What’s this, a new score? And what’s that, a new Sample Library?!

That’s right!

Last week, I took a bit of a plunge and invested in a new orchestral library, Spitfire Audio’s lastest addition to their Albion range: Albion One. I’ve been eye-balling their plugins for some time now, and whilst Albion is effectively their most basic package, it absolutely packs a punch. Until now, I’d only owned a couple of very select plugins from Spitfire, including their Labs “Scary Strings” but have been very aware of just how powerful their larger libraries are. Perhaps one day I’ll be reviewing their BML (British Modular Library) range, but for now, Albion One will absolutely do.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about here (sample library?! plugins?!) Let me very briefly explain what’s going on. Many film (and particularly TV) composers have started to turn to what are known as VST (Virtual Studio Technology) instruments, also known as VSTi’s. Of these, are a particular type known as “samplers” or “sample libraries”, which are made up of very small recordings of real instruments. A violin library, for example, might include hundreds of tiny recordings ranging from 1 second to x seconds long, of a violin playing every single note within its range, at different velocities (loudnesses), at various lengths and with a selection of articulations. Within their DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), a composer or producer can stitch these little fragments back together in whatever order they like, to produce a track.

Generally speaking, this stitching process is made easier by the samplers, which can vary hugely in ability (how seamlessly they are able to stitch 2 notes together). Whilst Spitfire Audio are relatively new to the industry, they are already one of the leading producers of Kontakt samplers on the market. The term “true legato” is one which can be easily thrown around, with samplers claiming to replicate the sound of one note naturally leading to the next. However, I’m almost certain that within Spitfire’s Albion One library, many of these “legatos” are not artificially created. Instead, I would suggest that they actually had every instrument (with real legato samples) play each note followed by very potential transitioning note. Assuming an instrument has a range of 4 octaves, or 48 notes, it’s sample library would have to increase in size by 5000%!

To improve their sound further, Spitfire Audio have taken extreme levels of care and detail in their recordings. Recorded at the hall in the prestigious Air Studios, they have masterfully devised the best microphone positions to give an all round (and fully adjustable) timbre to the orchestra.

Because of this insane level of attention, I do need a beast of a machine to be able to run the samples, especially when layering an entire orchestra together. But hopefully you’ll be able to hear the difference in the track above. I would expect that, to a layman, it sounds pretty darn realistic. Even to someone who knows a fair bit about how an orchestra should sound, ought to be impressed. And why? Because essentially, it is a real orchestra. Bearing in mind I’ve only just started using the library, there are obviously a few areas which need ironing out. But folks, this is for life, and it cost me about 20 times less than hiring a professional orchestra!

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