My personal review of various kind of brass plugins

Hi there

I currently have 4 types of brass plugins:

  1. AAS Analog Orchestra (pure synth-based)
  2. East West Hollywood Pop brass (pure sample-based)
  3. Sounpaints (Hybrid)
  4. GSi Solo Trumpet (modelized with semi-automatic articulations)

All them have Pros & Cons, and I’d like to show my opinion, notably because I am not skilled in keyboards :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

The first kind of brass plugins is synth-based; it means that maths’ calculations are used to reproduce the physics and waveforms

The Pros is that they are very easy to play or drive with Scaler

The Cons are that the sound is usually dull, lacking the harmonics and the articulations that brass have

When you use them, even a poor ear like mine recognizes very quickly it’s a synth, not a real brass, so I don’t like/use them so much

I think that this is why sample-base plugins were created then, like my East West Hollywood Pop brass

The Pros is that the sound is great, as it is real, recorded by real players using real instruments

The Cons is that riffs and patterns are fixed i.e. you don’t control them, you cannot change them, the amount of riffs and patterns is little for the price IMHO, and there are no Packs to add more

Moreover, If you want to change riffs and patterns on the fly, you must be very skilled with keyboards and the learning curve for that is steep to me

And, they are not easy to drive with Scaler

This is why I don’t like them and don’t use them any more, even if I was able to use them sometimes in the past

The third kind is Sounpaint: it is a Hybrid technology trying to have the best of the 2 main systems, sample-based and modelized (I think)

The sound is great, the best I heard so far for brasses, they are quite easy to play for simple solos as far as you leave articulations alone, and you can drive them with Scaler

The Cons is that If you want to add articulations, you must be very skilled with keyboards and the learning curve is very steep

Moreover, their engine has some flaw, even their latest 2.5 (in my system at least)

And now the last kind, GSi Solo Trumpet

It is modelized but has semi-automatic articulations that depend on your playing style

The Pros is that they are easy to play and drive with Scaler, and creating the main articulations require little practice

The Cons is that you need a keyboard with aftertouch or a pedal to create all articulations, and it means the learning curve is not flat, but certainly not steep as the EW or Soundpaint

It is clearly the tool I prefer more :grinning:, but is currently limited to some trumpets, trombone and tuba

Being modelized the sound is not so great, but superior to AAS Analog Orchestra brasses, but I found a workaround that is very useful and involves driving some sample-based brass in parallel, in the same space in the mix, so to have the sample-based sound overlapping the modelized one

That’s all for now, and your insight are welcome

P.S: I never considered the SWAM because it’s costly, and I am quite sure it has a very steep learning curve (for me)

1 Like

Very nice analysis, quite detailed and with information that is relevant for us, non professionals.

1 Like

Interesting take. Might be useful for our windcontroller Facebook group.

Obviously, my approach is quite different since I mostly play a windcontroller.

Personally, I tend to prefer Physical Modelling synthesis to sample-based or subtractive synthesis.

Well, they’re indeed costly (especially on desktop). They’re not difficult to learn, though. Just a bit strange in terms of User Experience.
Also, they don’t require a breath controller. While they have presets for different windcontrollers (NuEVI, Aerophone, Sylphyo…), they also work with keyboards through modwheel + aftertouch. And they work particularly well with MPE controllers, including GeoShred.

Speaking of GeoShred, there are IAP options to buy “GeoSWAM” instruments, which integrate the SWAM engine within GeoShred. Those are much cheaper than the ones sold by Audio Modeling. However, they’re restricted to only work with MPE controllers
GeoShred has added a series of wind instrument emulations in the Naada collection of South, West, and East Asian instruments. No brass, though.

Some people enjoy AcousticSamples, which are hybrid (samples with Physical Modelling). Rather expensive.

And since you’re talking specifically about brass emulations, I’ve enjoyed Sordina, which emulates different mutes. The thing about it is that it really heightens the realism of synthetic brass sounds.

1 Like

Thanks for your insight
feel free to copy-paste my opinions in that group if you think they are useful (I don’t have a FB account)

I saw some SWAM video and I always saw the player using a breath controller, this is why I thought it was mandatory

due to my very poor skills at keyboard, I prefer the tools that help me a bit with articulations, but not so much to become a boring passive task: not easy to accomplish

Today I completed the Sounpaint’s brass ensemble with the Trumpet Fire and the Saxophone Fire and I think I’ll stop here

I just have to understand how using them to do some funky tune, and I found that very tough so far

Yes, it’s tough. Partly because articulations are so important in funk. Even with bass, it can be quite difficult to create funky lines. (Been having fun with MODO Bass 2. The results can be very good with tweaking. Still, there’s a learning curve.)

There’s an important distinction between instrument emulations that you can perform and those which are meant for composition (especially scoring). (To my mind, SWAM plugins are a compromise between the two types. It took me long exchanges with Lele to really get that.)

For performance, it needs to have some kind of MIDI signal which allows for “expressiveness”. So, MPE, aftertouch, expression pedal, modwheel, breath control, even pitchbend… In those cases, the player has full control over the articulations. The implication is that the learning curve is parallel with that of learning an instrument. Performance-friendly plugins are relatively rare.
Most instrument sounds come from scoring-friendly plugins. There’s a market, there, even if at least some of it is aspirational (people who want to create music for films and videogames). The way these work, typically, is with keyswitches. Some composers are able to use those keyswitches while playing. At the same time, though, it’s easy to add them after you’ve created the lines. In fact, a lot of composers add notes in the piano roll without using a MIDI controller. The learning curve is quite different from instrumental performance. It’s more like graphic design or programming.

How does that all work with Scaler? Performance-friendly plugins don’t really work directly with Scaler. What I do with them is to play expressive lines using a windcontroller or MPE controller on top of material created by Scaler.
In your case, you should probably use the scoring-friendly plugins that you’ve mentioned… and add articulations/expression after the fact.
One thing you can do is let Scaler create the lines and then draw the articulations (keyswitches and MIDI CC) by hand in the pianoroll.

1 Like