The year 2017 marks British sample library top-dog Spitfire Audio’s 10th anniversary in business, which is why the brand decided to celebrate this special occasion by enhancing their best-selling product to date – the ALBION ONE epic composer toolkit. Featuring a 109-piece orchestra accompanied by a thunderous cinematic percussion and synthesizer section, ALBION ONE provides media composers with everything they need to create compelling scores quick and easy from within a single product.
For ALBION ONE’s 10th Anniversary edition, Spitfire Audio revisited their most renowned orchestral sample library and equipped it with a new design, more punchy mixes and a whole range of brand-new patches and loops. Let’s talk about these updates in the following review!
Spitfire Audio was kind enough to provide us with a review copy of ALBION ONE 10th Anniversary Edition.
Spitfire Audio’s 10th Anniversary Edition of ALBION ONE comes with a nice set of new features, designs and additions to many instrument type. These updates build upon the legacy of the former volumes of the library. In short, this is what’s new:
New GUI design and NKS-ready integration
12 GB of new content
Orchestral: 15 new combination patches, combining different techniques and instrument groups in exciting ways
Percussion: Additional Easter Island hits plus new mixes by Jake Jackson
Stephenson’s Steam Synth: 63 new sounds and 67 presets, all by Spitfire Co-Founder Christian Henson
Brunel Loops: 78 new recordings across 8th, 16th and 12th rhythmic patterns, plus 90 new presets, including 51 from Christian Henson
Before we get into details on the new edition, let me briefly recapitulate how the original ‘Albion’ came to life and how it became what the library is so well-received for today.
From Custom Sample Library to ‘Albion 1’
If you’re into cinematic music production, chances are you have heard of Spitfire Audio’s highly praised Albion product range. What was first designed to be an exlcusive custom orchestral sample collection for exalted Hollywood composers like Hans Zimmer and John Williams only, was later made available for the public under the name of “Albion 1” in 2012. In order to capture a convincing orchestral film sound, Spitfire went straight to legendary AIR Lyndhurst Hall where some of the most notable Hollywood blockbuster scores were recorded (Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar, Danny Elfman’s Justice League, Harry Potter, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Lord Of The Rings and many more). In this iconic, spacious recording environment, Spitfire captured the sections of a 109-piece orchestra composed of London’s finest players and sampled a wealth of different articulations and playing techniques. The orchestra was recorded using four different microphone positions spread across the hall in order to provide the user with the uttermost tonal flexibility. With great attention to the original Hollywood sound, Albion I was captured and processed through the very same production chain as those milestone film scores, using the same players, the same lush-sounding room, the same award-winning engineers, mixing consoles and outboard gear.
In addition to the orchestral part of the library, Spitfire added a decent toolkit of cinematic percussion ensembles as well as blockbuster hits, impacts and sub booms. This collection was topped off with a range of warped and processed percussion loops called “Brunel Loops” that were performed by renowned percussionist Paul Clarvis (James Bond: Spectre, The Dark Knight, Star Wars, etc.)
To bridge the electronic and cinematic realms, co-founder and lead composer of Spitfire Audio, Christian Henson, took the recorded orchestral material and put it through a meat grinder composed of eclectic analog outboard gear and yard sale guitar pedals in order to create a comprehensive collection of organic synth patches called the “Stephenson Steam Band”.
In fall 2015, Spitfire surprisingly announced the discontinuation of Albion 1. Although being their most popular library to date, Spitfire claimed they had learned so much in terms of recording, sampling and processing orchestral recordings since the library’s inception 4 years ago, that the original Albion 1 didn’t represent the brand’s current state of the art anymore.
Fortunately, quickly thereafter, the company announced their upcoming flagship product and replacement for the retired Albion 1 library: 2015’s Albion ONE.
Not only did Spitfire entirely redesign the library’s GUI and working environment, they literally went back to AIR Lyndhurst and re-recorded all of the orchestral material from the ground up. This led to huge improvements in terms of tone, tuning and playability of the samples and brought Spitfire’s orchestral sound back to today’s standards. Maintaining the instrumental orchestrations of Albion 1’s patches, most of the new patches suddenly sounded much tighter, more powerful and overall – more “epic”. Albion ONE added quite a lot of new functions and patches, like the expanded String Runs, thunderous XXL Percussion or the implementation of the company’s – at the time – brand-new eDNA engine (used to house the updated ‘Brunel Loops’ and ‘Stephenson’s Steam Band’ patches).
Spitfire Audio also added the complete Albion 1 library as a so-called ‘Legacy’ volume, leaving it up to you to the user to work with the new instruments or to combine them with the old ones he/she may have loved and used all the time.
Albion ONE – 10th Anniversary Edition
Almost exactly two years after Albion’s resurrection, Spitfire now revisits its flagship product again and offers an updated version with several enhancements and additions. While owners of 2015’s Albion ONE get this update for free, Albion 1 ‘legacy users’ can upgrade to the anniversary edition for just $99.00. Regarding the affordable upgrade for Albion 1 users, Spitfire Audio states on their website:
[…] as we believe that, whilst the content is entirely new, they’d bought into the original concept, and so we’d like to honour their early commitment to us.
– Spitfire Audio
Now, as Albion 1 and Albion ONE went through quite some changes over the past years, there are enough good reviews out there that shine a light on all the instruments, features and controls available in the various editions. So instead of reviewing Spitfire’s new edition as if it were a completely fresh library, I’d rather like to focus on the additions, updates and changes that have been made in comparison to the original Albion ONE library.
ALBION ONE’S NEW INTERFACE
With the new, 10th Anniversary Edition of Albion ONE – for reading convenience from now on called Albion ONE X – comes a redesigned GUI which, apart from a neat new coat of paint, adds some slight enhancements to the workflow. These are most apparent on the ‘Darwin Percussion Ensemble’ patches which now feature Spitfire’s new ‘Kickstart Engine’, a performance engine introduced with a comprehensive update to the brand’s ‘Hans Zimmer Percussion’ range. The Kickstart engine provides a quick and easy way of accessing various percussive playing styles and techniques in a single patch. Load, unload and map individual percussion instruments or even individual articulations to your liking. This makes it easy to perform percussive instruments in your own style or with your designated MIDI controller. Mapping works in a very straightforward fashion: just click on an articulation in the instruments side bar and assign it to a key or trigger by hitting it once – done.
A great feature that isn’t new to this edition but worth mentioning nonetheless are Spitfire’s on-screen hint boxes that appear in the different sections of a GUI upon loading up patches for the first time. These tool tips can be revisited or turned off at any time.
Another GUI-related update introduced with Albion ONE X is its NKS-ready integration. NKS is a controlling and mapping standard established by Native Instruments – the developers behind KONTAKT, an essential software sampler all Spitfire libraries run with. Through the integration of the NKS standard, Albion ONE X works smoothly with your Native Instruments hardware – the patches will be pre-mapped and ready to play, with light guides for visual key switches, splits and mapping feedback, plus in-hardware library browsing.
ORCHESTRA – NEW COMBINATION PATCHES
Albion ONE X adds 15 new combination patches that merge different techniques and instrument groups together into a single, playable instrument. Introduced with Spitfire’s Bernard Herrmann Composer Toolkit, these combination patches are designed speed up the sketching and composition process even more by delivering a pre-balanced and -orchestrated sound from the get-go. Of course, you still have access to all the various microphone positions. Instrument combinations include french horns and low string octaves, trumpets and sustained string tremolos or low woodwinds with short string col legnos. Some of them are quite traditional, while others feel a bit more experimental though usable nonetheless.
These combined patches are real time savers and help to establish a compelling orchestral accompaniment pretty quickly. Most of the patches incorporate the modwheel quite heavily, as different CC#1 positions change the balance and tone of the various instruments mixed together. This allows for creating organic and evolving orchestral beds which don’t jump out, feeling ‘fake’ because of their static sound.
PERCUSSION – NEW HITS AND MIXES
The Darwin Percussion section of Albion ONE X was revisited by Spitfire’s chief engineer Jake Jackson in order to squeeze out a more punchy and powerful sound of the samples. Unsurprisingly, he has done a good job in doing so, since most of the sounds really do sound slightly less muddy and wooly to my ears and also have a nice little impression of edge and airiness to them now. Nevertheless, these are tasteful – I’d like to say ‘Spitfire-style’ – changes, as they don’t reinvent or transform the original sounds completely but just slighty enhance them to better fit into a cinematic arrangement.
Also, Albion ONE X adds some new Easter Island hits – a collection of cinematic boom and impact one-shots which provide a nice little bit of variety options. The new sounds, most of which are deep, thundering booms mix in well with the original sounds in style and tone. Only the decision to put those samples up to C7 onwards where nobody can find them, confuses me. Fortunately, you can effortlessly re-assign the mapping like mentioned before and save the patch for future use.
STEPHENSON’S STEAM BAND
For the new edition of Albion ONE, Christian Henson again dove into his collection of outboard gear and analogue ‘fuck boxes’ (a term he established himself on his awesome vlog channel!) and mangled and processed samples of the original orchestral recordings into new, playable synth-style instruments. Spread across two folders labeled “X-Haustive” and “X-Treme”, you’ll find 67 brand-new organic synth patches created from 63 processed source sounds.
The new Stephenson’s Steam Band patches sound remarkably modern and quite a bit gnarly. Many patches make heavy use of the eDNA engine’s built-in saturation and distortion functions, giving the majority of presets an amazingly granular and grainy sound. Make sure to put your mod wheel to use, as most of the presets have various FX parameters assigned to this controller. This way, an angelic and sparkling synth pad in the lower mod wheel ranges explodes into an overdriven, wonderfully messy wall of sound when CC#1 is pushed to the max.
Of course, you can always assign most parameters of the eDNA engine to controls of your choice and change the sound of a preset beyond recognition. In regards to scoring, this huge amount of control allows for diversified sonic beds that can really adapt to the action on-screen.
Albion ONE – Audio Demos
NEW BRUNEL LOOPS
Albion ONE X throws in another 90 rhythmic loop presets in various rhythmic patterns like 8ths, 16ths and 12ths. On top of Paul Clarvis’ original recordings, Spitfire added 78 new loop samples featuring a wide range of obscure small and medium percussion instruments.
Spitfire’s Brunel Loops are designed to provide some interesting rhythmic momentum when traditional orchestral percussion would be too much. Think of Hans Zimmer’s frequently used ticktock sounds.
Again, since the Brunel Loops are housed in the flexible eDNA engine, too, you can make use of all the assignable and automateable modulators and controls to generate interesting and unusual percussive sounds. Lead composer Christian Henson created 51 of those effectualized patches for the new edition which provide a very nice starting point.
And that’s it for the new features of Spitfire’s new Albion ONE 10th Anniversary Edition! Quite a few interesting new sounds, a couple of GUI enhancements and some cosmetic lifts – enough to justify an upgrade?
Well, if you already own 2015’s Albion ONE – heck yeah – upgrade right away! You’ll get all the new sounds, better playability and a great looking new interface literally FOR FREE.
As a ‘legacy’ user of Albion 1, not only do you get to keep your original patches, you also get a completely re-recorded and re-programmed sample library on top for just $99.00. Since this offer is only active until January 11th, I’d say now is the time to upgrade.
If you don’t own Albion ONE yet and are uncertain whether to buy it or not, you may ask yourself if this new, 10th Anniversary update, is worth the purchase alone. Although Spitfire has added quite a bit of interesting new sounds and enhancements, the overall change to the original 2015 library is rather small to be honest. One thing not to forget though, is that Spitfire ONE already was a beast of a library, I dare to say one of the best cinematic orchestral libraries to get started with. Therefore you could rather see the updates and enhancements as some icing on the cake. The fact is, because of the updated version, Spitfire Albion ONE is on a massive $100 discount right now and if you’ve been on the edge of purchasing during Black Friday, this is your second chance to get this essential cinematic sample library for this price.
Albion ONE 10th anniversary Edition is available through Spitfire Audio’s online store for a limited promo price of $349.00 which will rise to $449.00 after January 11th, 2018.