Review – Perc+ and XP1
by Per Lichtman, Mar. 2015
Perc+ is a percussion library specializing in cymbals, metal, unusual sounds and some world percussion instruments – oh, and by the way … it’s also a noble undertaking for a worthy cause.
What Is Perc+?
This one is for a limited time only: donate at least $25 USD at this VI-Control page before April 1st, 2015 it. Now here’s what it is. Sometimes as a reviewer, you get a chance to review something really unique and Perc+ is certainly a great example of that. Lux Nox, consisting of Chris Ons and Chris Harris, have made a percussion library that has been raising money for the Mr. Holland’s Opus foundation (still accepting donations before April 1st, 2015 at this VI-Control page, courtesy of Fredrick Russ). The library is called Perc+, a 14.5GB Kontakt 5.1 library (after the inclusion of XP1) that raised $10,555 USD in December 2014. Rather than being a bread and butter orchestral percussion library like Hollywood Orchestral Percussion or Rhapsody Orchestral Percussion, specializes in cymbals, metal, unusual sounds and a handful of world percussion instruments, always to great effect. The library includes content both for traditional percussion writing and for more esoteric sound design, with many recordings being full of vibe.
A Lot of Content
With the recently released free XP1 update, Perc+ has nearly doubled the number of NKI files from 64 to 128. Consequently, the instruments are now organized into nine folder categories and considerably easier to navigate. The update was handled intelligently by putting the new organization into an XP1 folder, preserving the original v1.0 structure and compatibility for any legacy projects users may already have been using. I appreciated the forethought since that included me.
The sample pool has also grown to roughly 14.5 GB, an increase of over 50% in size from the original release. When you consider that the bulk of the library’s content is single mic position, you start to get an idea of how much there is to work with. The library often uses two alternating round-robin samples but several instruments have less or more (including the viola gamba with up to ten round-robins). The patches differ in how they map different dynamics: in most cases, different dynamics are mapped to adjacent keys so that as you play consecutively from left to right the dynamic grows louder. In other cases, the dynamics are mapped using more traditional velocity layering, with the most extensive case featuring twenty dynamic layers on some notes.
The emphasis is firmly on a combination of both traditional metal instruments and a variety of unusual ones (I suggest starting with the stringed ones), rather than on trying to be a complete orchestral battery. Nonetheless, the scope of the library is greatly expanded by the inclusion of several “world music” drums in the skins section, which includes some of the most extensively sampled velocity layering in the library. Also of special note, the “tuned” section refers to mapping the instruments in other folders to respond to pitch rather than sampling “pitched vs. un-pitched” instruments being sampled in the first place.
The manual gives equal weight in documenting every patch, dedicating a page to each one and showing the keyboard mapping for it along with explaining how dynamic layers and round robins may have been used, among other things. It’s great to see a small developer go into so much detail and a nice surprise.
The Instrument List
Perhaps one of the best ways to understand Perc+ is simply to look at the patch list. I’m not sure if I’ve ever encountered another library that even approaches this degree of emphasis and variety for the cymbals.
- Ride Cymbal: expressive, expressive 2, prepared stick brush short 1+2, prepared rolls, fist perc soft-dark, creative x close tunable.
- Crash Cymbal: expressive, combistick felt, nylon brush, metal brush, metal brush far, extra light hits swipes, prepared stick light, prepared metal brush, prepare metal far, prepared stick hand, fist percussion, creative x-cose tunable, chain drags design, string drags design.
- Crash Cymbal 2: expressive, mallets, wool-nylon mallets 2, combistick felt, brush-stick light overtones, prepared stick, hand percussion soft, fist percussion, muted metal brush.
- Hi-hat: top cymbal stick light 1+2, bottom cymbal expressive.
- China Cymbal Large: normal, overtone rich far, overtone rich light close, fist percussion.
- China Cymbal Small: stick-brush, Combistick felt, varied percussion.
- Splash Cymbal: expressive, stick muted.
- China Splash Cymbal: spinning, spinning, spinning design.
- Trashformer Cymbal: normal, var percussussive 1+2, muted 1+2+3.
- Cymbal Stack: light, swirl design, mixed, gong stack.
- Finger Cymbals Bronze: normal, effects.
- Finger Cymbals Metal: normal, variation.
– Toy Cymbals
- Bell Cymbal: normal, prepared.
- Tam Tam: edge far, scraped far, mallet far, fingernail hits design, hand percussion.
- Wind Gong: normal, rolls performances, hand percussion 1+2, stick light perc.
- Chinese Opera Gong: normal, soft perc 1+2, design.
- Brass Bowl: mallet normal-prepared.
- (There’s also a Tam Tam and Wind Gong ensemble patch)
- Bowscape Elements Examples
– Bowscape Elements China: large (far and closer), small far
- Bowscape Elements Trashformer: far, closer, upfront, upfront 2
- Bowscape Elements Crash: far-extras, close
- Bowscape Elements Ride Upfront
- Bowscape Elements Splash Mixed
- Bowscape Elements Gongs: rubbed far, design
- Airduct Hand Percussion
- Vacuum Flask stick-mallet
- Vacuum Flask 2 Assorted
- Industrial Coffeemaker: normal and extra-close
- Little Percussion 1
- Little Percussion 2
- Tambourine: headless, headless rattle for design
- Oriental Tambourine: headless, headless auditorium
- Rainstick Short
- Rainstick Long
- Frame Drum Small
- Frame Drum Large
- Darabuka (MW)
- Tambourine Head – Expressive
- Upright Piano: percussion and abuse
- Viola Da Gamba Percussion
- Brass Bowl: tuned (MW), tuned pad (MW)
- Finger Cymbals Bronze Tuned
- Finger Cymbals Metal: tuned, tuned (MW)
- Toy Cymbals Tuned (MW)
- Bell Cymbal: tuned (MW), prepared tuned (MW)
- Bell Finger Cymbals Pad (MW)
- Bowscape Elements Pad Example: 1 and 2
- Vacuum Flask Tuned
Anyone that got that for just a $25 donation in December got way more than their money’s worth. This really is a collection unlike any other.
Perc+ makes extensive use of Kontakt effects by default but I found the recordings sounded great when all the effects were disabled (which as a mixing engineer with an array of my own FX is my normal sample library preference). The Kontakt effects are mapped to a pleasant two tab GUI, with some falling into the main tab and others the Effects tab. Different patches start with different FX settings tailored to that specific sound. The Kontakt effects used include limiting, EQ, saturation, compression, transient modification, tape saturation, chorus, flanging, a rotary effect and reverb. While I didn’t use these much, I will say that the GUI Lux Nox created is a lot more visually appealing than what Kontakt itself uses when you enter instrument edit mode.
I used the library both in a more traditional orchestral setting, in world music tracks and even in some drum and bass tracks. The large frame drum offered a great amount of heft and variety both in a raw state, and when processed for a more industrial sound, offering some of the “biggest” sounding samples in the library. Perc+ altruistic origins and low donation price belie a real heavyweight percussion library here.
Pleasantly, the quirks I sometimes found in the sampling of the library all appeared to be intentional and the sonic quality was very high.
As I mentioned earlier, this library is only issuing new licenses until April 1st, 2015 and the process is a little unusual so read carefully.
Step 1: Donate a minimum of $ 25 on this url:
(Note: disregard the text about “upgrading” – for a minimum donation of $ 25 you get the original library + the expansion. But of course, everyone is welcome to donate more if you want.)
Step 2: Forward the e-mail receipt (that you receive after donating) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Within 48 hours, Lux Nox will manually send you the download links.
Is It Right For You?
Perc+ offers much value for the money. If you have Kontakt 5.1 and like cymbals, gongs, world percussion, prepared percussion or unusual sounds I would definitely advise picking it up. It’s quirky and full of vibe but often surprisingly professional in the degree of sampling detail. If you want something a little different from the normal orchestral percussion libraries or “big sound” percussion libraries, this is a great one to check out.