Today we are going to look at Impact Soundworks’s Bravura Brass (BB from here on forward) a Kontakt Player based brass sample library. Impact Soundworks (IS from here on forward) got its place in the sample library marked with Shreddage an electric guitar and bass sample library aimed at rock and metal productions. More recently IS started to come out with more orchestral based sample libraries. As a very content and overly happy owner of the whole Shreddage series, I was really keen on getting my hand on BB and checking it out. So the question now is: Can Bravura Brass match up with all the existing brass sample libraries out there so far? Because I am a primarily an orchestral music composer, I will judge this sample library from this perspective. Lets take a closer look.
Content and sound
BB consists of 22 GB of 55 000 16bit and 24bit samples. IS recorded solo trumpet, piccolo trumpet, flugelhorn, horn, trombone & tuba and also ensemble trumpets, horns, trombones and low brass. In the library there is a vast amount of articulations to choose from (a lot more then in some other brass sample libraries have in their arsenal), ranging from ordinary ones (legato, sustain, staccato, marcato, tenuto), to more advanced ones (major and minor second trills, rips, falls and FX). Most articulations also come with mute samples, which can be triggered with a single button, which is of course extremely useful. In the Legatos and sustains you can also adjust the amount of vibrato, which is one of my favorite features.
The sample library was recorded in a pretty dead room, but you can still hear the early reflections of a room. But what really bothered me is that the instruments were NOT recorded in their premier orchestral position. The trumpets are sort of OK and are positioned near the middle and the horns are positions slightly to the left, but not as far left as you would want them. The trombones are the worst, since they are positioned ever so slightly to the right, but not nearly as much as in a standard orchestral setting. But with some staccato samples, you can also hear the trombones coming from the left. And the tuba is put slightly to the left as well, but not as much as is standard.
I am guessing the room they recorded in was pretty small and they had to compensate in some way, but still, I think it would be just a lot smarter to place all instruments in the center and have them recorded in a completely dead room.. Then users could add their own panning and early reflection reverb to imitate the room.
For the composition I did to test out BB, I used Virtual Sound Stage 2 to position the instruments. Because the recording room of BB is not completely dead, the early reflections of the recorded instruments and the early reflections of Virtual Sound Stage 2 add up, so the result is a somewhat weird sound.
For Cubase users: I have created a custom Expression map for BB. Download it here.
Lets take a look at each individual instrument families and its pros and cons.
Piccolo Trumpet solo, Trumpet solo, Flugelhorn solo, trumpet ensemble:
PROS: Not many brass sample libraries have a piccolo trumpet, but this instrument is extremely useful. Just look at any John Williams score and you will surely find a piccolo trumpet in there somewhere. BB piccolo trumpet has a nice round tone in the lower registers and in the lower dynamic range. Also, not many sample libraries offer a Flugelhorn and the BB one has a very nice tone to it. The mute samples are very usable too. They will work great in writing jazz or film noir type music. All instruments in the BB trumpet family have an inspiring legato and are able to produce very realistic melodic lines. The BB trumpet family will for this reason alone stay in my orchestral template.
CONS: The staccato articulations lack a decent attack. They sound quite nice in the lower dynamic range, but lack the brightness and attack in the higher dynamic range. When having your mod wheel all the way up, the staccato samples reminded me of the “Mexican” trumpets. It is not really the sound you want when writing orchestral music. The same goes for the legatos. The lower dynamic range is warm and full and really captures the melodic capabilities of the trumpet. Once your mod wheel goes above cca 80, the instrument starts sounding harsh and not very appealing. It almost sounds like the player recorded, was really struggling with producing mf and F dynamics. I think this is probably because IS did not hire a great trumpet player. It requires an extremely good trumpet player to be able to play those bright and epic fortes we all love in, for example, John Williams scores.
Horn solo, horn ensemble:
PROS: As for the trumpets, the horns are best in their lower dynamic range and with playing legato lines. They are not the best horn samples I have ever heard, but can still be useful for an alternative sound or for layering with your existing horn samples.
CONS: Again, the same as with the trumpets, the horns lack a good higher dynamic range and good staccato samples.
Trombone solo, trombone ensemble:
PROS: I am very sorry to say, but I really can’t say much good about the trombones. But what is good about them is the trills and rips & falls articulations. Since these articulations are missing in a lot of sample libraries, I will keep them in my orchestral template. The solo trombone legato in the low dynamic range can be useful in some jazz or film noir composition.
CONS: The recorded seating is wrong and panning changes with different samples. The forte dynamic level is almost non-existent and just sounds like a very poor messo-forte. The staccato samples have an extremely week attack and thus have to be moved about 500ms to the left of the beat for them to even hit the correct beat.
Again, I think the problem here is, that IS just recorded bad trombone players. I recently reviewed BML Bone Phalanx Trombones by Spitfire and BB Trombones can not come even close to the sound of Bone Phalanx Trombones.
Tuba and low brass
PROS: The tuba has a likable tone and good legato.
CONS: As mentioned now so many times, the forte dynamic level really lacks bite and brightness and the staccato attacks are week. Sadly you wont be able to write awe inspiring intense BRAAMS or epic low brass lines with these instruments.
CONS: There is really nothing bad to say about the FX. There are tons to choose from and you can never have enough brass FX in you sample collection can you? You never know when you will be writing the next thriller cue!
Chord maker and orchestrator:
These are very smart features, which are great for sketching ideas. Impact Soundworks explains everything you need to know about these patches in their video.
The GUI is pretty straight forward and I like it a lot. I like the fact, that everything is nicely put into one window, so everything is in your view all the time. You can mix between 3 microphone positions (Close, Room A & Room B), switch between articulations and adjust the dynamics and vibrato (of course, you will assign this to your favorite midi CC). You also have a reverb which is by default turned on (I wish sample developers stopped doing this).
The mute on/off switch (not to be mistaken by mute volume – brass instruments use mutes to alter the sound of their instruments) is a great feature that I think many sample developers in the future will copy from IS.
The price of the complete collection is 349$ (311EUR, 229 £) without added tax. This is still quite inexpensive, but IS smartly offers a great amount of other bundle options. If you are new to the sample library market and you do not have much money to spend, Bravura bass complete collection would perhaps be a good place to start, since its price is so low and the vast amount of content will give you many options. But if you already own some alternatives I rather suggest you look at where your current sample libraries are lacking and then get one of the sectional bundles IS offers. Your best bet would be to get the Trumpet bundle for a real steal of 89$! You will not regret it
Demo track and comparison with other brass sample libraries.
You will find 2 tracks bellow. The tracks are identical, but the first uses only BB brass samples and the second version uses Bravura Brass trumpets (solo trumpet, piccolo trumpet, flugelhorn), horns, tuba and low brass from CineBrass and the trombones from BML Bone Phalanx.
I think this library has great potential, if IS will go forward in making a second version of it. The idea of the library is great and IS has its scripting down, but they made a grave mistake of not recording the very best players possible.
Let me just say, that I have been a big fan of Impact Soundworks and I am sorry to, that Bravura Brass has let me down a bit. I just love IS’s Shreddage series and I use it extensively in many of my productions. Any time I had any problem or question, the IS’s support team replied to me quickly and in a very kind manner.
Impact Soundworks is also known to always update their existing libraries with new features and I am sure they will do the same with Bravura Brass. I am eager to see and hear what they will bring to the table next!
Pros & cons
– Superb sound and playability of the trumpet family in the lower dynamic range
– A lot of different articulations to choose from
– Great GUI, that is very intuitive
– Vibrato adjustment knob
– Piccolo trumpet and flugelhorn samples.
– Fairly cheap and great buying options with the sectional, soloist and other bundles.
– The instruments lack a good higher dynamic range
– The recorded seating is wrong
– The trombones could be better
- Superb sound and playability of the trumpet family in the lower dynamic range
- A lot of different articulations to choose from
- Piccolo trumpet and flugelhorn samples.
- The instruments lack a good higher dynamic range
- The recorded seating is wrong
- The trombones could be better