Spitfire audio is a UK company established in 2008 by a couple of film composers looking for good sample material they could use for their projects. Encouraged to commercialize their work, they are now are a benchmark for orchestral sample libraries the world over.
The British Modular Library is a massive collection of all the separate orchestral sections, unfinished as of yet, so far the library consists of symphonic and chamber strings, horns, flute and low brass. Bones Vol. 1 is the latest addition.
Using the firmly established king of the soft samplers; Kontakt (full version required), Bones Vol 1 is 40GB (uncompressed) samples of Tenor and Bass trombones played by some of the best instrumentalists in London, recorded with several mic positions in AIR studios – home of some of the biggest soundtrack recordings, such as Gladiator, James Bond, and Harry Potter to name a few.
2 players per section – the future volumes will have soloists – but this one is recordings of two tenors and two bass trombonists.
The GUI has been scripted with ease of access to all the various elements and performance parameters. All the basic articulations are covered – laid out on a stanza, with each note representing the particular articulation. Very easy to access. I really like that the articulations are all there for really simple switching. If you want to go template crazy, there is also an option to load up separate articulations as their own instrument. But the simplicity of this layout seems to make it unnecessary to me.
Longs cuivre – a more edgy tone
Multi tongue (double triple and quadruple blimey!)
Rips and Falls
There are four main positions (Close, Tree, Ambient, Outriggers) 3 other secondary positions, which as of this review are being released imminently (Stereo Mic, Gallery mics, Close Ribbons) and 3 set positions created by Spitfire’s chief engineer Jake Jackson for more economic setups (Broad cinematic symphonic mix, Medium – more intimate but very classy version of the mix and Fine – a more detailed and immediate sound with less hall)
The different mic positions are lovely. The Dry mic truly is dry, which is refreshing. A lot of the ‘dry’ mics on other libraries still have enough room in the sample to not be able to take away from the symphonic hall feeling. This dry mix gives you the opportunity to get that tenor trombone in your electro track without it sounding like it’s been recorded on a different planet. Combined with the rips and falls, and other fx, this is definitely the closest library yet for trombone that I could forsee being used in genres other than massive film scores.
I also like the way that you can save mic positions as presets – you find the position and amounts of mics that you want, and you can transfer that preset to another instance you load up, or presumably also different BML modules.
The expected expression controls are to the right of the panel, each with set #CC. But alongside Dynamics and expression, there are some more exotic but extremely useful parameters to control – a nice Vibrato control, a speed control that enables you to change the speed of the legato between notes – very useful from slow to quick note movement. Another – tightness, is an excellent control parameter: The amount of times I’ve been frustrated with fast ostinato passages, because the sample is recorded from the beginning of the sound, and one of the round robin attacks is very slow, which creates weird sloppy timing. Tightness removes that problem.
You can really have fun with this element of the library. You can play in the notes you’d like to feature in the ostinato, and either have them play as chords, or separately. You then select the rhythm you’d like the pattern to play (you can save 8 per instrument in the drop down menu), hit the notes, and off you go. From marches to crazy arpeggios made with a few simple clicks.
The death of Keyswitching
As sample libraries have expanded, and taken over more of the keyboard range, the traditional keyswitches for changing articulations have been pushed out to the extreme ends of the keyboard. Cue multiple button pressing to get to the keyswitches, which are in different places per instrument library anyway, and you end up just automating them in later, with no small amounts of grumbling.
Enter the UACC – Universal Articulation Controller Channel. This is a solid move by Spitfire to unify articulation switching across the entire range of their virtual sample instruments. When you lock the articulations to UACC you lock all the articulations to 1 Midi #CC (number 32 by default), using all the midi data points (127) for the different standard articulations (listed on Spitfire’s website)
This is made in mind of the now standard switch controller, or iPad app to switch between all these points. You could use automation data on ONE track to ensure that the articulation you select for that particular section of the music will always be to the right selection. I really hope that this works out, as it seems to be a very succinct solution to a growing frustration, and could have a profound affect on the speed at which articulations are automated, especially if they’re used across the whole of Spitfires range (and further…)
If that’s not enough, there’s also some alternative ideas some of which I think are very clever. By control clicking on the articulation button, an option menu pops up, giving you quite a large amount of options of how to switch to that current articulation. The standards (Keyswitch, velocity range) are there, but there’s also CC range, Midi channel, and my favorite – ‘By speed of playing’. The computer measures how fast you are playing notes, and by ranges you define, the articulation can switch between smooth long legatos to marcato, to staccato, just by speeding up!
The sound is incredible. The legato is smooth, the different articulations are gorgeous sounding, and clear. One of the intentions of the creators of the Spitfire sound was to have a natural sounding library – complete with little quirks and tweaks of the players, (such as small lip buzzes, or slight bends in the tuning) with the understanding that as part of a larger whole the little artifacts add to the realism of the full sound. In fact, I found some of it a little too much – especially the louder samples which I felt over emphasized the natural flattening that occurs once full volume is reached. But one of the great things about this library script set-up, is that if you’re not wanting the quirks and the squeaks you can punch in each and every round robin, tweaking various elements such as tuning, volume, release, or you can remove that note from the sequence. Brilliant!
You can see a really in depth walkthrough of Bones Vol 1 on a great video posted by spitfire themselves:
Spitfire audio are really challenging the market for fantastic sounding orchestral sample libraries. The Bones module is no different, with a full coverage of the various tones and timbres the orchestral trombone player would be expected to perform. The sound, it goes without saying, is excellent, and out of the box you can create great Trombone lines. However, like a luxury sedan, it has all the mod cons – you want to change or tweak it to fit your style/template/demands, it can do it, all in a cleverly laid out script. The constant clicking through menus and buttons to get the sound you are looking for has been minimized, which for speed of writing, is essential.
279 GBP (Roughly $470)
…The sound is incredible. The legato is smooth, the different articulations are gorgeous sounding, and clear….
- Excellent, authentic sound
- Fantastic attention to detail
- Real promise with a new version of keyswitching.
LOVE IT OR HATE IT
- For Symphonic Trombones, this is brilliant, and even for pop brass, this library would fit. For an addition to a full orchestral library, it’s unbeatable. If you’re a beginner orchestrator on a budget, I would look for full orchestral packages.
- Tuning slightly flat on very loud full notes (although you can change that)