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Spitfire Audio – Abbey Road One: Thematic Horns (Review)

Spitfire Audio has released “Thematic Horns”, the latest addition to their acclaimed Abbey Road One Film Scoring Selections. This user-friendly, great-sounding library features what the company calls “the sound of instant cinema” – an 8-piece horn section recorded by first-call London session players in the world-famous Abbey Road Studio One. Recorded by Grammy-winning engineer Simon Rhodes (AvatarHugoHarry Potter), the library has also captured Abbey Road’s legendary microphones and outboard gear. It’s also the first to feature two different legatos – one for fast action passages and the other for gentle, more lyrical sections. Spitfire Audio kindly provided us with a copy of the software for this review.

OVERVIEW

When you listen to classic film scores by composers such as John Williams, Alan Silvestri, and James Horner, you’ll find they all would often use a horn ensemble in their signature themes. With that in mind, Thematic Horns is the library to reach for when you want to write soaring, heroic themes with punchy melodies, strong statements announcing the king’s return, or fast attack runs to grab and hold the audience’s attention. At the same time, the library can also handle softer, more lyrical passages. 
Like all Abbey Road One Selections, Thematic Horns is housed in the award-winning Spitfire Audio plug-in, which loads directly into all major DAWs (VST2, VST3, AU, AAX & NKS-compatible) without the need for any additional software. You can use it as a fully functional stand-alone library or combine it with previously released Abbey Road One libraries

Abbey Road One: Thematic Horns Articulations

WHAT’S INSIDE

Articulations

  • Performance Legato
  • Lyrical Legato
  • Long
  • Long Sforzando
  • Staccatisimo
  • Staccato
  • Tenuto
  • Marcato

Mixes

  • Mix 1
  • Mix 2

Microphones

  • Vintage 1
  • Vintage 2
  • Pop Close
  • Pop Room
  • Close
  • Tree 1
  • Tree 2
  • Ambient
  • Outriggers
  • Spill

HOW IT SOUNDS

Thematic Horns is truly inspiring to play. The instrument makes it easy for anyone to channel their inner John Williams right out of the box. The sounds range from chordal and dramatic, to menacing or even welcoming depending on how you shape the sound. Several dynamic layers make this a smooth and easy thing to do. You can use several MIDI controllers like expression and modulation to breathe life into long notes, while the short articulations can be sculpted by using different velocities.

Performance Legato

The Performance Legato patch is the main workhorse for Thematic Horns. Performed with accented attacks at the front of the sustains, it’s the more acrobatic and instantly playable one of the two legatos. The Performance Legato patch is great for sketching – you can play fast runs across every dynamic or quickly switch to playing longer lines with beautiful legato transitions. While it definitely packs a punch at the top of the range, I did notice that it didn’t get super loud. In other words, it’s not so “brassy”. This is probably intentional for film scoring and will work fine for most needs. For more modern scoring applications or tightly packed trailer music, for example, the Horns legato could lack a bit of bite to cut through the mix.

Lyrical Legato

The lyrical legato patch is perfectly suited for slower-moving, more melodic lines. It’s a different type of transition with a more stately feel and feels significantly different from the Performance Legato.  There is a bit of lag because of the longer legato transitions, but the slide transitions are very realistic between notes.


Long and Long Sforzando

The long and long sforzando articulations are great for chordal playing. Between the two you get a nice variety of standard notes and the more forceful, sudden sforzando articulation.


Short Note Articulations 

Of the four sets of short note articulations, the Staccatissimo is the tightest one and it’s perfect for very very fast repetitions. The Staccato patch is a more standard short note, with a bit more body to it that combines beautifully with the Staccatissimo patch. The medium-length Tenuto offers a nice middle ground between the other short notes, while the Marcato patch gives a longer, very stately and regal sound. These four articulations can be combined seamlessly to create dynamic and interesting short-note phrases.

Abbey Road One: Thematic Horns Microphone Selection


CONCLUSION

If you’re looking for an iconic and traditional full cinematic brass sound, Abbey Road One Thematic Horns is a great place to start. Besides a beautifully recorded 8-piece french horn section, the two legato patches really set this library apart. As with most Spitfire Audio products, you get both excellent sound quality and a great variety of techniques for the price. Whether it’s used as a stand-alone library or in combination with Spitfire’s other Abbey Road Film Scoring Selections, you’ll be well on your way to writing the next classic theme. All in all, Thematic Horns is an excellent addition to the Abbey Road One product line, the library sounds great and merges seamlessly with the core collection.

Abbey Road One: Thematic Horns is available for €49/$49 via Spitfire Audio’s online shop.

Pros

  • Instantly playable and inspiring out of the box
  • Smooth legato transitions
  • Iconic sound
  • Works nicely with the NKS protocol

Cons

  • Fortissimo isn’t as powerful and brassy as other libraries
  • Lyrical legato can be a bit laggy at times

RECOMMENDED: 9/10

ABBEY ROAD ONE: THEMATIC HORNS – VIDEO WALKTHROUGH

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