One of my favorite things about the articulations such as crescendo, sforzando and so on is that they can be synced to tempo! Plus, they have a cool little graph that shows you the progress of each as it is playing.
I could go on and on about the features of this library, such as the extensive customization features, but let’s take a listen to a demo song that I wrote using the library, and then take a look at an overview video, which talks about most of the features of the library. In addition, I have created four in-depth videos that go into most of the articulations of each section.
What’s Inside the Box
BRASS ENSEMBLE comes with 25 KONTAKT Instruments that cover four instrument sections: Horns • Trombones • Trumpets • and Tubas.
There are six instruments per above section. The Trumpet Section, for example, contains the following articulations:
All articulations are easily changed using assignable key switches.
Comparison with Other Brass Libraries
This is the first review we have done as part of our Brass Series, so I cannot directly compare it to other libraries at this time. The closest library would probably be Spitfire’s BML Phalanx which has sections of six horns each. This library has 8 per section. BRASS ENSEMBLE also has more articulations as well as more playability and customization features (however I don’t have Phalanx so it’s a bit hard to judge).
Another near neighbor would be our recently reviewed Metropolis Ark. Metropolis Ark has more bombast, but far less subtlety than this library. Metropolis Ark has no piano or mutes, and is focused far more on a specific type of sound than the breadth that this library offers.
Standbys like Cinebrass and Hollywood Brass sound great, but a full comparison with these libraries will have to come later.
Ensemble Brass At a Glance
Re-scoring a Trailer
For this demo, I used a wide variety of brass patches from this library. I also used Soundiron’s amazing Apocalypse Percussion Ensemble 2 for the drums, and then relied on Spitfire’s Albion One for the strings and woodwinds. To see more details about how I scored this, check out the video at the end of the article called “ProTools Mixing Session.”
Forward No Longer – Written by Lawson Madlener
All horns used in this demo are from Soundiron’s Ensemble Brass.
Overview and Walkthrough
In this video, I take you through the main features of Brass Ensemble and play some of the articulations from the patch which contains all four of the included brass sections: Trumpet, Horns, Trombones and Tubas.
Podcast Interview with Soundiron Co-Founder Mike Peaslee
Lawson Madlener and I had a chance to sit down and talk with Mike Peaslee in depth about his background and the first three libraries we will be reviewing for you from Soundiron. To listen to the discussion on Ensemble Brass directy, go to 25:00. Here is a list of topics we discussed:
- 0:00 Intro
- 2:00 How Mike got started doing sample libraries
- 5:15 Importance of work ethic
- 9:00 Gear
- 12:00 Journey from first sample library
- 15:51 Sound Library Discussion: Apocalypse Percussion Ensemble
- 25:00 Sound Library Discussion: Ensemble Brass
- 34:50 Sound Library Discussion: Mercury Boys Choir
- 43:50 The Future Soundiron Products
- 50:00 Ram optimization of the libraries
Streaming Podcast on Mixcloud
Review of Each Instrument in Depth
In the following videos, I go through most of the articulations of each of the horn sections, Trumpets, Horns, Trombones and Tubas.
Pro Tools Mixing Session of the Demo Song
Here is the Pro Tools session I used when mixing the Demo Song shown above:
Details about the Library
Recording – The Space
The recording space for Ensemble Brass has a beautiful natural reverb and helps to produce the wonderful full sound in this library. It is the same church that the other Soundiron libraries were recorded in to keep the libraries reverb profiles consistent.
Three different mic positions were used, and can be mixed
BRASS ENSEMBLE has multiple mic positions – from basic STEREO to CLOSE, MID and FAR microphone positions. This means you can have a production-ready STEREO mix or create your own mix from CLOSE, MID and FAR microphone positions.
There is a dedicated Mixer page which has a parametric EQ, convolution REVERB, COMPRESSION and FILTER effects let you adjust the sound to be exactly as you like it.
Dynamic Performance Controls
The following controls are all ways to adjust the sound of each instrument. These give nearly unlimited variety and even allow for sound designing of various patches. They are intuitive and easy to modify.
The Attack control allows you to increase the fade-in time per note to simulate realistic variations throughout a passage. By setting the Attack time to higher values, you can cause the notes to fade in more slowly, giving the notes a more solemn and gentle character.
The Release control applies an additional envelope to the fade-out phase of the notes. Reducing the Release setting to 0% produces a very “dry” sounding result, which can sometimes make the result sound artificial. However, this can be very useful when adding internal or external reverb effects, as this allows the additional reverb to avoid conflicting with the natural sampled ambience.
The Tightness control determines the starting point for the playback of a sample. This feature is extremely useful when used in combination with the Attack control to allow you to cut into the initial transient for an articulation to allow more precise note attacks.
When increasing the Tightness value to shift playback farther into the sample, it is recommended you increase the Attack value as well to refine the shape of the note attack.
The Motion control allows you to add movement to the sound, which modulates both pitch and intensity of the note.
I love this little guy. It is a graphical representation of what the articulation is doing in its perfromance. It only applies to the Expression category of Articulations. The curve from left to right visualizes how the intensity, volume or pitch evolves over time in the selected. These can be synced to tempo as well!
There are numerous ways to customize the instrument to your liking, but the default settings will work for most situations.
Above: Depending on whether you assign Key switches or MIDI CC, the Articulation Slot Setup view
offers slightly different sets of controls. This is an overview of the Key Switch setup.
As you can see and hear from this library, there is very little it cannot do. It stands alone among brass libraries in that it has sampled 8 horns for each section. The audio craftsmen at Soundiron are meticulous and every aspect of this library is well thought out, easy to play and easy to customize. They are recorded with state of the art hardware in a beautiful space that is consistent with most other Soundiron libraries. I found that mixing them with Spitfire libraries in my demo song was seamless, and I am sure they would sound good with most other libraries as well.
One would think that with 8 horns per section this library would be on par with Metropolis Ark for loudness, but in fact this library has a lot of subtlety. Its piano patches and mutes are excellent, and when you consider the wide pallette of articulations and expressions, it is definitely one of the finest brass libraries available today!