I think the thing that intrigued me the most about being able to review Big Fish Audio’s ‘Ancient World : Instruments of Antiquity’ was the notion that upon reading the preset instrument names, I recognized exactly three of them. I was extremely excited to check out this collection of historic instruments from long ago. I’ve tried a few collections based on historic instruments before, and I was interested to see how much use I would get out of this library.
The Land Before Time
Ancient World packs 32 instruments into an extremely manageable 4GB of space. There are also tempo-sync’d loops to choose from, so if you want to quickly drop in a loop it’s easy to do. The instrument loads up into Kontakt and does so snappily and cleanly. It is a wrapped library, so the library shows up in your master list of instruments, something I appreciate for organizational purposes.
There are a lot of different instruments here, and the first thing I recommend to anyone that purchases Ancient World is to take a tour of the presets and get to know the timbre of each one. They are just so different! Big Fish did a really bang up job of selecting a stable of instruments that have such unique characteristics. You really don’t feel there are many ‘repeats’ here, each preset is quite different from the rest.
All of the sounds are meticulously sampled. The amount of detail is staggering, and I had to check to confirm that this library really only took up 4 gigabytes. I suppose there isn’t really an absurd amount of multisample layers like with a piano, so that’s probably how they pulled it off.
The Sound of History
The instruments are divided up into percussive, strings, and winds. There are plenty of examples of each, and I appreciated the interface putting the instrument front and center when you choose it. This library really is a history lesson as much as it is a collection of sounds. Here are a few sound samples:
As you can hear, even right out of the box, these instruments really sing. The interface allows for tweaking of the envelope, so you can wring a little more sustain out of something or soften the attack. You also have access to a simple 2-band EQ as well as a tuning control. Finally, some nice spacious reverb rounds out the collection of knobs. You can pick from a few different rooms, and the interface in general is quite easy to use. No manual needed.
Using Ancient World was simple, and Big Fish addressed just about every gripe I typically have with a library of this type. Nearly all of the instruments include loops as well as playable patches. This is important, because I don’t know how the hell a Phorminx is supposed to sound! It’s nice to have a ‘baseline comparison’ handy at the click of a mouse.
Big Fish has also included the actual untouched range of the instrument as a separate patch. If you want to keep your Samvyke track legit and stick to the original range, you can. If you just dig that classic ‘Samvyke Sound’ but want to use it in a modern context with a full range of the keyboard, they give you a sample-stretched version with the extended range as well. It’s the best of both (Ancient) worlds!
I really dug Ancient World. Big Fish did a fantastic job making this instrument easy to use, accessible, and useful to both purists and people who just want a ‘medieval vibe’ on their modern track.
Pros: Amazing sound quality, included loops for use and for reference on esoteric instruments, actual and extended range versions available of instruments, fun trip through the halls of history.
Cons: Some instruments have fewer loops than others, I would have liked a few more.