Manufacturer: Spitfire Audio
Web: Spitfire Audio
Price: £399 (free upgrade for existing Albion One owners, £99 for Legacy owners)
Spitfire Audio’s Albion ONE 10th Anniversary Edition – what is it?
Albion ONE is an orchestral sample library that runs in the Kontakt sampler player, both the free and paid-for editions, version 5.5 or higher. It requires 112Gb of space for installation but settles down to 58Gb when installed.
The first Albion 1 sample library, now referred to as the Legacy edition, was released in 2011. In 2015, with rapid developments in Spitfire’s sampling technology, the company discontinued it and launched Albion ONE with a new interface and brand new recordings. It soon became one of Spitfire’s best-selling libraries.
To mark Spitfire Audio’s tenth year in business, the company released an updated version called, naturally enough, Albion ONE 10th Anniversary Edition (from here on in, we’ll just call it Albion ONE).
It’s a one-stop shop for film composers featuring recordings from a 109-piece orchestra, massive cinematic percussion, processed loops and a synth. The orchestra was recorded in Air Studios, London, which is where many Hollywood blockbuster film scores were recorded, in order to capture the same quality and ambience.
You gotta have heart
The heart of Albion ONE is the orchestral sections. There are Brass High, Brass Mid, Brass Low, Strings, Woods High and Woods Low. Each has an appropriate set of articulations. Strings has the most with Spiccato, Spic/Stac, Pizzicato, Col Legno, Long, Long CS (Con Sordino, with the mute), Tremolo, Low 8ves Short and Low 8ves Long.
Woods Low only has Short and Long with the other instruments falling somewhere inbetween. You can select articulations from the interface or keyswitches on a keyboard.
The samples have been recorded with four mic positions. Close has the most ‘punch’ and least ambience. Tree is three mics placed above the conductor’s podium and this is the default setting when you load an instrument. Ambient is a set of mics placed high in the gallery for a good stereo spread. Outriggers are mics placed wide apart of the Tree which give a similar room balance but wider stereo spread.
In the new GUI, you can switch each mic on and off and adjust their relative volumes. The Easy Mix setting simply lets you adjust a slider between Close and Far which is probably all you need while initially putting a piece together.
Other controls on the Simple interface let you adjust dynamics, the Release time, Tightness (how tightly short notes play), Reverb and Expression.
If you want more control, the Advanced screen is where you adjust the individual mics and there are several additional controls such as round robin settings, and the ability to load and save mixer presets.
Spic and span
The sounds of these six instruments are, in a word, exceptional. For many film composers, the first patch to try with an orchestral library is the Spiccato Strings. They will have you trying out ostinati up and down the keyboard. The default setting is full and works brilliantly at a range of speeds and across the dynamic range. It’s one of those sounds that just begs you to compose with it.
Sound of six
But there’s a lot more to Albion ONE. Inside the main orchestra folder are six more folders.
COG patches are identical to the main instruments but have an additional option to adjust the sample start time.
Combinations holds 15 different instrument combinations such as Brass High and Strings Long Tremolo, Brass Mid Short and Strings Low 8ves Short, and Woods Low Short and Strings Short Col Legno. There are some very interesting and useful combinations here and you can crossfade between the layers with the Mod wheel.
Individual patches contains separate instruments for each articulation.
Run patches contain just two instruments – Strings High and Strings Low- but they contain a wide range of runs both major, minor and chromatic, up and down, with flurries in one- two-and three-octave ranges. These are great fun to play and very effective.
Timemachine patches contain all the short articulations fully loaded into RAM allowing you to vary the length of the short notes via a Controller message for even greater control over the sound.
And that’s just the main section.
The Brunel Loops interface is based on Spitfire’s eDNA engine which, essentially, contorts and mangles sounds. With it you can blend and mix two input sources or loops.
This is a sophisticated piece of software in its own right and while Brunel and other sections – coming up – contain a large number of presets, you can customise the sounds using easy tweaks or dive into the interface for more sophisticated and precise modifications.
The instruments in the Dev Kits folder load all the samples into memory at once allowing you to easily customise the loops after which you can save them and purge the unused samples.
There are dozens of preset loops to get you started including organic and warped varieties. One nice feature is the ability to audition each loop before you apply it which saves a lot of time.
These are original recordings created by engineers, programmers and composers, and there’s a lot of content here to get your teeth into.
Theory of evolution
The Darwin Percussion Ensemble folder is where you find the drums. And big ones at that.
As well as the eponymous Darwin Percussion Ensemble instrument, there is the new Easter Island which plays massively deep, reverberating drums. Epic indeed.
There are also Hyper Toms and XXL Percussion which give more orchestral drums and hits to play with.
The Legacy patches folder contains cymbals and swells from the Legacy edition, and the Stereo Mixes folder contains alternative versions of the four main instruments mixed to be light on RAM.
Stephenson’s Steam Band is a collection of sounds based on recorded orchestral material but housed in the eDNA engine to create a ‘steam’ synth.
There are several categories of instruments including Epic Adventures, Atonal Adventures, Hybrid Orchestra, Steam Drones, Steam Pads and Steam Pluck. It’s ideally suited to pad creation but not limited to that as there are some lovely percussive sounds in there, too.
Again, there are dozens of presets to get you started plus a Dev Kit for developing your own sounds.
PC or not PC
If anyone’s terribly PC (not in the Mac/PC sense) you may take umbrage at the names of some of the instruments. Otherwise rejoice to the sounds of the Anal Plumper, Arse, More Arse, and the Rectalquivveriser, not to mention the demonstrative F**k Right Off. Ex-choristers may raise a chuckle at Electricuted (sic) Choir and Stained Choir Gown but at least they don’t drop the C-bomb.
Having said all that, the names are more memorable than the usual Woods High, Woods Low type of thing, and a definite Hats Off to the programmers (or whoever picked the names) as it not only breathes a breath of fresh air (sort of) into the naming mire but adds a welcome touch of humour to the proceedings and it’s not something many modern musicians and composer would object to. For the record, my favourite name is probably When You Plug A MIDI Cable Into Power Socket. Not that I’ve tried it…
Moving swiftly on…
The update has allowed Spitfire to incorporate NKS compatibility so users of Native Instruments hardware benefit from a little more information and control.
It’s also worth mentioning that there is a selection of samples from the original Albion Legacy library which Spitfire thought too good to leave out. They include COG, Individual and Timemachine patches, too.
As with other Spitfire libraries, you can assign just about every control to a MIDI CC (Continuous Controller) and there is the wonderful Ostinatum which is a mini sequencer, extremely useful for creating ostinato lines.
Rather than repeat in-depth information about the Ostinatum and the interface, perhaps we can direct you to a recent review of Spitfire’s Orchestral Swarm which covers these in more detail…
Spitfire Audio’s Albion ONE 10th Anniversary Edition – Summary
Albion ONE does what it sets out to do which is to give you a set of sounds and samples that will enable you to create orchestral music with the accept on movie scores. You need to remember that these are orchestral sections and not individual instruments. As such it’s perfect for sketching ideas although you must take care not to play too many notes at once to avoid the organ effect.
However, the strings in particular are superb and you will almost certainly want to use them in a finished score. In fact all the samples have been tweaked to be slightly more Hollywoodish.
The first Albion ONE was one of Spitfire’s best-selling sample libraries and it’s easy to see why. The new GUI, the new samples, the new combinations, all the updates and additions make it the 10th Anniversary Edition just that bit more enticing.
The free upgrade for existing Albion ONE owners is a wonderful ‘thank you’ display of generosity, and the modest upgrade for Legacy owners will surely be hard to resist.
Many movie composers use Albion as their starting point and it’s an ideal orchestral library for first-time orchestrators, too.