Spitfire Audio Albion V Tundra Orchestra Samples
By Chris Loeffler |
Spitfire Audio Albion V Tundra Orchestra Samples
If an orchestra plays in the woods ...?
by Chris Loeffler
Spitfire Audio’s Albion Series has occupied the upper-tier of orchestral-focused virtual instruments for composers looking for legitimate, realistic orchestra performances for some time now, and are now on the fifth volume of their Albion series, their cinematic orchestra collection for composers and producers. Although all volumes share the same high-end recording and sampling techniques, each has a specific feel and focus. Albion One is the one-stop-shop for standard orchestral scores, Loegria is the slightly more esoteric and choral volume for more detailed expression, Inceni is the most dramatic and bass-heavy, and Uist focuses on atonal and aleatoric articulations. Albion’s fifth volume, Albion V Tundra, is listed as recorded “at the edge of silence.”
Built around a 100-piece orchestra recorded to analog tape at Air Studios, London, Albion V Tundra features 133 multi-dynamic orchestral articulations in Strings, Brass, and Woodwind ensembles. While the Orchestra section is the library's centerpiece, also included are Stephenson’s Steam Band, Brunel Loops, and Darwin Percussion, which leverage Spitfire's eDNA to blend synthesis with the orchestra samples. Albion V Tundra requires Kontakt Player 5 and is fully compatible with Native Instruments hardware. Available as a digital download, Tundra requires 56.8 GB free space to download and contains nearly 28,000 samples.
What You Need to Know
Albion V Tundra focuses on colder, sparse orchestral sounds meant to evoke a glacial environment. “Recorded at the Edge of Silence” means the instrumentation is focused on softer, subtler nuances of the instruments and players to create intimate passages and extremely dynamic expression. Hearing is believing, so be sure to listen to some of the sound clips at the end of the article as I dive into the features and functionality.
The orchestra is divided into Brass, Strings, and Winds, with High and Low instrumentation sections for each. Additionally, the Strings sections are subdivided into Main (standard) and Soft and Wild (nuanced) settings.
Beginning with the String section, comprised of 38 violins, 12 celli, and 6 basses, there are over 60 combined articulations. Flautendos are achingly authentic, and careful listening can even reveal the occasional bow scratching the strings. Legatos create densely layered arrangements for smoother, textured note transition. Loose Staccato mode has the lead instrument pluck right on the beat while the accompaniment is just slightly off. Tratto gives a nice, delicate sound that captures a fair amount of bow and string noises. Silken mode is almost pad-like in its swells, and High Harmonic Trems add natural movement and suspense, with very human flourishes.
The Woodwinds’ articulation panel includes-
- Air- breathy and soft, best for subtle “warm up”
- Aleatoric Overblown- a natural, reedy attack that gradually introduces overtones and harmonics as the reed technique slightly destabilizes
- Bursts- more consistent, held-note version of Aleatoric Overblown
- Doodle Tonguing- subtle, asymmetrical volume and pitch modulation to sustained notes for a livelier sound
- Finger Trills -nearly identical to Doodle Tonguing, with a physical manipulation of the blown note that is as much felt as heard
- Fluttered- a bit less stability in the sustained notes than the Burst mode
- Hollow- also similar to Burst, with slightly less fullness but more expressive overtones
- Mini Cresc- extended swells for cinematic lifts
- Multiphonics - dissonant “suspense” of multiple woodwind instruments being played slightly off, ideal for creating tension
- Overblowing- overly aggressive reed attack resulting in various background notes popping in and out
- Overblow- limits the tension to the initial attack, with no additional notes produced once the note reaches its peak
- Pulsing Semi Cresc- slightly less dramatic peak for its swell, but increased volume modulation for a more visceral swell
- Slight Bend- soft pitch lift after the note swells and begins to release
- Super Air- fuller, more pronounced version of the Air setting, when you want to note to stand out in the mix while still retaining a breath quality
- Vibrato- introduces a slight pitch and volume modulation after a note has been held for five seconds
- Short creates a quick attack and relatively short drop off, with the note silent by three seconds
The Brass section shares many of the same articulations with the Woodwind section- Doodle Tounging, Short, Air, Super Air, Finger Trills, Fluttered, Hollow, Mini Cresc, Multiphonics, Slight Bend, and Vibrato. The character of the described quirks above being brass-like behavior, of course.
Specific to the Brass articulation panel-
- Double Tongue Mute- softer swell than Doodle Tongue with a more pronounced tongue mute
- Granular Flutter A- introduces higher overtones
- Granular Flutter B- produces the most dissonance in the note.
Each setting includes control of dynamics, release, tightness, reverb, and expression that can be assigned to live keys and mod wheels for even truer, more expressive performances. Stifled is a slightly muted expression, much like a physical mute being played over the horn.
The Stevenson Steam Band combines the naturalistic sounds of the orchestra with various synthesizers, for something a bit fuller, more cinematic, and more modern (if less authentic) sounding. These fall more squarely in the synthesizer side of things, both sonically and with the expanded control parameters, but there’s no denying the DNA of Tundra’s orchestral section in all but the most extreme presets.
Darwin is an extremely percussive set of sounds based on small instruments and sounds that follow the ethos of the Tundra set by being soft and articulate while still delivering the punch and stab required to sit promptly in the mix. While fairly limited in assortment, the various samples truly compliment the softer sounds of the Orchestral section nicely. I found that more dramatic percussion sections from previous Albion releases, while perfect for busier pieces, sat just a bit more aggressively against Tundra’s instrumentation, further proof of the balance and thought that went into this release as a whole.
For some reason, I found some of the Sammal presets in the Stevenson Steam Band to peg my CPU and create subtle distortion above 32 or so voices.
Spitfire Audio Albion V Tundra couldn’t be more appropriately positioned than it currently is with the tagline “Recorded at the Edge of Silence.” While all the orchestral sections are completely viable in a big, booming score, the fragility, nuance, and naturalness of single sections played in isolation is something magical. The envelope of the instruments is so organic and natural that, in a quiet listening environment with a discerning ear, it’d be pretty difficult to distinguish an orchestral recording from Albion V Tundra’s instruments. It’s hard to sound bad with Tundra, even when the wrong note is played. That companies like Spitfire Audio continue to create high-quality samples for much niche applications around soundtracking and cinematic compositions is a true boon to composers and musicians everywhere.
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.