Review: Albion Colossus (Standard Instruments) by Spitfire Audio


Spitfire Audio bring out the big guns with their latest Albion release, Colossus. It features two contrasting orchestras, energetic drums, heavy guitars, powerful synths and also includes new features designed to make scoring both more exciting and intuitive. Colossus does indeed go massive, but it also goes surprisingly light too.

Jump to the Videos of Albion Colossus by Spitfire Audio

Jump to the Demos of Albion Colossus by Spitfire Audio

Note: This review was written before the Albion Colossus Update. To hear the additional instrument included in the update check out our first look video here.

Review: Albion Colossus (Standard Instruments) by Spitfire Audio

For many of us, the Albion range will have been our first introduction to the sampling world of Spitfire Audio. These all-in-one power packs of orchestra, drums, loops, synths and sound design have proven to be a huge hit since the early days of what is now known as Albion Legacy.

Each one has focussed on a particular remit, from the gentle Tundra to the more aleatoric Uist. Spitfire has even been so bold as to retire certain older Albions and present something better. For Colossus, it’s lineage lies in the epic sections of the now-defunct Iceni. However, where its predecessor focussed only on powerful low end, Colossus seeks to turn things to eleven across the entire orchestra and beyond. Notably, it’s also the first Albion using Spitfire’s own bespoke plugin, which has enabled them to more easily implement three innovative features – Scale, Depth and Hype. How they work is a clear development of the concept behind Spitfire’s Aperture products, but with much more control and ambition.

As if that was not enough, they took the bold move of sampling not just one, but two entire orchestras in two different spaces. So, how colossal is Colossus and now that it’s out of Kontakt, does it live up to the high bar of previous Albions? Let’s dive in and find out.

Albion Colossus normally sells for £399 from Spitfire Audio


Upon first loading the plugin the default patch is Anthology, which is a really great way to get a taste of all aspects of the library within seconds. Such immediacy of use proved to be replicated throughout my deeper exploration into individual sections, resulting in a lively and exciting user experience overall.

Default Patch

The interface will be familiar to anyone who has used Spitfire’s own plugins before and makes the learning curve that much easier, though even a Spitfire virgin will soon be speeding around the interface. To start with, we have all the various patches nicely categorised in a pull-down menu at the top, each with a quick audition button.

Patch Menu

The top half of the interface is dedicated to four faders and one large dial. The latter can be programmed to be timing, release, filter, compression, or reverb, but by default is the new Hype parameter. This is critical in giving the library a hyper-real feel and employs a combination of saturation, EQ, compression, sub-layers, transient shaping, and other clever enhancements all tied to a single control. What is especially neat here is that it is bespoke to each source and therefore enhances each patch in a particular way; your hyped piccolo is not going to need the same treatment as your hyped taiko drum. The leftmost faders are expression and dynamics as per usual. To the right are too new faders; Scale fades from the chamber section (42 players) smoothly through to the full symphonic (111 players) and Depth moves from the close mics to the most ambient outriggers. There is no mic mixer here, so you cannot have lots of close and just a hint of ambient. It is simply moving from the driest sound to the most distant.

It’s notable that for the second Albion in a row where the recording space is not Air Studios. I suspect the richer tone and generally longer reverberation of Lyndhurst Hall was deemed less suitable for the vision of a more upfront, modern aesthetic. This time it is the New Auditorium (chamber orchestra) and the Royal Concert Hall (symphony orchestra) in Glasgow, both recorded at the in-house Clockwork Studios. Each hall is fairly neutral in sound, clean, airy, and relatively ‘vanilla’ which no doubt helped when getting them to crossfade nicely. Indeed, the blends are incredibly seamless. This must have been a real labour of love, considering how they have to match phase, timbre, and expressive techniques across two different orchestras and a plethora of microphones. The result of combining all five of these controllers is an immediacy of use unparalleled in previous Albions (and most other libraries generally). That said, you will need a midi controller with more than just modulation and pitch wheels to get the most out of it, even though it is possible to tie everything to CC1 if required.

Faders and Dial

In the lower half resides the articulation selection for each patch. High Strings: Shorts, for example, brings up three articulations – spiccato, staccato and marcato. This can be edited to build custom patches that combine any articulations for the chosen instrument, making it easy, for instance, to create performance patches if you like to key-switch between shorts and long, keeping everything on a single track.

Custom Patch Creator

Here you will also find the FX which mirrors everything that can also be tied to the main dial as mentioned above – timing, release, HPF, LPF, compression and reverb. Anything that does not apply to the currently selected articulation is greyed out.


The bottom right and a strip at the very top is dedicated to programming options and finer points. It would be tedious to detail everything here, but safe to say plenty is taken care of for the discerning composer, such as custom key-switching, transposition, round robin options and even dynamics and velocity preferences.

Although some people criticize the Spitfire Audios standalone plugin, I personally find that they are a refreshing change and generally provides a better user experience. Additionally, previous Albions have suffered slightly from Kontakt nki overload, mostly when it came to exploring the non-orchestral elements which just meant a huge list of patches to manually load and audition one by one. This is pretty much eradicated in Albion Colossus and it feels generally very smooth and slick when navigating over 100GB of audio.

The samples themselves are of the typical polished and well-curated type we expect from the Spitfire team. Beginning with the orchestral content, it’s a slightly unusual selection as sometimes we have broad brush sections comprising of multiple instruments and other times just a single instrument. Strings are divided simply into high and low, but encompass a large number of articulations. The swelling hairpins are a highlight, though the ability to sync to host tempo using time stretching would be useful. The Jeté is also a welcome addition as it’s not that common, but can be ideal for more percussive and textural gestures.

Low Strings Hairpins

One nice touch, consistent across the library, is that on any shorts CC1 works to set a minimum for your key touch velocity, which makes playing more consistent repeated parts at higher velocities much easier. Like with all the orchestral sections the build from the lighter focussed chamber to the weightier, more expansive symphony band is very powerful and never done before as far as I am aware. The precise section sizes are available on the Spitfire Audio website for those interested. Perhaps to help blend the two orchestras we find the legato is pretty workmanlike and precise and the vibrato is very subtle. The net effect is not the most emotional strings, but the focus here is far more on the ability to build from tension with Scale at lower settings, to dramatic action as you dial it to the maximum. The additional longs including flautando, sul tasto and sul pont in particular showcase the ability of Colossus to achieve more delicate and atmospheric suspense. For both low and high strings the Hype control generally adds a more biting and upfront feel and on the lows some pretty monstrous subs too.

The brass evolves from a warm chamber combo to a full-bodied symphony. Somewhat disappointingly, it never quite gets that fff all out power that the title of this library might suggest, it’s stately and rich sounding, as opposed to blowing your ears off aggressively. This is something those expecting a totally epic sound should be aware of, as it’s a trend across all the orchestral sections. For me, Spitfire has never quite captured the very highest extremes of orchestral power that some of their competitors have. The Hype does get us closer adding some nice saturation, but arguably too much low end, when I kept wanting more raspiness and grit. Gladly the horns get their own patch and go from three to eight in size, building from a mellow chorale sound to something more dense and energetic.

Horns Longs

They show, arguably most clearly, how the different orchestras tesselate; the chamber goes from pp to maybe mf but no further, so you can’t get the chamber band really fired up. The symphonic goes from p to north of f and this does make sense as you will often be using Scale in conjunction with Dynamics, the former effectively an extra intensifier of the latter – hence the chamber band can never get too intense itself. This brings up an interesting point in that perhaps Colossus is a misleading title. For me, it’s more ‘David and Goliath’; the chamber band can offer up some evocative suspenseful sounds somewhat at odds with the epic and trailer-esque hugeness ‘Colossus’ suggests.

Moving onto the woodwinds and we find a general section of instruments focussed across the range, but with emphasis on the mid and lower registers, including saxophones in the symphonic orchestra. These are so precise and produced they feel a little cold. However, I wonder if that makes them more usable for big hybrid compositions where the winds have normally been overlooked, or more often not even used. That rogue orchestral woodwind, the sax, really helps here especially on the low shorts, bringing with it some real guttural punch.

Woodwinds Shorts

The flutes and piccolos get their own patches. Giving such attention to the least colossal instruments in the orchestra is a bold move. Perhaps it was to get them out of the way of the other woodwinds, or maybe Spitfire is hinting that composers should use them more in loud, hybrid styles? Either way, they both sound great – again very polished and agile. Across all the woodwinds the Hype does a good job of bringing the sound forward, without choking it and without overdoing the saturation.

The percussion is a concise but broad affair and all drums are nicely laid out for two-handed playing. There are gran cases, toms, snares, tam tam, piatti cymbals, and timpani in the Concert section, that evolve from two to three players using the Scale fader. The Traditional patch reveals a range of frame drums, taikos, other ethnic drums, and small percussion. The Junkyard kit is the place to be for metallic bangs, smacks, and cracks – these are great fun to play and incredibly useful when needing to cut through loud and dense mixes.

Traditional Percussion

The ‘Aperture’ concept works particularly well for all of these. Often in a trailer-type cue that builds from small to huge, it can be hard to change the intensity enough without switching to a totally different library, but now we have the ability to maintain the same percussion throughout and dial it up very precisely using both the Hype and Scale controls. Having up to ten round robins also really helps to make it playable and realistic sounding. I do miss the option of neighboring keys for the same drum and playing it with index and middle fingers as I find rolls easier to do this way. This is a strong percussion section, not bloated by too many options, and with the Hype put to superb use to get that in-your-face sound we hear in modern scores and trailers. I would say with some of the low drums the subs on the Hype can get muddy with quick patterns, so judicious use of the HPF is important here.

The drumkit is a slight anomaly in that the Scale does not fade between the two recording spaces and it shows. Whilst riding it up does increase the sense of space you don’t get a similar increase in overall impact, in fact, the ‘chamber’ setting sounds more powerful to my ears. The kit sounds good but lacks enough user control to manipulate the sound which is often what is more required for drum kits. I did welcome the addition of naturally choked cymbals though, as these can come in very handy and many drum libraries do not include them. Also included in this section is the first part of the collaboration with artist Snakes of Russia. These ten Altered Drumkits are just superb!

Altered Drumkits

Comprised of a mix of synth drums and sound-designed live recordings these are right on the money for fresh, hard-hitting hybrid drums. This time the Scale fader adds immense amounts of aggressive post-production and for each kit it takes you to surprising new places. The Depth control functions the same as always, though I suspect they have employed IR techniques for this to work best. The Hype is there should you truly want to melt your face off of course!

Somewhat surprisingly we even get tuned percussion in the shape of crotales, glockenspiel, and vibraphone making it a very comprehensive orchestral collection. Exactly where they fit with the Colossus vision is a slight puzzle, but as I mentioned this is more than just an ‘epic library’. I really love the sustained vibraphone patch on maximum Scale, which seems to swim proudly around a wide soundstage. There is plenty of attack on all of the tuned percussion and they will punch through a massive mix better than most similar samples I have heard.

The Guitars definitely harken back to Aperture: The Stack with 3 amps in the small hall going to 6 amps in the concert hall. It’s reamped, not live playing, so the blend between them is seamless. There’s nothing approaching a deep sampling here as it’s limited to a single heavy rock/metal distortion and only a handful of articulations, but blended into compositions to add a layer of grit and power they will work very nicely indeed. There are some FX things in there too, some (dead notes) more useful than others (marcato bends). I think they missed a trick not including muted plucks as I find these great for creating energetic pulses.

Guitars Shorts

Finally, we come to the synths, effectively the ‘Stephenson’ side of Albion in old money. Again the skills of Snakes of Russia are at play and like the Altered Drumkits we get relatively safe starting sounds with Scale at the minimum and a wholly more brutal sound when maxed out. CC1 defaults to a LPF and I was pleasantly surprised at the variability of a single preset when I started to play around with all of faders and main dial. There are seven basses, four drones, nine keys, nine leads and eleven pads. All have a lovely analogue quality and are pleasingly lacking delays and overuse of effects, which can often make synth presets less pliable. Some even suggested obvious use as a synth layer under the orchestra, like with the Brut Brass lead.

Synth Leads

The overall character is gritty modern retro – classic synth sounds, but with a distinctly contemporary twist – and they will play very nicely with organic elements, which often more digital synths can struggle with. Snakes of Russia did a stellar job here and I don’t miss the previously bewildering amount of patches of some earlier Albion releases, as these cover plenty of ground and have sound morphing built into the engine. However, I have two major issues with this part of Colossus. Firstly, it really needs a monophonic option especially for the basses and secondly, where is the ADSR? It would be very useful for the orchestral longs and drums, but hugely beneficial for the synths. There is a good filter on board which is crucial, but to make the synth section vastly improved please Spitfire can we get an amp envelope in here?! Sometimes pads need to creep in and sometimes keys need to be more percussive.

There is room for improvement in updates, for example, maybe taming some of the over-exuberant subs in patches that don’t need it and adding an ADSR. Overall, however, it’s a very solid initial release version with consistently tight attacks for short samples and precise tuning. It also works really nicely in the bespoke plugin and definitely ticks the Albion box of being able to create a full track just using a single library. Some things that can’t be fixed is that some of the raw (ie non-Hyped) recordings, particularly the brass and horn patches, simply fail to reach that over-the-top, Act 3 of a trailer power.

Despite some minor flaws, Albion Colossus stands out as a significant release. It offers composers the ability to blend two distinct orchestras from different halls with ease, using just one fader. Spitfire Audio has made it easy to achieve the desired sound quickly and intuitively.  It feels very immediate too. Using the Hype control provides that full-on modern action intensity and the Depth fader imbues it with an impressive wide-screen ambience that never gets thick or wooly. Yet, it also does quiet, subtle and brooding. Therein lies the USP of this library – the ability to go from small to huge almost effortlessly, so smoothly, and in a variety of ways.

Arguably there are better libraries out there for a naturally epic orchestra. But, Colossus has its eye on hybrid orchestral composing, where classical instruments collide with synths, guitars, drum machines, and sound design. This is reflected not only by the inclusion of those other elements within the library itself but in the sampling style. The lack of soaring legatos, yearning vibrato and textural techniques and instead a preference for a very articulate, upfront feel with superb agility all put it firmly on point for modern cinematic action scoring. As does the fact that all the orchestral sections eschew traditional seating and are all panned equally balanced across the stereo image. I would even go as far as to suggest that at times with the Hype more engaged and the close mics in play some orchestral patches take on a synthetic, almost sterile quality and sometimes that can be a good thing. I am actually looking forward to trying it as an underlay to synth-based tracks to add cinematic gravitas, instead of the normal practice of having synths support the orchestral elements.

Spitfire Audio never follow the crowd and it’s no surprise that their first fully realised action/epic focussed library offers something different, not just conceptually, but in employing new technology to achieve it. They understand scoring, they understand you need calm to then have a storm, and they understand that once in that storm you might just want to turn it up a little bit more.


Note: This review was written before the Albion Colossus Update. To hear the additional instrument included in the update check out our first look video here.



Spitfire Audio’s Albion Colossus is a 110GB download and runs in a bespoke plugin. It consists of two orchestras (chamber and symphonic), with 11 sections, 150 techniques and features the brand new Scale, Depth and Hype controls. There are also drum, percussion, guitar and synth patches. It is compatible with Windows 10 and 11, and works on both Intel and M1 Macs.

Albion Colossus normally sells for £399 from Spitfire Audio


Demos of Albion Colossus by Spitfire Audio

Videos of Albion Colossus by Spitfire Audio


Contributor Sam Burt reviews Albion Colossus by Spitfire Audio
Spitfire Audio bring out the big guns with their latest Albion release, Colossus. It features two contrasting orchestras, energetic drums, heavy guitars, powerful synths and also includes new features designed to make scoring both more exciting and intuitive. Colossus does indeed go massive, but it also goes surprisingly light too.”