Review : 8Dio Century Brass Ensemble

Today we’re going dig into 8Dio’s Century Brass ensemble library and offer some honest opinions and thoughts about it. This full version Kontakt library was released at the end of last year, continuing their Century Series of orchestral instruments, which at that point only contained Century Harps (as of posting it now has Solo Brass, Strings, Sordino Strings, and Ostinato Strings as well).


I was very attracted to a hearty discount of 40%, which they offered last year during a store-wide sale, and I had been searching for Kontakt libraries to gradually replace East West’s Hollywood Orchestra series, as Kontakt consistently provided me with better performance and ease of use than the Play sampling engine which is used by East West. I was really impressed by the demos of their Century Series. It seemed to offer an incredibly detailed sound, with an astonishing level of realism, versatility, and playability. They provided free “Try-Packs” of some of the patches available as well, and I was very impressed with the realism of the legato scripting in the Try-Pack for the 6 Horn ensemble.

The GUI/Interface

The Century Series interface is simple and clean.

The Century Series interface is simple and clean.

Century Brass is a library that does not register in Native Access, therefor you have to go to the file browser in Kontakt and load it up manually. I’m generally not a fan of this approach, and it honestly confuses me, as 8dio is a major player in this business and can easily afford the fee to Native Instruments to enable their libraries to be loaded up in the library panel.

Upon loading, however, I was fairly pleased with the simplicity of the interface (some might find it a bit bland), providing easy access to all the controls and mic positions. What really impressed me most is the way articulations and keyswitches are handled, allowing you to load up to TEN articulations in any order, and assign them to the keyswitch of your choosing. This seemed like a really nice way to sort of customize and tailor the library to the playing style of each user.

As for the articulations, there are an impressive amount here, including mutes, rips, crescendos, loure, flutter tongue, and one of the main selling points, according to their marketing, the Arcs.

Century Brass Ensemble offer’s a very large selection of articulations.

Century Brass Ensemble offer’s a very large selection of articulations.

The Sound

When researching this library I was confused about this term “Arcs” being thrown around all the time, but it’s just an articulation featuring the players performing a dynamic swell, starting at the lowest dynamics possible and naturally rising up to full velocity, and then slowly tapering back down. To me, I just call them “swells” when I am describing them to someone else. They really are quite spectacular to play around with, and immediately I found myself using this articulation in every single track. It adds another level of realism, instead of just controlling dynamics with the mod wheel or CC automation, having these dynamic changes already taken care of in the actual performance really is something special to have in any composers arsenal.

The overall sounds of the instruments here are spectacular, captured in pristine detail and capable of performing in a truly impressive dynamic range. Everything is recorded centered, so you’ll have to manually pan to simulate a natural orchestral seating position. From the name of the library and the imagery of the marketing, it does feel they are catering this towards a more traditional composer, maybe even to classical and classic film styles, and the library really performs beautifully in the soft and mellow ranges. However I was also thoroughly impressed with the ability to really crank it all the way up to ff, and get an incredible amount of growl, heat, and a bold, majestic sound. This could easily be used as the only brass library to compose a modern epic or trailer track as well, I have no doubt about that.

The default mic position is a mixed mic, and it offers a lot of closeness and detail while maintaining the width and space of a further mic. I found the default mix to sometimes be a bit too close, however, especially for the horns. For the 6 Horns patch, which is spectacular, I found it really sounded best with only the Decca mic enabled. There was just something different about the default mix, which is not a bad thing, just not what my ears were used to.

The trombones give an amazing amount of growl in the higher dynamics, yet still warm in the softer dynamic ranges. I found the short trombone notes to be really fun to play with and wonderfully brassy, while the trumpets were bright and natural especially in the higher register.

A Few Quirks…

I did find there to be a lot of articulations that may not be necessary and some unusual choices as well, such as a “speed” knob to control the quickness of the legato transitions and how fast the arcs played. I found this really odd for the crescendos and arcs to be controlled by a knob with no numerical value, instead of syncing to the tempo of the DAW, and found it quite cumbersome to have to tweak the speed knob over and over until it matched the tempo of the track I was working on (not to mention re-adjusting for tempo changes, etc)..

While for the most part the legato patches sounded amazing when I first heard them, the more time I spent with the library, I did notice some annoyances (from minor to quite major) and bugs here and there. The legato transition volume sometimes seemed inconsistent, and adjusting the “Legato Volume” knob did absolutely nothing. It seems sometimes the legato transition volume is affected by the velocity at which you play the key, but sometimes I would be playing a very soft horn melody, yet each time I changed to a new note, the volume of the legato transitions was wildly inconsistent with the volume of the sustained notes I was playing. This honestly made some tracks unusable, as I would listen to them later through headphones and notice that the transitions sounded completely off and unnatural. There’s also an issue with the legato patch triggering the last note that was played instead of only playing the note I want it to play (it will play the wrong note for a split second before jumping back to the correct note), which again rendered this library unusable for a certain project I was working on. I also noticed some inconsistencies in timbre/volume across the full range of a single instrument (it was rare, but you can tell some notes have a different timbre, as if playing that note triggered a different mic mix as opposed to the one I had selected.)

I did email 8Dio support about these issues, and they responded saying they were aware of the issues and they would be fixed in an upcoming update, so I have no complaints about support as they got back to me immediately and said they are working on a solution. I also noticed Colin O’Malley of 8Dio has posted on a VI-Control forum back in March 2018 promising they are working on a free update for this library to offer new mixing options including pre-panned mixes, etc. I was a bit worried after I read users feeling that 8dio sometimes abandoned their libraries instead of releasing updates and fixes, but it seems if that was ever true, they are doing much more as a company to listen and stay engaged and offer updates to their customers.

The Verdict-



+Amazing detail and realism in soft AND loud dynamics.

+Vast Amount of Articulations, including unique and highly playable arcs.

+Intuitive GUI with ability to customize key switches and load up to 10 articulations, all in one NKI file.


-Some strange choices such as the speed knob, only one length of marcatos.

-A few bugs and inconsistencies really bring down the usability sometimes, especially with the otherwise incredible legato patches.

TL;DR: Century Brass is a very good library, but it’s note quite achieved greatness yet. The wealth of articulations and versatility, as well as the realism and detail captured in the recordings, are some of the highlights of Century Brass. These standout features are slightly marred by inconsistencies and bugs, but I have high hopes they will address these issues in the upcoming 2.0 update!

*(In the future I will update this review and possibly adjust the final score to included the 2.0 updates)

Let's Listen - PATHS I AND II from Audiomodern

This week I wanted to showcase the sounds available from PATHS I and II from Audiomodern. These are available as a discount bundle for $19.99 for a limited time. 

These are relatively small libraries made up of a number of preset "kits", each kit is synced to a particular BPM so it will not sync with your DAW's tempo. The kits are made for providing quick and instant percussion and atmosphere loops. It's geared towards modern EDM and Cinematic styles. Each kit is made up of 6 layers which can each be played individually. It's very cool sounding, however it's fairly limited and will be easily recognizable to those familiar with it. It will be very useful for loading up instant percussive soundscapes for producers and composers on tight deadlines.

Here is a very quick and no-nonsense rundown of every single preset sound available in Audiomodern's PATHS I

Let's Listen: Air Hybrid 3 Synth and Tantra (Rhythmic Processor)

Hey guys, I wanted to offer some opinions on some really great plugins for a VERY low price. I'm going to try to make this an ongoing series, offering short reviews/impressions on the plethora of sounds available at ridiculously low prices at the various audio discount websites. As I'm sure many of you can relate to, I LOVE to get new sounds and just have a field day experimenting and playing around with them, so I often take advantage of the discounted websites such as VstBuzz, Audio Plugin Deals, and Plugin Boutique (there are others, but these are the ones I have most experience with)

Earlier this week I offered my impressions on a great orchestral library, the Herring Clarinet. Today I want to cover something complete different, the ever popular electronic/hybrid sounds. I picked up the Hybrid 3 Synth by Air Music Technology (creators of integrated plugins for PRO TOOLS) for only ONE DOLLAR here at Plugin Boutique (the deal may be limited, however). I didn't buy it at first because, come on, how good can it be for one dollar? I did a little research and heard some audio demos and a few days later I bought it. For the price, this is hands down he best deal I've ever gotten on any plugin, ever.

hybrid 3.png

Load it up and you have a basic interface, and if you have ever used soft synths at all, it will all be very familiar: Oscillators (up to 6), envelope options and knobs for LFO, Filter, Preset bank, effects, etc. I won't go into much depth here, because there are much more knowledgeable users on the internet with more helpful tutorials and overviews of the features. I was mostly interested in how it sounds.

I proceeded to play around for a few days and get the feel of the workflow and operation, and then this evening I timed myself to produce an audio demo in one hour that still sounds good and relevant in today's constantly changing music scene. I was constantly impressed with the quality and lushness of the presets, and even those that didn't sound so great to me became useable after doing some tweaks, which is very easy to do. It was all very simple to use, and more importantly, a whole lot of fun to play with. A real sense of joy and discovery when finding a solid preset and then manipulating it to sound soft and airy, or thick and gritty, and everything in between. For those sounds that may have sounded a bit static, another great plugin saved the day.

I'm talking about Tantra by Dmitry Sches. The combination of these two plugins cost me around 35 dollars. I have only owned Tantra for less than a day, but I can tell you now it's going to be an absolute staple in my compositions from now on. I used it on the synth, but it can complement any possible audio signal you can throw at it. Vocals, guitars, synths, basses. It takes stale and static sounds and gives them a new life, deeply sampled rhythms and effects that sound phenomenal. The interface is also beautiful and a bit overwhelming with all the buttons and knobs, but it goes to show the amazing options for manipulation and tweaking.

Where Air Hybrid 3 is a niche product, Tantra is an versatile workhorse and can make anything sound better., providing anything from soft and subtle delays and frequency modulation, complete glitch-style signal manipulation, deep pulses and sidechaining, and percussive sequences. I was looking into buying Movement by Output, and after doing some research on forums, decided I could get something that does the same things for less money (who can say no to that?) and I settled on Tantra after the deal popped up in my inbox. I am not knocking Output at all, they have amazing products, but, if you are looking for something that has similar capabilities and features and can't afford Movement, go with Tantra. I have not even begun to delve into the full capacity of the features and sounds available, but already I know it will be a staple for years to come. It provides seemingly endless possibilities and rhythmic variations, at an amazing discounted price for a limited time here at VstBuzz.

Here is the demo I made in only ONE HOUR, using 95% Hybrid sounds (FL studio stock drum samples and one instance of the FL 3xOsc for the white noise sweep) and Tantra on the mixer channel for a couple of the Hybrid 3 layers. Tantra provides that great rhythmic sequencing (with built in delay/filter modulation) audible in the start and throughout the whole track.