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, UK, directors Christian Henson and Paul Thomson spearhead the development of arguably the most comprehensive and deep sampled array of libraries yet to exist.
While the company is relatively young, joining the commercial market as recently as 2007, the pace and variety of releases combined with the immense detail in the products they curate guarantees their position as a big player for the foreseeable future.
In addition, it’s worth noting that Spitfire are possibly the most “eco friendly” library creators for the music economy, incorporating their players and performers into the revenue streams generated from the sale of their instruments, and putting large amounts of money back into the industry’s economy. They are also the 2nd biggest Unicef contributor with their donation driven Spitfire Labs range.
One of the most beloved ranges to come from the Spitfire factory is the British Modular Library. A staggeringly ambitious project to capture in ultra-deep detail every instrument of the symphonic orchestra, the BML provides individually purchasable libraries to cater for those wishing to build an entire deep sampled orchestra or add to their existing arsenal of tools.
Today we look at the recently released BML Bones Phalanx library, the final component to the Brass section of BML. The Bones Phalanx range is designed to commune with the existing BML Bones module to provide a thick, thunderous, and tremblingly tenacious sound that will shake the boots off your feet.
Comprehensive selection of articulations for:
- 3 Tenor Trombones
- 2 Bass Trombones
- 1 Contrabass Trombone
Content is presented as an unison ‘a6’ section.
- Decca Tree
Unique features of note:
- Recorded 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.
- Unique ‘Fanfare’ patch for highly accurate and playable fanfare patterns.
- Playable performance patch with dynamic intelligent scripting for realistic
This is NOT a Kontakt Player library, and requires the Full version on Kontakt. It will not appear in the library section on the left of the GUI, and will need to be searched for in the instrument navigation tab in Kontakt or added to the QuickLoad window for easy insertion.
The installation process for this library is seamless. Spitfire provides its own optimized and very reliable downloader app (after moving off of the Continuata platform) which works with your Internet connection to ensure optimal download speeds. This is critical, given that the size of these libraries can sometimes be astoundingly large. 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 it’s 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 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.
The library presents primarily as 2 unison ‘a6’ patches: the ‘Core’ palette and the ‘Performance’ palette. The ‘Core’ palette is where the majority of the switchable articulations reside. A total of 8 deep sampled articulations are on offer, including cuivre longs for that gritty harshness, as well as the usual marcato, tenuto, and staccato for shorts, and a nice collection of playable rips and falls. The inclusion of Time Machine patches allows us to take advantage of Kontakt’s time stretching algorithm and use the decorative and short articulations to maximum effect.
The ‘Performance’ palette comes with two articulations, essentially intelligently scripted combination patches that are highly playable. The performance articulation is a monophonic, playable legato that takes into account through scripting the nuances of the instruments transitions, making it the first port of call for me personally when playing out ideas.
The second articulation is the ‘Fanfare’, an experimental patch introduced in the first tranche of BML brass modules. This patch is a playable combination of shorts and longs that react intelligently, in order to perform highly realistic fanfare passages, rather than requiring multiple patches or possible messy key switching. Spitfire have noted that the best velocity to begin with is somewhere between 100 and 110, to facilitate the intended response. It is admittedly not always accurate the first time around, and sometimes requires a velocity adjustment, but it is far superior to the laborious task of programming that would otherwise be required.
Spitfire is constantly updating and improving the ergonomics of its instrument GUI.
The current standard in the BML range is a three-tab structure, denoted with a meter, wrench, and Treble clef icon respectively. The latter opens up access to the ostinato tab that allows for powerful sequence programming, with the ability to adjust keyswitching parameters, load presets, assign sequence variations, and much more.
The meter and wrench icons take us to the settings tabs which allow the user to optimise the likes of round robin use, transposition, sample pre-loading, and, of course, the four included microphone positions. All parameters are MIDI assignable, giving us a huge amount of flexibility and customisation.
There is no denying the sheer awesome sonic impact of Bones Phalanx. The aggregate grit of 6 players performing makes for a very effective sound, particularly in the world of trailers and film for example, where the realism is intrinsic to achieving that cutting sound. Nearly all Spitfire products include multiple mixes by their award winning music team, and the Bones module includes 2 complete new sets of mixed samples – one by Jake Jackson and an ‘alt mix’ for increased variety, giving your sample library a three-fold shelf life. While the Phalanx module is dynamic, it is more effective at dealing with the louder side of things, which is expected. The ability to control room tone, tails, and tightness between transitions is a testament to the calibre of scripting put into showcasing the samples at the best. The icing on the cake is that the entire Phalanx family sits perfectly in line with its smaller cousins in the mix, as the Phalanx players were recorded in the same space and literally beside the players from the Vol.1 library. It makes not only for a great sound, but also one that makes sense in context of the orchestra. Mixers will know that space is incredibly important to creating a top level mix, and to have the modules intelligently co-operate in that respect is a major plus. The Bones in particular are seriously impressive, and the warmer tone of the Vol.1 complements the brasher, more bombastic sound of the Phalanx for that totalitarian cinematic sound.
It is no secret that investing in the BML range can be financially taxing to say the least, especially if you are paying in Euros or US dollars. That said, the reward for biting has, for me, been eternally rewarding for every single module of the BML range, and there is no exception for the Bones Phalanx. In part, I believe that knowing and appreciating the dividend system Spitfire operates with its players and the incredible ‘cut no corners’ approach to their work, helps justify the costs, and when you hear the patches at work, the creative value is exponentially greater than the price tag.
Spitfire have also more recently begun a generous system of discounts for students, as well as product bundling, and this is something that is no doubt valued by young composers wishing to work with the cream of the crop, in terms of their tools. If one were investing in brass libraries for the first time, I would recommend the core Bones library over the Phalanx to begin with. There is more flexibility in the Vol. 1, and the Phalanx complements it incredibly well, but assuming you don’t just do trailer sized music, it would be wiser to start with the Vol.1 modules and follow up with the Phalanx range as required.
The Phalanx range is a formidable construct, and the Bones module is no exception. For me, the high-end grit created harmonically by the sheer number of players is absolutely fantastic, and embodies the cinematic brutality that is naturally absent from its smaller cousin, the Bones Vol.1. The ever considerate inclusion of ‘economical’ patches to cater to the wide variety of computing configurations is welcomed as usual, and the ability to instantiate individual patches, both normal and time machine enabled, is also incredibly useful for those times when the whole kitchen sink is not needed.
The only real personal issue I have with this library is that it wasn’t released a month ago, because it would have been all over every single track of my recent trailer album!