Review: Trailer Brass by Musical Sampling
Unique oversized ensembles
The Horde patch alone
Focussed purpose ie. LOUD!
No Legato Patches
No high brass
No manual (Video walkthrough only)
Minor programming errors - a few looping clicks, badly matched volumes on some patches
For outrageously loud, epic and sub rattling brass, few libraries do it as well as Trailer Brass. It is lean, mean and superbly executed.
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Review: Trailer Brass by Musical Sampling
Trailer Brass is a specialist brass library from relative newcomers Musical Samplings. The company have previously released two other orchestral packs that reflect their penchant for sampling very particular aspects of orchestral playing. Their latest product is no different and arguably is even more distinct, as it only samples a limited number of instruments at a restricted amount of dynamics. The result is a powerhouse of mid and low brass at an earthshaking volume.
The main body of the library is comprised of three pretty over-the-top ensembles – a ten horn section, a ten trombone section and a three cimbasso/three tuba group. They then basically stuck each ensemble in a huge hall, lined them up evenly across the stage and told them to play loudly. Very loudly. Yes folks, we are talking “fff”, microphone blowing volume (literally!) here. To be fair it is definitely not so one dimensional, as both long and short sounds actually have a good bit of dynamic variance from a lovely solid “mf” with minimal rasp to huge overblown harmonics.
So what do you actually get as Kontakt instruments? Well, it is refreshingly simple – each of the horn and trombone ensembles comprises 3 NKI patches.
Breakout is your do-it-all version with both sustains and staccato easily selectable, with the latter also having the option to be triggered by velocity as opposed to the modwheel. For orchestral shorts both methods are useful in different situations, so this is a nice option to have. Key switches are provided or you can simply click in the GUI. A “To Silence” button is off by default, but when activated provides the ability for the modwheel to take you right down to silence for those long, dramatic swells when you want maximum dynamic excitement, without the need to use the expression CC.
Next to that, a “Humanization” button gives you four options to control the timing tightness of the attack and release on separate notes. “Off” gives you a super tight almost impossible attack, whilst the other settings progressively and randomly alter the attack and release times. Of course, it is the ensemble sample itself rather than each of the ten players that gets varying amounts of air before triggering, but nonetheless it does give the impression of a more natural performance, especially if you are employing hard quantization in your sequencer but still want a loose feel. It is worth noting the Trombone adds one extra keyswitch to select “Cluster Effects”, comprising a range of aleatoric, glissando and other special effects.
The other two patches in the horns and trombones categories are Adventure and Majestic and have a simpler GUI. The former has a pronounced marcato attack and cuts straight to the rasp with a shorter release, thus making it perfect for those quick, triumphant ￼￼￼￼￼￼lines – think cowboys ‘yee-hawing’ across the Arizona Desert! Majestic is a more tempered patch, akin to the main breakout one but with two different attacks depending on velocity, altogether resulting in a sound most suited to slower, grander, sweeping lines. Velocities under 88 give a shorter marcato attack, whilst over 88 you get a gentler blooming marcato (a bit counter intuitive when playing I found).
All the trombone and horn patches give you control over the mics used too, with close, room and mixed options.
The room reveals a lush but not hugely long reverb, so you can dial in quite a bit of the natural ambience without anything ever getting swamped. The ‘”mixed” mic knob is for me a bit redundant as this can be achieved by blending the close and room anyway and surely only adds to the amount of samples in the pack. Maybe it is there to save loading both close and room sample sets in, I am not sure.
The sound is first class for both trombones and horns, though it arguably lacks the richness of higher end libraries. This slightly more pristine flavor though can be a good thing, as many of us layer different libraries up and these just mix in so easily even with a complex cue. I had excellent results using the Trailer Brass horns to add the detail and ferocity to another library that was lacking in that area, but which had the grandiose hall sound that Trailer Brass could not quite match. For those dramatic swells this sample set is wonderful for the sheer intensity it can build, without ever thinning out. This modwheel programming is amongst the best I have used, making super smooth, realistic crescendos and diminuendos a breeze. I also loved the sound at the very quietest of the dynamic range, which drastically opens up options for use in less bombastic scoring. It is worth mentioning the wide soundstage on all the samples in Trailer Brass. Whilst not contextually accurate it does give a hugeness to the ensembles and to be honest you are using ten trombones and ten horns so reality left quite some time ago! A couple of high notes I noticed so far on the trombones have slight issues with a click glitch as it loops on longer notes at full tilt. Hopefully an update will iron them out.
The Horde takes care of the bass side of things, but is very different in its construction. There are four patches here all of which have had the cimbasso and tuba ensemble processed through a bunch of outboard for a modern and heavy sound. The V1 versions are the more processed, whereas V2 is slightly more open. Evolving Sustains V1/V2 are gorgeous room shaking longs with velocity control over attack and the modwheel for dynamics. The shorts give us staccato, short marcato and long marcato all with the same extra CC features as the trombones and horns shorts.
The sounds you can get from The Horde are just so exciting!
The long marcato is especially brutal and am sure will find many fans in composers for heavy hitting trailers. Just hit C0, turn up the speakers and feel armageddon coming at you! For me this is where this library shines – you hear the sounds and it makes you want to use them immediately. Without anything more than a key press they conjure up an emotion, which is something Musical Samplings should be hugely complemented on. The Horde is the jewel in the crown of this library and unlike anything I have yet heard in an orchestral sample collection.
In what feels like a bonus extra, the pack also contains some sound design patches that all derive from the source samples that have been filtered, distorted and inflicted with a whole manner of modulation. At first I was a bit underwhelmed by a mere 12 NKI patches, but upon further examination I discovered many of them have key switches that give further variances on the main patch and others use the modwheel to dramatic effect. The net result is a very usable selection of pads, atonal sounds, impacts, basses and drones (just beware of the two bass patches which have badly matched volume and took my head off!). The interface is simplicity itself, with nothing to tweak, just play the keys. Other libraries have employed a similar technique of morphing pure orchestral sounds into something that can work in hybrid scoring and there is definitely something to be said for this approach as it lends a far more organic texture to pad type sounds than one might traditionally create on a synth. Trailer Brass’s take on it is ideal for those low rumbling soundscapes.
The net result is a very usable selection of pads, atonal sounds, impacts, basses and drones.
The net result is a very usable selection of pads, atonal sounds, impacts, basses and drones (just beware of the two bass patches which have badly matched volume and took my head off!). The interface is simplicity itself, with nothing to tweak, just play the keys. Other libraries have employed a similar technique of morphing pure orchestral sounds into something that can work in hybrid scoring and there is definitely something to be said for this approach as it lends a far more organic texture to pad type sounds than one might traditionally create on a synth. Trailer Brass’s take on it is ideal for those low rumbling soundscapes.
Musical Sampling set out to create a sample set of the loudest, brashest, most ball-busting brass out there and have largely succeeded in doing that. I love that the collection is so simple to navigate with a simple GUI, all of which focuses the composer on getting quick results with the minimum of mouse fiddling. The horns and bones give out of the box cinematic glory and in a streamlined style, avoiding articulations that simply would not be needed in the context of this style.
The Horde does a similar job down low, but using and abusing other gear in the process to ramp the drama and heaviness to the max. It was a brave decision not to include the raw samples, but one that I applaud – sometimes less choice for us music makers is better!
Finally the sound design element adds some unique low FX sounds to a composer’s palette. However, Trailer Brass is not without flaws, one being lack of a manual or any inbuilt help file. It is slightly bemusing when a sample developer has gone to the lengths of adding in such great subtle touches, such as a humanization button or velocity dependent marcato attacks, that they do not want to point it out strongly to their end users. There is also the clicks on some audio looping that could do with a fix. Legato samples would also have been most welcome, but I guess it gets to a point of trade off between size and price of the library and just how much content can be included. It also lacks any high brass, I just hope they can go back and do the same with some trumpets and cornets one day.
The title of the collection would suggest a certain usage and whilst I am sure it is perfect for those huge backends of trailers when a regular brass library just can’t blow hard enough, I also feel it is a useful tool for film and TV composers if the subject matter is suitably grand.
Those in the artist and songwriting world will find its usage limited, though as mentioned above the softer dynamics are very usable. For a small, boutique library it is not the cheapest, but for those that can put it to regular use Trailer Brass is a unique product that delivers maximum drama. For epic, dirty, in your face brass to shake the walls of the multiplex, look no further.
Trailer Brass comes in 48khz/24bit format, with 2.4 GB of content uncompressed. It is compatible with Kontakt 5.5.1+, but is not available as a player instrument so you will need the full version of Kontakt. It is a watermarked product by download only.
Trailer Brass sells for $249 from Musical Sampling