Berlin Woodwinds, from developer Orchestral Tools, has been one of the more noteworthy woodwind libraries out there for the last couple of years. Now, with the new CAPSULE-update (version 2.0), it is even easier to change those under-the-hood settings you may have thought possible only in your dreams.
Eleven musicians were recorded in the renowned Teldex Studio in Berlin. This might seem like overkill, as Berlin Woodwinds is a library consisting of solo instruments, but it makes true divisi lines possible, and we are spoiled with a choice of additional players who actually sound very different from each other.
Berlin Woodwinds includes the following instruments:
– 1st Flute
– 2nd Flute
– 3rd Flute
– Flute Ensemble 8va, a3
– 1st Oboe
– 2nd Oboe
– English Horn
– 1st Clarinet
– 2nd Clarinet
– Clarinet Ensemble, a3
– 1st Bassoon
– 2nd Bassoon
Nothing out of the ordinary here: enter your serial code into the Continuata downloader (a link for this application is included in the email you are sent upon purchase, together with the serial code) and you are off. When you are done, the library takes up about 67 GB, and you need only register Berlin Woodwinds in the Native Instruments Service Center before you are ready to unleash your inner woodwind player. It can be used with either the full version of Kontakt 5 or the free player.
Who needs manuals, right? Well, when I first open a patch such as Flute 1 Multi, I am met with a very minimalistic GUI that is not at all self-explanatory. Obviously it is a keyswitching menu, and of course I can recognise some of the abbreviations, but not all. So, I begrudgingly find the manual, but it turns out the abbreviations page is incomplete (Orchestral Tools are aware of this, and are correcting it), so not much help to find there. While I eventually did figure it out by opening single articulations, my confusion could easily have been avoided by perhaps listing more of the articulations’ full names in the box, where there is clearly room (see picture below), at least when only one articulation is active. I should say that the single articulation patches are much easier to make sense of. However, the sounds themselves more than make up for these small inconveniences. And when you get the hang of the library, it is easy enough to navigate.
The articulations all sound great out of the box, and included in most of the instruments are the ones we would expect: Legato, sustains, staccato, staccatissimo, portato short and long, sforzando, double- and triple tonguing, run transitions, the famed trills orchestrator, and the runs builder in the ensemble patches.
The trills orchestrator is a clever little thing: you basically just play the two notes you want to trill between, all the way up to a fifth (depending on the instrument). It is even possible to have more trills going on at the same time, and on top of that, there is the measured trills patch that adapts to your DAW’s tempo.
The runs builder in the ensemble patches is a way to create runs as with pre-recorded blocks, which you can put together any way you like. You can choose between ten types of short phrases, and they can be played in all keys, and in ten different scales, including octatonic, locrian, and chromatic. This approach is like building with LEGOs, but it is still very flexible, and the chances of getting just the runs you want are quite good, I think. Of course, you could also just play it in using the run transitions patch, or even the legato patch, which sounds quite good doing runs as well.
All the patches sound great, and you can choose between Close, Room, and Mix mic positions on the mixer page (the latter position is a mix of the Close and Room mics), and fiddle around there a little bit. There is even a fader to control the instrument “noises”, hence another possibility to add even more realism. Most of this is pretty standard among developers by now, but it is still very useful.
All the different instruments have a multi patch (like the one above) where you can make your own keyswitches. An exciting item here is the Mono/Poly KS switch, which, if on Poly, gives you four different ways of triggering your keyswitches. The most interesting keyswitch is the CC XFade 2D, where you can crossfade between up to four articulations. Do not just take my word for it, check out this Youtube link to watch Stan Berzon, scripting pro at Orchestral Tools, demonstrating CC XFFade 2D:
Something that really stands out in this library, and what Orchestral Tools call an industry-first, is the possibility of switching on true legato on whatever long patch you would like. This is really quite useful, so if you like legato, click this button:
Another standout is the CC XFade 2D which allows you to crossfade between the patches of your choice. This is particularly useful when crossfading between different kinds of vibrato, which was not possible in the earlier versions of BWW. The greatest standout, however, is the brilliant playing of the involved musicians, of course – this library just sounds excellent.
Berlin Woodwinds is very easy to use when you figure it out. I can only say that I highly recommend this library. While I wish a bass clarinet or a contrabassoon were included here, these instruments, along with an Eb clarinet, can be found in the first of the woodwind series expansions, BWW EXP A.For anyone wishing to do serious woodwind material, Berlin Woodwinds is a great sounding, must-have library.