Spitfire Audio is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high-end instrument sample libraries for modern composition and production. Based out of Air Lyndhurst Studios in London, Spitfire spearhead the development of arguably the most comprehensive and deep sampled array of libraries yet to exist.
Today, I am reviewing a unique and specialised component of the British Modular Library range, Mural Symphonic Evolutions. A vast selection of carefully curated and orchestrated long-form articulations that push the soundscape boundaries of symphonic strings, this progressive and partially exclusive (to those who invest fully in the Mural range) module places the power of organic atmosphere at the tips of your fingers.
Recordings are based on the same format as Mural Vol 1-3, a 60 piece symphonic string section (16,14,12,10,8)
– Decca Tree
Stereo Mixes by award winning engineer Jake Jackson:
B – Broad
M – Medium
F – Fine
Unique features of note:
- Recorded “The Spitfire Way” – with rare vintage microphones to Studer 2” tape via Neve Montserrat pre-amps at 96khz/24bit, and converted via Prism AD converters at Air Lyndhurst, London.
- Created in conjunction with British composer and orchestrator Ben Foskett, whose progressive library work you might recognise from Spitfire’s Albion, Sable, and Evo series, as well as countless other high profile projects.
This is NOT a Kontakt Player library, and requires the full version of Kontakt. It will not appear in the library section on the left of the GUI. It will need to be located in the instrument navigation tab in Kontakt or added to the QuickLoad window for easy insertion.
The installation process for Evo is seamless withand uses SF’s bespoke downloader. The downloader speaks to your internet connection, optimising it for the most effective download. The total download size for this library is an impressive 28.1 GB upon delivery, but requires 56.2GB disk space for unpacking and collating the library components. The downloader intelligently cleans up your download afterwards, removing unnecessary files and leaving you with a simple folder for all the components. You have the option of automatically downloading to a predefined location that the app generates, or to select your own install destination.
Spitfire Install Tips
- All Spitfire libraries require you to choose the folder above the location you wish to install to. This is because SF generates its own folder hierarchy, and this is especially important if you are downloading updates and want the integration to be accurate.
- The architecture of the folders is very simple, and if you want to preserve the older instrument patches for your own reasons (as new ones will replace them by default when integrated), it is possible to install elsewhere and copy components across as you see fit. If you are not used to doing this, then avoid it, as you might inadvertently remove important files. If this happens, you will need to e-mail Spitfire to re-download your product, but they are great at responding quickly.
Mural Symphonic Evolutions is presented in a simple format. Firstly, there’s an .nki patch that gives you integrated access to all of the 48 different articulation variations in a unique user interface designed for the Evo series specifically. Secondly, we also have the option of exploring these on an individual level in the Individual Evolutions folder, another welcome addition for those of use that identify an articulation type that we specifically want to explore. Finally, a Curated Presets folder is provided to demonstrate various interesting combinations, curated by the Spitfire team.
The GUI deployed in the Evo range creates an entirely new way to engage content creatively in conversation. Designed in a grid matrix fashion, what initially seems daunting is actually a very intuitive delivery format that gives you quick and flexible access to the articulations.
The “all in” .nki presents the grid as follows: the X axis is the articulation type, and the Y axis corresponds to the zones of the keyboard. What this allows us to do is assign certain articulation types to certain zones of the keyboard and play them intuitively as one patch. Ease of use is critical to compositional creativity, and this is a sleek and elegant solution to what could potentially be a confusing experience.
The randomise function is fantastic, generating spontaneous variations. The randomise only visible option (accessible by clicking the Evo icon above the X axis) is particularly fantastic, generating interesting soundscapes that transcend the borders of the three categories.
The 48 bespoke evolutions are divided up roughly into three categories: Vanilla, Episodic, and Moderately Extreme. Due to restrictions on screen real estate, the GUI includes a slider below the individual volume and pan knobs (a brilliant asset, by the way) so we can move across the three categories and plot the grid appropriately.
The three categories are even tinted green yellow and red, to avoid the user getting lost in the plethora of articulations.
If I elect to use the individual articulation patches, I am presented with a more familiar patch layout, reminiscent of most other SF libraries. The current standard in the BML range is a three-tab structure, denoted with a meter, wrench, and Treble clef icon respectively. The meter and wrench icons provide additional access to the mic mix settings, sample load management, and control over envelope and time based effects. All parameters are MIDI assignable. For obvious reasons, the ostinato tab is unavailable in this library, as it has no practical application to long articulations. SF allow the routing of the 4 mic placements to different Kontakt outputs for mixing flexibility.
In terms of sound, the atmospheres created by Evolutions are simply incredible. The best thing about this is that it works directly out of the box, but that is by no means the end of the road. The level of detail you can create with the Evos is practically unlimited, given the variety of articulations and the way they can be mapped across the keyboard.
My personal favourites have to be the Pulsing Downbows Con Sord (Evo 38) and Tasto to Phasing to Shudders to Pulsing Downbows (Evo 48), the latter painting for me an unbelievably clear image of a crisp late autumnal morning in the British countryside. The capacity for this sort of library to deliver such an evocative image from the outset for me is incredibly valuable.
The familiar air of Air Lyndhurst Hall is beautifully captured, and the recordings have a spaciousness to them that I honestly find difficult to create with other libraries. It also leads to excellent integration across the Mural Strings range, so the use of Evolutions and Mural 1-3 is not mutually exclusive. As always, the 4 microphone positions and the alternative mixes by Jake Jackson are greatly welcomed, and there is a certain magic in the close mics that gives me instant inspiration every time I hear them.
Evolutions is different to a lot of the other libraries Spitfire has in terms of its availability for purchase, as it requires the purchase of all the Mural Strings and the Mural Ensembles via a bundle purchase to access. So, for those of you considering buying this and have no BML Mural libraries, you are looking at a whopping aggregate investment of 1,199 GBP (or 1998.75 Euros incl. VAT) for the privilege. This is obviously a huge investment, but the idea, I feel, is that this library is a reward to those who have taken the leap and joined and stuck with the company in their relatively recent sampling endeavour. It’s worth noting that this large price tag is actually largely deducted as it is a bundle, and the individual module costs are significantly higher. You don’t get double charged in the bundle for owning parts of it already, as it intelligently removes already registered libraries from the cost.
Because of this prerequisite to even get the library, it is a difficult one to comment on in terms of value. The price of 199 GBP is not really indicative of the actual cost of getting it as a new customer, but if we were to consider the module as a body of work on its own, the price tag of 199 is pretty much in line with other similar sized Spitfire libraries. On that comparative basis, Evo is a lot of excellent content at a predictably Spitfire price.
Mural Symphonic Evolutions is a rare treasure. Not only is it sonically intriguing and inspiring with every note, the trouble Spitfire have gone through to integrate the expectational sounds in a functional, performable module is commendable in itself. The flexibility to work on an individual or macro level is as always a great asset, and the curated presets offer genuine spine-tingling inspiration at the touch of a button. My only real issue lies with the cost to acquire it as a library in its own right, but I appreciate the reasoning behind this move, so objectively, I can’t really count that against the module itself. That is more of a marketing decision, not a musical/library related one.
For those of you who have invested in perhaps one or two Mural modules and are considering filling out the core libraries, I would hugely recommend looking at the string bundle on offer, because once you have Evolutions, it will be very hard to remember what it was like working without it.