Whether you are interested in the whole orchestra, or just a specific orchestral section, there are plenty of sample library or virtual instrument choices now available at a range of prices. If you are on a more modest budget, but interested in a collection of brass sounds — and perhaps something that is suitable for both general classical and jazz duties — then Xtant Audio’s Model Brass might well appeal. The library is designed for use with the full version of Kontakt 5.5, contains around 10,000 24-bit samples (around 2.6GB of sample data), provides a collection of 15 solo brass instruments — divided into French Horns, Trombones, Trumpets and Tubas — and, because of the design approach, is very playable.
That design approach involves a combination of both samples and physical modelling. This means that many of the performance articulation elements normally associated with sample-based orchestral instruments are actually handled by the physical modelling and Kontakt scripting. The result is a more compact library and less time key switching between performance styles. Instead, key switching is used to toggle between legato and polyphonic modes and a number of different mutes (plunger, cup, bucket, etc) as appropriate for each instrument. These comprehensive mute options do make Model Brass suitable for jazz as well as orchestral styles.
The scripting/modelling approach allows you to use a number of MIDI CC options to add expression, and the custom Kontakt interface includes options for switching/blending between four different microphones for each instrument and some nice ambience options. The design also deals with round-robin issues and legato playing in a very pleasing (to the ear) fashion and, from a playing perspective, perhaps the only articulation options that didn’t quite cut it for me with some of the instruments was a heavy staccato. The samples themselves have been recorded very dry and without much by way of EQ or compression; those choices are left in your control.
While you don’t have key switched articulations to deal with, you do have to roll your own sections; unlike many orchestral libraries, there are no ensemble patches here. If you want to build a brass section then you have to do it the hard way by combining a number of the solo instruments. However, that’s easy enough to do, and you can reduce the engine workload by unloading the samples from some of the microphones. And I have to say that, at this price, I think the sounds make the additional work worth the effort. The individual instruments sound pretty effective — there is a rather nice warmth to the tones — when played solo but are actually quite impressive combined into a section. The range of mutes all add the expected character so, whether you are looking to create orchestral-style brass arrangements, dip into some soulful jazz, or even create some classic cartoon sounds, Model Brass might well be worth a blow.