Tascam's new expanded edition of Westgate's original single-disc woodwind collection has all of the first version's samples and adds several new instruments

Tascam's new expanded edition of Westgate's original single-disc woodwind collection has all of the first version's samples and adds several new instruments and articulations. The two-CD Westgate Studios Woodwind Collection, Expanded Edition ($199), includes piccolo, flute, oboe, English horn, E-flat clarinet, B-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, and contrabassoon. Although it's great to have an E-flat clarinet in the collection, I find it odd that Westgate chose to include that instrument while omitting alto flute (a much more useful instrument). As a nice bonus, WSWCEE also has a consort of solo recorders, a tin whistle, and a penny whistle.

The orchestral instruments all give a variety of playing techniques, and most have keyswitching and mod-wheel patches to enhance real-time performance. The whistles and recorders were sampled at only one dynamic level, but the orchestral instruments mostly range from two to four levels depending on the type of patch. All of the samples are presented without loops, and most have little or no reverb, allowing you to add your own processing as needed.

To keep the library compact, none of the instruments is represented by a fully chromatic set of samples: most patches have a little more than half the notes as discrete samples. In many cases, that produces some noticeable transitions between neighboring groups of notes.

The WSWCEE library is offered without any significant documentation: the back label gives a basic summary of the patch types. You can, however, obtain a more detailed (although not complete) patch list from the Westgate Web site (www.westgatestudios.com).

Pitches and Patches

Most of the orchestral woodwinds have four-layer sustained patches with and without vibrato. The E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, and contrabassoon are offered with only nonvibrato patches. Most of the instruments have three-layer staccato, marcato, and portato patches, along with two-layer whole and half-step trills. The flute and B-flat clarinet also provide a one-layer flutter-tongue patch, and several of the instruments include a fortepiano-crescendo patch.

In spite of WSWCEE's varied patch list and its assorted keyswitching and mod-wheel setups, the library still has some inherent weaknesses. The lack of chromatic sampling, for example, is clearly evident in some of the patches, and the samples and performances are sometimes inconsistent.

The flute, for instance, has a highly prominent vibrato that seems a bit too forceful on some of the notes, and there are no mod-wheel patches that let you fade smoothly from nonvibrato to vibrato. The trills (which begin on the lower note) are uneven and very inconsistent, with some slow trills adjoining notes with unexpectedly fast trills. The piccolo fares better. It offers some clear and useable patches, although the top six notes (derived from a single sample) are quite piercing.

The oboe and English horn sound pinched and thin, especially in the upper registers. The B-flat clarinet's vibrato patches suffer from the same overemphasized vibrato as the flute; the nonvibrato patches would work much better in most arrangements. My favorite clarinet patch is the unusual Multiphonic FX, which could have some interesting fodder for sound designers and film composers. The bass clarinet also has a Multiphonic FX patch, and it's even better and more interesting than the B-flat clarinet's.

The bassoon is one of the better instruments in the library. It has a gentle, mellow sound that has a touch of woodiness. It is generally smooth throughout its range, although the top six notes are a little bright.

Just Whistle

One of the surprises in the WSWCEE library is its assortment of nonorchestral wind instruments. The collection has a sopranino recorder, two soprano recorders, an alto recorder, a penny whistle, and a tin whistle. The single-layer recorders all have clean, agreeable sounds, although their vibratos render them unsuitable for proper Renaissance performances. (Nonvibrato patches are not included.)

My favorite instrument in the entire library is the single-layer penny whistle with its various keyswitching patches. They let you switch quickly and easily between trills, bends, mordents, and grace notes. The penny whistle sounds great, and it's fun to play. It should come in handy for new-age, ethnic, and a range of other musical styles.

Price Is Right

Although not without flaws, the Westgate Studios Woodwind Collection, Expanded Edition, has gained a loyal following in part because it offers such a wide assortment of sampled woodwinds for less than $200. That could be good news for desktop musicians who need some woodwind samples but can't afford the more expensive top-of-the-line libraries from other developers.

Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 3
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