NORTH CANTON, Ohio. We admittedly find ourselves behind the 8-ball on this particular review. That’s especially true when considering the momentous video announcement Spitfire just made regarding their new BBC Symphony Orchestra virtual instrument, the Spitfire Studio Woodwinds. But later is better than never when it comes to test-driving a fantastic product like this one. And certainly, in the case of the company’s new package, the word “fantastic” doesn’t always do it justice.
Introducing Spitfire’s Studio Woodwinds
The final addition to its “Symphonic Series,” the studio’s new Spitfire Studio Woodwinds virtual instrument follows their string and brass products with its intimate, close-mic’d, yet powerful sample library. That library clocks in at over 70,000 individual samples, requiring a hefty 70GB of hard drive space. Clearly, this is not a library for the faint of heart or for those low on computing resources. But its high level of customizability and innate musicality may still offer a library that those with lower resources – and a bit of planning time – can still implement beautifully into their sessions.
Our column often test-drives the Spitfire Studio Woodwinds instruments in both DAW (digital audio workstation) and notation software formats. It bears mentioning that such massive software instrument libraries are increasingly not intended for notation software use.
That said, this library has nice, customizable keyswitch versions of every patch. For those not averse to some temporary, absurdly low notes in their scores, such key-switches can be employed. A much more elegant technique could involve using expression maps such as those available in Dorico.
The instruments included in this Studio Woodwinds package are the Piccolo, Flute, Alto Flute, Bass Flute, Oboe, English Horn, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet and Contrabass Clarinet, along with a Bassoon and a rollicking Contrabassoon. Flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons are also recorded in a section of 3 each, giving both solo and section options for each patch.
Solo woodwinds: The package highlight
The solo woodwinds are really the highlight of this package. They include both lovely default legato settings along with sustains (multiple notes at the same time) and other articulations and extended techniques. Not only does Spitfire deserve major kudos for including such instruments as the Bass Flute and Contrabassoon in their library. They also win laurels for allowing you to flutter-tongue (and do other things to) both instruments. Those with lower system resources, can unload unnecessary techniques by clicking on the wrench icon and simply unclicking undesirable articulations. (See Fig. 1).
The solo woodwinds in this package are moody and expressive as befits a Spitfire product. The solo Oboe moves from mourning middles to bright (but not too bright) highs. On the other hand, the lower registers of the alto and bass flutes are chill-inducing. Thankfully, the sections preserve much of this musicality, leading to a very well rounded collection.
Dynamics control and presets
Dynamics control comes in both velocity and mod-wheel varieties, depending on the application. For instance on the Oboe Solo preset, the user controls the legato, sustain, and long sforzando patches via the mod wheel, while the Marcato, tenuto, and Staccato patches are controlled by velocity.
When one ventures into the “advanced” folder, an entire new world of powerful presets emerges. This folder includes presets for “core techniques” and “extended techniques” for each solo instrument and 3-instrument group. This is the place to go to find rips, falls, swells, harmonics, multi-tonguing, and other techniques. These patches are much larger and may require some memory management even on larger systems.
Users should be aware of the common tweakability of these instruments. They permit custom mic positions, reverb levels, and even variations in section release in automatable controls. Also included: Spitfire’s wonderful “easy mix” interface. This automates the general feel of a player’s mic position from close to far. (See Fig. 2).
The Price Is Right
Perhaps the most wonderful thing about this instrument involves its price points. Namely, $199.00 for the selected version and $399.00 for the full “Pro” version. With a generous discount available to students and educators, Spitfire once again continues its apparent mission of putting the best orchestral sounds on the market into as many willing hands as possible. In the final analysis, this Spitfire’s Studio Winds is a beautiful instrument truly worth exploring.
The full version of the company’s 34-minute introductory YouTube video for Spitfire’s Studio Winds cited at the beginning of this review appears below for readers interested in further details.
— Headline image: Video still from introductory film debuting the new Spitfire Studio Woodwinds package. Courtesy, Spitfire.