Arturia Brass 2.0 Quick Pick Review

Like the previous version, Arturia Brass 2.0 (Mac/Win, $199; free upgrade from V. 1) models trumpet, trombone, and sax. Brass is now multitimbral, allowing you to load as many as four instrument presets simultaneously
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With no samples to install, Arturia Brass 2 takes less than 68MB of disk space.

Like the previous version, Arturia Brass 2.0 (Mac/Win, $199; free upgrade from V. 1) models trumpet, trombone, and sax. Brass is now multitimbral, allowing you to load as many as four instrument presets simultaneously and save them as kits (60 are included). In Chorus mode, you can layer as many as four of each instrument preset per slot to quickly build thick, 16-horn ensembles. The new Brass also allows you to automatically harmonize combinations of instruments and to more precisely control nuance using MIDI CCs. In addition, you get an updated sax model and a larger library of riffs and presets. This review will focus on recent enhancements; for a good overview of Brass, read Jim Aikin''s review in the May 2006 EM.

AXIS: BOLD AS BRASS
Brass'' main window displays either Live mode (for playing notes directly from a MIDI source) or Riff mode, which supplies musical phrases you can trigger and transpose with MIDI notes. Harmonization is Live mode''s coolest new feature. When you load more than one instrument, the Harmonization menu lists 25 presets such as 3-octave unison, root and 5th, and sus4+7th. Loading any of three presets named Modern Jazz Triads instantly evokes Miles Davis (see Web Clip 1). Harmonies are fully editable, too. Just as in the previous version, Spatialization graphically positions instruments in 3-D. What''s new is that you can position different instruments relative to one another.

Brass 2 provides more than 500 riffs, including 160 new ones, in styles as diverse as blues and zouk. Clicking and dragging a riff to the onscreen keyboard intuitively assigns it to a note that can trigger it, with another keyboard zone assigned to transpose it. Riffs are musically arranged for groups of two, three, or four instruments, and they work best in multi-instrument configurations. You can easily edit them on a piano-roll display, changing not only the note data, but also the MIDI CC data that affects the subtleties of articulation. The riff collection is filled with idiomatic horn section clichés, but in this case that''s a good thing (see Web Clip 2). If you''re unaccustomed to creating arrangements for horns, riffs can help you generate convincing parts quickly.

The update has replaced the previous sax with one that models a specific tenor sax from French woodwind maker Buffet Crampon. You can choose between a mouthpiece for jazz and another for classical music, but you can no longer virtualize a sax made of glass or wood, which wasn''t terribly realistic. You can choose from 15 real-world sax variations and control more advanced parameters such as expressivity and pitch-bend type. The new sax is definitely more lifelike, especially in its response to MIDI CCs.

MIDI routing is more flexible and logically organized, with user-selectable response curves and depth. You can save MIDI configurations as presets, independent of instrument presets. You''ll get the best results using a keyboard with a breath controller or an Akai Electronic Wind Instrument; Brass supplies controller presets for those and for a keyboard alone. With a breath controller, you use your keyboard to control pitch and breath to more realistically control modulation.

BRASS IN POCKET
Brass 2 effectively models performance subtleties you''d be hard-pressed to duplicate any other way, with a great deal of control. You can draw detailed automation curves for parameters such as attack, timbre, noise amount, and vibrato depth and frequency. Combining Brass with a good sample library and paying attention to performance technique will go a long way to create a realistic performance. Θ

Overall rating (1 through 5): 3
Brass 2.0 Product Page