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Spitfire Audio Albion Colossus

Sample Library By Dave Stewart
Published May 2023

Spitfire Audio  Albion Colossus

Spitfire’s new symphonic double‑bill combines two complete orchestras and a host of extras.

Most orchestral sample companies have a favourite recording location. Orchestral Tools return time and again to Berlin’s Teldex Studio, Cinesamples regularly book the Sony/MGM Scoring Stage in LA, Sonokinetic travel to the ultra‑modern concert hall in Zlin, Czech Republic, while Strezov Sampling and Red Room Audio favour Sofia Session Studio in Bulgaria. Others such as EastWest and Vienna Symphonic Library are fortunate to own their own large recording spaces, thus avoiding rental and equipment costs (though of course the players’ session fees remain a consideration!)

For Spitfire Audio the location of choice was invariably AIR Studios Lyndhurst Hall, site of countless Spitfire sampling sessions since 2008. Recent years have seen something of a sea change, with the company branching out into Abbey Road and BBC Maida Vale. Though all three studios are conveniently close to their London HQ, Spitfire’s latest project actually took place 400 miles to the north in what may yet become an independent country. I refer to the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, built in 1990 and home to Scotland’s national orchestra. This impressive premises contains a magnificent 2475‑capacity main auditorium and also houses the 2015 New Auditorium, a 600‑seater space that provides rehearsal, recording and chamber performing facilities for the orchestra.

Why this exodus from the capital? Spitfire co‑founder Paul Thomson explains: “It was Christian Henson’s idea. Members of the team had previously recorded in the New Auditorium on solo music projects and were aware of its proximity to the larger Royal Concert Hall, as well as its shared infrastructure. When a project requiring multiple locations was needed the unique capabilities of this location quickly came to mind.”

Since Spitfire have long promoted chamber‑sized groups as an alternative to their large symphonic collections, the idea of combining both in one package would have been irresistible. The juxtaposition of the two auditoriums made it possible to sample a 111‑piece symphony orchestra in the large concert hall and 42 of the same players in the nearby smaller space, thus offering buyers two orchestras for the price of one. The two groups were recorded using identical microphones and equipment, thus providing overall continuity and unprecedented opportunities for blending and crossfading the two orchestras (more on which later).

Spitfire’s Albion Colossus GUI contains a preset selector, a central configurable knob, which controls multiple parameters, and four sliders — the two on the left control volume and dynamic expression, while the pair on the right determine ‘Scale’ (orchestra size from chamber to symphonic) and ‘Depth’ (listener perspective).Spitfire’s Albion Colossus GUI contains a preset selector, a central configurable knob, which controls multiple parameters, and four sliders — the two on the left control volume and dynamic expression, while the pair on the right determine ‘Scale’ (orchestra size from chamber to symphonic) and ‘Depth’ (listener perspective).


In addition to symphonic and chamber strings, brass, woodwind and percussion, Albion Colossus contains an acoustic drum kit, heavy djent guitars and analogue synths programmed by US musician Joseph Holiday (who operates under the moniker Snakes Of Russia). Maintaining the Albion sound‑design tradition, Mr Holiday also performed transformative treatments on the drum kit, giving the library the cutting‑edge, tech‑driven feel required for modern action‑film soundtracks.

Spitfire’s new baby is the first Albion title to be hosted in its own dedicated plug‑in, the visual aspect of which first appeared in their 2018 Eric Whitacre Choir library. While it’s increasingly common for companies to use proprietary player formats, a vocal minority of users continue to clamour for a Kontakt version. Personally I’m not bothered either way, but I can’t see that happening. One consolation for the Kontakt‑bereaved might be that Spitfire’s Colossus plug‑in is free when you buy the library.

Albion Colossus is a 110GB download and requires a 64‑bit DAW or host (32‑bit DAWs are not supported). The minimum system specs are 2.8GHz (quad‑core) and 8GB of RAM. Spitfire’s plug‑in doesn’t support multitimbral use, so you can’t open multiple instruments within a single instance, however you can switch between or layer a single instrument’s various articulation presets inside the player.


The library’s string ensembles don’t conform to orchestral norms. As the name suggests, the accent is on low‑end power, so while the symphonic high strings feature a fairly standard 30 violins and 12 violas, the low strings line‑up, with a stonking 12 cellos and 10 basses, guarantees an abundance of bass grunt.

The grunt factor is particularly evident in the low strings’ energetic jeté style (which produces a terrific resonant thump in the bass register) and viciously percussive Bartok ‘snap’ pizzicatos. In a less combative vein, the unison cellos and basses’ beautifully in‑tune, elegant‑sounding legatos will bring alive your low strings melodies. In the high register, blended violins and violas turn in some excellent breathy sul tasto performances, a fabulous texture for chord pads.

As you’d imagine, the strings’ emphatic spiccato and staccato short notes are tailor‑made for cinematic action scores. Unusually, they default to mod‑wheel dynamic control, but you can switch to velocity control if you prefer. Other common playing styles include tremolo, pizzicato, sul ponticello, flautando, sul tasto and col legno. Overall the strings are powerful and imposingly grand‑sounding, but the minimal vibrato used on their long notes gives them a somewhat austere atmosphere. If you’re looking for orchestral lushness, you’ll find some in the dramatic cresc‑dim ‘hairpin’ performances, which introduce a strong expressive vibrato as they surge in volume.

The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall also houses the 2015 New Auditorium, a 600‑seater space suitable for chamber orchestra performances.The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall also houses the 2015 New Auditorium, a 600‑seater space suitable for chamber orchestra performances.

Brass & Horns

Though the library has no dedicated trombones patch, Spitfire have combined six trombones, two bass trombones and a contrabass trombone in their Colossus brass section. If that’s not enough to be going on with, the section also includes two tubas and three cimbassos (a mad‑looking, floorstanding trombone‑like instrument). Quizzed on the surprising absence of trumpets, Paul Thomson replied, “That’s right — brass‑wise we’ve focused on the bottom end! Any time you see three cimbassi spec’d you know you’re in for a wild ride...”

My personal wild ride at the bottom end was thus accompanied by heroic blasting fanfares from 14 low brass players, occasionally reverting to the more intimate and warm‑sounding chamber ensemble of one tuba and two euphoniums. If you want to hand your spiccato string ostinatos over to the brass for a bit of tonal contrast, both the large and small group’s tightly played staccatissimo artics will do a great job. Against expectations, the bottom‑heavy symphonic section and chamber trio also excel at melodic lines, for which Spitfire’s superb legato patches create wonderfully smooth and flowing note transitions from C above middle C right down to a low E1.

Supplied in eight‑ and three‑player sizes, the library’s French horns mirror the brass ensembles’ playing styles with equally impressive results. The horn legatos are delightfully fluid and agile, capable of tracking the fastest lines and flourishes, while the symphonic section’s hairpins and crescendos are splendidly sonorous.


Colossus’ dedicated flute and piccolo ensembles give you the complete flute family in united playable patches. The symphonic flute section pushes the boat out with six concert flutes, three alto flutes and a bass flute, while the chamber group has just one of each instrument. The ensemble’s tightly played short notes and liquid legatos sound great, and the inclusion of bass flute means you can play full two‑handed flute chords. Just one minor criticism: the flute long notes are played without vibrato, which reduces their expressive potential.

A separate ensemble of three (symphonic) and two (chamber) piccolos add much needed high end to the library. I liked the piccolos’ ultra‑pure, sci‑fi‑like long hairpin swells, and the unusual timbre of the symphonic piccolos’ legatos brings to mind high‑pitched marching band fifes and tribal ethnic flutes — a nice spooky, ethereal sonority to set against the familiar solidity of strings and brass.

Occasionally I stumble upon an orchestral ensemble so remarkable I forget all about the review and start writing music.

Occasionally I stumble upon an orchestral ensemble so remarkable I forget all about the review and start writing music. In Colossus that honour goes to the symphonic woodwinds section, an extraordinary concoction of three oboes, two bass clarinets, two contrabass clarinets, contrabassoon, tenor sax and the rare contrabass sax. This uniquely fruity racket spans just over five octaves from C1 to D6, with the weight very much in the bass — I loved the explosive low‑register staccatos, which pack the kind of forceful attack you’d associate with a rock band.

Drums & Percussion

The library’s orchestral percussion comprises gran casas (orchestral bass drums), two toms, two snare drums, piatti crash cymbals and a large tam tam gong. While the chamber samples are clean and powerful enough, the symphonic hits sound positively explosive. Timpani are presented separately, but disappointingly their samples appear to originate from only two drums, pitch‑shifted to span one and a half octaves.

Augmenting this line‑up are bodhrans, rototoms, dhol and taiko drums, underpinned by the massive booming odaiko. You can annoy orchestral purists with gratuitous junkyard noises (car doors, scaffolding...) or soothe them with the library’s beautiful tuned percussion: crotales, glockenspiel and vibraphone, all sounding exquisite in the New Auditorium. Unfortunately the makers have fallen into the classic trap of presenting the vibes (which lack the characteristic vibrato effect) in a choice of staccato and endlessly ringing notes with no release control, rendering the instrument almost unplayable. Spitfire aren’t the only company to do this — I’ve moaned about it many times, but the penny evidently hasn’t dropped.

Buyers of the early Albion libraries will recall daft names like Darwin Percussion Ensemble, but such fanciful titles have now been dropped, no doubt as a result of natural selection. A notable evolutionary event in Colossus is its acoustic drum kit, nicely recorded in the smaller hall and offering a good selection of cymbals along with a terrific thumping kick drum. If you want something more maniacal, I recommend Joseph Holiday’s percussive treatments, which transform the acoustic drum samples into savagely messed‑up, futuristic electro noise kits.

Synths & Guitars

More electro fun can be obtained courtesy of the same gentleman’s effected analogue synth patches. These number 39 in all, divided into bass, drones, leads, pads and the unhelpfully named ‘keys’ (actually a collection of short‑note samples). Personal favourites include the ‘Black Panels’ bass sound (which reminded me of an Earth‑shattering racket my old Prophet‑5 made), the scarily atmospheric ‘Dust Deluxe’ and ‘Yesferatu’ (geddit?) drones and ‘Little Fangs’ short notes, which have a charming soft plucked timbre.

Having placated orchestral purists with Colossus’ lovely tuned percussion, prepare to enrage them again with the library’s heavy djent guitars. Plunging down to a low bottom E1 and presumably performed on an eight‑string electric, these high‑gain samples were multitracked and reamped in both halls, so you hear triple‑tracked guitars in the smaller space and a sextuple‑tracked djent‑fest in the concert hall. This monstrous sound drives all before it, offering a menu of crushing sustains, screeching harmonics, furiously emphatic short notes, bends, dive‑bombs and palm‑muted dead notes. Lovely stuff.

New Features & Conclusion

Several new features make it easy to get the best possible sound from Colossus straight out of the box. The first is ‘Hype’. This control enhances each preset differently, sometimes introducing an overwhelming bass boost, at other times adding tape saturation and distortion — basically, making instruments sound louder and more powerful without increasing their actual volume.

‘Depth’ is simply an ‘easy mix’ control which changes listener perspective from close to distant (see ‘The Making & The Miking’ box), while ‘Scale’ is the library’s secret weapon: using a single fader, you can crossfade from a tight, controlled chamber orchestra to a 111‑piece symphony orchestra recorded in a massive auditorium. This sounds amazing, and justifies Spitfire’s 800‑mile round trip to capture the samples.

Impressive and versatile though it is, this collection won’t satisfy everyone’s needs: the lack of solo instruments renders it incapable of creating a traditional orchestra score, and though the blended unison ensembles take the sweat out of orchestration, some composers will miss separate instrument sections such as a tenor trombone ensemble or second violins. That said, I suspect the majority of users will welcome Albion Colossus as a highly effective, broad‑brushstroke cinematic tour de force.

When asked if Spitfire plan to do more sampling sessions at the Glasgow venue, Paul Thomson replied: “Scotland’s pool of brilliant musicians coupled with unique and accessible locations has made it a place we are keen to keep exploring.”  

The Making & The Miking

The 2475‑capacity main auditorium of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, built in 1990 for Glasgow’s reign as European City Of Culture.The 2475‑capacity main auditorium of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, built in 1990 for Glasgow’s reign as European City Of Culture.

The Albion Colossus orchestral samples were performed by players from the Scottish Session Orchestra, made up of concertmasters, principals and chamber musicians drawn from some of the UK’s top orchestras. On this project the Glasgow‑based Clockwork Sessions took care of musician contracting and facilitated conducting, producing and engineering of the orchestral sessions alongside Spitfire Audio staff.

A remarkable feature of Colossus is that its GUI contains no mic mixer. This comes as a surprise — having spent many years listing Spitfire’s profusion of mic positions and dutifully listening to each one in turn (a good cure for insomnia), I’m amazed and somewhat relieved to find that listening perspective is controlled by a single ‘Depth’ fader, which crossfades from a super‑close signal through two Decca tree‑based mixes, finally fetching up in an ultra‑wide ambient mix.

This one‑finger control is based on Christian Henson’s ‘Aperture’ concept of a tight enclosed sound opening out into an expansive audio panorama. I suspect the same people bemoaning the company’s move away from Kontakt will also freak out about this, but I tell you what, it makes it easy to fade from an intimate close sound to a widescreen cinematic ambience, and when harnessed to the ‘Scale’ control’s ability to crossfade between a chamber and symphony orchestra, it’s a very exciting and dramatic creative tool.

Albion Odyssey

To date, Spitfire’s best‑selling Albion series has generated nine titles, six of which are still available. The discontinued libraries are the original Albion Volume 1, Albion 2 Loegria (reviewed in SOS in October 2011 and February 2013 respectively) and Albion III Iceni, an epic assortment of oversized, combative low‑end sections and battling percussion. These were followed by the darkly aleatoric, atonal Albion IV Uist and Albion V Tundra, the latter described as “capturing a characteristically Scandinavian sound at the edge of silence” — in other words, subtle and mysterious.

Following those releases, the confusingly named Albion One (see SOS June 2016) unleashed a gargantuan 109‑piece orchestra with a thunderous percussion section, whereupon the original Albion Vol. 1 was put out to pasture. Next up was Albion Neo (SOS July 2020), an intimate chamber orchestra consisting of strings, woodwind, brass, evolving orchestral textures and er, a harmonium, prompting your reviewer to mutter: “One small keyboard, no big drums — is this the new austerity?” After that came Albion Solstice (SOS January 2022), a somewhat whimsical folk‑noir confection with a central core of acoustic instruments, and now Albion Colossus, a return to more traditional orchestral waters.

When asked if the first three Albions are permanently retired, Paul Thomson answered, “They are, but we do get very frequent requests to bring them back for a short time so that people can grab them who missed out the first time round! They are still great libraries with a lot of charm and some fabulous sounds but we’ve got so much better at making libraries since then that they are definitely ‘older tech’ now — kind of like the Playstation Platinum or Essentials ranges I guess!” Though there are no plans for full re‑releases, some of the earlier Albion material has been converted into low‑cost titles in Spitfire’s Originals range under names such as Epic Strings, Epic Wind and Brass (Albion I), and Intimate Strings (Albion II).

Most Albion collections supplement orchestral samples with rhythm loops, sound‑design material and non‑orchestral instruments. Beyond that, would‑be buyers looking for more specific product comparisons are advised to check the detailed contents listed on Spitfire’s website.


Albion Colossus’ two orchestras collectively comprise 111 musicians, recorded in symphony (111 players) and chamber (42 players) line‑ups. The number in brackets equals instrument types.

Low Strings

  • Symphony (12 cellos, 10 basses)
  • Chamber (four cellos, three basses)

High Strings

  • Symphony (16 first violins, 14 second violins, 12 violas)
  • Chamber (eight first violins, six second violins, four violas)


  • Symphony (six trombones, two bass trombones, one contrabass trombone, two tubas, three cimbassos)
  • Chamber (one tuba, two euphoniums)


  • Chamber (three French horns, two turtle doves, etc, etc.)
  • Symphony (eight French horns)

Woodwinds — Reeds

  • Symphony (three oboes, two bass clarinets, two contrabass clarinets, one contrabassoon, one tenor sax, one contrabass sax)
  • Chamber (one oboe, one bass clarinet, one contrabass clarinet, one contrabassoon)

Woodwinds — Flutes & Piccolos

  • Symphony (six flutes, three alto flutes, one bass flute)
  • Chamber (one flute, one alto flute, one bass flute)
  • Symphony (three piccolos)
  • Chamber (two piccolos)

Orchestral Percussion

  • Gran casa
  • Toms (large/small)
  • Snares (large/piccolo)
  • Tam tam
  • Piatti cymbals
  • Timpani (large/small)

Traditional Drums

  • Bodhran (three)
  • Rototom (low/high)
  • Dhol (low/high)
  • Taikos (four)

Tuned Percussion

  • Crotales
  • Glockenspiel
  • Vibraphone

Junkyard Percussion

  • Misc metal hits

Drum Kit

  • Acoustic drum kit
  • Altered drum kits (10)


  • Symphony (six amps in concert hall)
  • Chamber (three amps in New Auditorium)

Analogue Synths

  • Bass (seven)
  • Drones (four)
  • Plucks & shorts (nine)
  • Leads (nine)
  • Pads (11)


  • Contains a full symphony orchestra and a smaller chamber orchestra.
  • Also contains a drum kit, processed percussion, synths and djent guitars.
  • You can crossfade between the two orchestras in real time within the player.
  • Pre‑orchestrated unison ensembles are instantly playable.
  • The articulation menu is admirably consistent.


  • Contains no solo instruments.
  • There are no trumpets.


Spitfire continue their best‑selling Albion series with a foray to Scotland’s magnificent Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, where they sampled a chamber orchestra and large symphony orchestra in adjacent auditoriums. You can crossfade between the two orchestras within the player, a unique facility. In addition to its pre‑orchestrated ensembles, Albion Colossus contains djent guitars, analogue synths, drum kit and processed percussion, making this a versatile and impressive‑sounding package for cinematic productions.


£399 including VAT.