Review – Spitfire Audio Albion V Tundra

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Spitfire Audio’s Albion V Tundra is a Kontakt Player sound library with instrument articulations like nothing you’ve likely seen before.

 

by Luka Sraka, November 2016

 

Spitfire Audio is one of the best known sample library producers on the market, and they certainly have their competition running for the money with this one. Albion V Tundra is a massive sample library made with as much attention to detail as possible.

 

The Overview

Spitfire Audio set out to make a sound library that would bring us soundscapes that haven’t been sampled yet.  There are many different orchestra sound libraries out there that do a great job, but the sampled articulations are mostly somewhat limited. Albion V takes care of us with providing a huge sample library with articulations that would please even composers of contemporary classical music.

Spitfire Audio sampled a 100-piece orchestra at London’s Air Studios which is known for its great sounding live room. When creating the sound library Spitfire Audio has focused on sampling at the quietest levels possible to produce an amazing set of samples. They got their inspiration for the sound library from composers like Arvo Pärt, Sibelius and Gorecki, composers that are known for their interesting orchestration style and choice of instrument articulation.

Albion V Tundra is a Kontakt Player sound library that runs on Kontakt free, or the full version of Native Instruments Kontakt player. Tundra comes with five separate instruments, the Albion V Orchestra, Brunel Loops, Darwin Percussion, Stephenson’s Steam Band and Viral Grid Evo. Each has its own user interface and soundscapes, but more on that bellow.

You will need time and disk space for this one. There are 27,860 samples in Albion V, that is 56.8 GB of uncompressed WAV files that require 44.4 GB disk space (twice as much during install).  There is a full list of pre-sets and articulations on Spitfire Audio’s web page ( http://www.spitfireaudio.com/shop/ranges/albion/albion-v-tundra/ ) and believe me, it will take a lot of your time exploring those even before you start customizing your sounds. Spitfire Audio Albion V Tundra can be yours for £329. Up to 35% discount is available if you buy it in a bundle and a 30% educational discount is there for students and teachers/professors at any accredited institution worldwide.

 

The Instrument Patches

 

The Tundra orchestra instrument patch features a sampled 100-piece orchestra with 133 multi dynamic orchestral articulations split across Strings, Brass and Woodwind ensembles and much more. All of those are sampled with premium microphones at four different mic placements, recorded trough Neve Monserrat preamps and a Neve 88R desk. The microphone placements are Close, Tree, Ambient and Outrigger. The samples are recorded digitally at 96k via a 2” Studer tape.

The Orchestra is divided into eight ensembles: Brass High, Brass Low, Strings High – Main, Strings High – Soft and Wild, Strings Low – Main, Strings Low – Soft and Wild, Woods High and Woods Low. Each with its own set of articulations. More than that, there is a whole array of individual articulation patches at your disposal, and in my opinion this is where the money is in this sound library. There are enough articulations that would satisfy even a classically trained contemporary composer. I was amazed especially by multiphonic, overblown, and tratto articulations. Last but not least there are three legato strings patches and six time machine shorts instrument patches that sum up the Albion V orchestra patch.

The user interface is easy to use and enables us a complete control over the parameters. The GUI is set up in three pages. The general overview is a basic set of controls that enable us to switch articulations, create an easy mix without worrying about different microphone placements, and provides us with expressive controllers such as dynamics, Lush Verb and expression. The Expert’s view, the second page, gives us more detailed control including a mixer for the four different microphone positions and far more. The last page in the GUI is the Ostinatum. The Ostinatum is a great mean of creating scientifically designed rhythms, ostinato and arpeggiated sequences.

 

Next in line is the Darwin Percussion instrument. The inspiration for this set of percussion instruments was Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten. Featured here are unique combinations of small drums and big drums. Darwin Percussion uses the same interface as the Orchestra library with a few less tricks, there is no microphone mixing available. The percussion instruments sound very cinematic.

 

Brunel Loops and Stephenson’s Steam Band are next in the line of instruments at our disposal. The Brunel Loops and Stephenson’s Steam band are a series of presets provided by Spitfire Audios team of engineers, programmers, producers and composers. They are loaded in the eDNA engine, a synth with great tweakability. Spitfire used the samples recorded for their Albion V orchestra library for these two synths, large, low drums and other percussion for Brunel Loops and the rest of the orchestra for Stephenson’s Steam Band.

The Brunel Loops are a series of percussion loops ranging from organic sounding raw percussion sounds too heavily processed loops, designed for fast 16th or shorter meters, which lock to the host tempo. They also naturally follow the tempo changes and can handle extreme “rubato” passages.  The eDNA’s keyboard is divided into four sections each with its own note division, from quarter notes, to 32nd notes. The loops are mainly designed for dramatic use but I can see it used in any style. Brunel Loops feature DEV kits, a library of Spitfire’s “vanilla sounds”

 

The Stephenson’s Steam Band is a generous library of cinematic, widescreen and dynamic pads, drones, effects and tools. Generally, it is hard to find synth sounds that mix well with orchestral scores, but the pre-sets made by Spitfire Audio’s team will nicely integrate in your piece. There are a lot of pre-sets from which to choose, some of them having amusing names that are just too funny not to mention. My personal favourite is the “Fjord Full of Bacteria MV is Flash Gordon Interval”.

The eDNA engine is a synth used to load presets from Brunel Loops and Stephenson’s Steam Band.  Its user interface is easy to operate and deep enough to for most users.

 

The viral grid is the last of the instruments available in the Albion V Tundra. An Evo is a long evolving sample that changes over time that we know from other Spitfire products. The evolving samples from Albion V were made with a selection of Harmoniums and Shruti boxes, instruments we find in Indian music.  The instruments were sampled and then processed using mostly analogue gear. There is one instrument available that contains 42 different Evo offerings, made using different instruments and different processing spread over twelve regions or registers.  The user interface is very easy to use. You simply pick out which of the 32 evolving samples you want at which register. There are also the usual dynamics and expression controls and a quartet of standard parameters: Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release.  Right out of the box, so to say, Viral Grid provides us with amazing soundscapes. I could make sounds I would only dream of before getting my hands on Albion V.  For even more sound shaping, Spitfire provided three simple but very useful FX processors for us to use, a nice sounding reverb, delay and tape saturation FX.

 

Conclusions

When I discovered twentieth-century composers while studying music history, I was mesmerized by the orchestral sounds composers could create using an orchestra, and I always wondered how to recreate those sounds on my computer. The Spitfire Audio’s Albion V Tundra is the answer to that. Albion V Tundra provides us with impressive sounds and instrument articulations. I see the sample library as an amazing tool for film music and also for contemporary classically trained composers that want to experiment with different orchestral sounds and articulations. The orchestral instrument patches are truly a treat to play and compose with. This is not a straightforward orchestral sample library, nor is it meant to be.  But if you are looking for a great cinematic orchestral sound, this one is right up your alley. The synth sounds in Brunel Loops, Stephenson’s Steam Band and the Viral Grid Evo are amazingly useful and inspiring. If you are planning to buy Spitfire Audio’s Albion V Tundra, you are up for a treat.

Details and additional info:

Spitfire Albion V Tundra: £329 GBP

http://www.spitfireaudio.com/shop/ranges/albion/albion-v-tundra/

 

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