Review – Hideaway Studio S-VX Hybrid Library and Orbitone Collection
Hideaway Studio is becoming a far cry from a hidden treasure. We look at two superb offerings from this relatively newcomer in the Kontakt sound offering marketplace.
by David Baer, July 2013
Hideaway Studio (http://hideawaystudio.wordpress.com/) is a recent entrant into the Kontakt-sounds vendor space. Since their first offering in Dec. 2012, they have been producing new sound sets at a prodigious rate … making some people wonder “where the hell did these people come from all of a sudden?” Well, first of all, Hideaway Studio is just one person: Dan Wilson. Prior to Hideaway Studio becoming a must-have-bookmarked Kontakt sound supplier, Dan was probably most widely known for his restoration of 1938 Novachord. That story makes for fascinating reading if you’re into ground-breaking early electronica: http://www.novachord.co.uk/.
Dan then collaborated with Hollow Sun to produce two Novachord sound sets for Kontakt. It was this collaboration that set the wheels turning that would eventually get Hideaway Studio on track to be the preeminent sound factory it has so recently has become. Dan is an electronics wizard and by some accounts a bit of a mad scientist (Mr. Howell, no worries … I have no intention of revealing the source of that information!). Fortunately, his interests seem to focus on vintage sound gear of all sorts … to our very great benefit. The result is the growing collection of wondrous, unique and fascinating sounds for Kontakt being made available from Hideaway, all for remarkably low prices.
In this article we’re going to look at Hideaway’s first two major offerings, both released in Dec. of 2012: The S-VX Hybrid Library and The Orbitone Collection. Both of these require the full version of Kontakt, as will most of the packages that will be reviewed in this column in the future. For the most part, we’ll be looking at attractively priced offerings in this column, and the only way sound producers can keep the prices low is to avoid the royalty payments required by NI for free Kontakt player compatibility. If you do not own Kontakt, just be aware of the fact that every month brings new and compelling reasons why you should consider taking the plunge and acquiring it.
Combining S-VX Hybrid Library and The Orbitone Collection into a single review makes sense for several reasons. Most significantly is that they offer very similar capabilities. They are essentially the same Kontakt instrument delivered with different underlying sample sets. Hideaway asserts the two are quite complementary when combined … an assessment I’m very inclined to agree with.
We’ll start by examining the S-VX library (hereafter, “S-VX” for brevity). By the time we get to the Orbitone collection, all that needs discussion will be the samples. If this instrument looks like something you might get from Hollow Sun, it’s no coincidence. Hollow Sun’s Stephen Howell did the interface design and Kontakt scriptmeister Mario Krušelj did the layering engine script.
The sample sets for S-VX share a common sampling process. Hideaway got its hands on an S900 sampler (pictured) which was manufactured in the mid-80s. This was a 12-bit machine with a whopping 750 KB of memory and used a floppy drive for sample storage. But the story doesn’t end there. In Hideaway’s own words:
One feature of the S900 that was often overlooked was a curious 13 pin connector on the rear panel marked “VOICE OUT”. … AKAI had released a small number of polyphonic analog synthesizers during the same era as the S900. These included the AX73 keyboard and the VX90 rack mount. They have often been overlooked over the years possibly due to their rather control-free front panels and menu driven user interfaces. … The infamous 13 pin connector permitted the sampler to be used as a complex oscillator source driving the filter stages and VCAs modulated by the envelope generators. In short, you get to mix 12-bit digital crunch with the warmth of analog filters!
When you first encounter the S-VX and play through the presets, you’ll hear a collection of lush, rich-sounding, multi-sample stacks of sound. But turn off all the effects and three of the four layers and listen to individual samples in isolation. These sounds are so thoroughly vintage that you may feel the urge to sneeze at all the imagined dust.
The 32 different sounds (enumerated in the reproduced menu at the end of this review) are great by themselves, all being expertly sampled as we’ve grown to expect from Hideaway. But their real strengths become evident when layered, either slightly detuned (and perhaps pitch modulated) stacks of the same sound, or in complementary combinations. As can be seen from the user interface, building these layers is trivial, and I can think of few instruments (Kontakt or otherwise) where the user should feel so motivated to do some preset design of their own.
Each of the four layers has identical controls:
- On/off, level and pan position
- Envelope (attack and release, but no decay and sustain)
- LFO (directly wired to pitch) rate and depth (bi-polar so you can get layers to move opposite each other if desired)
- Tuning: semitones (more octaves than you’re likely to need) and fine tune
- Tone: an EQ curve control that is hard to briefly explain but the following image tells the whole story.
The four layers share an effects chain consisting of a reverb, an echo/delay unit, a phaser and a chorus. The reverb uses Kontakt’s excellent convolution engine and comes with 24 supplied types, pictured at the end of this article. The effects all sound great if used with restraint. But they are also the source of the only negative comment I have about S-VX. The presets suffer from Omnishpere-itis, being sound so drenched in verb, delay, etc. that they’d rarely be of use in a real mix (although they sound lush for solo demoing). But this is a trivial complaint as it takes no effort to adjust these seasonings to taste.
Let’s now turn our attention to the sibling offering, The Orbitone Collection. As said earlier, the layout and capabilities are identical to that of the S-VX, as you can see in the graphic below. What are different are the included samples … in this case 28 (again, listed at the end of this review). A whole battery of devices were used in their capture. In Hideaway’s own words:
1972 Eminent 310U (strings, pads, resonator choir, e-piano, organ), 1976 Minimoog (brass, pads, bells, chimes), 1938 Novachord (strings, e-piano), rehoused 1978 Polymoog Formant Resonator Section (choir), 1976 Revox G36 tube half track tape machine (g36 choir), Panoramic tube Dual Tone Generator (chimes, e-piano), two 1967 Heathkit EUW-27 tube signal generators (chimes, e-piano), ARP Omni Chorus section (strings), Hideaway Studio Triple Tube Hybrid Phaser (evolving pads, phased chimes) and Dual Tube Hybrid Filter (underwurlde sweep), Tube Ring Modulator (bell ratios), Discrete Dual Exponential Sawtooth Generator (french horns), Tube Overdrive and Passive Triple L/C Resonator buffered with Y-amplifiers from a 1968 Tektronix tube scope! (deep resonator vox), All sound sources captured via two Hideaway Studio Type TEQ-9B Active Tube EQs in 24-bits with the RME Fireface.
For all of that, the star attraction of the show is the Eminent 310U, a hybrid organ/synth beast from 1972 that Dan rescued and restored with the help of a fellow named Albert Steenbergen, who reportedly kept these instruments in working condition for notable 310U enthusiast Jean Michel Jarre.
More on the 310U, again in Hideaway’s own words:
The 310U boasts really quite an unusual architecture permitting a mixture of sustained and percussive envelopes to be applied to combinations of all of the timbres which can be layered together. There is also a gorgeous swirly six-stage analog stereo chorus “Orbitone” section and built in spring reverb. The instrument was significantly more complex than most combo organs of the era due to in the main to the polyphonic percussive and sustain controls using discrete analog technology throughout.
And so now we know where the Orbitone name comes from.
Orbitone and S-VX share much in quality of sound, offering a broad range of lush, complex layered sounds. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would be attracted to one of these not being attracted to the other. Furthermore, they complement each other beautifully. At 10 pounds (or roughly 14 USD) apiece, these libraries are a marvelous value. On the other hand, maybe they should be viewed with the caution one would a “gateway drug.” Once you get the Hideaway “habit,” resistance purchasing all their offerings may very well be futile.