This comprehensive four-part sample library aims to provide a complete orchestral scoring toolkit.
One of the perks of this reviewing job is you get to meet interesting characters from all parts of the world — it's a bit like being a taxi driver, but with none of the traffic jams and drunk passenger hassles. This month, the person in the back of my virtual cab is Red Room Audio's Dickie Chapin. Mr Chapin has been at the forefront of professional sampling since 2014, when he attained the post of Project Director and Creative Lead at Impact Soundworks. Having helped to design several instruments, including Shreddage 2 and the impressive Bravura Scoring Brass, he fled the nest and founded his own company in 2017.
An ardent orchestral sample user from the early days, Chapin starting playing piano at the age of six and never looked back, progressing from high-school orchestras and ensembles to playing drums and singing in Chicago post-punk and goth-glam bands. The Eureka moment came in the 1990s when he acquired an Ensoniq EPS sampler. Chapin recalls: "I remember eagerly inserting a floppy disk into the drive and waiting for the mystery samples to load. When I pressed a key, out came the most glorious strings section I'd ever heard. I spent the following weeks holed up in my makeshift bedroom studio, in command of an orchestra for the first time. It was my personal introduction to the world of sampling and I was completely hooked."
This revelation led to Chapin moving to LA to pursue a composing career and the eventual formation of his own company, abetted by colleagues Christian Yoder and Mario Kruselj. The Palette Orchestral Series represents the pinnacle of his career as sample developer, and has been very well received by its users. So far so good, but how will it hold up under SOS's scrutiny?
Red Room Audio's Palette Orchestral Series consists of four separate sample libraries which run on Kontakt or the free Kontakt Player version 5.6.8 or above. All samples were performed by members of the Sofia Session Orchestra and Choir at Sofia Session Studio, Bulgaria (the same setup used by sampling maestro George Strezov). After purchase, the libraries can be downloaded as multiple .rar files, then activated under a single serial number in Native Instruments' Access application.
The jewel in the series' crown is Palette Symphonic Sketchpad (henceforth called PSS), a 26.6GB collection comprising strings, brass, woodwind, percussion, a mixed-voice choir and some enticing extras. The main ensembles were recorded in full and chamber sizes, so users can choose between 40 and 20 string players; similarly, you can wallow in the symphonic splendour of a 12-piece brass or woodwind ensemble, or scale down to more intimate-sounding sections of seven and four players respectively. Though none of these instrument families offers solo instruments (these are available in the Palette Melodics library, covered below), having flexible ensemble sizes at your disposal is a great asset when fashioning a full orchestral arrangement.
Consistency is a key factor: articulations are closely matched across different instruments and identical in sections' full and chamber versions. The GUI holds eight articulations which can be selected via user-configurable keyswitches. Though...