Review – CineBrass COMPLETE Bundle
Our reviewer says that the CineBrass Bundle is the best multi-mic brass library with which he’s ever worked in terms of ease-of-use, and it’s got a lot going for it sound-wise as well.
by Per Lichtman, July 2015
CineBrass Complete Bundle ($749 USD from CineSamples.com) is a multi-mic-position orchestral brass library for Kontakt Player/Kontakt 4.2.3+ from CineSamples. It’s part of the CineSamples CineSymphony line, which includes CineWinds, CinePerc and CineStrings CORE (which I had the pleasure of reviewing last year) and the entry level CineSymphony Lite. It’s made up of two sections, CineBrass CORE and CineBrass PRO, that can each be purchased individually but are most useful together (more on that later). CineBrass features great legato scripting (including polyphonic legato) and is extremely rapid to use with a shorter learning curve than any other brass library I’ve used, but that’s just one of the many reasons I’ve been using it as my main brass library ever since I started reviewing it. For more reasons, keep reading.
The sound is great – balanced and full with lots of dynamic range. All the CineSymphony offerings were all recorded at Sony Studios on the Barbara Streisand Soundstage in Culver City and feature the same sonic signature. The CineSymphony libraries I have worked with so far all feature an up-front sound that emphasizes the body of the sound, rather than the grain and texture, making it easy to cut through a mix. Most of the mic position options are the same as in CineStrings CORE, except for a Spot mic only featured for the string sections. Here we find Close, Room and Surround mic positions as well as the Full Mix created from the other sections. Much like with CineStrings CORE, I found I relied on the Full Mix by default during composing, only engaging other positions when I needed to sculpt the sound more. It served me well as the starting point for both pop and orchestral mixes since it’s not very ambient and could often be used rather up-front quite well once the Bricasti reverb impulse was disabled.
I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I essentially always disable any built-in reverb FX in orchestral libraries and that holds true here as well. If you want additional reverb you’ll get the best mixing results using external processing, but the built-in reverb effect provides a starting point for those that don’t want to deal with either mixing plug-ins or hardware FX.
The tuba and trombones layer wonderfully together, forming a great low end. The solo trumpet and solo horn are each great for soaring lines (especially with additional reverb) while still having power in the low end, too. Note that the lowest trumpet sample has been mapped to extend downward to allow performance of the trumpet below the normally playable range (the same way that the string harmonic for the basses were in CineStrings CORE). Keep this in mind if when writing trumpet parts if you actually want them to be played later on.
The CineBrass bundle allowed me to compose brass parts quickly, with fewer tracks and better sound quality than my previous generation brass libraries like EastWest Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra and the original ProjectSAM libraries. It was a real eye-opener to see just how much more quickly I could write brass parts with it than I ever could with my previous libraries. Many of the same things I enjoyed about working with CineStrings CORE are true here as well in regards to the main articulations patch for each instrument or section. This includes the default mapping where velocity switching is used to go between different length short note samples and that holding down the sustain pedal activates sustain samples with legato transitions. The big difference is that there’s no vibrato control this time around, but I doubt I would have found much occasion to take advantage of it if were included.
I found the default mapping very quick and easy to use, but it was equally quick and easy to change from the defaults using the simple Mapping tab or to configure dynamic and legato settings in the Settings tab. I really appreciated how things were really laid out to get things done.
The instrument mapping and scripting is really excellent – the sustains were a highlight and I was impressed by just how well they were programmed for the solo instruments (which crossfaded much more effectively than I’m accustomed to). While all the main articulations for a given instrument are normally found in an articulations patch, some also have additional patches for mutes or flutters, etc. and there are several FX patches.
PRO vs. CORE: Which Instruments in Each?
At the start of the review I mentioned that the bundle works better as a whole than it does when separated and that starts to make sense when you look at the instruments. Honestly, getting a clear understanding of which instruments were in each package (CORE vs PRO) was one of the parts that was least intuitive to me, so I’ll try to simplify it to others. Whether you buy both CORE and PRO as a bundle or individually, they install to separate folders by default and the patch names reflect this. If you read this section you won’t have to spend time understanding the organization the way I did.
All of the solo patches you’ll want to use are in CineBrass PRO – which isn’t entirely clear from looking through the product descriptions and manuals so I can hopefully save you some time right there. This is where you will find the fully sampled versions of the solo trumpet, solo french horn, solo trombone and solo tuba. The only solos in CineBrass CORE are a different set of legato recordings for the solo trumpet and solo horn not featured in CineBrass PRO – but these have a narrower dynamic range that basically feels like it goes pianissimo to mezzo piano. This makes them of much more limited use than the full dynamic range ones found in CineBrass PRO, even if you didn’t need the short articulations. Thus, if you are only looking for solo instruments, just get CineBrass PRO – the ones in CineBrass CORE are basically just supplemental ones for quiet passages that you could use for variation. The situation is much less clear-cut for ensembles.
The ensembles are split between both CORE and PRO. You’ll want to get the full bundle in order to use get the full experience since they basically interlock in terms of the sizes. For instance, the two horn and six horn ensembles are in CineBrass CORE but the four horn and twelve horn ensembles are in CineBrass Pro. And while the bulk of the trombone ensemble articulations are in CineBrass CORE, mute, Harmon mute and flutters for that ensemble are found in CineBrass PRO.
This was all a little counter-intuitive to me on my first day and I wish the documentation or other reviews had laid it out for me the way I have for you. But this was the only less than intuitive part of the library for me and it was no longer an issue once I got my template setup.
Here’s a breakdown of the ensembles and solos. CBC means CineBrass CORE and CBP means CineBrass PRO. Legato is used to designate both legato and normal sustains.
– Solo Trumpet: CBC (limited legato), CBP (legato, shorts, mute, Harmon mute)
– Three Trumpets: CBC (legato, shorts, FX), CBP (mute, Harmon mute, sustains and tenuto)
– Solo Horn: CBC (limited legato), CBP (legato, shorts)
– Two Horns: CBC (legato, shorts)
– Four Horns: CBP (stopped and fluttered, triad chords, seventh chords, rips, fff sustains and shorts)
– Six horns: CBC (legato, shorts, rips)
– Twelve Horns: CBP (legato, shorts, mute)
– Solo Trombone: CBP (legato, shorts)
– Three Trombones: CBC (legato, shorts), CBP (legato, shorts, mute, Harmon mute, flutter)
– Solo Tuba: CBP (legato, shorts)
– Tuba and Bass Trombone: CBC (legato, shorts)
– Cimbasso and Bass Trombone: CBC (legato, shorts)
– Low Brass: CBC (pads)
– Monster Low Brass: CBP (legato, shorts, scoops, clusters, FX)
– Full Brass Ensemble: CBP (high chords, low chords, FX 1-3)
There’s a lot less competition in terms of current brass libraries than for string libraries. In the single-mic position category has VSL Dimension Brass (the only brass library I’ve encountered with recordings for each player in a section) and Kirk Hunter Concert Brass 2 (the only library with fast key-switching between four different ensemble sizes). But for multi-mic position libraries, the only other current generation multi-mic orchestral brass libraries are EastWest Hollywood Orchestral Brass, Spitfire Audio’s evolving stable of BML brass libraries and the recently released Brass Collection Symphony Series from Native Instruments and SoundIron. Since I have not completed reviews for any of these libraries (the Symphony series was released mere days before completing this review so I have no thoughts yet) I cannot offer my usual hands-on level of detail. However, there are certain differences and similarities worth pointing out on a conceptual level and some of my thoughts on the acoustic signature of each range based on how other sections were recorded.
On a sonic level, all of the above libraries were recorded in such a way that they sound very, very different from CineBrass – except Hollywood Orchestral Brass. While CineBrass and Hollywood Orchestral Brass do sound different from each other, there are certain similarities in their venues (the Streissand Scoring Stage and Eastwest Studio 1) and miking approach than the other libraries – something that’s been clear to me when I worked with their sister libraries, CineStrings CORE and Hollywood Strings. The Streissand scoring stage has somewhat longer tails than Studio 1 but both have a much more intimate sound than do a symphonic concert hall or Spitfire Audio’s AIR Lyndhurst.
If you want a huge hall sound without using additional reverb, look at Spiftire Audio’s BML range – neither the CineBrass Bundle nor Hollywood Orchestral Brass are targeting that recording style. If you’re looking for a drier sound, I would say that CineBrass cuts through the mix a bit more while (based on my experience with Hollywood Strings and Hollywood Orchestral Percussion) Hollywood Brass is likely to have a bit of a rounder, almost more vintage sound with a bit more grain.
From every demo I’ve seen, CineBrass appears to be the quickest to work with in regards to the default mapping of all the libraries, so being able to work quickly is one of its big selling points. But the sound itself is holds its own against its contemporary rivals (each of which has its own style) and blows away older libraries. If you’re still working with EastWest Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra or the original Project SAM libraries, you owe to yourself to get a current-generation library – and the CineBrass Bundle is the very first one I’d take a look at.
While the CineBrass Bundle features multiple ensemble sizes from soloist to massive, but only one soloist is included for each instrument. This means the library is less well-suited to close-position harmonic writing that frequently goes between small intervals and unisons. Unisons are best handled here by the ensemble patches, but sometimes the ensemble sizes and the number of players desired won’t match up. Granted, the French Horn Duo in particular helps alleviate one of the most common areas this would be a problem but a library with multiple soloists (like VSL’s Dimension Brass) doesn’t have that problem at all.
In addition while I praised the way dynamic were handled in the majority of the patches, the exception was the short notes mapping for the solo tuba. While the sustains for the tuba work as expected, you’ll find the tuba short notes louder at the quietest dynamic than at the middle one. Note, this was the only patch I had this problem with and I hope it gets fixed in a future update.
The CineBrass Bundle is the best multi-mic brass library I’ve worked with to date by far. It’s flexible in a mix, sounds great, has a powerful dynamic range, great programming, is extremely quick to work with and manages to hit pretty much every target it sets its sights on. It can do both huge ensembles and detailed solos and the legato transitions and dynamics are both handled very well. If your brass harmony writing frequently goes between solo voicing and unisons you might look at libraries like Dimension Brass with multiple solo players. But I found the library saved me lots of time while sounding great, and it’s been the first brass library I try on every project I’ve loaded for months. It comes highly recommended and is definitely worth taking a look at whether you’re looking for orchestral brass in a classical context or in a pop mix.