Review – Best Service Voyager Drums
Voager Drums is Best Service’s new horse in the acoustic drum samples race: a great drum instrument that sounds very good with intuitive controls that get you to your required drum mix fast.
by Suleiman Ali, May 2015
As a wise man once said, one can never have enough drums or drum samples. This very philosophy may have been responsible in part for the proliferation of a large number of drum software and sample sets/libraries in the current computer based music production market place.
I used an i5 based HP Laptop with 6 GB RAM running Windows 8 (64 Bit) alongside a Roland Tri-Capture audio interface. The DAW was 64 Bit Reaper version 4.77 and the plug-in itself (the Best Service Engine) was 64 Bit.
This brings us to the only such acoustic drum entry from Best Service in this arena, Voyager Drums. Best Service is a well-known company for their online store as well as the orchestral and scoring virtual instruments based on their own Best Service engine (which is powered by the Independence Sampler).
Setting up the instrument is simple enough. It involves downloading and installing the Best Service engine first, followed by downloading and installation of voyager drums library ( total size including the engine is 4.61 GB so a reasonable net connection is necessary). The online authorization is also straight forward and you are good to go in a conveniently short time.
It is advisable to first familiarize yourself with the Best Service Engine ( creatively titled “Engine”) by quickly reading through the included PDF manual. This will ensure that important information such as how to set-up multiple channels in your DAW from Engine. The idea is that Engine is the player that hosts the Voyager Drums library ( among other offerings from Best Service ), similar to how Kontakt or UVI instruments / libraries work.
Therefore you access the library by opening the Engine VSTI in your DAW and then selecting the relevant Voyager Drum instrument. The library shows up as 6 different instruments which consists of two different drum kits offered in three micing configurations ( full, direct and overheads ).
Once inserted into Reaper, the Engine offers up to 24 output channels ( 8 stereo and 8 mono outputs are available). This is especially great for multi-outing the drums to separate tracks in your DAW for individually processing each component. In my testing, I used 4 stereo outputs to 4 separate tracks only as they seemed sufficient for my needs ( kick, snare, toms and cymbals ). This proved to be more than enough for any additional bus processing given the slick nature of these mix ready drum sounds.
There are a total of five tabs , visible on the GUI bottom. The kit components themselves are presented in a simple and straight forward terms with the first four tabs. These help in selecting between pages for bass, snare, toms and cymbals. The options here include sliders to control the levels of the mic channels : Direct, Overhead and Room for each component (unless you are not using the full kit option, in which case the unused channels will be disabled).
The fifth tab (“Groove”) provides access to the selection of the included MIDI grooves. Enabling the arranger allows the triggering of the grooves via MIDI ( controller or DAW sequencer ).The obligatory shuffle, offset and randomization options are included. The included groove content can also be opened as MIDI clips and dragged and dropped to your DAW’s timeline.
I found the lack of too many options refreshing, and with three well recorded mic channels it is easy to get the sound you want quickly. Further tweak-ability is provided via the attack and decay options on each of the mic channels. These channels can also be turned on and off for cases such as a demand for a overheads and room mics only cymbals mix. There is a pitch dial and basic filter for each component. Lastly, in what may have been a brilliant move, Best Service has included synthesized drums sounds ( called “Trigger” ) for the bass drum, snare and toms. These provide for some subtle yet powerful reinforcement of the acoustic drum sounds in a mix context. This can also be turned off if desired.
There is also an effects section, which provides a compressor , an equalizer and a distortion effect. All the effects are basic but sound good and may make more sense if you are not multi-outing to your DAW.
Points of Contention
Although I loved the clear, detailed yet natural sound of the kits, I have a few minor quibbles with the software. The first one is that there are no options for making user custom drum MIDI mappings nor are any other drum maps included so the user is stuck with the default Voyager mapping. This is really a huge oversight since most users will usually have a large number of MIDI grooves from products like EZ2, AD2. SD2, SSD4 as well as GM standard files that they may want to use with the these excellent drum sounds.
The second point of contention is that changing the arranger’s MIDI groove mid-bar sometimes causes a few seconds of an out of sync effect. It may seem odd especially if you are triggering the loops in a live. These days it is a matter of course to include groove synchronization algorithms that ensure the MIDI loop never goes out of sync. There really should be a setting which allows to select between “switch groove after currently playing bar completes” and the current behavior. Also, while we are on the subject, like most of its competition, the MIDI loops should really be a part of a built in MIDI groove player that allows you to audition as well as drag and drop them to your DAW’s timeline.
The third minor point is that every time you change one of the trigger (electronic) drum sounds, you have go into the Engine’s formidable pro-edit and re-assign the output for the same.
As it stands, Voyager Drums is a great drum instrument that sounds very good (both the kits are top notch) with intuitive controls that get you to your required drum mix fast. With a few minor updates (such as including other commonly used mappings and a better MIDI groove implementation), this could be right up there with the competition.