By now most SCOREcast readers will be familiar with CineBrass. Like the recently released CineWinds, It was famously recorded at the prestigious Barbara Streisand Scoring Stage at Sony, home of a thousand blockbuster scores, and also for using union, named players. Initially the library was released with just 12 lean, mean, highly configurable patches as a result of a day’s recording session which covered the essentials, then a Pro expansion was released several months later. This second product was the result of 2 days sessions, and greatly expanded both the depth and range of instruments.
CineBrass Core (the renamed original library) quickly established a reputation for a killer out of the box sound like no other commercial brass library. The right players in the right space with the right recording engineers gave that instant hit, from the plaintive solo horn to the euphoric trumpet ensemble, this was truly a “familiar” sound, in the best sense. Turns out that if you record some of John Williams’ players in the space where Indiana Jones was actually recorded, you get Hollywood in a virtual box.
But the library was not without its problems. The solo instruments had only one velocity layer, and several crucial articulations were missing. Also a disappointment was that the legato performance was problematic. However nice the Sony ambiance is, users quickly complained that on faster passages, the build up of it turned a performance into a bit of a mush.
The two-pronged response from CineSamples was to simultaneously improve Core with a revision, and release Pro to fill in the gaps. The latter featured many more solo instruments with multiple velocity layers, mutes, a new 12 horn patch, stopped and fluttered horns and some chord patches. Meanwhile the 1.1 revision for Core also added new features like a very clever double and triple tonging script, layered shorts on sustain high velocities for more attack and drastically tweaked legato which enabled much faster playing. However, the latter came at a price… the mush may have gone, but in some cases so too did a lot of natural ambiance. The rejigged trumpet ensemble worked very well, but the 6 horn legato patch in particular only really worked on p / mf levels. Pushing up the modwheel, the transitions seemed to vanish completely and the ambiance was severely truncated. In that particular case, you could play faster, but it didn’t sound natural any more, even on slow passages.A Cmaj-scale played from p to f first on the original 1.0 patches, and then on the 1.1 revision. You can hear that the faster run downs sound cleaner on p and mf 1.1, but the legato on the 1.1 f layer is unconvincing.
So the question is – CineBrass Pro may expand the range, but does it fill in ALL the gaps?
In general, Pro is far more nimble to play than the original version of Core. They’ve clearly reigned in the ambiance on the interval samples to achieve that improved playability, but it avoids the more unpleasant side effects you occasionally hear in Core 1.1. It still isn’t as expansive as Core’s 1.0, but the trade off is that it makes it more versatile. And of course… you can always add more ambiance, but you can’t take away (well, unless you have Zynaptiq’s amazing new UNVEIL plugin…)
Core and Pro come with a sampled Bristacti M7 reverb, with the intent to keep resource use down. A great idea, and it sounds very nice on non-legato articulations, but doesn’t work on the legato patches, as it can’t ring out naturally – again, the scripting artificially truncates it, so you actually make the existing problem worse. So with Pro more than the original release of Core, this library needs a little help from a good additional reverb if you’re playing the legatos in particular. It feels like a bit of a shame that we’re not getting the full benefit of that Sony stage (or more specifically its tail) when using legato, but perhaps the guys have reached the limit that scripting can accomplish.These examples use the same basic fast Cmaj scale with cc1 dynamics. The first is the straight mix of the three mic positions, the second adds the sampled Bristacti, the final reverts just to the mix but adds a Waves Todd A-O scoring stage impulse response on the Kontakt output.
The solution, therefore is to dial in your plugin or hardware unit of choice to add some tail onto the legato patches. In fact, CineSamples are soon to release an update to the CineBrass range which takes the user interface from the new CineWinds library, and this will have a built in convolution reverb based on their Bricasti settings – a clever touch. And with some non-sampled tail added to the legatos, the net effect is terrific. 12 horns is pretty formidable at the fff level, but it doesn’t sound ridiculous either – indeed the lowest velocities have a beautifully restrained tone. I find myself using it a lot with CC1 dialed low – just sounds sensational – and the interval samples are bang on. In the main it’s also a lot smoother than the original 6 horn patch, which felt quite uneven up and down the keyboard.
The horns do still have one significant flaw, however. Apparently, due to issues CineSamples discovered when scripting and editing, the upper notes in the legato or articulation sustain patch can only sound fff if you’re playing a legato transition. It’s a strange thing – if you play the notes non-legato in the top half octave, you can’t get above an mp. This is a real shame, depending on the phrase, it can pretty dramatically sound like the brakes are applied. It’s a slight irony after the problems with the original 6 horn legato that they got the new legatos spot on, but some of the basic sustains don’t match!The fff legato now copes very well with the fast scale, however the fff sustains suffer in the top half octave. The fifths with dynamics demonstrate the smoothness of the dynamics and legato transitions – much, much better than Core!
The rest of the library expands the range almost as much as you’d hope, fitting in indistinguishably tone-wise with the original. You obviously have much more range with the solo instruments, and the tuba is exceptionally good, really playable. Needless to say, the versatility is greatly increased with the Pro solo sections, having added 3 velocity layers. However, the original trumpet and horn are still indispensable for quieter emotive parts, there’s still something really special about them, so don’t be tempted to eject them from your template. There is one major omission still from the final combined line up – there is no trombone ensemble legato patch, which is a real shame, since the tone of the ensemble articulations in Core is absolutely superb.
A real highlight of Pro turns out to be the orchestrated chords, an idea borrowed from CineSamples own CineOrch. The horns triads are especially good, with major and minor inversions (audio example), and a separate patch for 7th variations. The scripting on these patches is excellent, highly playable with CC1 control, there’s a palpable air of realism here with the correct voice leading. Well worth taking the time to get around the various configurations of chords on the keyboard.
The library has attracted a little criticism in other areas. You have 3 lengths of short avaiable, and some find this too limiting, while others have pointed out that the dynamic range could be increased in terms of volume (as opposed to the number of velocity layers). A gentle p passage is still relatively loud – perhaps a future revision could add some additional level of dynamic control. I don’t find either of these limitations too much of a problem in practice, in the case of the latter, it’s just a case of riding the volume where needed.
CineBrass is your classic flawed masterpiece. First and foremost – the tone is uniformly great. Specifically, in Core the original trumpet ensemble is utterly sublime, the low patches are terrific and the solo instruments absolutely nail the plaintive Saving Private Ryan feel. Pro gives you (mostly) killer horns, exquisite orchestrated chords, versatile solo instruments and a slew of effects. The conclusion regarding which one to buy is perhaps inevitable – most users really will need both. Indeed if you own the combo, exclusive bonus patches that make use of sample sets from both libraries are on their way. If you really can only have one, I’d pick Core.
Even both together doesn’t have the breadth of articulations of East West’s Hollywood Brass, but arguably more than makes up for it in other areas – both are Kontakt player libraries, recorded in pretty much the greatest brass space in Hollywood with the crème de la crème of players scoring today, outstandingly playable orchestrated chords and it’s easy on resources. It’s a real shame that for their latest release – CineWinds – the players’ union, AFM, has decided not to continue their association with CineSamples. It seems they got cold feet with regard to being associated with sampling – something which is perhaps worthy of a post of its own. However, CineSamples assure us that they will continue to share the revenue from their products with the musicians and engineers, whether the product has an AFM badge or not. And major kudos to them for doing so.