Spitfire Audio get intimate with their new studio-recorded orchestral sample libraries.
Although they occasionally decamp to other sites, one recording location dominates Spitfire Audio's output: Lyndhurst Hall in London's AIR Studios, a hexagonal, 5000-square-foot galleried space which can comfortably accommodate a 100-piece orchestra and 100-voice choir (though I'm not sure the canteen can cope so easily). Over the last 12 years Spitfire have spent huge amounts of time and money in this room, recording an extensive range of orchestral sample libraries which cemented the company's global reputation and found their way into innumerable film scores, TV soundtracks and record releases.
A striking feature of Lyndhurst Hall's acoustic is its lively reverb, a natural feature which permeates recordings and can be heard even on Spitfire's close-miked samples. While this glorious sonic halo creates an impressive soundscape for epic-sounding orchestral scores, it's less suitable for revealing the intimate detail of a quietly played solo instrument. With this in mind, the company relocated to record their latest library. Titled Spitfire Studio Orchestra, it features a comprehensive collection of 25 ensembles and 24 solo instruments recorded in the tight, dry acoustic of AIR Studio One, a mere few yards from the adjoining hall.
Two years in the making, the Spitfire Studio Orchestra collection (which we'll abbreviate to SSO) consists of three separate components: Spitfire Studio Strings, Spitfire Studio Brass and Spitfire Studio Woodwinds, released over an eight-month period starting in Autumn 2018. Each library has a Core and a Professional version: the latter incorporates the entire Core content and adds more instruments, five extra mic positions and two stereo mixes created by Grammy-winning engineer Simon Rhodes.
The SSO libraries run exclusively on Kontakt or Kontakt Player 5.6.8 or higher, with the free Kontakt Player included with purchases. Disk space requirements are shown in the comparison box. If you find them too big to download, a hard drive delivery option is available at extra cost. Discounts are available when you buy the three instrument families as a set; there are also crossgrade paths between their Core and Professional versions (you simply pay the price difference between the two products at the point of purchase).
Spitfire Studio Strings features separate sections of eight first violins, six second violins, six violas, six cellos and four double basses. I know from experience these player numbers can create a rich, powerful sound for epic and grandiose scores, and they're also ideal for pop/rock tracks — in short, these strings are highly versatile!
In this collection Spitfire made a huge effort to give users all the different string playing styles they might conceivably need (I counted 46 for the first violins). Each section has a basic all-in-one patch containing seven common playing styles; for more detailed score work, 'Core Techniques' patches group together up to 17 keyswitchable articulations, and beyond that you can delve into 'Individual Articulations' folders for a wealth of colourful performances such as harmonics, trills of intervals up to a fourth, short grace notes (a great resource for cartoon music) and disco-style falls.
I enjoyed the violins' dreamy flautando (a light, fast bowing which produces a soft, breathy flute-like sound), sul tasto (similar, but slightly more assertive) and Spitfire's trademark 'super sul tasto', a quiet, beautifully tentative and delicate timbre. If you're in the market for such sensitive performances, the strings' muted con sordino patches have an attractive,...