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90s Retro Trumpets

90’s Retro Trumpets is a faithful emulation of all things trumpet and all things recording from this magical time that crafted many of our childhoods. Thoroughly researched, this melody-making library resurrects the actual microphones and the forgotten trumpet techniques that gave these scores such unique color, tutti, and magnificence. Recorded at the MGM Scoring Stage at Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles.

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*** Requires Kontakt 5.6.8 or higher (Full or Free Player) ***



Things Have Changed ...

It's shocking that the 90’s are now considered a long time ago.  Many titans of the session playing world of this period have retired.  As they are replaced by their younger colleagues, certain principles of pedagogy and musicality have been retired as well.  

In the control room, while many of the central philosophies have remained the same, modern recording seems to have evolved to use cleaner, higher bandwith and less colored gear.   It's now a slightly different sound, which some favor, some disdain, and most simply don’t notice. 

Last year, while recording something unrelated, the original pencil marked Jurassic Park session recall sheets popped up out of the filing cabinet for some nerdy ogling.  Right there on this aging paper was the actual recipe used to record the orchestra for these landmark sessions.  The vision was clear - replicate this sound.  We went to great lengths to do this while always referencing the recall sheet and using the memories of some of the Sony Scoring crew who were actually there. 

Here are the steps we took.  

  • We rented the three exact modified Neumann M50 microphones used as the Decca Tree on the original sessions.  They feature a unique hi-end crispness and transparency that is instantly recognizable.  These microphones have mostly been retired since the early 2000’s.  We matched every other microphone on the recall sheet and set them up in 90’s fashion.  
  • In the control room we patched in the exact preamp settings on the exact same preamps that still are mounted on the studio wall to this day.  Most of these are now retired and replaced by cleaner and less colored signal paths by companies that weren’t created yet at the time.   
  • The favored Lexicon 480 hardware reverb unit was taken out of retirement and the exact reverb patch was dialed up.  This was “THE” patch of the 90’s for most of these recordings - it is so 90’s sounding and is also instantly recognizable. 
  • One of the sonically most interesting parts of the recipe is the use of the Avalon 2055 - a delicate Class A discrete Stereo Hardware EQ that colors the high end in the most unique and hi-fi way imaginable.  Also retired in favor of other mastering EQs, this box is a gem.  When used correctly, it gives the most glossy sheen imaginable on the overtones, and when used incorrectly gives the harshest of harshnesses.  


Over time, many subtle things have changed for trumpets.  The combined result of these changes yielded a more powerful, weightier, and forward-sounding modern section.   The 90’s sound was less brassy, more streamlined, cantabile, and quieter in general.   Different tonguing and blending philosophies were favored.  Both sections play with great agility or force, they just sounded different. 

Restoring some of these 90’s techniques was the critical second part of the recipe. 

  • 1+1+2 = 4.   In the 90’s, the venerable trumpet veterans of the day played on horns they individually favored instead of a horn dictated by the chart or principal.  An A-list 4-trumpet ensemble of the early 90’s was often made of one Eb Horn (played by the principal), one C horn (played by the second chair), and two Bb horns (played by third and fourth chairs).  The differing sizes of these horns projects an imperfect yet thick series of overtones into the room - incredibly tutti sounding, like the blending of a violin section.  Having the principal on a smaller horn also lends a tireless and effortless quality to the high octave.  Some weight on the lower notes is lost on a smaller horn, but this is where the third and fourth chairs contribute on their larger Bb horns.  Modern sections often tend to favor four Bb or four C trumpets.

  • principal players of the age, especially in the brass section, were the alphas.  The idea of a democratic section where each player contributes an equal percentage of the sound wasn’t a concept yet.  The principal was the loudest on a unison, the principal was loudest on a divisi chord, the principal hair-pinned louder, the principal was atop always.  The other players knew and respected this, and instead contributed a tone full of supporting qualities to blend with the principal.  The combination of three supporting trumpets and one piercing trumpet is a mainstay of this era.  It has rarely been heard since.  For this library we recorded the dynamics with this ratio in mind. 

  • Vibrato:   When playing tutti, Trumpet Ensembles do not use vibrato.  Four trumpets vibrating at different speeds tend to sound more like a mariachi band and less like a classical trumpet section.  When vibrato is heard within a section it is the principal carefully using his/her judgement when to vibrate. This is often at the apex of a phrase, a particular important note, or toward the end of a long hold.  During this time, trumpets 2-4º will not vibrate at all.  The vibrato we captured in this library was the principal player vibrating at the highest dynamic layer only.  Use it as described above for realistic playing.  However, be sure to bypass (using the bypass vibrato performance switch) on quick crescendo rips, since that would not be a proper use of it. 

  • A quieter, nobler tone. The overall volume of the brass section in soundtrack recording has increased over the years.  This is partly due to upgraded mouthpieces, instruments, pedagogy, and partly due to the presence of highly brassy composer mockups.  Upon hearing these hyped mockups, session players have emulated this sound in an effort to satisfy the composers writing them.  While sometimes appropriate, this style of playing is now found in soundtracks of all styles, including ones where it is less appropriate.  In the 90’s, the median forte was a quieter and richer tone.  This is especially noticeable in the upcoming 90’s Retro French Horn library, but quite noticeable in this Trumpet library.   Experiment with having the modwheel about half way up, which would represent a “comfortable and sustainable” forte for session players.  Ride the wheel into the higher zones to follow the phrase or for the most exiting moments only.


The Performance Tab contains a visual representation of the 6 key switches, the vibrato indicator, and representation of the dynamics (mod wheel) and the attack level (velocity). 

The Playability Tab allows you to mute the attack overlay and change its volume.  The attack overlay naturally increases in volume as the dynamics increase.  Auto Borrow may also be engaged to make trills sound more natural.  During times of low note variation, this function borrows notes from surrounding pitches.  Dynamics Scaling: the sweet spot can be moved to accommodate a variety of keyboards and playing styles.  The Legato Feel can be adjusted for slow or fast playing styles.  This control allows more or less time for the legato transitions.  The T1 and T234 buttons will mute the 1st trumpet and trumpets 2, 3, and 4 respectively.  

The FX tab contains 3 basic effects: tape saturation, EQ, and reverb.  The amount of tape saturation can be adjusted by the preamp gain.  We recommend levels at or below 6.0dB to prevent unwanted distortion.  The reverb contains a few great presets that we sampled from the original Lexicon 480 hardware.  The default setting is the one most commonly used for film score recording from the early 90s.  These are user-adjustable.  

The Settings Tab allows you to extend the range of the trumpets beyond what was recorded, turn the keyswitches into latching mode, rather than momentary, and allows you to migrate the keyswitches to another part of your keyboard. 

Each page allows a help screen overlay.  Just press the ? question mark at the top-right. 

Patch List

    • 01 90s Retro Trumpets Articulations
    • 07 90s Retro Trumpet Solo Staccato
    • 02 90s Retro Trumpets Fast Legato
    • 08 90s Retro Trumpet Solo Sforzando
    • 03 90s Retro Trumpet Solo Articulations
    • 09 90s Retro Trumpets Hollywood Attack
    • 04 90s Retro Trumpet Solo Fast Legato
    • 10 90s Retro Trumpets Forte Piano
    • 05 90s Retro Trumpets Staccato
    • 11 90s Retro Trumpets Accent
    • 06 90s Retro Trumpets Sforzando
    • 12 90s Retro Trumpets Half Notes

Kontakt and NKS Integration

90s Retro Trumpets is scripted for Native Instruments' Native Kontrol Standard (NKS) format.  You can learn more about NKS here.   Explore the latest version of Kontakt here

Technical Specifications

Requires Kontakt 5.6.8 and above (Works with both the free Kontakt Player and the paid, full version of Kontakt)

  • Requires a minimum of 3GB free hard drive space during installation. Library size is approx. 1GB after installation
  • Minimum 4GB RAM Recommended

Kontakt 5.6.8 Minimum System Requirements

  • Mac OS X 10.11 through 10.13, i5
  • Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10 (latest Service Pack, 32/64-bit) Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2

Kontakt 5.6.8 Supported Interfaces

  • Mac OS X (64-bit only): Stand-alone, VST, AU, AAX
  • Windows (32/64-bit): Stand-alone, VST, AAX

90s Retro Trumpets Crew

    • Produced by: Michael Barry and Michael Patti
    • Project Director: Tim Starnes
    • Kontakt Scripting: Ben Chrisman
    • Recording Engineer: Adam Michalak
    • Mix Engineer: Tim Starnes
    • Sample Editor: Elan Hickler
    • Recording Assistance: Elisa Rice