Review: Caspian Brass by Performance Samples

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Caspian is an extremely convincing and streamlined library that makes energetic marcato and staccato brass lines easier to play than ever.

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Review: Caspian Brass by Performance Samples

Caspian is Performance Samples’ fourth commercial product. This brass library takes notes from its predecessor, Oceania choir, and presents its sections as single patches, covering French Horns, Trumpets, and Bass Trombones. Caspian’s advanced scripting and sampling techniques make it extraordinarily easy to record energetic lines that mix staccato and sustained playing without spending time tweaking keyswitches, midi channels, and separate articulations.

Caspian Brass sells for $239 from Performance Samples

 

Thoughts

Performance Samples isn’t known for flashy interface design, and Caspian is no exception to this. All three of the patches look exactly the same – a mic mixer, and a field that allows you to change the dynamic control CC channel.

The microphone options consist of Close, Decca, and Wide. Each position has a Mute and Solo button, a volume knob, a pan fader, and a dropdown to select a Kontakt Output if you like to route them to different channels.

Everything functions as you would expect it to here. The Dynamic CC field lets you pick which CC channel controls the dynamic crossfade. By default, it is set to CC1 (modulation). With no FX Rack, no ADSR controls, no built-in reverb, or any of the other things you’d expect to see in a modern Kontakt Library, Caspian can look a bit underwhelming at first, but this is a niche product, and simplicity is meant to be a core part of its presentation.

The strength of Caspian is its playability and sound.

Caspian’s timbre is one I would describe as bright and energetic. This brass would easily cut through most busy mixes at the top of its dynamic range. Even though there are only 3 dynamic layers sampled, the transition on a crescendo/decrescendo is very smooth and natural. Caspian may have been designed for fast and spritely playing, but the lowest dynamic is still nice, smooth, and soft on all three instruments.

It is definitely possible to play more expressively by keeping the modwheel low and faking a legato via slight overlapping of notes. That said, if you’re looking for a library that does it convincingly, Caspian will leave a bit to be desired. Performance Samples makes niche libraries that are designed to do one thing very well with minimal effort, and Caspian is strictly an adaptable marcato and staccato brass library.

No library is perfect though – Caspian does its specific thing incredibly well, but suffers from a few consequences of its streamlined style, all of which the developer notes on the product page.

For one, there is an inherent 80ms delay that will always be there due to the scripting doing its work. This can be compensated in playback if your DAW has a track delay function, but if you’re a keyboard player used to snappy and responsive feedback, Caspian can prove difficult to play, especially when you’re going for fast and spry. As with most orchestral libraries, Caspian’s realism also suffers with repeated short notes. Modwheel adjustments for each note can help with this, but it will always be an issue regardless. There are also some “short and dirty” loops in the lower registers, which is noted on the product’s web page. I definitely noticed some intonation issues in the lower horn notes.

Don’t buy Caspian if you’re in the market for a complete and comprehensive orchestral brass library. Definitely, buy Caspian if you need a simple solution for quick and agile brass melodies. While marcato brass is no new concept in the sample library world, none of them seem to blend short and sustained notes as seamlessly as Caspian.

 

Facts

Caspian includes patches for 6 horns, 3 trumpets, and 3 bass trombones, all recorded with the Capellen Orchestra. There are 3 mic positions – Close, decca, and wide. Three dynamic layers and up to 5 round robins were captured for each instrument in 48kHz / 24bit format. Caspian weighs in at 1.16 GB installed. There is only one patch per instrument section – advanced scripting allows short notes and sustains to be played naturally in one patch.

This library requires the full retail version of Kontakt 5.5.1 or higher.

Caspian Brass sells for $239 from Performance Samples

Demos of Caspian Brass by Performance Samples

 

Videos of Caspian Brass by Performance Samples