Best brass plugin

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My go to horns are Session Horns. Been using them for years in live performance. They cut through when I need them to, and give that “realistic” feel. I’ve had many good comments from fellow musicians on their great sound. I can achieve that great Tower of Power sound, as well as Stax Soul sections and Chicago/Blood Sweat and Tears sounds. It is very easy to work with in Cantabile and Key Switches bring extra realism to the table. I have used other Brass VST’s, but I deleted them, either because of their CPU hogging, or non-realistic sounds. My 1st years of gigging was in a soul band. I was a trumpet player in the horn section, and charted all the horn parts. Session Horns comes as close to those gigs as any others without taxing my system.



P.S. I do not work for Native Instruments :smile:


Thanks @Corky for the suggestion. I think at the end the solution is to have a good and usable synth vst (like Xpand!2 could be) for some usages, and a more realistic vst (as Session Horns) for some others.
If i think on my experience, I don’t dislike those kind of “fake” sounds. Though of course i don’t dislike the real feeling of a brass section.
In live shows of course i would prefer, for my band, a real “human” brass section. But that would mean a much more difficult management of the band (having 8-9 members instead of 5 means looking for bigger practice rooms, bigger live stages…). So, for the real sound, Session Horns could be a good compromise.
Also, as @hag01 suggests, Chris Hein Horns Compact looks a good product. But still, that’s over my budget.

I am reading now the instructions for Session Horns (just to have a complete idea of which are the features). Too bad there is no way to test this VST before purchasing it.


In the past, I’ve combined an M1 horn preset and Kontakt Session horns into a state in a horns rack. Then I fiddled with the volume on each until I got the combination that sound best to me for gigging. Fairly realistic but with a bit of a bite provided by M1.


Okay, I just purchased right now Session Horns… and I am impatiently waiting for the download… Cheap enough (99€, but with a vaucher it makes 74€).
Still I like Xpand!2 too, and I will check for discounts every now and then.
My next purchase will be the renewal of Cantabile license, which is more than one year i don’t renew! Time for some upgrades!

Thank you all very much for the suggestions!


Session Horns is fantastic. I can’t wait to try it with the rest of band on Friday night.


Glad you like them. You see now why they are my “go to”. They sit very well in Cantabile.




I never liked Air Xpand!2. It is like playing an old rompler from 20 years ago, where you go through the presets and after 3 cups of coffee still don’t know what to use. I don’t like to waste my time by listen to endless presets. If a synth is capable you can create your own stuff in less time. I do own some sample libraries in this regard but luckily we have six brass players in the band. You can’t reach this organic sound with samples.


That’s true. OTOH, the samples never get high and try and bang your girlfriend though, so it’s a trade-off…


Also, the samples never take a $$$ cut at the end of the gig.

As a brass player myself, that is mostly true, but the thread title is: Best Brass Plugin.
A synth string section is nothing like having a live string section either, but it works very well for a lot of musicians in large and small venues. When I was in a horn section in the late 60’s, i twirled my trumpet, and did soul steps. You can’t reach that organic performance with a plugin either. I get some very good brass sounds with my go to plugin, and it helps to know how the real instruments are played when performing them on a keyboard. Purist or not, it boils down to the kind of gigs you play, the amount of money you make, and whether you are willing to deal with extra difficult people, who usually only provide riffs and stabs, chording and a solo here and there, etc on some songs. Unless I am hired as a sax player, I rarely take it out to a gig anymore, because I can come very close to the same solo on keyboard. Less gear, more room, less headaches, less people, more $$$. The gig dictates the need.


I should revise my priorities now that my girlfriend became my wife :slight_smile:

Mh… Reading you guys in this discussion I start to believe I am in the wrong community.
My experience is quite different:
First of all you are chatting about $$$MONEY€€€. Well I am a damn amateur keyboard player. My main activity with music is to practice and i spend money for the instruments, for the rent of the practice room and for the gasoline to reach it and meet with the band mates. When it’s time for gig, usually in the pubs, the pay usually is not a big lot more than a free pizza and beer. I’d love to have six… or simply two or tree brass players in my band, but they have to come to play for free, spend money for the practice room, the gasoline, and if and when we go out for a gig, they’d be satisfied for a free pizza+beer.
Thanks god my job is another, because otherwise i would be begging for money outside of the churches.
Also, in this situation i find really difficult to organize 5 people (drums, guitar, bass, singer and myself - everybody whose priority is everything but music). Two-three heads more than that would be impossible. Impossible also to fit in a tiny and cheap practice room, and in pub-size stages.
Maybe funk-jazz is not for me? Well… let’s say I play “poor-man-funk-jazz”, and poor-man-funk-jazz is never played with a real brass section.
This, i guess, also explains why I am making a fuss on if to buy or not a damn plugin. I spent 73.99€ (79$) for NI Section Horns. Cheap? Expensive? Anybody can judge with his own measuring tape. What is sure is that those money won’t be rewarded with something more practical than personal satisfaction. And they are coming out from my family budget.


About Xpand!2, I totally agree (now that i tried this plugin) that it does not sound like real horns. But the problem is: I want to play songs like, for example, Incognito’s version of Don’t you worry 'bout a thing, with a quintet band (drums, keyboard, guitar, bass, voice). No brass section, therefore. What should I do?
I guess there are two roads on the map:

  1. re-arrange the song, replacing the brass part with another sound that doesn’t look like a brass section but gives the same feeling
  2. play the brass section with a plugin that can produce realistic brass sound.

Which one is the best way? I guess it depends on the sensibility of the player. In my case I think both the approach make perfect sense, and i will try one or the other depending on the song I wanna play and the feeling i want to give it.
Therefore I need a realistic brass plugin (my brand new NI Session Horns), and a more flexible, though less realistic plugin (which could be Xpand!2 - still in time to change my mind if i find something better)


Here’s me using Session Brass today. It really cuts through the mix well, I thought. I’m still getting used to the breath controller though, as you can probably tell.


BigTwisty, You mean Session Horns, right?


Yes, goll durnit, I do. I keep making that same mistake!


I see now you video, very nice.

I didn’t know that Session Horns works with breath controller.

Can Session Horns be used without breath controller as well? Can you control expression just by velocity with Session Horns?


You can definitely use Session Horns without a breath controller. It can use either key velocity or CC11 (expression pedal) for volume control. I recommend the expression pedal if you don’t use a breath controller as this will make your brass line more expressive.