Spitfire Audio just launched a brand-new addition to their popular Albion product line: Albion Colossus. Designed as the ultimate cinematic scoring toolkit, Colossus seeks to unlock the primal power of blockbuster scoring.
From delicate string passages to powerful drum beats, Colossus helps you create suspenseful soundscapes and epic sonic journeys like never before. For the first time in the history of Albion sample libraries, you can explore two complete orchestras alongside heavy chugging guitars, diverse percussion sets, and synth sounds made for the big screen – all designed for ultra-modern film composition.
Let’s check out Albion Colossus together and find out if it can take film and trailer scoring to new heights!
Albion Colossus is all about big, cinematic sounds designed for modern film scoring and trailer music production. Marking the first time an Albion library is not released in the Kontakt sampler format, Albion Colossus is instead powered by Spitfire Audio’s own, free plugin sampler engine.
Although the Albion libraries are known to be all-encompassing scoring toolkits that include many orchestral colors, modern percussion, and synth sounds, another first is that Colossus features not one but two complete orchestras. Albion Colossus offers both a chamber-sized orchestra and a symphonic orchestra recorded in different rooms in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in Scotland. The most exciting part of this is that you can blend seamlessly between the two while you’re performing!
Also, with Albion Colossus, Spitfire Audio laid focus on meticulously processing the orchestral samples after the initial recording sessions, to make them sound as impactful and cinematic as possible.
To give users even more expressive control, Albion Colossus comes with four dimensions of controls. In addition to the usual two controllers Expression and Dynamic, the new Alion offers two brand-new ones, Scale and Depth. We’ll touch more on what these interesting additions can do a little later when I guide you through the user interface.
Let’s see some key features of the new Albion Colossus:
- Two Orchestras – a chamber orchestra (42 players) and a symphony orchestra (111 players) across strings, brass and woodwind, and percussion – seamlessly blend between the two to create new dynamism and intensity
- Percussion & Drums – an ultra-modern and diverse selection of percussion from the traditional orchestra’s tuned and untuned percussion to Junkyard smashing and heavy-hitting drum kits
- Doom Synths – hand-crafted synth sounds that move from clean to dirty, from light to dark – discover subversive Drones, powerful shorts, doom-like basses, and much more, created in collaboration with artist Snakes of Russia
- Heavy Guitars – powerful guitar tones, re-amped in a concert hall – perfect for backing up the orchestra whilst also holding their own in the heavier scoring moments
- Brand-new Scale, Depth & Hype controls
- 147 Combined Techniques, including 293 techniques split over Scale mode
- 265,670 WAV files
- 105.33 GB Compressed file size (251.51 GB Non-compressed)
As already mentioned, Albion Colossus is the first Albion product specifically designed for Spitfire Audio’s plugin sampler engine which allowed the developers to re-structure the user interface and add control options that haven’t been available until now.
Taking a first look at the GUI, owners of other recent Spitfire Audio libraries will quickly recognize a common, two-part concept. In the middle of the top half of the interface, you can find a large rotary knob that is assigned to the Hype parameter by default. It can be freely assigned to other parameters though. To the left, there are two sliders that control the dynamics and expression of the patch loaded. On the opposite side, you can see the two new control sliders called Scale and Depth. By using these five controllers while you play a patch, you can smoothly control the expressiveness, dynamic range, and size of the instrument. The controllers are readily mapped to MIDI CC so you can easily control all the parameters with your free hand while performing.
The bottom half of the user interface holds the available articulations or playing styles as well as an FX section and a utility controls panel. Most of Albion Colossus’s patches include various playing styles or variations for each instrument. On the Articulations tab, you can easily switch between the playing styles or add and remove individual ones if you like.
The FX tab shows you all the parameters you can map to the big rotary knob control up top. These include the Hype control that is mapped to the big knob by default, as well as controls for Timing, Release, Filter, Compression, and Reverb.
Let’s now talk a little more in-depth about the new control options.
HYPE IT UP!
A brand-new addition to the Albion set of controls is the Hype control, which is essentially a multi-effects chain with a controllable wet/dry mix. According to the manual, Hype adds […] a selection of professional production knowledge to your sounds, from tape saturation, and depth to distortion widening […]. Although this description is quite vague, I’m pretty sure there is some generous compression and saturation happening along with a good amount of subharmonic synthesis.
The moment you dial up the Hype knob, the sounds become much beefier, more aggressive, and gain a lot more low-end thump.
The Scale slider gives you control over the sound of two different orchestras. At its lowest position, you only hear the chamber orchestra, presenting you with a very detailed and focused sound. By moving the slider up, you add in more and more of the symphonic orchestra until you exclusively hear the large orchestra at the top position of the slider.
This allows you to meticulously shape the sound of your orchestral programming with a similar concept to that of Spitfire Audio’s recent Aperture libraries. Since you can smoothly control the perceived size and width of your orchestra, you can make it grow in scale and ebb away organically with the rest of your arrangement.
You may have noticed by now that the new Albion Colossus doesn’t include any controls for microphone positions. In previous Albion libraries and many other Spitfire Audio products, you have the opportunity of tailoring a microphone mix of at least three, sometimes up to 20 microphone signals. Those of you who have been working with any of the previous Albion libraries tough will know that there is a second microphone mixing option, called the Easy Mix. The Easy Mix function allowed you to shift between a close and narrow mix to a broad and roomy orchestral sound with just one slider.
The new Depth control in Albion Colossus can be seen as the revamped sequel to the Easy Mix. With the Depth slider, you can go from a very detailed and dry sound at its lowest position to a super-wide, larger-than-life orchestral sound at the top. Under the hood, you’re going through a closed mic’ed signal at the bottom to two Decca Trees and an Outrigger setup in the middle and eventually an Ambient mic setup at the top.
As nice as it is to have minuscule control over a bunch of individual microphone signals, in the deadline-defined reality of a working composer – whether for film, TV series, or other media – having a single slider to control your orchestra’s sound makes life so much easier and convenient.
Another popular feature that has been carried over from other Spitfire Audio libraries is the neatly arranged patch browser. All the instruments and patches in Albion Colossus are organized into orchestral sections and instrument groups. Through the dropdown menu at the top bar of the GUI, you can quickly browse, load, and even pre-listen to the many patches of the library. A so-called Anthology patch is loaded by default and provides a pre-selected combination of patches that the developers chose to be essential.
THE SOUND OF ALBION COLOSSAL
The instrumental range that Albion Colossal covers is pretty huge, ranging from orchestral instruments and electric guitars to twisted drum machines and analog synthesizers. This makes it quite hard to make a general statement about the sound of the library. That is why I decided to go over the individual instrument groups a bit more in-depth and share my experiences.
The following audio demos are recorded without any additional mixing or processing. This is what the patches sound like right out of the box. In some places, I applied subtle low-cut filtering to keep the subharmonic frequencies in check.
The strings are divided into low and high sections and then again into long, short, and additional articulations. While the longs and shorts are pretty self-explanatory and traditional, the additional articulations contain a range of more expressive or advanced playing techniques like pizzicatos, col legnos, and hairpins.
The low strings sound huge and dark, with a nice bit of detail in the chamber orchestra ranges. They contain some of the most aggressive-sounding low-string tremolos I’ve ever heard. The low-string sustains and legatos have a very pronounced attack when they are not played in a slurred way. I needed to tame this with the expression and dynamics controls so I could play smooth chord progressions.
The low short strings, while sounding punchy and powerful, feel quite loose and the spiccato articulation sadly provides very little tone which had me struggling to program convincing fast, rhythmic lines with them.
The hairpin articulations – which are live-recorded dynamic string performances – sound absolutely astonishing in both the low and high strings. They can help you create moving chordal progressions in no time and present a sense of liveliness that is hard to recreate with MIDI automation, as you can hear in the audio demo (please don’t sue me, HZ!).
The short high strings sound fantastic, especially with a bit of Hype added to the mix. The sound punchy, tight, and modern but still feel natural and not overly processed.
The high strings profit greatly from the Hype control which gives them much more bite, air, and an overall sense of aggression. On the short articulations, higher Hype values emphasize the initial transient of the bow. This enables the high strings to cut through even in denser mixes. Overall, the high strings feel a bit centered in the stereo field, except for when you dial in the widest mic setup with the Depth control. Depending on the musical context, you might want to add some spatial processing and panning to position the high strings in your virtual orchestral seating.
Both string sections provide some of the most defined and punchy pizzicatos, col legnos, and bartok pizzicatos I have ever heard in orchestral sampling. Particularly the Bartok pizzicatos sound super aggressive and the col legnos get incredibly punchy with some Hype added to them.
The brass section in Colossus sounds rich, noble, and not overly aggressive. While the short brass patches could do with a few more round robins, you can still play some nice rhythmic accompaniments.
In contrast to the full brass patch which sounds fat and raspy, the horns sound quite soft, especially for a product that is designed to sound epic and cinematic. Compared to other orchestral brass libraries geared towards film and trailer music, the horns in Colossus reside more on the traditional side.
In a cinematic music context, the woodwind section is often overlooked and treated as an orphan. It’s all about the big braaam after all! That’s why I wouldn’t have been surprised if the woodwinds in Colossus had been included more as an afterthought.
But much to the contrary, Spitfire being Spitfire, they added a marvelous set of woodwinds to the library which is really fun to play with. The woodwinds have a beautiful warm tone and I particularly love the hairpin articulations. They could work really well in a nature documentary context. The legatos feel a bit loose though and some notes seem to jump out when playing broad melodic lines. This might have to do with the transitions that take place between the various woodwind instrument groups.
The flutes sound nice and warm, and the legato allows for agile playing. Here the Hype control adds a shimmering octave layer on top, that almost sounds like the flutes are getting doubled by piccolos.
Colossus features several sets of percussion instruments, ranging from concert percussion, timpani and taikos to mangled and processed synthetic drum kits.
The concert percussion is clear and warm by default with a nice room sound even if you only dial in the close mics (using the Scale control). Turning up the Depth and Scale controls together makes the percussion sound gigantic. With everything turned up, the cymbals and gongs sound insane!
The Timpani ranges from defined and subtle accents in the lower range of the Depth control, to Zarathustra-like epicness when dialed up. Add in Hype for some extra low-end thump that really kicks you in the chest.
Moving on to the taikos and traditional kit, they both sound punchy yet still err on the traditional symphonic side of things. I found that setting the Depth slider somewhere halfway gives a nice blend of chamber-size detail with the punch and grandiosity of the symphonic hall.
While I have yet to experience vibraphones and glockenspiels in scores for epic battle scenes (feel free to teach me better!), I think that throwing in some nice tuned percussion patches into Colossus is a cool idea. Across the tuned percussion range, the instruments sound amazingly crisp and well-recorded. Dialing down both the Depth and Scale sliders gives you upfront, dry percussion sounds that can work perfectly well outside of cinematic music – e.g. in a jazz, folk, or even a big band context.
The acoustic drum kit paired with an orchestral arrangement can be a great tool to steer a score into the cinematic rock zone. While it sounds punchy but still warm and organic by default, you can make it sound super punchy and massive just by turning everything up to eleven.
The 10 Altered Drumkit patches caught me by surprise and I spent far too much time while writing this review just jamming hard on the different patches. These drum patches sound like a they are a hybrid of analog drum machines and processed acoustic drums and you can get an incredible range of colors out of them, just by changing the positions of the Hype, Depth, and Scale controls. With the Altered Drumkits, the Depth slider adds a multitude of processing that seems to be unique to the individual patches. Think of the drum sounds of artists like Trent Reznor and Massive Attack – these patches pack a punch!
The electric guitars sound super fat and distorted and can make for great, thick pads underneath your orchestral arrangement. The Hype control adds a subharmonic boost to the guitars that might be a bit much in the upper percentages, especially if you hyped up other instruments already. For exposed guitar moments though, the hyped signal sounds incredibly massive.
The synth sounds featured in Colossus are definitely one of the library’s specialties, as they come across as beautifully analog and alive, almost as if they weren’t produced by oscillators but played by a physical, acoustic instrument. Across the bank, the synths sound interesting, fat, and sometimes gloriously abrasive. Again, the Depth slider adds different processing to the sounds and I particularly liked some of the chorus and modulation effects this control introduced to the sounds.
Spitfire Audio’s new Albion Colossus is an ambitious step forward in terms of orchestral scale and power. With its two orchestras, big cinematic sound, and easy-to-use plugin sampler, it’s sure to be an interesting new set of colors for film composers and trailer music producers.
Colossus’ unique ability to blend seamlessly between two entire orchestras is an exciting new progression in sampling and provides composers with a versatile range of sounds and dynamics. The drums, guitars, and synth sounds in Colossus are equally useful, and I particularly liked the cool altered drum kits and synth patches that were created in collaboration with artist Snakes of Russia.
Although it’s marketed as a scoring toolkit for epic cinematic music production, some of the sounds included in Colossus still sound somewhat tame in comparison to other similar targeted products. First and foremost the brass section, which I expected to sound much grittier and aggressive than it turned out to be. Apart from that, I have yet to come across a sample library that is as comprehensive and versatile when it comes to big cinematic sounds.
The new controls provide music producers with great freedom in terms of tone and scale, but you have to be careful (especially with the Hype control) so as to not clutter up your mix with all the added subharmonic frequency content.
With its introductory price of $349 (regular price of $449), Albion Colossus is on par with the other Albions. Given the logistic complexity and cost of recording, editing, and processing two entire orchestras as well as various other instruments, that’s definitely a pretty fair price.
Albion Colossus is an impressive collection of unique-sounding instruments that allow composers to quickly translate simple ideas into Hollywood blockbuster music.
Albion Colossus is available for an introductory price of $349 (regular price: $449) through Spitfire Audio’s online shop.