No mater how hard you work, you don't work as hard as Spitfire Audio founders Christian Henson and Paul Thomson.
These guys are not only busy composers for film and television, they've also turned their sample library business into a smash-hit success. Their libraries range from bespoke collections for individual instruments and orchestral sections, bombastic percussion collections endorsed by Hans Zimmer, a range of more obscure synth and 'found sound' collections plus the hybrid orchestral/ synth monster Earth, Volume 1.
The library which brought Spitfire Audio to mainstream attention was its first orchestral sample collection Albion, released in 2011, which balanced high-quality source recordings – made at London's Air Studios – with an immediate playability. The library provided orchestral 'broad brushstrokes' to cover the most common articulations, across programs designed to make realistic orchestral programming simpler.
So, with Albion having achieved such widespread success, why go back and make the library all over again? For that indeed is Albion One's remit; the original Albion has been consigned to history, to be replaced by this shiny new collection instead.
The reason is simple. In the years since Albion's original release, Spitfire Audio have become connoisseurs of building compelling and great-sounding libraries and they've concluded that, in comparison to more recent titles, the original doesn't stand the test of time.
For all of the fine-tuning possibilities of more 'bespoke' libraries, little matches the workflow pace of reaching for Albion, so producing a better- sounding, more articulation-rich replacement of the original library is likely to prove a smash hit.
"The expanded orchestral size and improved sound make for a richer approach to orchestral writing."
Among the new features are orchestral samples captured from a larger orchestra of 109 players, whose sounds are housed within in a reworked Kontakt Player GUI. Vibrato can now be controlled as a global command for each patch, while there is the inclusion of a Lush Reverb slider which adds a rich, vast spatial treatment to proceedings.
The Albion One root folder contains Albion One Orchestra, Brunel Loops, Darwin Percussion Ensemble, Stephenson's Steam Band and The Albion Legacy, within which you'll find the footprint of the original library, making like-for-like program changes easy.
The file structure within the Albion One Orchestra folder will be familiar to seasoned Albion users, with the 'global' orchestral section approach applied to Brass High, Low and Mid, Woods High and Low and an over-arching Strings program. All programs include articulations on key-switches, an Easy Mix slider, which sets microphone proximity, plus global sliders which can be mapped to MIDI controllers for real-time performance tweaks.
Which parameters these can control varies between programs – Dynamics, Vibrato, Lush Verb and Expression are available for the Strings program, for example.
Scoring and Steam
The emphasis throughout is to get you writing orchestral parts quickly and it's wonderful how the individual programs layer up to help. Loading all of the default programs and mapping them to a single MIDI channel provides instant orchestra Tuttis, whether for spiky staccato patches, or more triumphant sustained ones.
But Albion One goes much further too. The generous allocation of new string runs provide excitement, while the muted sustained articulations are particularly worthy of note, as they sound wonderful and are absent from some of Albion One's competitors' libraries. The new scripted Legato programs, for all orchestral sections, offer a new standard of expressive playability within Albion.
The Stephenson's Steam Band programs are also completely reconfigured for the release of Albion One. As before, these take some of the raw material gathered from the recording sessions and, through careful editing, turn this into a collection of highly playable pads, atmospheres and textures.
Albion One's Stephenson's Steam Band greatly improves upon the original, as it uses the eDNA engine for playback. This facilitates tweaking these programs to taste, with twin layers of sound (movement between which can be animated), plus additional 'synth' editing parameters including envelope and LFO shaping, gate sequencing and effects provision.
There's a larger library of preset starting points too.
This collection of film-ready sounds shows Spitfire Audio's development as significantly as the orchestral patches do. They also represent a key intersection for the likely fan-bases for this library; there's an awful lot here for EDM producers as well as those drawn to more electronic scoring.
Across all four root folders of sounds, Albion One is a serious upgrade on its famed predecessor. It retains the immediacy and 'easy-scoring' remit of the original Albion but the expanded orchestral size and improved sound make for a richer approach to orchestral writing.
Those preferring a hybrid electronic/organic sound will find there's plenty here too, while the percussion sounds are as at home underpinning trailers as they are picking out warped quasi-electronic pulses and rhythms. A new star rises.