Quantum Leap BrassEast West's Quantum Leap Brass fills an important void in most orchestral sample libraries. Desktop musicians who strive for variety and verisimilitude in their jazz and symphonic scores inevitably fall flat when it comes to adding convincing brass parts. In most sample libraries, you can find a modest assortment of solo trumpets, trombones, and saxophones, but few offerings explore the full range of expressive and idiomatic techniques that brass players use. Quantum Leap Brass, on the other hand, truly revels in the unique sounds that brass instruments make.
The Quantum Leap Brass library ($695) is offered in formats for GigaSampler, Unity, Akai S1000/5000/6000, Kurzweil, Roland, and E-mu. The five-disc collection (six discs for Akai S1000) includes an assortment of solo trumpet, three-part (unison) trumpet section, solo flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet, three-part trombone section, solo tenor and bass trombone, solo tuba, solo saxophone (soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone), and four-part (unison) French horn patches.
Producer Nick Phoenix aptly describes his collection as a "purist, no-compromise library with an emphasis on expression and dynamics." Armed with a variety of high-quality ribbon and condenser mics, Neve and Manley preamps, and Apogee converters, Phoenix recorded all of the samples in large rooms and small to medium halls. Loops were avoided to allow the sounds to evolve naturally over time and to blend realistically in chords. Samples were restricted to the natural instrument ranges (though some of the outer limits do seem a bit strained), and special attention was paid to properly capturing the all-important attack portion of each sample. The hard work clearly paid off: this is a stellar collection of samples that mix together beautifully and encourage creative brass writing.
Mod SquadThe GigaSampler version of Quantum Leap Brass (used for this review) is especially noteworthy for its many patches that employ the Mod wheel for sample switching, crossfading, and filtering. (For the hardware-sampler formats, many of the Mod-wheel-controlled patches have been split into multiple patches.) The clever use of the Mod wheel offers some exciting real-time manipulation of patches. For example, you can quickly change from doits to shake falls in one solo trumpet patch, from short falls to long falls in another, and from plunger wah to flutter wah in yet another.
Several patches combine the Mod wheel with Velocity switching to provide an even greater range of expressiveness. In one patch, for example, the Mod wheel in the down position offers three levels of staccato; in the up position it offers three levels of sustain. Of course, these multilevel patches can be quite large, but they offer an exceptional degree of real-time control.
Kickin' BrassA couple of the trumpet patches do a wonderful job of capturing the cool Miles Davis muted sound, allowing you to switch between long, evolving sustained tones and short staccato notes. Another patch lets you change the filter setting in real time for subtle yet effective expressiveness. If subtlety isn't your thing, though, you'll love "minidamoocha," an over-the-top, funky toilet-plunger patch that is perfect for 1930s band arrangements and cartoon soundtracks. The Mod wheel changes the sound instantly from short wah to sustained wah to a screaming growl that is guaranteed to make you smile.
Flugelhorn is represented by a single mellow-sounding patch with a nice round timbre, and the piccolo trumpet should serve you well the next time you need that Brandenburg Concerto sound for a project.
As with the solo trumpet patches, the trumpet section patches include a number of open and muted sounds along with an array of falls, doits, shakes, and sforzandos. The solo and unison trombones offer a comparable set of effects, including flutter crescendos, wahs, falls, slides, and scoops. Best of all, these patches sound like real trombones; you can create a big-band trombone section, and it doesn't come off sounding like a mushy pipe organ. A great-sounding and versatile tuba rounds out the low end.
The sax patches are uniformly high in quality and loaded with playing techniques and effects that add to their expressiveness. As with the trombones, the saxes sound great as lead instruments and when combined into harmonized sections - an essential consideration for jazz charts.
The final half dozen patches offer unison French horn sections with different playing styles. Characteristic effects include sforzandos, rips, falls, and other techniques that are well suited to film scoring. It's too bad there aren't some solo horn patches to complete the set.
WrapEast West Quantum Leap Brass offers an impressive collection of samples. The recording quality is consistently first-rate with clean, well-miked samples and carefully matched natural reverb. The documentation is exemplary with concise yet clear descriptions of the patches and their controller setups. Several patches even include helpful hints for maximizing results. If you're tired of boring, uninspiring brass samples, check out Quantum Leap Brass. It's a real blast.