This orchestral compilation from Project SAM brings together samples from their Symphobia 1 & 2, True Strike 1 & 2, Orchestral Brass Classic, Woodwind Ensemble Orchestrator/Effects, Flute & Piccolo Effects, Organ Mystique, and Concert Harp libraries in one convenient 13GB package, which compresses down to 6.5GB on your hard drive.
The collection focuses on full-range, multi-instrument ensembles, enabling you to play complete orchestral sections without having to laboriously program their individual components. Its full-orchestra patches achieve instant lift-off with some blasting, ultra-tight strings-and-brass staccatos, ready made for action scenes. On a more subtle note, the 'Suspense' patch's layered woodwinds and sordino strings are a terrific inspiration for moody chordal writing. An 'Enhance' button adds a thunderous low-end piano and/or orchestral percussion layer to these powerful tutti ensembles.
Beginners and maestros alike should enjoy the regal, opulent sustains of the full brass section, and the colourful woodwind ensembles will add an exotic, reedy flavour to orchestrations. There are no solo woodwinds (unless you count the ethnic and overblown flute phrases) and no stand-alone horn, trombone or trumpet sections. However, solo brass instruments are included, along with some delectable horns-and-trombones and flutes-and-clarinet unison legato patches. Taken from Symphobia, the string staccatos and pizzicatos are top-notch, and what their sustains lack in lushness they make up for in strength, particularly in the low register. My only criticism is that the strings' quiet notes 'speak' too slowly for my liking.
Fleshing out the instrumentation are a decent concert harp (which plays only straight notes, no glissandi) and a generous spread of percussion, including sparkling glockenspiel, xylophone and celeste multisamples, Japanese taiko drums and some great, banging timpani. The only new instruments are a modest but adequate harpsichord and a deeply sampled concert grand christened 'Piano Mystique'. This combines playability, warmth and bass power with a brilliant, crystal-clear top end; the only limit to its versatility is the built-in hall ambience, which, although very pleasant, tends to rob the sound of intimacy.
Each instrument family has its own selection of 'cinematic' scored effects, which can add instant drama to a score; I particularly liked the creepy horror-film material in 'Dark Orchestra'. In keeping with current trends (which, to be fair, SAM helped to create in the first place) a collection of massive impacts and imaginative 'dystopian' sound-design textures is also provided.
Though offering built-in effects and some cool technical features, OE has no alternative mic positions and concentrates mainly on straightforward, single-note-based playing styles. The gaps in its instrumentation and articulations make it unsuitable for realising the detail of a traditional score. Nevertheless, it's a versatile, easy-to-use library optimised for the quick creation of powerful orchestral mock-ups and soundscapes, on which basis it merits four and a half stars.
DVD boxed version £359 including VAT.