||\"AMG’s Kick-Ass Brass! started life as a widely acclaimed sample CD of modern brass sounds. Now the same library has been expanded and housed in a virtual instrument, bringing a superb-sounding, self-contained brass section to any VST or AU-compatible sequencer. At the time of writing, only the VST version was finished – and it’s that which we review here – but the developer has confirmed that an Audio Unit version is imminent.
Kick-Ass Brass! features a total of six instruments: the original CD’s trumpet, trombone, alto and tenor saxophone, newly augmented by baritone sax and muted trumpet. The appropriately brass-themed interface is stylish and clean, with the main data window surrounded by a handful of additional controls: balance, volume, pan, vibrato rate, glide and EQ. These, and many other aspects of the plug-in, are MIDI controllable.
Kick-Ass Brass! is both multi-timbral and multi-output, whereby four stereo pairs will appear as mixer channels in the host software. Up to eight instruments or variations can be loaded in one instance, so either a complete four-piece horn section or the various playing styles of, say, an Alto Sax can be contained in one plug-in. Each slot can also be assigned a separate MIDI channel to better control playback.
At the head of the plug-in, you select either Instrument or Multi patches to load one of the supplied presets. Alternatively, clicking the small L (for Load) button in each slot opens a cascading list of available instruments. Changing programs generally takes a second or two – depending on complexity – but it’s nothing interminable.
The instruments load pre-mapped to your MIDI keyboard and cover the instrument’s natural range, so you can’t fake a tuba, for instance, by dropping a trombone down a couple of octaves. However, instruments can be transposed +/-12 semitones to imbue them with a slightly different timbre.
To the right of each instrument’s name is a variation slot, where the different playing styles can be selected. Kick-Ass Brass! contains such variations as Ends, Expression, Hard, Mixed Stabs, Rips + Falls, Slides, Soft, Swells, Trills and Vibrato, lending each instrument wonderful flexibility. Carefully combining the variations can result in a strikingly realistic performance and with a touch of reverb the samples really come alive. You can also save instrument and section settings, so you can easily create unique setups.
On the subject of effects, Kick-Ass Brass! does come with a number of onboard stereo 64-bit FX modules, including reverb, delay, chorus, flanger, Leslie speaker and phaser. In general they’re fine, although we did notice grainy artefacts when using the flanger and phaser presets. You’re more likely to use third-party effects, anyway, especially as the Kick-Ass Brass! presets cannot be edited.
The drawbacks with Kick-Ass Brass! are few, but should be noted. Primarily, it’s very demanding. Playing a four-piece brass section Multi patch on its own in Live 5, running on a dual 1Ghz G4 with 1.75Gb RAM, the CPU meter could touch 70 per cent. Adding some Kick-Ass Brass! reverb, the meter went beyond 90 per cent. There will inevitably be much audio bouncing and track freezing when using Kick-Ass Brass!, unless you’ve got a 2.7Ghz dual G5 stuffed to the gills with speedy RAM.
Also, it’s a shame that there’s no orchestral brass – no French horns, tubas or more esoteric trumpets – as their addition would make Kick-Ass Brass! The ultimate horn section. Still, we can’t fault the content as is. We did raise a slight eyebrow at the price, though, anticipating something closer to today’s plug-in pricing sweet spot of ?149-?179. ?200 just sounds that much more expensive.
However, if you’re in the market for top-notch modern brass sounds, they don’t come much sweeter than this. The user-friendliness of Kick-Ass Brass! scores highly for us and its sound is simply stellar – this virtual instrument fully justifies its name.\"
Rating: [4 of 5 Stars!]