Spitfire Audio Aperture: The Stack review: An unusual collection of super-sized electronic instruments
With 56 amps, 4 subwoofers and drool-worthy synthesisers, Spitfire’s latest offering is pure sonic decadence.
⊕ Aperture parameter is very performable
⊕ Huge sense of physical space
⊕ One-of-a-kind samples
⊕ The low-end may be worth the price of entry alone
⊖ Spitfires standard UI feels ill-fitted to this collection
⊖ The distinctive sound won’t be useful to all projects
Price £199 / $249 / €249
Forming up like some sort of audio Voltron, 56 classic amplifiers and four subwoofers tower within AIR Studios’ Lyndhurst Hall. This Frankenstein creation is lovingly named The Stack and is Spitfire Audio’s latest addition to its Aperture series.
The drawcard for the Aperture libraries is their ability to focus the sound image by giving users total control. Not just over dynamic levels, but the size of the instrumental ensemble itself, too. While previous entries centred on orchestral instruments, The Stack takes things in a decidedly more electrifying direction with sampled synths, guitars, and drum machines.
It’s the kind of extravagant, one-of-a-kind recording session that no single composer could ever hope to organize. The sounds produced are gorgeous, imposing, and highly specific. But that’s pretty much in keeping with Spitfire’s recent philosophy of releasing unabashedly niche libraries that perform one thing exceedingly well – jack-of-all-trades be damned!
So, what does The Stack do well? It makes big sounds. Very, very big.
The Stack uses Lyndhurst Hall – one of the biggest recording rooms in the world – as a giant resonating chamber. Push the volume, close your eyes, and you can almost feel the sound waves shaking the walls of the recording room.
Spitfire has achieved remarkable physicality in these samples, and it’s that quality that elevates the sound of The Stack beyond just a big reverb. Bright synth leads crackle with a distinctly live feel, and the guitar tones are thick enough to stand a spoon in. But if there’s one thing that really ties this collection of samples together, it’s the low-end.
The bass is, quite simply, ridiculous. It’s perfect for adding those growling Zimmer-esque synth textures or, if you’ve got electronic music in mind, just load up one of the percussion kits and be treated with an Olympic stadium-sized 808 kick.
A big picture approach to sampling
Spitfire’s Aperture parameter is an interesting concept. It’s like an imaginary lens directed at the ensemble, allowing you to hone in on a single performer or widen the frame to take it all in. Applied to The Stack’s orchestra of amplifiers, Aperture works by sequentially adding more rows of amps and more space. At its lowest level, you get something close to the raw signal, but as you dial it up, the sound is coloured by each new amp row, becoming richer and more intense.
However, it’s not just about layering sound upon sound. It’s also about controlling the size. Spitfire stacked up 56 guitar amps vertically and horizontally, so when you increase the Aperture parameter, the result is a distinctly three-dimensional expansion of the sound image. At full blast, the sense of space is undeniably massive, as the more distant room mics come to the fore to give you a literal wall of sound.
In practice, the charm of this collection is its capacity to produce gigantic sound images, so you’re unlikely to ever dial down the Aperture parameter for long. Nevertheless, the parameter is very musical and allows for performable swells and transitions of volume, timbre, and textural density.
What sounds are actually being run through this tidal wave of amplification? Well, Spitfire has pooled together a motley crew of electronic music’s most wanted.
The Stack boasts mainstay synths such as the Sequential Prophet and Roland Juno-6, sharing space with more bespoke fare – Analogue Solution’s Colossus synth and Soma Laboratory’s beautifully idiosyncratic Lyra-8. There’s also a four-piece electric guitar ensemble and a classic TR-808. Once you factor in the curated selection of percussion sounds courtesy of Afrorack founder Aaron Guice, the variety on offer starts to look pretty good.
In pursuit of the densest, loudest textures imaginable, Spitfire has doubled up many of the synths and instruments. Except in the case of the Lyra, where there’s a staggering eight instruments being played on each sample. And while big, bold sounds might be The Stack’s bread and butter, if you dig around a bit, there are also some gorgeously delicate textures to be found. The guitarists, in particular, have created some stunning tones. The sounds are intimate, lush, and feel ideal for an emotive art-house film rather than a sci-fi action flick.
A stack worth saving for?
Spitfire has gone big on this one, in every sense. It’s an attention-grabbing project for sure, but is this library going to be an essential resource for your average screen composer? Probably not.
It’s hard to understand how practically useful The Stack is in isolation. After playing the collection in context, it’s clear that this is not a load-bearing library. Instead, it’s better understood as a shiny coat of paint, adding extra grandeur to your arrangements. But while this library may not be an advisable first purchase, there’s no denying that these are ambitious, unusual sounds from a recording session we’re unlikely to see repeated any time soon. And hey, if you’re addicted to bass then the low tones may well justify the price tag alone.
When it comes to usability, though, we have to admit that Spitfire’s synth-focused releases are beginning to outgrow its otherwise excellent sample player UI. The interface and visuals seem so clearly designed with orchestral instruments in mind that there is a notable disconnect between the visual layout and the samples we hear.
But for composers who already have a few standard libraries at their disposal and are looking for something special, or if your arrangement needs to make the earth shake, then you know where to go.