After my recent review of Best Service’s Chris Hein Winds Compact, it’s now time for me to take a closer look at it’s cousin library Chris Hein Orchestral Brass Complete. Both libraries, “Winds” and “Brass” are available in two different versions – “Complete” and “Compact”. Opposed to the Compact version, which comes with only five essential articulations, the Complete version offers a whopping total of 16 articulations per instrument and a lot more control and modulation options I’ll get into detail on later in the review. The library features the familiar range of orchestral brass instruments, including three trumpets, three horns and three trombones, plus an ensemble patch for every section. With almost 8,000 samples per instrument (that makes 72,000 samples in total!) and up to eight dynamic layers, this library is one of the most detailed orchestral brass libraries on the market right now.
The library comes as a downloadable product and is 12,15 GB in size when decompressed. Like Chris Hein Winds, this sample library is a Kontakt instrument and can be installed via Native Instruments’ tried and tested Service Center.
Since the “Winds” and “Brass” libraries share a fair amount of the same functions, I will rather concentrate on the differences and additional functions, Chris Hein Orchestral Brass offers.
Here we go!
When loading up your first instrument, you’re presented with an almost disturbingly simple interface by Chris Hein standards. Don’t be fooled though, all the controls, faders, knobs and modulation options are there, it’s just that they’re hidden under the hood. What you see is the so-called “Basics” tab, which should provide a simple, easy-on-the-eyes overview of only the most important features. The first page of the “Basics” tab provides you with information on which key you’re playing and which articulation you’re currently using. It also notifies you, when you enter the extended range of an instrument. On the second page labeled “Control“, you’ll find a quick overview of the most important control options. These include playing velocity, dynamic layer switching, vibrato amount and a collection of Note Heads. I already went into detail on the “Note Heads” feature in my Chris Hein Winds review, so feel free you check it out if you’re looking for more information on that. The third and last page of the Basics tab brings you to Chris Hein’s dual layer reverb engine (which I also described in-depth in my Chris Hein Winds review). Here, you can choose from an extensive list of different impulse responses as well as control the volume and pre-delay of the reverb engines.
By clicking on the second tab underneath the interface labelled “Articulation Presets“, you’ll be directed to a more elaborate control interface. Most of the options, like the articulation switcher, dynamic layers, note heads and vibrato should be already familiar if you own another Chris Hein product.
By clicking on the orange “Overview” button in the Articulation tab, you can see, which articulation is assigned to which keyswitch. The preset keyswitches range from A-1 to A#0, but you can freely reassign and change articulations to any keys you like. You also get the option of choosing the mode of every single keyswitch. These include “Permanent“, “While Hold” and “Next Note“. In “Permanent mode“, you just have to hit a keyswitch once to change articulations whereas in “While Hold” mode, articulations switch back to the previous setting as soon as you let go of the key. This is especially useful if you want to throw in a run or rip while playing a legato line. When selecting the last option “Next Note“, the keyswitch doesn’t take place until the next note is played.
What’s new, is the “Blending” tab as well as a sophisticated Legato/Pedal tab. The Blending tab allows you to seamlessly blend between a normal sustain articulation and a flutter tongue articulation. Although “Flutter Tongue” is available as a discrete articulation from the top menu, the blending option allows you to simulate the playing style of going in and out of a flutter smoothly.
The Legato/Pedal tab offers a whole lot of options concerning the speed, length and tuning of your legato articulation. By turning on and off the little orange lights, you can assign different functions to your sustain pedal. This way, while playing a normal short legato line you could step on your sustain pedal to switch over to a longer legato transition or enable “Glide-Mode“. Opposed to a smooth and seamless legato transition, enabling the so-called “Glide-Mode” results in transitions, where you can hear all the notes that lie between the played interval. For example, playing a legato line from C4 to G4 with Glide-Mode activated, you hear a quick run up including all the notes within the fifth. The Glide Mode tab lets you further shape the speed and scale of your glide, as well as the maximum of steps that are integrated.
By clicking the little “Edit” button in between the labels, you’ll get to another menu which presents even more control options for your legato and glide playing.
These are all the articulations included with Chris Hein Orchestral Brass:
Although the next two tabs labelled “Settings” and “Vibrato” offer yet more usable control options, I just want to quickly run over their options for the sake of brevity and since they are rather self-explanatory. The “Settings” tab features technical options like the dynamic curve, pitch bend range, ADSR settings or microtuning. Most of these are controls you’d rarely need to tweak, I guess. The Settings tab also houses a variety of the most familiar effects and processors, so if you’re in for some sound design, switch to the “DSP / FX” tab.
The somewhat misleadingly labelled “Vibrato” tab offers elaborate customization options regarding the vibrato – or rather tremolo – technique of the instrument. Here, you’ll find lots of modifying options concerning the amount, speed, volume and tuning of your artificially generated vibrato.
Getting back to the beginning, I think I can say safely, that most of the time you will be able to operate the different brass instruments without ever leaving the “Basics” tab. Really, on three pages it has everything you need to quickly change the sound, reverb or articulation of your instrument. If, however, you do want to customize an instrument to your playing style or just want to create exotic sounds, Chris Hein’s neatly organized interface delivers probably the biggest range of control options I ever saw on a virtual orchestral instrument.
Playing through the different instruments, what struck me the most was the excellent playability right out of the box as well as the organic, dynamic transitions and attacks, that were far from being sluggish. Even faster passages played with the dynamic expression articulation sounded surprisingly realistic. The six different modes or rather speeds of short articulations cover everything from bold marcatos to snappy staccatissimos that allow for lightning-fast repetitions and stabs.
Since the samples were recorded dry and in the middle of the stereo field, you can adjust the room and panning to your liking, making it very easy to blend these brass instruments into an existing orchestral project or template. The included range of impulse responses sounds very lush, smooth and flexible through a multitude of available rooms and hall presets.
Since every instrument of each section is played by another player, you can really hear the differences in tone and timbre between, say, French Horn 1 and 2. Because of these slight distinctions, the ensemble patches, which essentially are all three instruments of a section combined, sound big, broad, alive and authentic.
Since you can go as small or as big as you like with every instrument (section), Chris Hein Orchestral Brass covers a huge range of possible applications. Especially the solo instruments, which sometimes turn out to be the problem child of other orchestral libraries, sound very detailed and organic throughout the whole range.
The most realistic results can be achieved, if you incorporate all the different keyswitches into your playing and don’t flinch from switching articulations every other note if necessary.
Chris Hein Orchestral Brass turned out to be a marvelously expressive library with extensive control options over every parameter you could possibly think of – and more. The sound quality of the massive amount of samples is absolutely top-notch and lets you perform both fragile solo parts and soaring, blaring ensemble lines alike. The dry and close-mic’d recording method allows for comprehensive placement options and opens up a broad range of use – from pop arrangements to massive orchestral pieces.
A real upside of Chris Hein Orchestral Brass is its wonderfully easy and smooth playability. The instruments sound awesome out of the box and together with a multitude of different articulations, they enable you to play convincing brass lines. Also the “FX” articulations like rips, falls and runs are very usable and blend well into a performance.
At the beginning, I was wondering why there was no tuba or cimbasso included, since this instrument type usually represents the lower range the brass section in an symphonic orchestra. But playing around with the trombones, I realized quickly, that there really was no need for a lower instrument. The playable ranges of both trombones and french horns go down so low, that they can easily take over a convincing tuba part.
I, and I know that I’m not alone with this, am always in search of an orchestral brass library, that is able to cut through even the densest arrangements without sounding too honky in the upper dynamic levels. After spending quite some time with this virtual instrument, I think I may have found the remedy.
For a price of 299 $, Chris Hein Orchestral Brass Complete offers you a superb sounding orchestral brass section that is a breeze to play and at the same time features a myriad of control options to provide the highest flexibility possible. Well done, Mr. Hein!