Dutch samplists SAM have updated their four popular brass titles (SAM Horns, Trombones, Trumpets and Solo Sessions), and re‑released them in Kontakt Player 2 and Kontakt 2/3 formats as a single, lower‑cost package, Orchestral Brass Classic (OBC). Originally released as GigaStudio libraries in 2003 and 2004, these collections won acclaim for their strong delivery and 'cinematic' concert-hall sound.
OBC comprises brass sections (four French horns, three trombones, three trumpets) and six solo instruments (Bb and piccolo trumpets, tenor trombone, French horn, cimbasso and tuba), all recorded from close and stage mic positions. The additional 'far' miking included in SAM Trumpets and Solo Sessions has been omitted, as have the original releases' bonus instruments and the heavily processed, distinctly un‑trombone‑like 'Spheres' textures found on SAM Trombones. On my copy, the trumpet section's 'close' instruments unwittingly duplicate the 'stage' versions, an error which can be rectified via the free v1.1 update, which fixes the problem for Kontakt Player 2 and Kontakt 3, but sadly not Kontakt 2.
The original, lengthy articulation lists have been replaced by a simpler, unified, user‑friendly menu, which preserves all the musical options. Each instrument and section has a main keyswitch program comprising most or all of its articulations, so you can instantly switch between, say, horn section looped sustains, long, medium and short marcatos, staccatos, crescendos, espressivo (formerly called portato), stopped and glissando performances. Individual articulations are also presented separately.
New features include round-robin staccatos, a monophonic simulated legato mode and a 'repetition' function, which randomly alternates neighbouring sample zones in an attempt to emulate real‑life performance variations. All three help disguise the innate mechanical qualities of sampled instruments, but the legato and repetition modes don't sound particularly realistic. An 'octaver' automatically appends an upper octave to incoming MIDI notes: a risky strategy for the stratospherically pitched piccolo trumpet but very effective for beefing up cimbasso, trombone and tuba bass lines.
Release triggers now have a dedicated on/off switch. Turning them off dries up the sound, and if you want to go in the opposite direction you can add reverb. Tweak‑heads will no doubt appreciate the inclusion of velocity curve and key‑range settings, the latter essential for creating layered and keyboard‑split multis. I also noticed that the horn section's glissandi sound even raunchier than before and now offer mod wheel switching between their staccato and sustained target notes.
While these technical innovations are welcome, the main act is the samples, which remain as classy and attractive as ever and are generally louder and punchier when compared to the Giga versions. Busy composers and beginners alike will benefit from the convenience of having SAM's top‑notch orchestral brass instruments and sections united in one well‑organised, easy‑to‑use package. Dave Stewart