Monthly Archives: July 2014

Virtual Drumming for Rookies with Special Guest Ralph Zeuner from Rayzoon Technologies

Here are a few tips and tricks from the master of virtual drumming on how to program your virtual drum track to sound like a real one.

July 2014

Introduction by A. Arsov

There are an endless number of Drum samplers and romplers out there. Some of them are very good, some even better, but there is only one, and it’s not even the best sounding, which sounds like a real drummer.  We can thank Ralph Zeuner for that. Ralph (pictured right) is the creator of Rayzoon Jamstix, and he generously shares his advice on getting realistic drum tracks with us below.

The main source of authenticity in Jamstix lies in a so-called “Drum brain”, some sort of an internal sequencer in which you can insert your desired rhythm, and the software will play it while introducing small deviations in rhythm and feel that is common only to a live player.  Jamstix is more than just software that randomizes your beat. Actually it’s a set of virtual drummers offering a great array of playing styles. And every virtual drummer even has its own fill style. You only need to select where those fills should be.

Pure magic! I recorded a few albums with Jamstix, and over time I gave them to various drummers.  Not one of them ever mentioned anything about the drums – and you all know how drummers hate the sound and the groove of the virtual drums.  They uniformly just thought that I had hired some drummer that they didn’t know. And they were right, I hired Ralph Zeuner!  Ralph’s software is my best live drummer – pay for it once and use it all the time.  That’s what I did and that’s what I do.

Virtual Drums & the Mystery of the Pocket

by Ralph Zeuner (Rayzoon Technologies LLC)

When it comes to playing drums, few concepts appear as elusive and ill-defined as the ‘pocket’. Ask a drummer or search the Internet on this topic and you will get various vague descriptions, ranging from “you’ll feel it when you’re in it” to “it’s when you’re locked in”. If you’re using software plugins for your  drum tracks, you may have searched for the pocket many times to give your tracks that special touch. In this article, I’ll try to explain some of the most common techniques behind the ‘pocket’ and how to apply it to your drum tracks.

First off, whenever a drummer and a bass player interlock their patterns, play in-time and leave lots of space for other instruments, they can be described as being in the pocket. However, this merely means that they are playing well, connected with each other and with proper respect to the other instruments. You can match this concept by composing your tracks according to these principles. I’ll also ignore the use of triplets, which enjoy such strong popularity with Funk and Gospel drummers that they are now often triggering a sense of pocket feel in listeners. What we will focus on today is the application of timing that many identify with being in the pocket and how you can achieve it. I will be assisted by Jamstix and its virtual drummer ‘Simon’ to demonstrate the concepts in a few audio samples.

It’s OK to Be Behind … a Little Bit

The secret of many professional drummers is their ability to play certain hits slightly behind the beat. The biggest delay is on the snare backbeat hits, a little less on hihat and almost none on the kick drum. Have a look at this video of an 11-year old kid . Pay close attention to his snare hits. Some are right on-time, some are too far behind the beat and some are just right, far enough behind the beat to notice but not too much to feel off-time. What this does is inject a laid-back feel that appears to expand each quarter.

In Jamstix, you can experiment with this in the FEEL section of the brain by moving the pocket knob. The sweet spot is different for each song and depends heavily on other instrumentation. Some listeners might not even notice it in your final mix but I think you should experiment with it, especially if you have tools that make this easy, such as Jamstix.

16th Shuffle – the Secret Sauce

If you don’t remember anything else from this article, remember this: your drums can sound in the pocket if they have a 16th shuffle/swing feel to them. The kid in the video does it and so do many modern Gospel drummers. In fact, modern Gospel music has massively deepened the association of pocket and 16th -shuffle feel over the last 15 years or so.

Let’s look deeper into how this works. We will assign weights to all 16th notes in a 4/4 bar as follows:
QUARTER: 1 -& –   2 -&- 3 -&-   4 -&-
WEIGHT:  ABCB ABCB ABCB ABCB
In a standard rock beat, all ticks with A would carry kick, snare and hihat hits. The ticks identified by C would have lighter hihat notes and all the B ticks would be empty. Here is the trick: you can apply a 16th shuffle feel to any groove by delaying the B notes. The amount of the delay equals the degree of the shuffle. There is a maximum amount you can apply but I won’t bore you with the math of it. Many hosts allow you to quantize a MIDI track this way and some virtual drummers have dedicated controls for it, such as Jamstix.

If your drum pattern has no notes on the B ticks, then applying 16th shuffle won’t change a thing. That is very good as we will soon see. Listen to the kid in the video again and notice that his main pattern is a standard rock with no hits on the B ticks. However,he adds additional 16th hihat notes on B ticks here and there and they are all shuffled. It is that simple action, which puts the groove deep into the pocket!
Now, if your basic drum pattern has no B tick notes and most of your other instruments neither, it gives your drums the freedom to add these shuffled B notes as needed for the best pocket feel.

Let’s look at an example. Here is a simple groove with a funky hat pattern:
EXAMPLE 1

Now listen to the exact same groove with 16th shuffle turned on:
EXAMPLE 2

The main kick and snare are not affected by the shuffle since they don’t fall on B ticks. It is the hihat, accents and fill that have B ticks and therefore convey the shuffle feel. The more B ticks you have, the stronger the overall shuffle feel will be. Each song and arrangement will be different as to how much you should employ but rest assured that even a small amount of them will give you some ‘pocket’.

Here is another example using a 16th hihat pattern, which means we’ve got lots of B ticks:
EXAMPLE 3

It sounds a bit mechanical and simple but we can change this using our 16th shuffle trick. Here is the same groove played by ‘Simon’ with the pocket timing described earlier and with additional B hits on the kick. All B hits (hihat and kick) are shuffled.
EXAMPLE 4

This immediately sounds more like something a good drummer would play versus programmed drum tracks. It breathes, it moves and it has a pocket. As I mentioned before, there is a degree to the shuffle, which you can experiment with. Here is Simon playing our groove at only 50% shuffle and with little kick, hihat and cymbal accents to make things lively. Also, instead of a full 16th hihat pattern, we use an 8th note pattern with additional B notes (16ths) interspersed by ‘Simon’:
EXAMPLE 5

Please go back and compare this performance to example #3. They are fundamentally the same groove but feel completely different due to the addition of 16th -shuffled accent notes for kick, snare (ghosts) and hihat.

I encourage you to listen to the performances of drummers that are thought to have great pockets and analyze the layering of their grooves. You’ll find that the basic pattern is often quite simple and that all the magic comes from the layers of accents sprinkled on top, many of which are 16th
shuffled.

As you examine your own programmed drum tracks, try experimenting with a layered approach that uses a simple, static pattern as a skeleton and deliberate accent notes on top that vary over a four bar sequence. Snare ghosting and light hihat notes can be very effective without crowding the acoustic space while 16th kick notes (especially when the bass guitar is synchronized with it) have a larger impact.

I hope I have been able to shed some light on the elusive pocket and give you inspiration to go fine-tune those drum tracks of yours!

Stephen Howell – A Tribute in Memoriam

 

We remember Stephen Howell, the man behind Hollow Sun, who passed away at the end of May of this year. He will be dearly missed by so many of us in the Kontakt community.

 

by David Baer, July 2014

 

An Appreciation

On the final day of May of this year, the Kontaktsphere convulsed, contracted, momentarily grew dim and a great measure of joy escaped it, likely never to return.  On that day Stephen Howell, the man who was Hollow Sun, died unexpectedly.  Stephen died after a brief period of hospitalization at the far too-early age of 56.  We devote this issue’s Points of Kontakt column to remembering this exceptional individual.

It was no accident that the very first installment of this Points of Kontakt column featured a lengthy interview with Stephen.  He and I had discussed doing one for some time, but I knew it would be very special and had every intention of saving it for an auspicious occasion, the first issue of SoundBytes Magazine.  Those who missed it or would like to revisit it can find the interview here:

http://soundbytesmag.net/stephenhowellinterviewpart1

Those wishing to know a bit more about Stephen’s history can learn more in a lovely obituary written by Sound on Sound’s Martin Walker to be found here:

http://www.soundonsound.com/forum/showflat.php?Cat=&Number=1108410&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=365&fpart=1#1108410

I first got to know Stephen after I had written a review of the Hollow Sun RMI Electra Piano.  I sent Stephen a note about the review, and he not only responded with a delightful email, unbidden he sent me the first half dozen or so Music Lab Machines libraries as a thank you.  Thus began several years of correspondence that allowed me to get to know him.  I thoroughly regret that I never had the opportunity to meet him in person.

Stephen’s emails were always something I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated.  I quickly began to regard him as a friend even though our relationship was never anything more than email conversation.  And you know what?  It turns out that many others have reported the same feelings.  In the forum conversations that followed the news of his death, many others articulated the same reaction: “I never met him but I felt like he was a true friend”.

But it didn’t stop there.  Other sentiments were expressed by numerous posters that mirrored my own, like (to paraphrase):

 “I have never felt as sad about learning of the death of someone I never personally met”.

“He was incredibly generous with his time in communicating with me even though I was just a user”.

“Hollow Sun advertising emails were the opposite of an annoyance.  I opened them eagerly and they always made my day!”.

… you get the idea.

But the most wonderful tribute that could be expected came from many sound developers, potential competitors of Hollow Sun, who without exception wrote of their gratitude for Stephen’s helpful expertise he was always willing to share and for his encouragement.  If there’s a more compelling justification that he was a class act, I cannot think of what that could be.

Stephen not only established a wonderful resource for Kontakt sounds with his company Hollow Sun, in many ways, I think he established a model that has inspired others to emulate it, all to our considerable mutual benefit.  Stephen conceived a way to package and market sound libraries that was well received by a grateful customer base.  Other sound vendors have taken note and we, the Kontakt community, are all the richer as a result.  We owe so very much to this one individual.

Stephen was far more than just an accomplished sound engineer.  He seemed to excel at anything he did.  He wrote with great panache.  His wit was priceless.  He also was an inspired visual designer – his instrument UI panels were unparalleled in originality and delightfulness.  He will not easily be replaced.

But of course his greatest legacy is the rich offerings of musical, exotic, unusual and rare sound treasures he has captured for us to use in our musical endeavors.  More than anyone else I can think of, he has demonstrated what wonderful results can be achieved with sampled sound, everything from historically interesting electronica to musically relevant oddity.  He had a mad scientist’s acumen for the unusual that translated into treasure.

I can only fantasize that he is now embarked on a mission to capture the sounds of the mystic cosmos, so that when we all inevitably join him on the other side, we’ll have even more treasures awaiting us.

But then, perhaps that’s just exactly what he was doing all along.

 

A Stephen Howell Gallery

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments from Mario Krušelj

And now, some words from Stephen’s long-time collaborator, Kontakt scripting master, Mario Krušelj:

There are some people for which one would usually say “he was a man of few words”. Well, Steve was quite the opposite! The man absolutely loved to waffle about a wide variety of subjects, from politics to language, but his favorite thing to discuss about was sound. At least that was the case between him and me. Throughout more than four years that we’ve worked together, there have been countless hours of throwing all kinds of ideas around, sometimes up to very late at night (or very early in the morning, depending on how you look at it!)… this aspect of working is something I will miss very much now that Steve’s gone.

I am eternally grateful to have known such a legend. It has been an honor working with him, and not just that – being friends with the man. The two of us weren’t all business. I genuinely considered him a great friend of mine, despite the fact that he could have been my father!

Fare thee well, Steve, wherever you are now. I’m quite sure now you can really hear for yourself how the universe actually sounds! In a way, I am a bit envious about that.  🙂 

 

Benediction

Stephen Howell, we thank thee for thy service.  Rocketh on, Hollow Sun.

 

 

 

Ginno’s Sound Investments

 

Gino Legaspi looks at fifteen libraries from Big Fish Audio, Sample Magic, Zero-G and several other sound purveyors in an ongoing series of such reviews.

by Ginno Legaspi, July 2014

 

Big Fish Audio – Gravity – Cinematic Electronica, Electro Rock and Dubstep

Inspired by today’s influential sounds of Skrillex, Junkie XL, The Crystal Method, Tiesto, Moby, Kraftwerk, Massive Attack, Daft Punk, William Orbit and so many more, Gravity is a 3.5 GB (WAV) gigantic collection that is comprised of several sound folders. Gravity includes Atmospheres, Bell, Drones, Orchestra, Pads, Synth Pulses, Retro and Vintage Synths, Synth Sequences, Synth Leads, Synth Basses and Talk Boxes. It is jam packed with all kinds of sounds ideal for creating game trailers, cinematic soundtracks, electronica, electro, dubstep and content for multimedia developers. The sounds are perfect standalone but, if you are like me, they can also be augmented/layered with other sounds for that thick, unusual sound. On top of the included synth sounds, there are striking SFX, drum elements, drum hits and various ‘up-to-date’ drum loops thrown in for good measure. If you crave that synthetic sound to add spice to your own compositions, Big Fish Audio has provided a way to help you make high-impact music with Gravity. I highly recommend this for its synth content.       

WEB:

www.bigfishaudio.com

FORMAT:

Apple Loops/REX/WAV/RMX/Acid or Kontakt 4/5

PRICE:

$129.95 USD

 

Niche Audio – Beat Machines TR909

The sample library market is so saturated with TR-909 (a drum machine from the 80’s made by Roland) titles. I’ve already seen plenty of them. So what makes Beat Machines TR909 from Niche Audio special? For starters, the TR-909 drum machine was recorded and sampled at 96 kHz. Then every drum hit was processed with an array of high and low-end outboard equipment such as an SSL 900 AW mixing console, original UA 1176 compressor, Empricial Labs Distressor compression unit, DBX 165 unit, a Focusrite EQ, etc. to give you a more colored, punchy and interesting sound. The result is an impressive, great sounding set of samples that are ready to drop into any electronic music productions. All the samples are organized into 15 different folders and labeled according to the processing used on them. It’s easy to build kits in each folder since the samples are labeled properly.

I believe that many producers of classic house will dig this library. If you can’t get ahold of a vintage TR909 drum machine and need that TR909 sound on steroids, then get this sample pack instead. What’s also awesome is the inclusion of TR909 samples in 96 kHz format. Boom!

WEB:

www.loopmasters.com

FORMAT:

WAV/SFZ/Kontakt/HALion/EXS24/NN-XT or Live Suite 9+or NI Maschine

PRICE:

From $30.76 to 42.75 USD, depending on format

 

Zero-G – WARP_static

Berlin-based Arovane (aka Uwe Zahn) is one heck of an electronic artist and sound designer, and this library of his (distributed by Zero-G) is a testament to his skill as a sample library producer, performer and programmer. Warp_static is a 1.7 GB multi-format (ACID, Apple Loops, EXS24, HALion, Kontakt, NN-XT and REX2) sample pack made with digital synthesizers (Kawai K5000S), samplers (E-mu e4XT) and a bunch of outboard equipment (Yamaha QY700). For software, Ableton Live 9 was used for recording, cutting and finalizing the sounds and loops. His trademark electronic timbres and distinct sound are included in this library. IDM connoisseurs will be pleased to find glitchy drum loops in the ‘Rhythms 120’ and ‘RhythmicPercussive’ folders. All loops have that Autechre vibe and are well programmed. All other sounds are just icing on the cake of this sweet but fascinating library.

We all want having the right tools when we are composing in the studio. And if you need the right samples to elevate your glitch, IDM and experimental tracks to the next level, I would recommend getting Warp_static. Overall, a tremendous library with plenty of synth experiments and beautiful oddball beats.   

WEB:

www.timespace.com

FORMAT:

Acid WAV/Kontakt/EXS24/REX 2/AIFF/Apple Loops/HALion/Reason NN-XT

PRICE:

approx. €76 EUR including VAT

 

Famous Audio – Atmospheric Piano Themes

Micro pack libraries are all over the place nowadays. They are good when you just want specific sounds to inject into your productions. Here, we have a goody bag of piano sounds from Famous Audio. This pack offers 20 beautifully played piano passages that are superb for new age, ambient and mellow instrumental productions. The files are separated into different tempo folders of 70, 90 and 100 BPM. You’ll get both WAV and MIDI file formats for maximum flexibility. I like the inclusion of MIDI files because it gives you the advantage of tweaking the loops to your heart’s content – whether you want to change the key or make velocity changes…it’s easy. Another thing I like about Atmospheric Piano Themes is that the files are long. Each loop runs from 1 minute to 1:30 minutes long, about 16-24 bars in length. Overall, the performances are great and with plenty of emotion. With this pack you have a great set of 20 loops and MIDI files that breathe pure dream pop, new age and chill out flavor.

WEB:

www.loopmasters.com

FORMAT:

WAV/MIDI files

PRICE:

$25.60 USD

 

Sample Magic – SM101 Analogue Noise

From time to time I’ll review a sample library that has a very specific set of sounds. And this month, it’s Sample Magic’s Analog Noise – a library that is chock full of peculiar FX noises. As the title suggests, this micro sample library contains 101 FX layers and textures that can be injected to enhance the character of your compositions. Each sound is carefully crafted using the best analogue (and natural) sound source available. There are real vinyl crackles, channel hums, tape hisses, white noise, radio frequencies and broken circuits that have been carefully processed to give each sample a warm and fuzzy (yet raw and gritty) vintage sound. Experimentalists, IDM and Glitch producers will find this library useful as there are plenty of samples with weird modulations. I happen to like tape hiss samples because you can actually hear the wow and flutter and, of course, the loud hisses in the high frequencies. While there are countless of FX sample libraries out there in the market, Analogue Noise includes some of the best esoteric sounds that I’ve heard in a sample library. I think the sounds here are best suited to layers in static pads or simple drones. This is highly recommended.  

WEB:

www.samplemagic.com

FORMAT:

WAV

LIST PRICE:

approx. €13 EUR (digital download)

 

Niche Audio – Dubstep Supercharged

This release by Niche Audio delivers 13 construction kits of basses, drums, wobbles, chords and plenty more sounds that can be highly addictive. There are two additional folders called Vox and FX one-shots for layering and manipulation. All in all, you get 15 folders of materials to play with. Dubstep Supercharged is primarily aimed at dubstep producers and is great when used with a MIDI controller, especially one with pads. It was designed to be tweaked, played and triggered on the fly for maximum enjoyment. Native Instruments Maschine and Ableton Live users take note of this! I especially like the sound of the drums because they are so aggressive and punchy. The included bass sounds growl, like many of the dubstep basses today. The innovative FX section (which features 16 samples) has some cool selections ready to be dropped into your own compositions. Processed or dry, these samples are good to go. A well-produced sample pack.   

WEB:

www.loopmasters.com

FORMAT:

WAV/Kontakt/HALion/SFZ/EXS24/NN-XT or Live  9 Pack or NI Maschine

PRICE:

From $30.75 to 42.74 USD, depending on format

 

Bluezone Corporation – Motherships – Science Fiction Sound Effects

Motherships – Science Fiction Sound Effects (brought to you by Bluezone Corporation, a sample developer known for their superb atmospheric releases) is a 1.21 GB supremo effects, drones and textures library with 129 futuristic samples in WAV format. If you’re a TV/film composer for sci-fi movies or soundtrack composer for video games then this library has something to offer. Samples in folders include alarms, indoor ambiences, machine drones, computer beeps, mechanical devices, motherships, radars, laser, energy beams, rumbles and transmission sounds. The concept here is, of course, about sci-fi space sounds with all kinds of robotic, synthetic samples that are way futuristic. From the sounds of a huge mothership (think of the move District 9) cruising ‘faster-than-the-speed-of-light’, to the sound of a nuclear reactor core rumbling, you’ll find it here. I reckon Bluezone had to to be pour plenty of creativity into making this library because the programming is slick and the sounds are simply mind-blowing. Overall, this library is well produced and very inspiring.  

WEB:

www.bluezone-corporation.com

FORMAT:

WAV

PRICE:

€26.95 EUR (digital download)

 

Bluezone Corporation – Spaceships – Science Fiction Sound Effects

Set way forward to the age of advanced communication and futuristic robotics, Spaceships is a new sci-fi effects release from Bluezone Corporation. Spaceships is the follow-up to Motherships in Bluezone’s science fiction sound effects series. They say that sequels are never as good as the original, but this sample pack goes far beyond the first volume. For starters, it has more variety and more folders of sounds to choose from. Additional sounds such as scanners, communication elements, spaceships 1-4 and weapons sounds are included in this collection. The library has a total of 176 samples in high definition 24-bit WAV format and is delivered as a 1.6GB digital download. As far as the materials go, this is another well recorded library that is clean and pristine. The sounds are good building blocks if you are constructing scenes for game music or for adding esoteric ambiences for an electronica piece you are writing. 

Do you want to upgrade your science fiction sound effects library for even more sounds? I definitely recommend getting Spaceships, because this is the real thing! This, and Motherships, will give you a one-two punch that will undoubtedly appear in your production soon.       

WEB:

www.bluezone-corporation.com

FORMAT:

WAV

PRICE:

€29.95 EUR (digital download)

 

Sounds-of-Revolution – Prime Kicks Vol. 1

Another offering from Sounds-of-Revolution (via Resonance Sounds) this month is called Prime Kicks Vol. 1. This is a micro collection consisting of 125 well-crafted drum kicks that is sure to fire up your next composition. The samples are delivered in 24-bit WAV stereo and download size is 52 MB. In the download you’ll find folders for Analogue Kicks, Breakbeat/Live kicks, FX/Big Verb Kicks, Layered Kicks and finally Top & Verb Elements. If you program your drum patterns using software samplers, then you will be happy to know that presets for both Kontakt and EXS24 are included.

So what do I think of Prime Kicks Vol. 1? It’s great and affordable. The kicks, especially the analogue ones, are deep and fat – lots of oomph. The FX kicks are my  least favorite, but they are there if you need something extreme with plenty of reverb tail. If you’re an EDM producer, you’re going to love this pack as the majority of the kicks sound great. There are also plenty to choose from.

WEB:

www.resonance-sound.com

FORMAT:

WAV

PRICE:

€5.95 EUR

 

Best Service – Production Tools Vol. 7

The Production Tools series from Soundorder has expanded once again, and for this month we have the seventh volume of the series. Production Tools Vol. 7 (or PT7 for short) has the elements to inspire you to create up-to-date dance tracks. The samples included are geared towards the creation of progressive house, electro and trance. So if your focus is those genres, more than likely you’re going to find sounds you can incorporate into your productions.  This library has more than 7 GB of content and is delivered in several different audio formats such as WAV, Apple Loops and REX. Multi-sample instruments for software samplers are also included for Kontakt, EXS24, Keymap, Reason and Structure – which makes this a very usable and flexible library. PT7 is comprised of 35 construction-type kits that are labeled by tempo. You get all the elements (drums, instrument loops, basses, leads, and more) to construct your own track. There’s also a mix track that gives you an idea of what you can do with the files. That’s the power of construction-type kit libraries. Of course, you can always freely tweak each sound to your own liking. What I like about this library is that it sounds so clean and fresh. I have to give credit to the editors for doing a fine job. Great stuff that can be used in today’s EDM productions.

WEB:

www.bestservice.de/en/

FORMAT:

WAV/Apple Loops/EXS24/Kontakt/REX/Keymap/NN-XT/Structure

PRICE:

€69 EUR

 

Best Service – Production Tools Vol. 8

I’ve seen and reviewed plenty of electro, progressive house and progressive trance collections over the years and some  are pretty much just the same run-of-the-mill sounds. They bring nothing new to the table. But Production Tools Vol. 8 is a pretty banging and usable sample pack. Just like its predecessor, Production Tools Vol. 7 (reviewed above), this latest dance sample pack by Soundorder is comprised of 35 construction kits, that can be used as starter loops or inspiration for your next masterpiece. The same audio formats are available, and the sampler patches are compatible with popular software sample players such as Kontakt and EXS24. Each kit is broken into 3 different sub-folders of ‘Drums’, ‘Instruments’ and ‘MIDI Files’. The drum folder is my favorite because it has plenty of single-hit samples included. With drum shots at hand, I can make my own custom drum rack that is tweaked to perfection. This is exactly what you’d expect from seasoned samplesmith like Soundorder. 

WEB:

www.bestservice.de/en/

FORMAT:

WAV/Apple Loops/EXS24/Kontakt/REX/Keymap/NN-XT/Structure

PRICE:

€69 EUR

 

Niche Audio – Prima Tech

Niche Audio’s Prima Tech is a sample library that is inspired by current trends in the groovy tech house scene. This collection is comprised of 15 solid construction kits (more than 200 WAVs) that can be easily injected into your own compositions, as well as in starter files you can use to get something going from scratch. Prima Tech appears to be aimed at producers of any house sub-genre, but can be used for other electronica genres as well – you just have to be creative with your slicing, processing and tweaking procedure. Each folder has all the necessary files you need in order to create full backing tracks. Inside each one, you’ll find basses, tops, chord hits, drum hits, FX noise and many more. These samples are ready to go: just audition them and and drop them into your DAW of choice. The drums are punchy and the kicks are tight, with good low-end. There’s not a single dull-sounding sample. Niche Audio processed the samples just right.

When I was listening to the demo mix track of this library, I couldn’t help but move my head back and forth. I was really into it. But hey, good stuff. Producers take note. There’s new cool sample library in town and the name is Niche Audio! 

WEB:

www.loopmasters.com

FORMAT:

WAV/Kontakt/HALion/SFZ/EXS24/NN-XT or Live  9 Pack or NI Maschine

PRICE:

From $30.76 to $42.75 USD, depending on format

 

Big Fish Audio – Echo – Cinematic Pop Guitars

Continuing Big Fish Audio/Dieguis Production’s KLI Series & Textured Series, Echo is a collection of 847 guitar loops and samples, split into 25 song kit folders and 1 folder containing beautiful guitar soundscapes. Like all previous Big Fish titles, the folders in this sample pack have been labeled properly with key and tempo information, providing you flexibility where needed. In each kit you’ll find all the elements (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, outro) needed to construct starter songs or samples that can be augmented into your own tracks. You won’t find any soaring leads or crunchy chords in this sample pack, but a bunch of very convincing cinematic, ambient and shimmery guitar that are nothing but inspiring.  All of the guitar samples are high-quality, 24-bit live recordings that are epic and full of emotion. This library actually reminds me of post-rock bands such Sigur Ros and Hammock, where the guitars are just mesmerizing. As always, Big Fish Audio produces some of the useable guitar libraries around so I’m giving this a thumbs up. 

WEB:

www.bigfishaudio.com

FORMAT:

Apple Loops/REX/WAV/RMX/Acid/Kontakt

PRICE:

$129.95 USD

 

Black Octopus – Cyborg Onslaught by Paradigm Theorem

Dubbed ‘Complete Bass Music Destruction Kit’, Cyborg Onslaught from Black Octopus is a 2.31 GB mega library in 24-bit WAV format. There are over 1500 files in this collection of destructive bass sounds, punchy drum loops, otherworldly SFX, futuristic vocals and soaring leads. A lot of the sounds have that gritty, dirty and aggressive tone – very nicely done. And even the texture sounds have been stylistically programmed to fit well into today’s modern dubstep and neuro-hop productions. Although the focus of this library is the drum sounds, the basses can cover a lot grounds when it comes to electronica production. Overall, this library will prove its worth to any hard-hitting dubstep producer. Black Octopus has a winner here.

WEB:

www.resonance-sound.com

FORMAT:

WAV

PRICE:

€ 25.48 EUR

 

SM White Label – UK Techno

This collection from Sample Magic’s White Label showcases the essence of UK Techno. Even though the content is only 400 MB, you’ll get a variety of 24-bit goodies to complete your techno and tech-house masterpieces. The samples themselves are pretty banging with a lot of grit. The 140 drum loops and 40 basses will get you started pretty quickly as they are programmed nicely with the use of Roland drum machines. The bass loops sound pretty raw and brutal – plenty of acid-inspired rippers without sacrificing the low end.  In the music loop department, 101 of the freshest loops will have you up and running in no time. Another group of sounds that I like are the drum hits folders. It includes kicks that are pretty solid, snares that will cut through mixes and sizzling hi-hats.  In closing, the drums and basses are UK Techno’s main strength, but there are other materials in this pack that are great as well. 

WEB:

www.samplemagic.com

FORMAT:

WAV/Apple Loops/REX2/EXS24/Ableton Drum Rack/Kontakt/NN-XT

LIST PRICE:

Approx. €21 EUR (digital download)

 

Ginno Legaspi: www.facebook.com/ginnolegaspi

 

SoundBytes Freebies Of The Month – July 2014

Mix and produce your tunes with best freeware tools. Tomislav Zlatic shows us what some of these treasures are and where to find them.

by Tomislav Zlatic, July 2014

 

Dear readers, June was a very busy month in the world of freeware and we’re very excited to present you with a fresh batch of free software and soundware goodies for your virtual studios. We’ve tested all the free releases from last month and picked the best freebie tools for your music making endeavors. All that’s left for you is to enjoy another edition of “SoundBytes Freebies Of The Month” and start making some great music with these free products!

 

GTO/GTX by de la Mancha

Our first pick for this month is a bundle of two vintage style compressors developed by de la Mancha. After his unfortunate website crash which happened last year, this talented VST plugin developer has started re-releasing his previously commercial plugins as freeware. Last week he introduced us to free versions of his GTO and GTX compressor plugins, both of which are essential additions to your collection of dynamic processors.

 

Both compressors are packed with loads of vintage character and they’re top notch tools for adding mojo to processed audio. The main difference between GTO and GTX is the fact that GTO operates as a standard peak compressor, while GTX reacts to the RMS level of the audio signal on the input, resulting in smoother compression.

These two compressors will work great on drum tracks and bass lines, but you can also use them to glue your entire mix. Additional features include sidechain inputs and a nifty dry/wet mix knob for super easy NY-style compression.

GTO and GTX are released as a 32-bit VST plugins for Windows based hosts.

Download: http://delamanchavst.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/gto-gtx-qb-3-and-clipstar-are-all-released-for-free-compressors-eq-and-clipper/

 

The Weird Side Samples by 99Sounds

99Sounds is a new indie sound design label which releases free sound libraries crafted by talented sound designers from around the world. Their latest release is The Weird Side Samples, a collection of free sound effects for use in electronic dance music and film scoring.

 

 

The sounds were designed by Johan Ekelove aka Introspectral, who used different bits and pieces of his album The Weird Side Of The Mundane to create this inspiring collection of futuristic sound effects. The included samples range from glitchy noises and sci-fi effects to eerie soundscapes and processed vocal sequences.

If you’re looking for more free samples, you could also take a look at other 99Sounds releases which cover field recordings of rain and thunder, as well as a free collection of natural clap samples and finger snaps.

The Weird Side Samples collection of free sound effects contains 182 audio samples in 24-bit WAV format.

Download: http://99sounds.org/the-weird-side-samples/

 

Hysteresis by Glitchmachines

Speaking of glitchy sound effects, here’s a plugin which will help you create your own glitch sounds with ease. The development team at Glitchmachines has recently released Hysteresis, which is a unique freeware delay effect for achieving weird digital artefacts and glitchy tones.

 

What makes Hysteresis stand out from the plethora of delay effects out there is the stutter effect module located in the feedback path. By using this effect on the delayed signal, it’s possible to get some incredibly weird noises on the output. Things get even more interesting if you combine the stutter effect with longer feedback times and the built-in resonant filter.

There’s no right or wrong way for using this plugin, however Hysteresis sounds exceptionally well when used on drum loops and other percussive elements. It can be used to generate industrial drum sequences in no time, just by playing around with different parameters on top of a regular drum loop.

The plugin is shipped with a collection of factory presets designed by Ivo Ivanov. The presets sound great, although you’ll have to tweak the plugin yourself if you’d like to use it for less obvious glitch effects.

Hysteresis is available as a 32-bit & 64-bit VST/AU plugin for Windows & Mac based host applications.

Download: http://www.glitchmachines.com/downloads/hysteresis/

 

Dexed by Digital Suburban

Fans of FM synthesis have a big reason to celebrate. Digital suburban has released Dexed, a freeware VST plugin which faithfully emulates the legendary Yamaha DX7 hardware synthesizer. The plugin comes with over 300 factory presets and it is also capable of loading original Yamaha DX7 patches in SysEx format.

 

Although the amateurish looking GUI may make you think that this is just some lackluster attempt at emulating the DX7, spending some time playing this plugin will quickly make you realize that it’s actually one of the best sounding DX7 emulations around. Actually, the only real drawback of Dexed is its user interface, which can act a bit buggy at times. Everything else works perfectly and the sound engine is almost identical to the original hardware instrument. Adding to this, the developer has announced that an updated version of the plugin will be released soon, fixing some of the GUI related issues.

If you’re not skilled at programming your own FM synthesizer patches, there’s no reason to worry. There are literally thousands Yamaha DX7 patches available for free download out there, and they work flawlessly with Dexed.

Dexed is available as a 32-bit & 64-bit VSTi plugin for Linux, Mac and Windows based digital audio workstations.

Download: https://github.com/asb2m10/dexed

 

Amplio 2 by VST Zone

If you need an all-in-one solution for multi-band processing of your audio tracks, look no further than Amplio 2. The new version of the Amplio multi-effect by VST Zone keeps all the best features of its predecessor, while adding enough functionality to make it become one of the best multi-band effects in the software world.

 

The plugin splits the incoming audio signal into three separate frequency bands, which can then be processed with an array of built-in effects. The built-in effects section covers saturation, distortion, reverb, equalization and spatial processing. Of course, the user can tweak the frequency band cutoff points manually.

Amplio 2 is released as a 32-bit & 64-bit VST plugin for Windows based host applications.

Download: http://www.vstzone.sk/#amplio

 

Conclusion

The summer is here and what better way to hide from the heat than to grab a nice icey drink and spend some time making music in your studio using these great freebies. Who knows, you might hit the charts with the next big summer hit!

So, enjoy your summer dear readers and have fun with these free goodies. In the meanwhile, we’ll keep our eyes open in search for new freebies for the next SoundBytes issue.

 

Tomislav Zlatic: http://bedroomproducersblog.com/

Review – pocketBlakus

 

If you have the full version of Native Instruments Kontakt and you want a solo cello sound, there’s really no excuse for waiting to download this free library. Hint: it does not sound like a freebie.

by Per Lichtman, July 2014

 

If you have the full version of Native Instruments Kontakt (version 4.2.4 build 5316 or newer to be exact) and you want a solo cello sound, there’s really no excuse for waiting to download this free library. If you want to do that before you read the review, then here are the links.

Blakus’ developer page

http://blakus.com/pocketblakus-192

pocketBlakus – the expressive legato patch download

http://www.vi-control.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=27672&highlight=

pocketBlakus – the Christmas spiccato patch download

http://www.vi-control.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=3669286#3669286

Still here? Well the rest of it review is about both why the library is so useful and what it does not do. If you like this library you might be interested in the more extensively sampled (yet clearly differentiated) Blakus Cello commercial library from Embertone (reviewed next issue, alongside the Friedlander 1.5 update).

 

The Legato Patch

The first thing to mention is that pocketBlakus does not sound like a free library. Blakus has performed beautifully, without concern for neutrality or wide applicability, making this library one of the very few that can yield emotional results without using automation or CC data (though for the best legato results you’ll probably want to tailor the dynamics with the modwheel like usual). The well-performed vibrato is just lovely, and while it won’t lend itself to every style or compositional idea, sounds utterly natural when appropriate to the material. I found it worked best in slow to moderately paced lines and that I would end up playing half-time at faster tempos to keep things sounding natural.

Like so many other libraries, playing “legato” means that you have to overlap the end of the last note with the new one (I typically exaggerate this just so I don’t have to think about it, continuing to hold the last note until I have to move my finger to another one). If you’re playing this live, it’s easy to do. If you’re editing a part in your sequencer, just extend the end of the notes past the start of the new one to get a legato transition. If space is left between the notes, the second note starts with a sustain instead of a transition.

As one might expect from a free library, the legato version of pocketBlakus uses scripted legato as opposed to sampled intervals (one of the many differences between it and it’s big brother Embertone Blakus Cello). The “L-Legato” mode is selected by default and is to my ears the only one worth bothering with for normal use. The “B-Legato” mode feels suffocated, for lack of a better explanation, to my way of playing but may suit those looking for a less traditional sound.

The legato script works well at slower tempos, doing a good job of lingering when the line calls for it (something that often requires a lot of CC work to execute well in many other libraries). The script gives louder results with a more intense vibrato onset if you hit velocities over 90, while lower values yield mellower results. The GUI allows you to bypass or re-enable the legato script entirely, and to activate or bypass the “neighboring samples” or “TKT” approach to round-robin. With round robin engaged, it will avoid repeated notes by swapping in samples recorded at adjacent pitches and re-pitching them to play at desired pitch. This is done to emulate the results of having actually recorded multiple repetitions of the same note to start with.

The range of the legato patch is C2 (two octaves below middle C) to A4 (the A above middle C), and the top octave contains some of the most passionate performances, as one would expect.

 

The Spiccato Patch

The spiccato patch recorded 7 repetitions of each note at a single dynamic, and is definitely on the more forceful and biting side (a little like the loudest spiccato layer in XSample Chamber Ensemble). To put it simply, it rocks: even after playing most of the commercial solo string libraries, the sheer visceral energy of this patch gets my attention. There are no controls on the GUI – you just play.

Wheras the legato patch is slow and either delicate or passionate, the spiccato patch is positively brimming with energy and able to be used at very rapid tempos. It’s wild and bouncing but still manageable so you’ll occasionally hear some off-tuning in the round-robin repetitions and things of that nature – but if I could play a brisk spiccato half that well on my violin, I’d be a very happy camper indeed. It’s worth noting that currently this is the only library featuring Blakus’ spiccato performances since Embertone’s Blakus Cello uses staccato performances with a very different color instead, as does Embertone’s Friedlander Violin. For more energetic short notes on the violin I’d suggest taking a look at Simple Sam Samples’ Signor Paganini Solo Violin (though there are no round-robins included) or XSample Chamber Ensemble.

The spiccato patch cover a much wider range than the legato one, extending from C2 (two octaves below middle C) to C5 (an octave above middle C).

Anyway, the pocketBlakus spiccato patch is a flexible chameleon, able to be used in both up-front mixes and to be placed further back in an orchestral context. But no matter how you use it, this is a sound that can hold its own in the mix – and it’s pretty zippy to use, too.

By default, the scripting is setup for monophonic playing, so playing the next note will choke the last one, resulting in a more refined and managable sound. If you want to play double stops or just want the notes to ring out a bit more (say for instance in a piece with lots of starts and stops) then in the Kontakt GUI you can just click the wrench on the left side of the instrument, select the script editor button on the right, select the “SIPS-Legato V205” tab and click the bypass button on the left. You might want to consider saving a version of the patch with a different name after that so that you can easily get to it again later. Now you can play double or triple stops or just however many notes your computer can handle at once if you want.

 

Recording Notes

Out of all the libraries I’m reviewing for the July and September issues (other than Embertone Blakus Cello, of course) the one that pocketBlakus has the closest kinship with is 8Dio’s Adagio Cellos Vol. 1. Much like the 8Dio Adagio series, the effort was made to capture a very expressive performance rather than being concerned with maximum versatility, and there’s a certain warmth to the body of the cello in each that makes them seem somewhat natural to pair, especially in the case of the legatos. But when mixed well, pocketBlakus can work with many different libraries, especially if the same reverb is applied fairly wet to both. And the spiccato has a presence that projects remarkably well (it’s one of the most energetic I’ve encountered in a sample library to date), unless it’s in a crowded bass range.

Both patches were recorded in Blakus’ bedroom, in mono with a Rode NT2A multi-pattern large diaphragm condenser mic. The NT2A is a very present sounding microphone with low self-noise for a multi-pattern and the recordings are rather close-miked. Thus, the results are far more usable than “bedroom recording” would suggest, but this is definitely one where you’ll want to use convolution reverb of a real space to give it a more desirable venue. In my own testing, I sometimes used EQ to compensate for the skewed frequency balance of the extremely close-miking as compared to an orchestral setup, especially in the lowest frequencies.

Getting the Most Out of Legato Playing – From a String Player Perspective

For any readers that are coming into using pocketBlakus from the background of having played a real string instrument, here are a few thoughts to make the transition easier, collected from my earlier conversations with other performers.

You know the slight anticipation you have to do in changing bow direction, especially when crossing strings in real life? In real life you automatically rely on your muscle memory to help create a strong transition and the dynamics flow naturally from where you were to where you are going next.

Part of getting the best programming out of a given set of samples is analyzing the way they work ahead of time so you know what you need to add or change in the way you perform, especially in regards to handling those transitions.

For the legato patch here, one of the biggest assets is that there is a fair amount of dynamic variation and an evocative vibrato already recorded into the samples, often with a relatively slow and smooth entrance. This makes it a lot easier to avoid sounding overly synthetic but also means that you have to think ahead even more if you want to take it in a different direction than with a more neutral performance.

1) The most important parts of controlling pocketBlakus are timing and modwheel use. Practice playing the same transition repeatedly with legato turned on to get a sense for how long it takes to transition from one note to the other, then compare this to how long a note entrance takes if you just come in fresh from a rest instead of from another note. You may notice that you start entering on each note a little sooner than you would with non-legato instruments, often ahead of the beat. This becomes important in just a second.

2) If you can make your whole piece follow the timing of your cello performance, then things get a lot easier. By starting each phrase a little early with the modwheel all the way down, you can sweep in more dramatically (or reign in the dynamics). Keep in mind that anytime you want tamer dynamics, you won’t be keeping the modwheel static – you’ll be listening to the dynamics changing in the recording and moving the modwheel the opposite way. Whenever you want to increase the intensity, you’ll want the modwheel to go the same way as the dynamic changes in the recording to exaggerate it.

3) You know the sound you get if you bow an upbow lightly starting punta d’arco and then dig in harder as you continue all the way to the frog? For soloistic writing that emulates this (especially in a post-romantic style) the modwheel should start at minimum and reach maximum by the time the sample dynamic climaxes.

4) You know how in real life the instrument sounds really different if your ear is right up against the C-string or A-string as opposed to a little bit further back? And how that in turn is quite different to what you hear when you’re in the crowd? The further away you are (up to a certain), the more the “melodic” qualities of the vibrato carry through but the less body the instrument has. Of course, the more reverberant the space is, the more forgiving the cutoffs are as well. My point is that if you load up pocketBlakus by default, the close-miking gives you tons of the body of the instrument (almost like your head is real close to that C-string), so you want to cut a little bit of the lower frequencies in the EQ to open the sound up a bit and get more of the experience the audience will have. Then you want to make sure that your reverb has an open character to let the line soar.

If you configure the EQ and verb well before you ever start programming or playing, it becomes much easier to be expressive.

 

So What Are the Downsides?

So you may be wondering what you can’t do with such an excellent free library and where the limitations lie. Let’s start with the overall approach.

Of course, this is library uses a single mic position (which is fairly common) and is mono not stereo and is pretty close-miked. So you can’t rely on the reverb tails from the original recordings like you might with certain other libraries recorded in larger venues.

The spiccato has some wild notes here and there and only one dynamic layer. It’s great at adding energy but may be too much in more restrained compositions, unless you reign it in a bit with volume, EQ and other such adjustments.

The legato patch has speed limitations (as mentioned earlier) and doesn’t use sampled intervals. There’s no vibrato control (save for velocity switching between two samples for a more and less intense sound) and the upper range limit is very conservative compared to its big brother, Embertone Blakus Cello. Its emotional and expressive style also makes it less well-suited to more neutral and precise arrangements. There is also an annoying bug if you hit certain keys outside the range of the instrument that stops the instrument from producing sound – something I normally workaround by just closing the patch inside Kontakt and loading it up again.

 

Script Workaround for Power Users

There may be a way to fix the bug if you are comfortable saving and loading Kontakt scripts, but I haven’t had a chance to test its effectiveness yet. I present the method “as is” with no promises that it will work or liability if it does not – always save the results to a new patch!

 

 

You open the legato patch, click on the wrench on the and left, select the script editor and then “move all the other scripts one slot over to the right.” To do that, you just save each one and then load it at the next slot.

After that, all have to do is use the “Limit Key Range” script as your first script the slot all the way to the left and specify C1 as the minimum. Now save the patch.

 

Final Thoughts

The pocketBlakus patches are some truly wonderful patches that I continue to find useful even as my library of solo strings expands. They are unrestrained and expressive and can be used alongside your other samples when you need a different style of performance (or when you want an additional cellist in your arrangement). And once again, they are completely free to use for any owners of Kontakt 4 or later. You can’t ask for much better than that.

Abletonalies – July 2014 (a small EDM toolbox for Ableton Live)

A new set of small editions for Ableton Live can make you a better EDM producer. As long as they are cheap enough that we can afford it, let’s go for it!

by Alex Arsov, July 2014

Time for new Ableton Live additions. Digging a bit deeper in the Ableton zone, I found some new toys that helped me to become a better electronic dance music (EDM) producer. My main goal is to find tools that can speed up the production process, helping me to achieve better results in less time. After all, time is money, and money is something that most of us are a bit short of. So, less is more, and the wallet is the limit.

Abletunes Selektor

(http:/www.abletunes.com/product/plugins/selektor)

In the previous issue, I wrote about some templates from Abletunes. This time I found something even better, a plugin that can speed up working process with Ableton Live (actually it is a VST plugin, so it works with almost all DAWs).

For $35 USD or about €26 EUR , you will be able to browse through your one-shot samples in real time, previewing them in the context of a song. A true life- and time-saver when you are searching for the appropriate Kick or Snare or any other element of your drum kit.

There are even additional slots for saving a few samples that you think that could be appropriate, allowing you to search further and then decide later which one will be the final one.

It looks simple, even so simple that I had overlooked it, even when I visited the Abletunes site for the first time, but now Selektor is preloaded in all of drum tracks inside the drum group in my main working template. It works.

Dance MIDI Samples (DMS)

(http://www.dancemidisamples.com)

This is a site where you can get a nice number of Ableton templates, sound packs and synth presets, along with a nice amount of free stuff, like some MIDI chord progressions, or even some cool templates, loops and construction kits.

I chose a few playable Ableton templates, along with one big Trance Ableton set containing a great number of harmony progressions, lead MIDI lines, loops, effects and similar stuff.

The advantage of all those templates is that all templates use only Ableton Live instruments and effects.

DMS Uplifting Mainroom House for Live will bring you a good masterclass of how to layer various sounds to get a big House sound. This uses three synths that I had never thought to choose separately, but together they build a powerful Trance / House sound. A great combination of two basses, where one covers mid range while the other one rocks the house with its sub components. Add a cool drum element combination along with some interesting automation, and you get a nice reward for that price (approximately $34 USD or €25 EUR).

DMS Jump Up DnB – Same price as above, an excellent and powerful combination of “Drum&Bass” drum kit along with drum group rack, and a nice and dangerous layered bass sound combined from four different synths that cover all frequency ranges. A very useful school of Drum&Bass. Actually, all you need in addition is one single vocal shot, and there you go!

Deep House Vol. 3, another template with the same price, brings you a nice Deep House set where you can learn that making Deep House is not so easy as it sounds. A million small details that make up this simple-sounding sound flow are actually compiled from various different off-beat elements that are bouncing around a straight four-on-the-floor rhythm. Along with all those percussion elements there is also a nice off-beat deep bass. This one is not so much about automation; it is more about layering. A very cool layering.

Swedish Electro House Vol. 1 (about $34 USD or €25 EUR) is so simple and so complicated at the same time that I have to solo every track to see what is going on. Very clever programing and a bunch of good filter risers. It uses really clever combinations of various not-so-obvious instruments that give a very good result at the end.

DMS Trance Library (approximately $68 USD or €50 EUR) is a bit more expensive, but filled with all sorts of things that you’ll need to make a good Trance or EDM song. A lot of loops, samples, and instruments for Ableton Live, along with a great number of epic chord progressions, arp’d phrases, and effects. All in all, for that money we have a gigabyte of material that can serve our needs for the next year or two. A pretty much essential library for all Trance EDM masters.

Plugin Boutique – Big Kick

(http://www.pluginboutique.com/product/69-Generator/879-BigKick)

VST Kick instrument is one of those essential tools that is absolutely a must. OK, you can never get enough various kick things and toys, so there will be more such tools in this column. This one brings you everything you need for about $68 USD or €50 EUR. It offers you absolute control over all elements of your kick.

In the upper corner you have an Attack part where you can choose from one of the various attacks that actually define the character of your kick. There is also an additional group of genre-related attacks that cover most of the modern production needs from Dubstep to Hip Hop, classical Dance EDM and so on. If that is not enough for you, than you can even load your own samples.

The middle part of the user interface is reserved for body of the kick, where you can fine-tune all elements of the kick along with the most-desired Note drop-down menu where you can select the root note for the kick tail, tuning the whole kick to a song key.

Both Attack and Body parts offer all the controllers that you will ever need for changing the attack, decay, and body. There are also Curve, Filter and other similar essentials. In the Attack part there is also a nice pair of Next and Previous buttons which allow you to change attacks on the fly.

The bottom part of the user interface is reserved for a big volume controller, an additional edit knob that opens a new array of controllers in the middle part of the user interface, allowing you to go way deeper in choosing velocity, drive width and other parameters that you may need.

Considering the overall sound, all implemented controllers, and a view window where you can follow all the changes you made, it should prove to be one of the best for what will be spent (approximately $68 USD or €50 EUR) for your production.

(P.S. Just a few days before release date a big update was announced, bringing plenty of improvements, new options and new sounds – a classic example how the best can be made even better.)

MODE Audio

(http://www.modeaudio.com)

A relatively new company that offers a surprisingly good small collection of high-quality samples. Among all the tutorials, FL Studio packs, sample packs and Massive patches, I chose a few Ableton Live packs.

The Hyper Beats Ableton pack offers you ten different drum racks buffed out with all sorts of sounds. The strongest point, along with the high quality of the presented samples, is that every kit contains sounds that are totally different from all other kits. So, you basically get ten different general drum characters. Add to that three different effects racks that can be used for various purposes (again having unique characters), and you will get more than just a nice pack for about $15 USD or €11 EUR.

Atomic SFX is the next Ableton Live pack where you can get almost all the rises and falls that you will ever need for your EDM production. For approximately $32 USD or €24 EUR, it is one of the most useful collections of sweeps and bleeps that I have tried lately.

Analog Experiments, same price as above, totally different story: The weirdest collection of synth loops that will cover all of your nightmares. If you are involved in any sort of film music, then this collection is screaming out your name and inviting you to spend a few of the best-sounding, worst moments of your life. Unmissable for every Friday the 13th.

Klang, being a bit cheaper (about $26 USD or €19 EUR), offers a nice collection of various non-percussive percussion elements. A bunch of chair, guitar bag and other “beat-them-with-a-drum stick” objects, ideal for making your Deep House song even more unique and original.

To be continued.

That’s all for now. In an upcoming issue, new Ableton adventures. EDM or bust. On a tight budget of course…

Ueberschall The Voice 1 & The Voice 2 Through Bestservice.de

Here are two old vocal packs with dated demo clips, but as soon as we blow the dust off, we can find up-to-date vocal phrases that can shake the charts.

by Alex Arsov, July 2014

If you are a musician without being blessed with a nice voice, then you are a Ms. or Mr. Unlucky, constantly looking for any sort of vocal lines, sampled or real. The fact is that the human voice is the most recognizable instrument. Even if you are doing mainly instrumental music, you will need a sample or two of a real voice, as even just a few human voices can drastically improve a song, giving it a touch of life and pushing it onto a whole new level. Even if you already have a lead vocalist, those voice libraries could still find their place as great background builders. It’s kind of boring using the same vocal for lead and background vocal. So if you are a good producer but a bad vocalist, then having any vocal library is almost a must. Sometimes just one vocal phrase can build a whole song.

From Liquid to Elastik 2

The Voice Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 libraries were made originally for Liquid, a plug-in that allows you to change notes inside the sample, some sort of a Melodyne-like instrument that was used for some of the Ueberschall libraries. It looks like Ueberschall has abandoned the Liquid engine, so now those two libraries are in Elastik 2 format. Elastik 2 is a plug-in that can stretch a sample in real time, synchronizing it with the song tempo, and offers an internal keyboard where you can assign selected loops to different keys for playing through a MIDI keyboard or exporting to a disk. (Currently Elastik 2 doesn’t support dragging of samples directly to the arrangement window inside a DAW.) With Elastik 2 you can change the pitch of the whole phrase or sample, so you can still adapt the key of the chosen sample, but you can’t change notes inside the phrase or sample as was possible with Liquid.

The Voice Vol. 1 & The Voice Vol. 2

Both packs have the same price, €99 EUR or $135 USD each. They are not latest Ueberschall libraries, being they’re from 2007 or 2008, but I found that they still sound very up-to-date and fresh. The overall quality of the recorded material is on a really high level, nothing new for Ueberschall. After all, vocal phrases don’t sound dated on any level – actually, both libraries offer those sorts of vocals that you can hear on all charts, all the time. I presume that you can’t make a full lyric song out of these libraries, but you could easily find enough quality material to fulfill your dance EDM arrangement, or to cover all background vocal needs in any sort of R’nB, Pop, or any similar contemporary genre.

All female phrases are doubled with male voice, so layering or building a tension is just a matter of one click. Also, at the end of the phrase is the key in which this phrase is recorded. The Voice Vol. 1 brings 300 different short vocal phrases (2400 samples – 3 GB disk space), mainly composed of few-word sentences expressing some feelings or statements (“Back on my feet,” “Be somebody,” “Let me love you,” and similar), while The Voice Vol. 2 brings another 300 short vocal phrases, this time non-verbal ones, not just “Oh” and “Ah,” but all sorts of other “Doo-wah schooby-dooby dah” ones.

Every phrase or vocal line inside both libraries is completed out of eight lines, four for female and four for male. Female vocals are not aggressive, but nicely balanced on the edge of a breath vocal, still strong enough to build a really nice melodic atmosphere, and the same goes for the male vocalist. Every line can stand by itself (which is not always the case with backing vocals), so you can gradually build tension, adding additional voices until you don’t quite reach a full choir from all the layers.

Oldy Goldy

It is a funny thing that you should spend some time finding these libraries on the Best Service site, the same as for Ueberschall, especially as they sound as they were recorded yesterday, and not so many years ago. I used a few of those samples in my newest EDM production and they made those songs even more up-to-date. Libraries from 2007 that can help you to sound like those fellows on Beatport during the upcoming summer of 2014.

Finding really good vocal phrases is not so easy, and it never was, so it is worthwhile to take a shovel in hand and dig deep around to find good ones. So, for €180 EUR or $245 USD (Best Service offers a 10% discount when you buy both libraries), you can get 600 different vocal phrases, 4800 samples, eating just 6 GB of your valuable disk space.

We are constantly bombarded with some up-to-date libraries that try to bring us some retro sounds, and I finally found two retro libraries that sound up-to-date. Very up-to-date. So if you are looking for some vocal lines, just don’t sound like everyone else (using new vocal libraries that everyone uses). Instead, dig out of the dust something that everyone already forgot.

The archaeological department of Soundbytes magazine presents to you The Voice Vol. 1 & The Voice Vol. 2.

http://www.bestservice.de/en/the_voice_vol_1.html

http://www.bestservice.de/en/the_voice_vol_2.html

In listening to the demo clips, don’t be fooled by dated musical backgrounds; they are not included in the package. 😉

Director of Archaeological Soundbytes Department.

Alex ( dig deeper ) Arsov

Review – Addictive Drums 2 by XLN Audio

 

Additive Drums 2 is the successor to Additive Drums. Our reviewer thinks that XLN Audio has done a terrific job of improving on the original and explains why in this in-depth review.

by Rob Mitchell, July 2014

 

XLN Audio is based in Sweden, and they have been making music software since 2005.  The company is co-owned by mega-songwriter and producer Max Martin, and they are the makers of the successful products Addictive Keys and Addictive Drums.

In a past issue of SoundBytes, I wrote a review on SONAR X3 Producer. X3 includes the original Addictive Drums, but I couldn’t go into much detail on it, the reason being that the review was really more about SONAR itself, and not the drums included with it. There so much to cover when reviewing a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that the bundled instruments get little coverage.

When I heard XLN Audio was going to release Addictive Drums 2, I jumped at the chance to give it a full review this time around. I played the drums for over twelve years before going into the electronic production of music. As you can probably guess, a product like this is right up my alley, and so I felt like a kid on Christmas morning when I was installing it.

Installation was easy, and the copy protection is by way of a product key. You just create an account on their site, use the XLN Online Installer program to connect to their website, and then download and install any products you’ve purchased after entering the key.

Addictive Drums 2 is available as a standalone instrument, and as a plugin version to load in to your DAW.  The supported formats are VST, AAX, and AU in both 32 and 64-bit.

There are different Bundle packs available on their website, and you basically get a choice of what will be included.  This way, you get what you want, and everyone is happy. To me, I really think this is a good idea. There won’t be an excess of extra drums/cymbals you didn’t really want in the first place, and so the end value is higher.

Each Bundle has a certain number of drum kits, which are called ADpaks. They also add in some MIDIpaks, each of which has lots of MIDI groove patterns ready to load. Finally, there are the KitPiece paks, which are separate drums you can add on to the ADpaks.

The parts of the bundles are available separately, and each ADpak includes the Addictive Drums 2 engine. For instance, you could just buy the Metal drum-kit/ADpak, as it already includes the AD2 engine. If you decide to add more to that drum kit later on, you can buy additional MIDIpaks and KitPiece paks from their website. 

 

The Interface

After loading AD2 in your DAW (or after running the standalone version) it will display the Gallery section. You can skim through any available ADpaks from here. It also lets you know in the upper-left corner if you have an ADpak that you have purchased, but you just haven’t installed it yet. If it isn’t installed, it will display (you guessed it) “Not Installed”.  If you didn’t buy a particular ADPak, it will mention that it is available for purchase.

At the bottom of the Gallery screen are the two ExploreMaps for that drum kit. Clicking either of those opens up a screen with presets that use MIDI patterns to show off the drum kit’s sound. A preset contains all the settings that affect the sound of the drum kit that is loaded. 

Clicking on the play button for each preset will let you preview its sound. There are additional controls that you can adjust for the levels of overhead/room microphone levels, as well as the high hat, snare and kick drum levels.

The Kit Screen

On the Kit screen, you can control the individual drums and cymbals for whichever drumkit you’re working with. In the original Addictive Drums, there were 12 slots for you to use. In AD2, there are now 18 slots available for each drum kit, and each slot can have a different kit piece loaded.  Clicking the “L” in the upper left of each slot will bring up the KitPiece Browser. Clicking the “E” button brings you to the Edit screen for that kit piece. I’ll get into more detail on the Edit screen later.

Kit pieces can be selected from any ADpak/drumkits that you have installed. After opening the Kitpiece Browser, you just click on any kit piece and click “Ok” at the bottom right to load it into your drum kit. Clicking “Cancel” will keep the original one that was loaded for that drum kit. In the lower right, you can filter what kits you can select from.

Another way to load a different kit piece is by clicking on the name at the bottom of each slot. Instead of loading the Kitpiece Browser, it just shows a list of all the drums or cymbals available. This works faster than the browser, but the tradeoff is that there’s no screenshot of the kit piece for reference.

Every slot also has Mute and Solo buttons, and a volume slider control on the right side. A link control lets you link up the snare or kick drum to another slot in the drum kit. For instance, you could layer 2 snares, beef up a kick drum with another low tom or kick drum, or whatever else you’d like. This is only for the snare and kick however, and it would be great if they could expand this to any other slot of a drum kit.

When you click on any cymbal or drum on this screen, you can preview its sound. The velocity (a soft or hard strike) depends on how low or high on the screen that you click with your mouse in the slot. Of course, using a MIDI keyboard will work fine for this, and you won’t be using the mouse as much.

There is a mixing console at the bottom of the Kit screen, Edit and FX screens. From here you have control over the panning, mix levels, and you can mute or solo tracks. There are ten mono channels that are for the closely mic’ed parts of the sound, while the Overhead and Room channels are both stereo. The Bus is stereo also, and you can send whatever channels to it that you’d like.  This lets you change the sound of certain drums or cymbals before sending them back into the mix.

At the bottom of each channel, there is a control to reverse the phase, and another to change the output for that track. This makes it easy to send certain channels out to their own tracks in your DAW. You could then apply your own effects of your choice (compression, gate, reverb, etc.), and manipulate the sound even further. If you decide to use a separate out, click the arrow at the bottom of the mix console for that channel, and choose between sending a channel to the Master channel, a Separate out, or to the Master + a Separate out.

 

Edit Screen

In the upper right is the button to get to the Edit screen. You can also get to it by clicking the name of a drum or cymbal on the mix console.

In the Kitpiece Select and Controls sections, there are controls to adjust the individual overhead and room mics for the selected kit piece, as well as panning and width. You can also change the response, pitch, tone, and adjust the volume envelope. The Insert section below that lets you add many different types of noise, EQ, compression, a transient shaper, and a tape saturation effect. These all work in a per-channel basis, but can also be used on the Master insert.

For the snare and kick drums, you have some added features. The snare has top and bottom microphones, while the kick has beater-side and front-side microphones. This allows you to get the sound from either side of each drum. Using a slider, you are able adjust the amount between the two microphones, and even add an amount of snare “buzz”. That’s the sound a real snare drum makes when the kick or toms are played, as they will vibrate the snares on the bottom of the drum.

I was a little confused at first while working with the Edit screen, and trying to switch to another kit piece. If you click the button with its name on the console, “Kick” for instance, it switches everything on the screen so you can edit anything about that kit piece.  At the top left, if you click on “Kick”, it switches only the Kitpiece Select and Controls section, and not the Inserts section below it.  After working with it for a while, it became second nature for me.


FX Screen

On top of all the other effects that are on the Edit page, you also can use the FX screen to your advantage. It has two “Delerb” units which are both identical to each other. They are a combination of both delay and reverb, hence the name. You can easily copy/paste settings from one Delerb to the other if needed. This copy/paste method also works the same way in some other areas of AD2.

The delay has controls for the delay time, (0-1000 ms, or you can use Sync), feedback, swing, and ping-pong amounts. The reverb section has four different reverb algorithmtypes, and features a good amount of controls for predelay, decay, damping amount, and swirl.  The swirl control adds a richer sound to the tail section of the reverb’s sound. Each Delerb has a slider control that lets you balance the amount between the delay and reverb.

On the right side is the EQ section which has a two-band EQ, as well as high and low pass filters. There are frequency, gain, and Q controls for the EQ. You can change their settings by clicking and dragging up or down on the displayed amount at the bottom of the graph, or dragging the points or lines in the graph itself.

Above each of the ten channels in the FX screen there are two Sends. You can use these to “send” the signal over to either of the two Delerbs.

One feature I really like is in the Output section. Here you have the ability to use either a “Pre” or “Post” setting. Since the Master out has its own insert for effects, you can have it set to “Post” (for example) so the reverb comes in after any effects the Master insert may have.    

 

Beats Screen

On the Beats screen, you can select from any of the MIDI beats that shipped with AD2 and any additional MIDIPaks you may have purchased.  There are filters near the top of the screen to easily narrow down your search to just what you’d like.  If you’ve marked certain ones as favorites, you can find them again by clicking the FAV BEATS icon.

The MIDI beats can be quickly dragged and dropped right in to your music project when used in a DAW. Using your own MIDI files is easy: just add them to the correct directory and they will be accessible from here as well.

The Grid Search lets you search for patterns similar to what is in a grid. The grid itself is like a step sequencer window, where you click on the little squares of the grid to add or take away a beat. 

The Transform function is great as it lets you change the accent of the beats and vary the velocity range of the pattern. You can also add human qualities by using an adjustable amount of random timing and varying velocity. 

 

Conclusion

Addictive Drums 2 is overflowing with great features, letting you easily manipulate any part of your drum kit. I went into much detail on many other sections of AD2, but I wanted to briefly mention a cool feature called Cloud Sync, which lets you upload presets and access them from their cloud-based system. The Snapshots feature is very handy since it lets you save the settings you like the most and recall them later with four different “snapshots”.

The Audio Recorder will record a WAV file of whatever you play in AD2. It will record up to 15 seconds, or until there is no more audio. Then you just drag and drop the file into your DAW’s project. You could use this for all kinds of things: layering sounds, reversing them, or slicing them up once they’re in the DAW … it’s all up to your imagination.

As I mentioned before, Addictive Drums 2 is available in the separate ADpaks, so you can choose just the drum kit you’d like. You can also pick from 3 different bundle formats which all include more than one drum kit, additional MIDIpaks, and Kitpiece Paks.

If you just want one ADpak, the retail price on their site is $89.95, and the bundles range from $179.95 to $449.95.

More info about Addictive Drums 2 is on their website here: http://www.xlnaudio.com/addictivedrums/

You can watch the introduction video there, and download a free demo version as well. XLN Audio has done a terrific job of improving on the original Addictive Drums. With its great sound, ease of use, and improved effects, they have put together a top notch product that is a must-have for musicians and producers everywhere.

 

The Others: Less Well Known Drum Software

 

This article hopes to show people how to venture beyond the much used-and-abused, and sometimes overhyped, usual drum kit players and to show the wide variety the market has to offer.

by Suleiman Ali, July 2014


Introductory Notes

This article is written in the hope that people will venture beyond the much used-and-abused, and in some cases overhyped, products (AD2/EZ2/SD/SSD4/BFD3/ARD etc.) and see the wide variety the market has to offer. I am using or have used all of the below mentioned (amongst others) and would like to share my experiences in this area. And no, there is no such thing as too many drum plug-ins!

Note:

1. These are all software packages that I purchased (or used publicly shared free versions), not NFR copies, and I’m describing my experiences as a regular user.

2.It goes without saying that I have included only the ones where the developers/company is responsive to user queries and prompt in technical support (which to me is the first thing to be evaluated when buying online).

3. All of the below are purchase-and-download and feature simple, straightforward installations and licensing/security without any dongle BS. Furthermore they are PayPal friendly.

4. Also just for the record I used all of them on 64-bit/Win 8 with Reaper 64-bit (v 4.62), and all of them except Drumcore 3 have 64-bit versions. Furthermore, I found all of them to be 100 % crash free with the exception of Jamstix 3 and Adam Monroe Beats which are more like 95 % crash free. But Adam Monroe Beats can also be treated like a great collection open drum sample WAV files and MIDI loops.

5. The prices are given in USD and were updated on 08-Jun-2014 given above from the developer’s/company’s websites and are shown for the standard version. There may be deluxe or XL versions that are considerably more expensive. There also may be cheaper lite versions.

6. These are just overviews based on a single use case (my music making endeavors) and many of your questions may be better answered by either visiting the website, reading the FAQ or manuals, contacting the developer or checking out the demos (if available).

7. There’s a reasonable shootout provided at the end of this article, to let the reader hear what I’m talking about. It’s a zip file containing stereo stems for almost all of the reviewed software playing the same MIDI test file and is around 80 MB.

 

The Good Stuff

Drumasonic Luxury ($ 138) & Drumasonic 2 ($ 221):

These are easily the best/most-detailed drum plug-ins in the category of that which does not break the bank. The library has immaculately detailed sampling (22,000 plus samples in Luxury). With the built in sound shaping options the included couple of kits are essentially all you will ever need and you can get hundreds of completely different kits from all the sound shaping and mic options. There are three selectable beater types and many mic positions leading to even more variety. Combine this with the included top-notch processing FX and routing possibilities allows you a huge amount of control on the sound. A pretty nice groove player with a lot of MIDI is included. This groove player allows to audition the MIDI grooves (and fills) and also modify them by changing the length, the time (including triplets and /3 signatures) as well as per instrument track based lag or lead. Then you can drag and drop the MIDI into your DAW. The MIDI mapping is configurable and includes mappings for most common programs / formats. This works with Kontakt Player 5 (no need for full Kontakt). I cannot stress enough as to how amazing and realistic the drums sound in these plug-ins.

http://drumasonic.com/

 

 

Volko Alaturka Drums ($ 39 / $ 119):

These are four very nice (and very warm sounding) kits with tons and tons of exotic/ progressive/odd/Eastern MIDI rhythms (and fills) for dragging and dropping to your DAW. There is an aesthetically pleasing interface and a fast engine. At least ten velocity layers and round-robins are there for each kit so you end up with a very realistic performance when used with the included Eastern MIDI grooves. The evaluation is fully functional (a Reaper tradition). The two prices mentioned are non-commercial and commercial licenses , another Reaper tradition. Seriously, the discounted license is a straight no-brainer!

 http://www.volkoaudio.com/?page=product_alaturka_drum


 

 

MT Power Drumkit 2 ($ 50):

One single kit but what a great kit! With the included bread and butter MIDI’s (grooves and fills), you can built a whole song in short time in the arrangement area and then drag the resulting MIDI into your DAW. That in itself is a very useful feature (that has since been ripped off by some others). Plus the MIDI mapping is fully customizable including templates for most common drum programs so it can drive others or can be layered. It has an overall nice GUI and a fast engine. I don’t know the sampling details , but there are plenty of dynamics and no machine gun effect so I’m guessing its deep enough. Plus the webiste mentions that they took a different approach to sampling to get better expression (letting the drummer play grooves at different intensities and snipping the samples) and it definitely worked. The kit is pre-processed and ready to mix. If you are looking for a fast, cheap, efficient solution to use in modern rock projects this should be your first choice.

www.powerdrumkit.com/

 

 

Adam Monroe’s Beats ($ 50):

This one is the new kid on the block, but it’s getting there with constant bug fixes and improvements based on user feedback in the VSTI. Plus all the WAV files are open (a much appreciated fact) as are all the included 500-plus MIDI grooves and at the ridiculously cheap price that’s a bargain in itself. Sampling has at least ten velocity layers plus at least two to three round robins. The interface allows swapping kit pieces and assigning each to any MIDI note you wish. The price is a steal just for the included WAV samples (30 freaking kits!) and the MIDI grooves plus fills. I hope Adam keeps developing this further, as this has great potential.

www.adammonroemusic.com/

 

Drumcore 3 ($ 199):

A slightly different plug-in, this has very nice sounding kits and MIDI grooves (and fills). The difference is that it includes stereo wav files for each groove, and the MIDI grooves (as well as the audio grooves) are played by various celebrity drummers. It’s a nice and fast interface that allows dragging and dropping to the DAW in a heartbeat. You can mangle the audio or the MIDI using a Grabielizer function, save up to four mangled snap shots and drag and drop those to your DAW (instant fills and breaks!). Sampling is detailed plus you can mix in the provided audio loop files for more dynamics. You can even mix and match kits and add your own multi-velocity samples and loops (which is what many big name drum software packages lack). Many expansion packs are available. There’s a kid brother of this called Kitcore which is the essentially everything without the audio loops. Free version works perfectly but has only two kits and limited grooves with no possibility of adding your own kits or loops. Version 4 is coming out soon (with 64 bit support) and I can’t wait to see what it features.

http://www.sonomawireworks.com/drumcore/


 

 

Drummix ( Rock / Metal $ 30 each):

Two small single kits are available separately in rock or metal styles with nice sound signature and sufficient sampling detail. No grooves are provided though. Round-robin is implemented in a different manner as articulations are mapped to alternate MIDI notes. The sound is very nice but needs definite post-processing. There is also an older beta (not as good as the commercial ones) which is a free option.

www.bluenoiseplugins.com/plugins/drummix/

 

Jamstix 3 ($ 99):

Known for its amazing AI and the initially baffling controls, this is the ultimate virtual drummer but takes some getting used to. It is also a challenge to sometimes get it to do exactly what you want. But the manual, the videos and the forum (where the support is quite active) do help.  The included kits (which sound good and realistic but I’m not sure about the sampling depth) and the expansion packs are very nice as is the ability to output MIDI to drive any other drum plugin.

http://www.rayzoon.com/buy.html

 


Meldadrummer 5 ($ 135 intro price):

This is what all AI based drum plugins should aim for. Superbly designed by Melda Productions, this is the mother of generative drum software. With the video tutorials, help files and now a PDF manual, this can get you up and running within half an hour. It has a huge amount of quite good electronic and acoustic content included, and can drive other drum software as well as load your own multi-layered samples. That last bit needs to restated since its quite rare: it can load your own multi-velocity samples! This is now my go to drum software, sometimes using onboard sounds and sometimes driving one of the other plug-ins mentioned above, when I’m doing any song that goes beyond stock rock grooves. It can get you from zero to “drums are done” in five minutes including the fantastic range of built in effects. You can verify with the Mdrummer Small Free and the demo for Mdrummer Large that I am not kidding!

http://www.meldaproduction.com/plugins/product.php?id=MDrummer+Large

 

 

Other Options

There are many more interesting options which I have not had the chance to test since my GAS led to bankruptcy! It’s a wide and wonderful new frontier with a lot of possibilities and you will be surprised at what you can find. For starters check out these websites and their products:

www.drumdrops.com

www.centipeak.com

www.vi-elements.com

www.handheldsound.com

 

Comparison and Test

I have done a sample shootout for most of the plug-ins reviewed above, by playing a MIDI test file through each of them and rendering the results. No tweaking and post processing was done, except for some volume level matching.

Download here (69 MB zip file)

Let me know which sounds the best to your ears.

Interview – In Tune with Tone2


 

Tone2 is an audio software design company located in Germany which has been in business since 2005. Soundbytes talks with programmer Markus Krause and product manager Bastiaan van Noord.

by Rob Mitchell, July 2014

 

Tone2 is an audio software design company located in Germany, and they have been in business since 2005. They are known for their wide range of high-quality plugins, many of which are used by producers and famous artists from around the world. Some of their various synth and effect plugins include Nemesis, Gladiator, Saurus, BiFilter2, and Warmverb Multi-FX.

Markus Krause is the programmer, sound designer and graphic artist for Tone2.  Bastiaan van Noord is the product manager for Tone2. He also works on support, sound design, and testing of products.

I recently asked them for a quick interview, and they were kind enough to answer my questions for SoundBytes.

SB: Hello gentlemen! First of all I just want to thank both of you for taking the time out for this, as I know you are always busy at Tone2. To start things out: Markus, when did you first start programming, and what language did you start with?

MK: I started programming in the early 90s. PCs were still DOS based and there was not much audio software available. So I started to write trackers for SoundBlaster cards and tools to create sounds. It was developed with Turbo Pascal and Assembler.

SB: Bastiaan, how did you meet up with Markus, and how long have to you two worked together? Also, how do you handle all those customer support questions?

BN: We’ve been working together since 2006 and met up during the development of Firebird, I did beta testing and later on contributed to the factory presets.

Customer support overall has always been a good experience, you get to talk with people from all sides of the business. We try to keep things on a personal level when it comes to support.  I personally dislike the template replies some of the bigger business send out and think customers are entitled to a personal approach when it comes to questions or issues. Of course every now and then you run into an issue that’s not easy to solve, but all in all I think we’ve got a good track record so far.

SB: How did Tone2 actually get started? I had read that before Tone2, Markus had worked with reFX, the makers of Vanguard, JunoX, and Slayer plugins. Is that correct?

MK: I programmed the audio engines for reFX JunoX, Vanguard, PlastiCZ and Slayer. I had some new ideas like the HCM synthesis which is now used in Tone2 FireBird and Gladiator. But Mike (reFX) refused the development of new products. That’s why I was forced to restart another company from scratch.

BN: I remember first hearing about Markus when the original Filterbank (the one with the default host GUI) was released, I knew about Vanguard but was more into hardware back then.  I think Filterbank1 was actually one of the first software effects I used in my productions.

SB: Tone2 seems to always have new/innovative ideas, especially with Gladiator, Rayblaster, and your latest synth plugin, Nemesis. Do you guys think up new ideas together, or does Markus get a new idea and just run with it?

BN: We usually bounce off ideas each other for a while.  Ideally, this is that we’re each capable of looking at it from our own side, coders look at features in a more technical way whereas sound designers tend to look at features from a more creative side.  Each has its advantages since you basically want a combination of both to get a good product.

SB: How long does it take from when the first ideas are started until you have a working alpha version of it?

MK: Whenever we have good ideas we first write them down to make sure that we don’t forget about them later. Only few ideas result in a new product, sometimes years later, since there are many possible pitfalls: too high CPU requirements, a lack of sound quality, bad usability, no musical utility, overlap with other products, and so forth. That’s why I usually start with some basic idea and a prototype.

SB: Looking over the past plugins Tone2 has designed, one I haven’t seen is a modular synth. Is there a chance of seeing some form of a modular synth in the near future? If you did design one, I’m guessing it might not be the usual cables from here-and-there type of design most of them use. Tone2 seems to rethink the overall synth framework, and doesn’t just stick with the status quo. Any thoughts on that?

BN: I agree, a modular would definitely be a nice addition to the current catalog and we would make sure it has something new to offer. At the moment we still have a lot of other projects on our plate but who knows, a modular could be in our future.

SB: All of the Tone2 plugins have a great sound and easy to understand interfaces. Looking at that varied catalog of plugins: Are some of the ideas behind them derived from older brainstorms you may have had, but kept on a back-burner for future use?

BN: Yes, sometimes projects are simply too complex to work into a product or too CPU-intensive to work well on current systems. You have to take into account that not everyone is using the latest CPUs, so we always try to work on projects that offer something new but at the same time will run on older systems, which I admit is not always easy to do, but we think it’s at least equally important to bringing something new or innovative to the table.

SB: You must have such a busy schedule; Tone2 sound sets are being released for different synths at a good rate, while new development and testing continues on with new synths. What is the secret to keeping Tone2 as whole workforce running so smoothly?

BN: Perfect workflow and coffee.  🙂   We’re lucky to have a lot of good people backing us with patch design, demo song writing and beta testing. We sometimes drive them nuts with all these deadlines but I really have to thank these guys for all their help over these years.



SB
: On another note (no pun intended) I was wondering what hardware synths you guys like, and if you have any plans on getting any of the new ones released recently. One that I would love to get my hands on would be the new Moog Sub 37.

MK: I really love my Nord Modular. It’s a pity that this one isn’t developed further any more. I also like the Yamaha FS1R, which can do Formant synthesis and FM. But I haven’t used it a lot recently, since I replaced it with Nemesis. Another that I like is the Alpha Juno, because I like the hoover sound.

BN:  Akai MPC60, I’ve always loved Akai’s samplers and the MPC60 just was a wonderful piece of kit. The new Moog Sub is nice indeed.  I also like the Roland Gaia but use more software than hardware these days.

SB: I know you can’t give away details on any new project that might be in the works, whatever it may be, but is there any chance you can give any hints for the readers out there?

BN: We have been working on version 2 of ElectraX, which will be a very nice upgrade. I’m not sure what we’ll work on after that, but we still have plenty of good ideas to work out.

SB: On your website, I found some more info about others on the team: Anna, Michael and Troels. Do you all work out of an office, or are you situated in different areas?

BN: Most of us still work in different areas. Communication-wise it can be a bit of a challenge but at the same time it does offer some advantages – the fact that we all have our own studio equipment at hand, for example, and we’re not really tied to standard office hours this way.

SB: Finally, I have to ask: Is Pimpel still pulling out the cables? (Pimpel is a pet dog they have.)

MK: After several cables Pimpel noticed that they don’t taste well. I won’t go into detail what she did with the carpet …

SB: I appreciate the time you’ve taken for all my questions, and I’m sure the SoundBytes readers will enjoy hearing from both of you. Thanks so much for all the info, and here’s to a happy and prosperous future for Tone2.

BN/MK: You’re welcome.  We hope all the SoundBytes readers enjoy the interview as much as we did.

 

For more info on Tone2 and their products, you can visit their website here: https://tone2.com/index.html

 

 

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