When asked to review an orchestral library, there aren't that many people as qualified to cast a critical eye as Ty Unwin. For 30 years, hes been busting crazy deadlines to bring music to prime time TV dramas, documentaries and features. One of the most hardworking people in this competitive industry.
So imagine our surprise when he agreed to take a look at the Spitfire Audio BBC Symphony Orchestra Library for us - result!
The Spitfire BBC Symphonic Orchestra samples all sections of the internationally renowned BBC Symphony Orchestra in their natural habitat- the BBC Maida Vale studios in London. This building is being decommissioned ,so its even more poignant that there is a sample library available. The BSO are a unique orchestra in that they play together almost every day and Spitfire do what they do in creating the sample sets, and this time are using their own playback engine, rather than Kontakt.
Featuring Strings, Brass, Woodwind and Percussion sections - each with several sub-sections, its a comprehensive collection representing the orchestra in its entirety. Articulations have been carefully chosen to bring the most relevant sounds to the end user - and to enable keeping it within a reasonable size. Which does mean that some more specialised playing techniques will not be present.
All sections have microphone mix controls, with two preset mixes plus direct, Decca Tree, Ambient and Outriggers, plus some solo instruments have additional mix options.
Articulation - one thing that Ty pointed out is that the playing engine allows for some performance smarts - playing legato at low velocities will add portamento to the strings for instance, velocity switching gives more authenticity to the flutes with staccato samples at high velocities. This sort of programing is all over the library and when combined with keygroup switching, allows for a more performance based approach.
Portability - another aspect Ty mentioned, was that there are very few complete orchestral sample sets, mainly these are built ad-hoc from multiple (and expensive) libraries and choices would vary from composer to composer. Sptifire aim to create a way for collaborative compositions but making this library something many composers would have as a starting point.
Issues - Ty was fairly glowing in his review, but there were a few issues - firstly the lack of visual delineation between plug-ins, the brass looks like the violins which looks like the marimba - making it easier to edit the wrong instance as there are no visual cues. There was also a little inconsistency between key-switching and controller assignments, these can be fixed with user reassignment of course.
There were one or two spots where transitions in and out of vibrato weren't as smooth as they could be, but given the 1million+ samples involved, its unsurprising there may be one or two of these.
Overall, Ty said he would recommend this library as a starting point for orchestral scoring work or composition, something I'm sure Spitfire will be delighted to hear.
Available now priced at £679 Download version (till Nov 7th) £899 after, SSD option - add £199 (Nov 7th) £249 after.
Full orchestral library in one package