Review: Legion Series 66 Tubas by 8Dio
Huge, rich and open sound
Transposes well into french horn range
Good range of SFX and special articulations
Includes looped versions of many articulations
Stacking and chaos engine expands sound design capabilities
Close mics cannot be combined with room mics
Limited short articulations
Time Machine patches not relevant for 95% of the articulations and it does not work on timed articulations anyway
A few minor programming issues
The 8Dio Legion Series expands with the bombastic array that is 66 Tubas, redefining the sound of epic low brass.
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Review: Legion Series 66 Tubas by 8Dio
Hot on the heels of 88 Basses comes the second instalment of 8Dio’s super-sized orchestral sections. This time they invited 66 tuba players across 13 countries to come and blast the roof off a great sounding modern recording hall in Zlin, Czech Republic. The library blends well with 8Dio Century Brass by adding two octaves below the brass sections in that library, though it can work excellently alongside any quality main brass library. It is also very much a standalone library that can add a huge low end impact in less traditional orchestral contexts.
Legion Series: 66 Tubas sells for $248 from 8Dio
66 Tubas is divided into six broad categories that each contain a number of articulations.
The arcs are the trademark 8Dio ‘recorded at source’ dynamic patches. These cover a range of dynamics in both long and short versions. They also go the other way too so, for example, in addition to piano-forte-piano you also get forte-piano-forte. When the timing of these work in your composition natural dynamics really cannot be beaten and here you can also use the modwheel for expression to enhance the swell intensity.
The bends are next and give half tone, whole tone and rips, both up and down. I was hoping the additional time machine patches would speed the bends up, but sadly it did not work and as such they are not massively flexible as you are stuck with the rather slow bends originally recorded. It is also a bit of a shame they did not do some larger interval glissando bends as these are quite popular right now.
The third category are the legatos which, in addition to the standard type, gives some useful variations in the shape of marcato, trills and flutter tongues. All but the marcatos are looped, which is a good option to have if your part has very long notes. These all sound very full and powerful with a dynamic sweep that goes from whisper quiet to a biting rasp. The marcato is especially tasty with a strong attack that quickly fades before sharply rising to fortissimo. I would have ideally liked a quicker marcato too that just has one single brassy blast. Whether it is a bug or a programming feature the legatos can be played polyphonically too as long as you play multiple notes together, though as soon as you link single notes together it defaults to being the expected monophonic legato.
The SFX focus on a nicely curated selection of clusters, again some of which are looped to enable them to be used as a longer pad/drone. The cluster waves are an interesting texture that incorporates swells that fade in and out. I also love the cluster growls which sound like atonal flutter tongues and create a wonderful dark eeriness. Some of these articulations are quite tonal, so I am surprised there are no transposing key switches. Instead you must use the main tune dial in the top right of the Kontakt interface. All of these patches had a rather odd keyboard colour coding too which was confusing, though I suspect it is just a programming error.
The shorts are rather minimal consisting of just two articulations. The first is spiccato, which is more of a string technique, so here I think it is technically staccato, but meant to sound like a string spiccato with that cutting and bouncing feel. Hats off to 8Dio here for creating a short low brass sound that can be played very quickly whilst maintaining good note definition. It also shows off the long and clear natural reverberation of the hall to great aplomb. The only other short here is titled rhythmic hits and is a super tight staccato with a subtle percussive quality. I have no idea how this was played, but it can be played even faster than the spiccato. My only grumble with it is the lack of round robins as it feels a bit robotic.
The final category of sound is arguably the most useful and comprises of a number of sustain articulations. The basic sustain with modwheel for dynamics will be a workhorse preset, though the fixed dynamic pp and mf are most welcome. However, it is the fixed fortissimo played by a hall full of tubas that we all came here for and it delivers a deep and rich low end. It does reveal a slight quirk of having so many players that occurs on a few other patches in this library, that being the many variances when the players reach their full raspy tone can result in a slightly undulating sustain. The rest of the sustains consist of well thought out articulations – trills, flutter tongues, fast and slow crescendos and decrescendos, marcato and an unusual double attack sforzando. A strange but beautiful singing while playing articulation completes the collection which I am now eager to find a place for in a future composition. The sustains also come in looped configuration for seamless longer notes.
Each articulation can be mixed via three hall mics – decca, wide and far – or you can select the 8Dio custom normal mix or the punchy trailer mix. However you do it the resulting sound is suitably huge, though in all honesty I don’t know how much difference there is from having 20 Tubas to 66 as most of the time this simply sounds like ‘a lot of tubas in a big room’! My gut feeling is there will be a cut off point where adding more players just does not make the sound that much bigger. A novel marketing device or not, this is low brass as powerful as anything else on the market today. Infact, what I like especially is that it does not sound like a ridiculous amount of players and that it is definitely not a gimmicky library as the title of it might suggest – it just sounds like an almighty low brass section captured in a hall that seems to really complement huge sections. The recording space is tried and tested, having been previously used on some of their popular libraries such as Majestica and Cage. It rings out with a decent tail that never gets too thick.
In 66 Tubas every patch and articulation is duplicated in a entirely separate folder with five spot mics. This is a different approach compared to most libraries where you often combine the close mics with the room mics. I am not exactly sure why they did this, possibly to declutter the GUI and lessen CPU demands, but it does make it impossible to dial in a closer more direct sound alongside the room mics, unless you layer up the nki patches in Kontakt as a multi. This shortcoming however is slightly addressed by the trailer mix fader in the main microphone section, which sounds like it might use a combination of spot and hall mics to give a large yet direct feel. The spot mics alone still have a good bit of ambience to them and by default are panned across the stereo image to give a wide sound stage. I found myself drawn to the main hall mics for more conventional use, but to the spot mics for sound design as they tend to take the additional effects a little better and are more in your face generally.
It is worth noting that across the majority of the articulations the samples are extended across the keyboard into the impossible to play ranges of the tuba. This artificial transposition works surprisingly well and means you can get both a growling sub brass and also a higher texture that sounds like the love child of a french horn and trombone.
Lest this review become a short book I will only very briefly mention the GUI. You get the familiar envelope shapers and sample start offset with a basic sequencer in the neighbouring tab. The stack button is also here and enables you to layer multiple articulations, which you can then mix to taste. A mixer section gives you full control over the numerous microphone volumes with extra controls for solo, mute and panning. There is also the standard 8Dio Chaos engine FX, now with useful XY controllers. A final modulation tab reveals a gate, tuning section and the expression and dynamic controls. Regarding the latter, all patches employ cc1 to control expression, but only some use it additionally for dynamics – look out for cc1 in brackets after the articulation title. For those needing to manage CPU the mic positions and the articulations can all be purged accordingly too.
A number of presets are included which showcase how flexible 66 Tubas is once you start stacking sounds, messing with the pitch envelope and engaging the onboard effects. There is the trouser flapping LFE Rumble and fourteen other examples of how the raw samples can be used for sound design. The Ship preset is my favourite with its low, raspy, reverb soaked grandeur. Not least, it has inspired me to explore how I can further stack, reverse and bend some of the articulations to create some massive and unique braams sounds. If anything is going to give that thunderous brass impact then 66 Tubas belting out at full blast surely cannot fail!
For anyone needing some real low end girth adding to their existing brass libraries 66 Tubas is highly recommended. That been said, it also stands superbly alone as a feature instrument given the right context. The sound is unashamedly bold, epic and expensive sounding so will suit those composing for feature films, computer games and trailers. If you work mostly on lighter music it might well be overkill, especially as the price is not cheap for quite a boutique product.
8Dio have really impressed me with this release, not least in their choice of instrument. Specific tuba libraries are few and far between, often getting overlooked for their showier brassy brethren in the shape of french horns, trombones and trumpets, so this is a welcome change. All 66 of the players’ performances are powerful, the recording is clear and open and the hall sound is lush without ever getting muddy. It can also lend itself really well to sound design. Combine this with a wide range of flexible articulations and a simple interface and this might well be the only low brass library you need in your arsenal.
66 Tubas is a 9.1 GB library using 48khz/24bit wav files and requiring the full version of Kontakt. Every patch has a DFD, TM2 and TMPro version. There are 3 hall mics – decca, wide and far, 2 pre-mixed hall mics and 5 spot mics.
Legion Series: 66 Tubas sells for $248 from 8Dio