Spitfire Audio has recently started “updating” their whole orchestral collection. First they retired Albion and replaced it with Albion One. Then they announced they would get rid of the whole BML brass series, which they did and they replaced it with Spitfire Symphonic Brass, which we have already reviewed. The same happened with the BML strings, that got replaced by Spitfire Symphonic Strings, which we have also already reviewed. As the trend of course continued, BML woodwinds got replaced by Spitfire Symphonic Woodwinds (SSW from here on forward). SSW is a pretty extensive collections of orchestral woodwinds, that not many sample libraries out there have the privilege to offer. Let’s take a look if SSW is something you should consider buying.
Content and sound
SSW where originally released in parts of the BML (British Modular Library) series. Spitfire has now combined the woodwinds of BML into one coherent library. They have also added 30% additional content and included new articulations, additional scripting and other improvements. SSW was recorded with the best London session musicians in Air Studios (as most of the Spitfire libraries). This lush hall is one of the most sought after recording halls in the world and has been used by many publically proclaimed best film composers out there; such as Hans Zimmer, John Williams and Alexandre Desplat. The SSW series has been recorded to tape with a unique signal path.
SWW will take up a staggering 71,7 GBs of your disk space and runs in Kontakt player or the full version of Kontakt. Instruments you will find inside are:
– flutes a2
– oboes a2
– clarinets a2
– bass clarinet
– contrabass clarinet
– bassoons a2
All instruments have been recorded with three standard mic positions (Close, Tree, Ambient) between which you can mix at will. All instruments have been recorded at their respected standard seating positions inside the orchestra. A full list of articulations can be found at Spitfire’s website.
Users have the option to select premade keyswitch patches, or choose individual articulations for each instrument. I have put all the instruments into my template in Cubase 9 as keyswitch patches and then made custom expression maps for all of them. You can download the expression maps I have made here.
Now let’s take a closer look at each individual instrument group.
A good flute player will have a full & and round tone, a nice vibrato, his low register will be profound and his high register will soar with brilliance. All these characteristics can be found in the SSW piccolo and flutes. The staccatos, recorded in several round robins sound great and I also really enjoy lively major and minor second trills. I also love the addition of the alto and bass flute; not many sample libraries have sampled these two great instruments.
The only difficulty I have really found is a somewhat unnatural sound when playing fast legato passages. In the overall mix as orchestral color it works OK, but don’t expect to be writing any flute concertos with it any time soon. Most sample libraries have this problem and at the end of the day SWW still performs better than most similar sample libraries I have tested. For the reason to test out on how SWW performs with fast passages I have written a test track with very texturesque woodwinds at the beginning. Listen to it bellow and judge the sound for yourself.
All in all, these are still the best and most life-like piccolo and flutes I own. I also found out, that the flutes work best with a dash of close mics added to the tree.
Bad oboe players tend to have a nasally sound, while good ones have a rich and round one. The oboe players recorded for SWW were for sure of the best. The sound of the oboes I must say is one of my favorites of this library. It is so easy to play realistic melodies with the legato patch. All the other articulations are close to perfect as well. As in the flutes, fast legato passages may be a problem.
Again, I think Spitfire have carefully selected who to record for clarinet. It is so important for sample developers to pick the very best players. The clarinets of SSW sound exactly as you would expect clarinets to sounds. Rich and warm sound in the low/mid register and with a nice sparkle in the high register. The bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet are superb. I especially like the dark timbre of the contrabass clarinet. It also blends very well with double basses and low brass.
The bassoons must be one of my favorites out of this library. I very much enjoyed playing around with the bassoons A2 patch. The legatos play nicely and the staccatos are extremely sharp and short (as they should be). A big shout-out must also go to the contrabassoon patch, that can produce some surprisingly thunderous bass tones, which are also enriched by brilliant bright harmonics created by the Air Studios acoustics.
Users of other Spitfire libraries will already be familiar with the GUI and will be able to delve right into it. New users won’t have a big problem, since the interface is as straight forward as it can get. On the main page you will be able to select your articulations, tweak the vibrato, dynamics, release, tightness and expression of the samples. You also have a handy easy mix fader which fades between the close and far mics. For quick fixes it’s OK, but I suggest tweaking your desired mic positions in the settings window, which can be accessed by the little wrench icon on the left hand side of the GUI. In this window additional settings can be adjusted, such as how you want your round robins to performer. You can also select premixed mic position settings.
Price performance and conclusion
SWW retails at 589 EUR. It is well known Spitfire have quite high prices, but their instruments are arguably one of the best on the marker. Spitfire does offers a 30% discount for students and teachers, so they can have a more easily affordable way to buy their instruments. Anyway, the price is high, but the contents, sound quality and overall performances is in my opinion worth every penny. Spitfire libraries work best with one another since they have all been recorded in Air Studios, so if you are going for the whole Spitfire orchestral collection, Spitfire has just released their whole Spitfire Symphony Orchestra (strings, brass, woodwinds and Masse – prebuilt orchestral patches). Of course their libraries blend with other sample libraries as well, but since they are embedded with the unique Air Studios acoustics, you will have to set your reverb settings right to blend your other sample libraries with the Spitfire ones.
What I do miss in SWW is some prerecorded runs, which I use a lot in my music. Hopefully Spitfire will come up with an update of some sort with this feature.
All in all, if you have money to spare and are looking for some great woodwinds, look no further. Spitfire Symphonic Woodwinds will not disappoint you.
- Great overall sound
- Easy to achieve a natural sounding performance
- Loads of articulations to choose from
- Fast passages in some patches are a hassle
- No pre-recorded runs