Review – Distort 2 from Strezov Sampling
Need some distorted rhythm guitar beds for your epic trailers, and need ‘em fast? Distort 2 is an electric guitar sample library for full Kontakt 5 from Strezov Sampling, for quick ‘n dirty distorted rhythm guitars.
by Dave Townsend, Nov. 2015
Distort 2 is an electric guitar (Gibson Flying-V) sample library from Strezov Sampling for full Kontakt 5.5. Its target audience is film and TV composers and orchestrators, but it’s going to be useful for anyone who’s after quick ‘n dirty (emphasis on the “quick”, but the “dirty” is pretty nice, too) textural power guitars.
Unlike most electric guitar libraries, which are usually recorded direct and rely on amp sims to dirty them up, Distort is an “amped” library, recorded through a real amplifier (Marshall JCM2000 with vintage speaker cabinet) with classic microphones (Peluso ribbon and Shure SM58) rather than through a DI box. You get separate left and right samples, meant to be hard-panned left and right for that classic wide distorted rhythm guitar sound.
What that means is you get a very nice distorted tone right out of the box with near-zero effort. Load it up and go. That’s often just what film composers want, because for them the distorted guitar is likely to be just one element in a larger composition that’s more orchestral than guitar-oriented, and they’re also likely to be working against a deadline.
What you give up for this speed and convenience is the wide range of articulations that products such as Orange Tree Samples’ Evolution Electric Guitars or Pettinhouse DirectGuitar offer. No squeals, slides or pinch harmonics — palm mutes, power chords and sustains, that’s Distort’s entire palette.
So no, you won’t be composing screaming metal speed leads with this library. Rather, this one’s specialties are low melodic lines, picked chords, power chords and driving ostinatos for orchestral underlays. But it’s exactly that narrow focus that makes Distort 2 so quick and easy to use.
A big part of the convenience Distort 2 offers is its no-fuss built-in tone. Aside from choosing your microphone(s), little to no tweaking is required to get an acceptable tone. But although quite pleasant and perfectly usable, that pre-recorded tone is somewhat generic. If you’d prefer to build your own tone with amp sims or even re-amping, the library also includes a complete set of “clean” samples. They’re still recorded through a Marshall and nicely sustained, but clean. They’re quite pleasant-sounding all on their own, or you can run them though external amp-sim, distortion and effects plugins for greater versatility.
But does it do Drop-D you ask? You bet. Still not menacing enough? How about all the way down to Drop-B? That’s deep.
Two close microphones were used in recording these samples, a Peluso R-14 ribbon microphone and a Shure SM-58, both studio standards for guitar amp miking. They are phase-aligned so you can blend them for tonal variety. Blending a warmer ribbon with the more-aggressive ’58 is a popular technique for capturing this type of guitar tone.
A third set of samples (labeled “Hall”) is from a distant stereo pair of Gefell SMS2000 small-diaphragm condenser microphones that may be switched to either stereo or mono. Mix them in to add some room sound – and yes, it’s that same big room where the Strezov folks recorded their string, brass and percussion libraries. A very nice-sounding room that will usually obviate the need for added reverb.
Tip: try playing a melody with the Clean sample set using only mutes and just the Hall microphones for a classic 60’s Surf Guitar sound. Something you don’t expect from a “cinematic” library. Also, when using just the Hall mics, you may want to switch them to mono for better panoramic definition.
Using Distort 2
In use, Distort 2 couldn’t be easier. By default, chords and single notes are all double-tracked and panned hard left and right. Load it up, throw in some one-finger power chords and mutes and call it a day. Or take your time and program some picked chords or multi-layered single notes, combine distorted and clean tones, or try automating mutes, sustains and power chords.
The keyboard is split into two zones: one for mutes, the other for sustained notes and/or power chords. This makes it easy to improvise credible rhythms on a keyboard by alternating between left and right hands. Not an accomplished keyboardist? No problem…two fingers and a sense of rhythm, that’s all you need. (No sense of rhythm? No problem…drop quantized notes onto the PRV grid in your DAW.)
A three-way toggle switch selects “normal” (sustained notes), I-V power chords or “Mixed”, a combination of the two. In the middle “Mixed” position, the left group plays single-note mutes while the right group plays power chords.
The mod wheel plays an unusual role in this instrument, as it modifies the samples’ attack rather than volume or vibrato as in most other libraries. Technically, what it does is delay the start time of the sample, which means that although it does affect volume and tone to some extent, mostly it just takes off the pick attack at the front of the waveform. This can add some variation and realism to a performance, such as alternating between full and softened attack.
As implied in the name, Distort 2 is the second version of this library. Distort 1 was similar in scope and design but featured a different guitar (Epiphone Flying-V) and amplifier (Mesa Boogie) so consequently it sounds a little different.
It’s also a bit more limited, having just one microphone and lacking the “Mixed” mode that combines sustains and power chords – with Distort 1 it’s one or the other.
Because Distort 1 is also included in the Distort 2 package, you actually get two different guitar/amp combinations. For that reason, it’s worth exploring Distort 1 even though version 2 has more options.
Vendor Info and Pricing
Distort product page and demos:
Check out this excellent video walkthrough by George Strezov:
If you’re impatient, jump ahead to 14:00 and listen to the whole demo song, which was made using only Distort (12 tracks) + bass + drums. You’ll know in two minutes whether or not Distort will fit into your toolkit.
Distort sells for $129, but at the time of this writing is being discounted to $99.