COLOSSUS If it sounds big, well, it is. This 32-Gigabyte monster from East West puts 160 virtual instruments at your fingertips. The library is quite diverse; drums/percussion, guitars and basses, ethnic, keyboards/mallets/vintage organs, orchestral, piano/electric piano, pop brass, choir, ethereal new age ensembles, synth leads, pads, and basses, and even 3G’s of dark atmospheres with morphing.
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As I’ve discovered with other releases from this company, great care and detail go into the capture of these samples. There are 15 Gigs of 24-bit sounds recorded at Ocean Way Studio B, a nice 2 G Steinway from Europe and 15 G’s from the Quantum Leap and East West titles. I like the fact that there’s no crap in this package, it’s hi-end sampling all the way – whether you choose to use the instruments or not.

And based on the Native Instruments Kontakt audio engine platform, it couldn’t be easier to use. Simply call up the desired preset and get busy. The Kontakt GUI displays all relevant info on one page; CPU usage, Sample Size, Keyrange, Transpose, and so on. Users have control over a bevy of useful filters, LFO’s, Microtuners, and even Reverb, Chorus, and Delay effects.

Colossus offers Direct-from-Disk playback for Mac and PC (using a required free DFD extension). When DFD is on and the instrument is loaded, the beginning of each sample is loaded into Ram — necessary to start playing the sound immediately when the note is pressed. As the samples beginning is played from Ram, the DFD system has time to grab the next batch of samples from the disc. This allows for the instantaneous playback of large files.

And while I’ll be the first to try to record an actual instrument before using samples, I not only have a hard time finding a shakuhachi — but good players are a bit tough to come by around here. Speaking of shakuhachi — try taking the tuning on the Kompakt sampler down –12, playing a full chord, and adding the Memoryman Delay preset with the Sync option enabled. Working on some cues for an upcoming Discovery Channel show called Blood Red, this alone created a wicked ethereal vibe that moved without drums — and the producer loved it.

I put “Mens Choir AH-MM” into a fine European Church in Altiverb and got a lush, beautiful sound. This is a good example of not using the provided effects and calling up your own to enhance the sound. The “Church Organ” was perfect for an Xmas record im co-writing (yes, in the summer), plus it’s just fun to play. Try automating the tuning from 0 to –12 while playing the lowest note — it creates an emotive guttural vibe somewhere between a synth and a detuned piano. Point is, Colossus is not only a highly versatile plug-in for composers, it’s a deep well of inspiration for sound designers and music makers.

However, not everything is peachy in this world we live in. Don’t even THINK of running this on a slow system. Recommended systems are Mac OSX 10.3 and up with a 1.8GHz G5, 1G of RAM and a DVD drive. For you PC users, its Win XP, a Pentium IV/Athlon 3Ghz, 1G of RAM and the DVD drive. I keep my samples streaming off a LaCie FW 800 drive and it’s worked out fine. Supported interfaces include VST, AU, Core Audio, ASIO, DXI, DirectSound and RTAS. Even with its high processor requirements, Colossus comes highly recommended. (