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Dan Dean Solo Brass

Sample Library By Martin Walker
Published January 2002


Rating: ***** 5/5 stars

Dan Dean has already covered solo strings and solo woodwinds, and now he turns his attention to the brass family. Like the Solo Woodwinds collection (reviewed SOS October 2001), Solo Brass is a huge, 10‑CD set supplied in a smart zippable wallet, with each CD dedicated to a specific instrument. The selection comprises bass trombone, cimbasso (bass tuba), euphonium, French horn, piccolo trumpet (an octave above the standard instrument), trombone, trumpet, and tuba. Both trumpets are presented in vibrato and non‑vibrato forms on separate CD‑ROMs.

Dan Dean Solo BrassThese unlooped stereo instruments are huge, ranging from the 101Mb of the cimbasso to 700Mb for each of the trumpets, and the collection totals some 4.8Gb. The reason for this is partly due to the wide range of basic articulations — legato non vibrato, legato vibrato, staccato, portato (mezzo staccato), forte‑piano, forte‑piano with long, medium and short crescendo, and straight mute — which together provide a huge range of expressive possibilities. However, this is also the first Dan Dean library to feature up to eight velocity layers for the smoothest ever transitions of timbre from soft to loud. This is particularly important with brass instruments, since their sound changes markedly the harder you blow!

Recording quality is excellent, conveying the lushness of the French horn, the tremulous brilliance of the trumpets, the fruitiness of the trombones (although the pitch‑bend slide does have a tendency to 'step' unless performed slowly), and the gruff tones of the tuba. Enough note‑to‑note nuances have been left in to make this the first brass library that could fool me into thinking that the players were in the room with me. Because of the huge number of presets for each instrument, this set also provides similar versatility to that offered by a group of performers, with sounds ranging from subtle to full‑bodied.

The French horn, for instance, has a total of 59 presets, with the different articulations presented in many variations, including presets where dynamics, attack type and different articulations are mapped to the mod wheel or breath controller, ones where different velocity layers are accessed by keyswitching, velocity‑switched articulation presets, and — unusually for a solo library — even ensemble presets.

Up to four instruments can play in an ensemble, controlled by the position of the mod wheel, with each slightly detuned and panned to a different position. You can bring them in at any time, even when notes are already playing, although this does mean that the four stereo voices are always sounding even when silent, and will take eight voices per note. However, they sound wonderful, and with 160‑note polyphony available from GigaStudio 160, I doubt that many musicians will grumble. Ensemble presets are now also available to Solo Strings and Solo Woodwind owners as a free patch.

The same set of variations mentioned earlier is also presented in two 'light' versions for those with less RAM: LT1 has fewer notes but the same number of velocity layers, while LT2 provides different samples for every note, but reduces the number of velocity layers. Speaking of RAM, I'd advise anyone intending to make full use of Solo Brass to install 512Mb for buffering purposes.

Dan Dean Solo Brass sells for a hefty £429 in GigaSampler format, although it's possible to buy some of the CD‑ROMs individually. Although I originally intended to give it four stars, knocking one off because it's even more expensive than Solo Woodwinds, it does contain almost double the amount of data as Woodwinds, and once I'd fully appreciated what Solo Brass is capable of, it just had to receive the top five‑star rating. An Akai version is being finalised using the same samples, and should be available by the time you read this, but to keep file sizes down, the instruments are in mono rather than stereo, are looped, and don't have the keyswitched presets of the Giga version.

10‑CD Set (Giga format) £429; Akai‑format set (final number of discs to be announced) £369. Prices include VAT.

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