Spitfire Audio, a British company making stellar virtual production gear since 2007 or so, has now logged over 3 million downloads of its free instrument library, LABS. The DAW agnostic dedicated plug-in houses a series of sampler instruments for musicians using Logic Pro X or just about any other platform. Recently adding a brand new 60’s-inspired “Wurli” instrument to its growing library, we thought it was time to dive into this completely free virtual instrument resource.
Spitfire Audio LABS
Briefly mentioned in our roundup of free and discounted software for musicians in self-isolation, Spitfire’s LABS is one free instrument library that should be on every musician’s radar.
Initially launching back in mid-2018, Spitfire added to its sometimes quite high-end professional sampler instrument line-up with a pair of free piano and string LABS instruments. Since that time, the collection has grown to 14 instruments, the latest of which is a vintage-style Wurlitzer that was added late last month. All of the individually downloadable instruments (each with their own bundle presets) load up in the dedicated LABS plug-in which is available in multiple formats: VST2, VST3, AAX and AU.
FREE instrument library:
While basic and to the point, LABS features a free instrument library ranging from pristinely recorded everyday staples, moody Wurlitzers and felt-treated pianos to the particularly creative horn duo, “Trumpet Fields” and the sampled sonic textures of “OPIA.” There are plenty more than that though — all of which sounding as good as the last — from various string collections to a music box sampler instrument that was made and performed by Hannah Peel and featured on her score for HBO’s Game of Thrones: The Last Watch:
Listen to and download LABS Music Box here.
Discover the bewitching sounds of two music boxes…one made by hand printing notations on paper with a hole puncher, the sound of the paper rolling through the box adding a beautiful texture; the other sampled at Spitfire Studios on top of a piano, for extra resonance.
Let’s take a quick look at the LABS interface here.
Expression (the left-most vertical slider) is like a volume control that operates within and independently of the master volume control in the top right corner of the interface. It’s sort of like a MIDI expression control that’s great for dynamics automation and the like.
Just to the right of that, you’ll find the vertical Dynamics slider. It allows for smoothly fading between the recorded velocity layers of the sound, from soft and mellow to louder and more aggressive. But it can feel as though you’re getting even more interesting variables out of this one depending on which instrument/preset you have loaded.
And lastly the large round multi-function control. This one changes its functionality depending on both which instrument is loaded and which mode you have selected. Hit the inner most circle to reveal the loaded instrument’s additional sound shaping controls. This can vary from your standard set of envelope functions (attack, decay, sustain, release) to the amount of reverb, or the “Variation” parameter providing further customization of the loaded preset.
All of the parameters on the interface can be automated in your DAW (including independent control over each parameter available on the multi-function knob).
All in all it’s quite an extensive, continually growing free instrument library of fantastic sounding gear every musician with a computer should probably go get right now, or least go browse through. LABS features what I describe as a wonderfully simple interface that is actually more versatile than it ought to be both at first glance and at this price. I guess you can consider this a review but it really is hard to find anything bad to say about a top-tier professional virtual instrument maker offering up content like this to anyone for nothing, especially at a time like this. So consider this more of a PSA and then just go score some free instruments. I might very well have paid for some/most of these anyway.
All you need to access LABS is the Spitfire Audio App. Just hit the GET button on any of the instruments on this page “and you will be guided through the process.”
And be sure to let us know if you found any particularly great-sounding or surprising gems from the LABS library in the comments below.
You’ll find plenty more free and discounted plugs in our stuck-at-home collection right here including FX, loops packs, weird VHS plugs, synths, and more. Here’s our review on the new EastWest Hollywood Backup Singers instrument, plus everything you need to know about the possible unreleased version of Logic Pro X. Then go head over to 9to5Toys for all of the software, media, entertainment deals and freebies you’ll ever need.
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