In this review of Spitfire’s Albion ONE sample library, we’ll look at the features, patches, interface, sound, and overall value of this epic orchestral library.
The following track was composed primarily using Albion ONE:
Spitfire Audio is a fairly recent music software company that began its foray into this vast realm of technology back in 2007. Some notable releases from this company include their “Phalanx” brass series as well as the original four-volume set of “Albion.”
Other wonderful mentions from this British-based company include: British Modular Library – “Mural” and “Sable” strings. The first is used for a fuller orchestral string library sound, while the second is used for a more intimate chamber music sound.
Spitfire Audio constantly innovates and continually provides top-tier products for composers of all skill levels. Their GUI provides an easy-to-use interface (specifically regarding the activation/deactivation of keyswitches), and the sound right out of the box is certainly something stellar.
Today, we’ll take a look at their very recent library: “Albion ONE,” a Swiss-army-knife toolbox for all things dramatic, bombastic, and majestic.
It is of importance to note the painstaking amount of time and effort taken to complete such a gargantuan task of recording a 109-piece orchestra. Spitfire Albion ONE was recorded at Air Studios in London using ribbon and valve mics run through Neve Monsserat preamps. All of this, of course, recorded on 2″ tape.
Albion ONE is a totally redone version of the previous rendition of Albion. This version creates a compendium of rich, hearty orchestral strings, punctuating and exquisitely bold brass, tempestuous yet easily mixable percussion, and robust woodwinds.
Installation of the library is very simple, using OTA downloading via a platform called Continuata. Installing to an external drive is extremely simple as well.
At its core, Albion ONE is divided into five separate folders. They are presented as follows:
- Albion ONE Orchestra (Basic quick patches for starting writing, includes: Brass Hi/Mid/Low, Strings, Woods Hi/Low)
- Brunei Loops (Loop-based library featuring Organic Loops, Warped Loops, Extreme Warped Loops as well as Developer Kits)
- Darwin Percussion Library (The BIG sound, featuring Darwin Percussion Ensemble, Easter Island, Hyper Toms, XXL Percussion)
- Stephenson’s Steam Band (Sound design tools such as Pads, Plucks, Atonal Pads, Drones)
- The Albion Legacy (Classic orchestral sound from the previous versions of Albion)
One of the newest features in Albion ONE is the inclusion of a String Runs folder. As can be guessed, it is exactly that: beautifully captured, tempo-adjustable string runs in various combinations, such as Chromatic Ascending, Descending 1 octave / 3 octave; Major Ascending, Descending 1 octave / 3 octave; and Minor Ascending, Descending 1 octave / 3 octave. The runs are playable by simply holding a single key and are seamless when playing them.
Another new feature for Albion ONE is the Lush Verb feature. What an amazing timesaver this feature is. Essentially, it allows you to apply a lush convolution reverb right onto the patch itself. Simply drag the slider and choose how much verb you would like to add. I personally love how beautifully Lush Verb blends into the mixes you create.
Spitfire’s user-friendly GUI has always been something to be lauded. As can be seen in the screenshot above, articulations include Spiccato, Staccato, Pizzicato, Col Legno, Legato, Con Sordino, Tremolo, Low 8vas Short, and Low 8vas Long. Each articulation can be enabled or disabled by clicking on the selector button below the articulation.
The Easy Mix panel allows the user to choose positioning of mics via close or far. By clicking on the wrench icon, you can adjust various mic settings (Close, Tree, Ambient, Overhead) as well as change Round Robin settings.
The treble clef icon can be used to construct ostinatos using Albion’s very own Ostinatum tool. Choose your own combinations of rhythmical values, choose the velocity of each note, choose whether or not it is played Ascending, Descending, or Order Pressed, and even choose whether or not the ostinato is chord-based or not.
Albion ONE is an all-in-the box, dramatic epic music production toolkit, and the quality of sound is definitely commensurate with what it’s supposed to do. Perfect for dramatic underscore or the grittiest of trailer music, to in-game battle music, Albion ONE allows the composer to write with fluidity and ease without having to overly stress about mixing and fine tuning the intricate sonic characteristics of sounds.
The string sounds are robust and full, while the brass sounds are equally adept at bright short notes as well as flowing long tones. The percussion sounds are some of the best. Even just using Darwin Percussion Ensemble on its own provides limitless capacity for expansive and deafening racket.
My personal favorites are the short spiccato patches, specifically for the low strings and even the high strings. Just try playing some octaves with Low 8va String shorts and it’s hard to beat. The Mid-Brass patches fill out sound immensely with full-bodied pads. Any of the woodwind patches have that wonderfully natural breathy, airy sound to them. Having these entire instrument families recorded in the same space lets them sit snugly in a mix and not have to compete a whole lot for headroom space.
Ah, conversion rates. Let’s not forget about those. Yes, when you go to purchase any of the Spitfire products, remember that the price is displayed in Euros. By default, Spitfire Albion ONE retails at 449 Euros, or approximately 489 USD. While this might seem like quite a hefty investment to some, consider it a long-term investment that pays really big dividends in the end. My personal affection with Spitfire products is that they offer a lovely 30% off EDU discount for those who are currently college students.
Spitfire Albion ONE is a wonderful starting point for aspiring composers wanting to get that big, full sound right out of the box, with minimal tweaking. Use it as a springboard to start, and then you can always layer other libraries on top. This library isn’t just for overly frenetic trailer music/epic underscore: It’s also extremely capable of writing saccharine, flowing melodies, as well as serene, tranquil harmonic backdrop for those more emotional moments.
Spitfire Audio’s history of products never seems to disappoint. The newest addition of Albion ONE proves to be a menacing contender in the realm of epic orchestral music. While other sample libraries might have to be run using another player out of Kontakt, I really enjoy how Albion ONE can be housed inside a universal sample player and can be extremely low-resource-intensive. It’s definitely not a RAM hog. As with all libraries in Kontakt, you have the option of purging samples not being used, which can really free up RAM and CPU power if you’re in a bind.
With the added benefit of educational discounts if you’re eligible, stocking up on as many Spitfire Audio products as you can afford is certainly worth it.
Albion ONE also includes some fantastic legato patches for Brass, Strings, and Woodwinds. Legatos are played with smooth transition and no noticeable breaks. As always, Spitfire provides “individual patches” as well. Therefore, if you need just a single articulation, load the single one and move forward.
All in all, I believe Albion ONE to be one of the best investments any aspiring/established composer could have in his or her treasure chest of tools. When time is of the essence and we are forced to deliver high-quality demos of tracks – or even finished products – the most cutting-edge sounds are imperative.
The only faults I can find in this library are the lack of portamento glide when using string patches and how over-sensitive some of the percussion velocity hits can be. It would’ve been nice to have the inclusion of portamento when using lighter key velocity between notes. Sometimes with the percussion ensemble, you have play extremely gingerly to avoid stepping into a fortissimo type range.
These small qualms aside, though, Spitfire Albion ONE is a formidable and certainly more affordable competitor in the arena of epic music toolbox libraries.
Diversity – 9.9/10
Ease of Use – 9.8/10
Sound Quality – 10/10
Value – 9.9/10
Composers who want a behemoth of sound for a reasonable price should consider adding Spitfire Albion ONE to their arsenal. The big cinematic sound right out of the box is truly fantastic.