[REVIEW] - Spitfire Audio - Symphonic Woodwinds

Discussion in 'Software Reviews and Tutorials' started by Andrew, Aug 25, 2017.

  1. Andrew

    Andrew AudioSEX Maestro Staff Member

    Oct 24, 2011
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    Between worlds
    2016 came and went, and it brought us many goodies as far as sound sources go.
    One of those that stood out was Spitfire Symphonic Range, solidifying the whole 'Spitfire' experience of all orchestral members into one package.
    All recorded in 'Spitfire' way those libraries tend to push Kontakt engine as well as HDD manufacturers as far as possible.
    Their endeavour was indeed met with success, mostly, depending on how high the standard is placed.
    Let's find out what's in this package of theirs.

    Symphonic Woodwinds

    What first started as a collection of five separately recorded and sold instruments, was unified under one big and unsurprising name - Symphonic Woodwinds.
    Promising perfect results and 'orchestra at your fingertips', how SWW fares?

    Closer look
    The instruments are laid out as woodwinds should - by instrument :wink:
    And all major ones are included:

    • Piccolo
    • C Flutes (1+2)
    • Alto Flute
    • Bass Flute
    • Oboe (1+2)
    • English Horn
    • Bb Clarinet (1+2)
    • Contrabass Clarinet
    • Bassoon (1+2)
    • Contrabassoon

    Some less major ones are missing - Eb Clarinet and Bass Oboe, both of which are part of Orchestral Tools BWW package.

    Features and GUI
    GUI opens up very traditionally, first with simplified controls and all the extras hidden under spanner icon
    Fig. 1 - Flute Solo GUI

    Close/Far slider isn't nearly as effective as loading up all the mikes and mixing manually, still it could be useful to get right balance fast.

    fp hall trigger is present on all instruments in this package as well as slightly more refined release control.

    SF recently downgraded CTAO mics to just CTA, for one, I'm not complaining, Outrigger was a bit too wide to be used regularly, though now you have to pay through the nose to get it. But if that brings the total price for the basic package down, it's not a bad move.

    Articulations vary from one instrument to another, but you can find all 'relevant' ones for every instrument:

    • Legato (only single variation)
    • Longs (2RR)
    • Staccato (8RR)
    • Tenuto (4RR)
    • Marcato (2RR)
    • Trills 2nd major and minor
    Attack control is unique to Legato articulations, and not present in other Longs, something that SF is still ought to fix

    Performance, playability and sound
    In those regards, Woodwinds act very similarly to other Kontakt offerings, by offering everything separate, and it's up to the user to stick it all together.
    This idea is easy to execute (just record everything), but has its downsides and in my eyes and ears downgrade the real life usage of the instrument from primary to auxiliary.
    It's not that the library is bad, it only forces the user to accept how it should be handled and to tailor one's music to its layout.

    With that said, the recorded sound is exceptionally great, longs, shorts and everything in between.
    Vibrato is just on-off switch with no crossfading, likely to avoid problems with phasing.
    Crescendos and Decrescendos are not as smooth and you can clearly distinguish all three volume layers in it.
    It also reacts quite slowly (slow x-fade) so it's not very useable with breath controller.
    Unlike OT, there's no option to engage only one dynamic set of samples, and same note legato interval is also missing.

    Demos and comparison
    In this short demo you can audition the difference between SF Oboe Solo and SM Oboe played with breath controller. The SF part is somewhat more "meaty" but there's distinctive "residue" from the legato interval, which make it sound a bit more disconnected.
    Both parts were played separately, no MIDI copying

    SF Oboe Solo:

    SM Oboe 1 with BC:

    It seems as we hit the threshold of what's possible with traditional sample-trigger libraries.
    To have all the features, everything needs to be recorded, but to keep the package responsive, not everything can be included.
    There is a way out of this 'mess', by combining physical modelling and sampled content, and one particular company is currently in lead with this prospect.
    Yet, with Woodwinds, we're still firmly in auxiliary camp enjoying the show from a distance, and not taking direct part.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2017
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  3. famouslut

    famouslut Audiosexual

    Dec 31, 2015
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    Did you rly translate Cor Anglais into "English Horn", andrew? :D Anyway, a fair review; it's quite playable and nice, but no replacement for BWW, or SWAM (i think u alluded to?) Auxiliary indeed, for that Austin Powers instrument.
  4. Andrew

    Andrew AudioSEX Maestro Staff Member

    Oct 24, 2011
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    Between worlds
    If only I could foresee the consequences of that :winker:

    @everyone - Sorry it took that long (3 years) for me to get back on track.
  5. Talmi

    Talmi Audiosexual

    Dec 22, 2015
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    Thanks for that @Andrew , very usefull specially for less capable people like me who can't really make a difference between quality and average real instruments libraries. Too many of those, it's a jungle out there, those reviews give me clarity.
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  6. phloopy

    phloopy Audiosexual

    Jul 16, 2011
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  7. grdh20

    grdh20 Platinum Record

    Jan 14, 2014
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    thx for the review
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