Following on the success of (Hollywood Strings HS), EastWest released Hollywood Brass (HB) in late 2011. The process was much the same for the latter as for the former: Hire A-list studio musicians in Los Angeles; enlist Academy- and Emmy-winning engineer Shawn Murphy to oversee the sampling sessions; and do it in EastWest Studios (formerly known as Cello, Ocean Way, and Bill Putnam’s United/Western Studios). How’s that for pedigree?
Having previously reviewed HS for Electronic Musician, I had high expectations for the brass library. I was not disappointed, as the level of recording and programming detail runs deep; however, HB is much easier on your system than their string library. HB’s 150GB Diamond Edition (reviewed here) is delivered on a 7200rpm hard drive and features 24-bit samples with five microphone positions, while the 20GB Gold Edition features one mic position and 16-bit samples. Available articulations between the two editions are identical; only the sample rate and mic configurations differ.
I worked in both Studio 1 and Studio 2 with Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello when it was operating as Cello Studios, and I can attest to Studio 1’s sound—open, but not excessively reverberant. This makes it a good choice for sounds that are both rich and spacious, and EastWest has included a number of excellent convolution reverbs in the current version of Play (the cross-platform, virtual instrument engine used by EastWest library releases) for adding actual reverb.
In the Library The Diamond Edition provides four simultaneous, phase-locked mic positions that can be mixed to taste: Close (directly in front of the instrument(s); Mid (back a bit and in front of each section); Main (a Decca tree configuration up high above the conductor position); and Surround (room mics, switchable to an alternate “vintage” set of RCA44 ribbon mics). The Gold Edition utilizes the Main mics only that, frankly, sound great and are sufficient for a lot of orchestral and film work.
Each section includes a thorough, though not exhaustive, set of articulations. Trumpets, trombones, French horn, tuba, and cimbasso are presented in solo form and in various combinations of two-, three- and six-member sections. Most of the common articulations are well represented, in addition to round-robins, true legato, and a number of effect and low brass unison and octave patches. Don’t expect a lot of jazz and pop style articulations, as that’s beyond HB’s scope.
The well-written and detailed manual lays out the mapping of the various patches, which use a combination of mod wheel, keyswitching, velocity, and expression to shape the performance. You’ll need to spend some time getting to know the various instruments and how they’re controlled, which vary from patch to patch. After a couple hours you’ll understand the basic library layout; however, it’s not trivial to play perfect-sounding brass parts on the fly. Even now, I still have to edit various controllers, patch changes, and my playing to create realistic-sounding brass parts.
Although the EW Play engine can be demanding on resources because the complexity and depth of this library pushes technology to the edge, the current version runs much more smoothly than in the past. With patience and a sense of good orchestration, HB can produce stunning results not easily achieved until now.
STRENGTHS: Meticulously-engineered brass samples recorded in a legendary studio. Extensive variety of articulations and ensemble configurations. Excellent companion to Hollywood Strings.
LIMITATIONS: Sophisticated technology is demanding on CPU resources. Not all ensemble configurations represented.
$795 MSRP (Diamond Edition),
$475 MSRP (Gold Edition)
Composer/producer Rob Shrock (robshrock.com) has worked with many legendary recording artists.