Abbey Road Orchestra: High Percussion is the latest installment in Spitfire Audio’s new Abbey Road Orchestra lineup. Aimed at professional film composers, this new library range features deep-sampled high percussion instruments of the orchestra. As the library’s name suggests, it was recorded at the world-famous Abbey Road Studio One in London.
Performed by master percussionist Joby Burgess who is also the percussionist of various other popular Spitfire Audio products, this library focuses on extreme playability and a wide range of expressions. With the expertise of Abbey Road’s senior engineer Simon Rhodes, the team at Spitfire Audio was able to capture all the unique sonic qualities and nuances this iconic recording stage has to offer.
Abbey Road Orchestra: High Percussion features a selection of 62 percussive scoring instruments. Being the second installment in the Abbey Road Orchestra lineup, the library was designed to perfectly complement the recent Abbey Road Orchestra: Low Percussion chapter.
As with this previous release, Abbey Road Orchestra: High Percussion works within Spitfire’s free plugin sampler engine, which is compatible with all major DAWs. The High Percussion library actually shares the same plugin as the one Low Percussion is housed in which makes it even easier to navigate between the different editions once further instruments will be available.
The library ships with many different types of orchestral percussion instruments:
– 15″ snares
– 15″ field drums
– 12 ” & 13 “piccolo snares
– Bongo & miniature bongos
– Log drums
– Roto toms
– Shime daiko
– Temple blocks
– Wood blocks
– “Toys” (small percussive instruments)
Given the impressive number of samples, Abbey Road Orchestra: High Percussion requires a significant 98 GB of hard drive space after the installation.
THE SOUND OF ABBEY ROAD ORCHESTRA: HIGH PERCUSSION
After loading up Abbey Road Orchestra: High Percussion and playing around with it for a while, I could immediately notice the same amount of care and depth that went into the production of its Low Percussion counterpart. Spitfire Audio marvelously captured all of the important high-frequency-range drums that have become staples of many film soundtracks of the last decades.
The traditional orchestral drums like snare drums, bongos, and congas are obviously at the heart of this library. Used together with the instruments of the Abbey Road Orchestra: Low Percussion library, we can fill the full audio spectrum very effectively. As with the previous release, the sampling quality is just outstanding. The samples have an excellent stereo image and a very realistic-sounding depth to them. Although they were recorded in quite a large space, the instruments cut through the mix with ease. The sampled release tails are crisp and detailed, and really highlight the famed sonic qualities of Abbey Road Studio One. As with Low Percussion, the editing of the samples is once again also very consistent.
While the library does not include metals, the inclusion of various toys and wooden percussions like log drums and temple blocks is a welcome surprise. Probably meant as a throwback to the existing Spitfire Audio Percussion (also performed by Joby Burgess), these instruments provide composers with more options for adding subtle percussion beds. This is particularly useful if you want to establish a subtle sense of drive and pace in your score.
In terms of ergonomics, the library uses the same GUI as the previous Abbey Road releases. The most common settings are easily accessible through the main screen. Expression (volume) and dynamics are assigned to the 2 sliders next to the library titles. They can be controlled through MIDI CC11 and CC1 (which are commonly linked to the keyboard mod wheel). Reverb and tightness can be set via the main central knob. The reverb amount control adds an algorithmic, digital reverb which is great if you want to add an additional reverb tail to the amazingly natural sonic response of Abbey Road Studio One. The Tightness control is meant to be used with short articulations and allows you to shape the responsiveness of an instrument while playing it. When set at 0%, the sample start point cuts right into the first transient of the sample. This will allow for instant no-lag playback, while a 100% setting restores the full bowing motion of the original recordings.
The bottom half of the screen features the articulation switcher, a microphone signal mixer, and the FX page. On the first page, users have the possibility to edit which articulations are loaded at any time using the technique editor (pen icon). This is useful to save some RAM, especially when you only plan to use a small subset of techniques. The right-hand part features several controls for round robins, transposition, and keyboard mapping.
The signal mixer is very self-explanatory and features a massive selection of microphones to choose from (more on this later) as well as individual solo/mute buttons, pan, and stereo width controls. The FX page is a callback to the effects accessible through the GUI’s main round knob. For this library, we get access to reverb and tightness controls.
Abbey Road Orchestra: High Percussion uses the same design philosophy as the Low Percussion chapter, and therefore also shares all of its strengths. The library features a myriad of different articulations and techniques across all its instruments. Users are given a choice of performances done with brushes, sticks, rods, various mallets as well as hand strikes. Apart from the standard center hits, brushed strikes and rim hits are also available for several drums.
With up to 16 samples per dynamic layer, Abbey Road Orchestra: High Percussion includes even more round robins than its low percussion sibling. Together with true left and right hand recordings which are mapped as such on the keyboard, these features allow for very authentic rhythmic performances.
Spitfire Audio recorded up to 11 dynamic layers per instrument, allowing for amazing nuances and freedom of expression. The dynamic layers are programmed very gradually which adds to the realism. The consistency of the programming again feels pretty much flawless. With this many dynamic layers and round robins at hand, it is easy to add contrast and drama to performances just by playing the drums from very soft to earth-shattering loud.
Conveniently, Abbey Road Orchestra: High Percussion includes the same signals as the previous Low Percussion chapter. All in all, you are provided with two pre-designed microphone mixes as well as 16 individual microphone signals so you can construct your very own mixes.
The two mixes have been created by award-winning audio engineer Simon Rhodes who has worked on many iconic film soundtracks during his long-standing career. These include Avatar: The Way of the Water, James Bond 007: Spectre, Jungle Book, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, just to name a few.
Mix 1 has a wide cinematic sound and is the most reminiscent of the typical ‘Hollywood sound’ you might expect. Mix 2 on the other hand gives a narrower, more intimate sound, which is also sounding beautiful in its own right.
When it comes to individual microphone signals, Abbey Road Orchestra: High Percussion features a vast array of close, mid, tree, ambient, outrigger, overhead, spill, and vintage mics. These allow you to precisely shape the tone and sonic dimensions of your performances. They have the ability to drastically change the spatial perception of these drums. Being able to go from a reasonably dry and upfront sound to a broad and ambient one makes the library very versatile.
To our delight, the wide and centered pop close microphone positions are also included as they offer a very crisp sound and add to the library‘s flexibility.
With the new High Percussion addition, Spitfire Audio continues its Abbey Road Orchestra journey with excellence. There is a lot to love here, and the bar is set high for the rest of the series.
With a retail price of $449, the library clearly resides on the higher end for sample libraries. Especially considering the two existing chapters in the series so far do not cover any tuned percussion, timpani, or metals. We can easily imagine that the percussion section will require one or two additional chapters before being completed. If the price tag is the same for all upcoming libraries of the series, it will make owning the full Abbey Road Orchestra range affordable for only a restricted audience.
Price speculations aside, with its amazing array of microphones, its huge dynamic range, and very detailed sampling, Abbey Road Orchestra: High Percussion fully delivers on its promises.
Abbey Road Orchestra: High Percussion is available for $449 through the Spitfire Audio online shop.