Orchestral Tools has released a new entry-level orchestral instrument in collaboration with Berklee College of Music. Berlin Orchestra Created with Berklee features the same recorded samples from Orchestral Tools’ acclaimed flagship Berlin Series instruments.
Designed for Berklee’s Film Scoring curriculum and over two years in the making, it comes with everything you need to create detailed, authentic orchestrations with a proven orchestral palette that has served professional composers for years. Orchestral Tools kindly provided us with a review copy.
Berklee College of Music is the largest music college in the world, with almost 5,000 students enrolled at its Boston campus and thousands more enrolled online and at its other campuses in Valencia, Spain, and New York City. Well-known composers from Berklee include Allen Silvestri, Quincy Jones, Howard Shore, among many others.
Berklee’s Film Scoring department wanted to create a dedicated, full orchestral library that could be used alongside its Film Scoring curriculum. The team wanted a simple way for students to collaborate and create great-sounding mockups on a laptop, but also provide a product that’s detailed and powerful enough for professionals.
The carefully curated samples were taken from Orchestral Tools’ flagship Berlin Series. They have been recorded in situ at natural gain levels at the famous Teldex scoring stage in Berlin, Germany. The complete instrument collection is packaged within the free SINE player.
-Andreas Bjorck, Associate Professor Film Scoring, Berklee College of Music
“That was all done with the goal of creating a library that would be a great educational tool that would allow our students to write and orchestrate without compromising or cutting any corners, and that would provide our students with a tool that could be played out of the box”.
Berlin Orchestra Created with Berklee features a full complement of orchestral samples with up to 8 articulations per instrument. These include strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion, and harp. There are solo instruments as well as full sections, allowing for very detailed orchestrations.
Here’s what’s in the box:
- Download Size: 91GB
- Strings, Harp, Woodwinds, Brass, Tuned and Un-Tuned Percussion
- Solo Instruments as well as Full Sections
- Up to 8 Articulations Per Instrument
- Recorded In Situ at Teldex Scoring Stage
- 1 Mic Mix
- Runs in the free SINE Player
- Price: 849 Euros
The library hosts a beefy 91GB of orchestral content and requires Orchestral Tools own software sample plugin, the free SINE Player. Working with the SINE Player is easy once you get used to it, but I experienced a bit of a learning curve at the start. For example, I wish there had been some clear instructions about its basic functions on the website.
What I didn’t realize at first was that once purchased, Berlin Orchestra Created with Berklee must be downloaded via the SINE player. There is no separate download utility and there were no instructions in my Orchestral Tools account. The good news is that Orchestral Tools has a series of useful tutorial videos to help you get started with SINE here:
The biggest benefit of the SINE player is its relatively light CPU footprint and a wide variety of control functions for your instrument. Another big advantage of SINE in comparison to other products is that you can purchase and download instruments à la carte. This means that you don’t have to buy an entire library if you’re only interested in one particular patch.
With the Berlin Orchestra, using pre-orchestrated patches is very useful for both sketching and if you’re on a tight deadline and need to get similar parts played in quickly.
You can also do some subtle sound design tricks with SINE itself by changing the reference tuning section at the top of the player. It defaults to 440 Hz, but you can change it to whatever you want. For example, you can get a solid low boom by loading a bass drum and setting it to 220 Hz. This will pitch it down an octave.
One thing is certain: Berlin Orchestra Created with Berklee is a big library. Not only does it contain a complete orchestra in one package, but every woodwind and brass player is sampled individually. The combination of powerful unison ensembles along with individual section players allows composers the flexibility to create detailed orchestrations quickly.
The sound of the Teldex scoring stage is consistent across all instruments, so there’s no need for different reverbs between long and short articulations. Everything sits beautifully in the mix, and the option to add first-chair soloists adds depth, presence, and bite to the different sections.
The library features all the same dynamic layers captured for the original Berlin Series, which makes the transition between softer and louder passages smooth and realistic. Using keyswitches allows you to easily change between available articulations. Again, this makes the sample library great for sketching.
Full legato for strings, brass, and woodwinds allows you to play in smooth and expressive lines without the need for excessive MIDI editing. To get the most out of these samples in the solo instruments, you’ll want to make sure to turn on the vibrato in the performance tab.
The strings sound lush and full, and doubling the full sections with solo string players is a very effective way to add additional realism to legato strings. The woodwinds have excellent clarity and character. There’s no “pipe organ” sound that you sometimes get, especially if you use the individual players to create a chord. The Bassoon is particularly resonant and beautiful.
Single instruments actually have two options. For example, there are two oboes with completely different sample sets. The horns and trombones are similar in concept. The Horn Ensemble also has 4 solo horns for true divisi – this was a special request from Berklee to add an extra amount of flexibility for precise orchestrations.
The percussion section offers several different sizes and types of drums and percussion instruments. There’s a variety of single hits, long/short rolls, and diminuendos, and of course, the dynamic range can be controlled via modwheel.
Berlin Orchestra Created with Berklee is a powerful orchestral sample library offering a broad range of flexible options for both students and experienced professionals. Solo instruments plus full sections mean you can write parts with lots of precision and detail.
The free SINE player is gentle on the CPU and makes it easy to set up pre-orchestrated patches for sketching. Easily customizable keyswitches allow for changing quickly between articulations.
The only things that are missing are more articulations and multiple mic positions to choose from, but this collection should cover 90% of the bases for most working media composers. Besides, multiple mic positions can eat up your RAM very quickly, so maybe only having one mic mix is actually a good thing, especially for beginners.
Yes, the library is a bit pricey, but it provides a great entry point into the Berlin Series ecosystem. While the library was originally intended to help students learn orchestration and orchestral arranging, it’s a nice tool for aspiring composers and anyone who wants to study orchestration in a practical way. Orchestral Tools’ collaboration with Berklee is ongoing, so the product will be updated periodically based on feedback from Berklee students and Orchestral Tools customers.
Berlin Orchestra: Created With Berklee is available for $849 from the Orchestral Tools online store or directly from within your SINE account.