Review – Beatbox Anthology 2 from UVI and Rhythmology from Sample Logic
Boisterous beats and rabid rhythms: two new beat instruments show their respective sampling engines to great effect.
by Suleiman Ali, July 2017
Despite the prevalence of Kontakt as the sampler of choice these days, it has a couple of major drawbacks that haven’t been addressed to date. This is rather surprising given the long road it has otherwise traveled in terms of new features. One drawback is the lack of accessibility through any kind of GUI elements for the more powerful sampler features, leaving the users of sample libraries severely limited by the options the developer makes available – not to mention it making developers work all that much harder. The other drawback is the actual size of the existing GUI, text , graphics, etc. I mean could it be any tinier? Why can’t it utilize the ample screen real estate that most modern producers have with multiple monitors, etc.? While I’m a person with good vision right now, I can only imagine the pain the interface must cause in others with weaker eyesight. It is, then, an absolute hats-off to developers like Sample Logic and Realitone in terms of making it much more appealing.
Grips notwithstanding, Kontakt remains THE software sampler, with a number of similar, and in some aspects, better, competitors (Independence, Halion, MOTU) bizarrely being ignored by the industry in favor of NI’s cash cow. More instruments for the other platforms will surely change this.
During the course of the writing this review, it quickly became clear that, at least in the GUI size aspect, UVI got it right from the get-go: easily legible and bold text, with sharp graphics. Just like Kontakt, it allows the developer to build on that with whatever they want. And just to give you an idea of what can be built with it, some mad geniuses came up with a little thing called Falcon.
Let’s do a scenario. Imagine if you are a producer who primarily deals with live instruments and you want to add some electronic beat makers to your arsenal. In this day and age, how spoilt for choice are you? One of the easiest ways you could do this is buy an all-in-one drum/beat-maker. “All-in-one” should cover the three basics : classic drum machine sounds (samples or emulated), synthesized sounds and loops/slicing.
If workhorses like EZD2, SSD4, SD3, AD2, etc. allowed the above mentioned second and third basic elements, we could have all avoided buying additional software. But sadly with these you are stuck with drum-machine samples. Loops and breaks need a whole other mentality and implementation as do synthesized solutions. Fittingly, one of the software titles reviewed here excels at loop manipulation while the other excels at drum machine sounds and sampling. With names like Rhythmology and BeatBox Anthology 2, the answer should be obvious. Here is where you can fine the details, with videos and demos, right from the horse’s mouth:
Just to get some technical details out of the way. I used a HP Pavillion i5, 8G RAM, with Roland Tri-Capture running Windows 10 and Reaper 64 bit. The downloads, installations and activations followed the standard model for each platform, and I was up and running in a short while.
The Looping Rhythms
The images below constitute a gallery of screenshots for Rythmology. Click on any one to see it full size.
Let’s dive right into what Rhythmology presents the user upon start-up. To be honest, the Samplelogic folks have outdone themselves. The interface is loud and clear with big enough buttons that live mouse clicking is not a nightmare. Playback is MIDI-controlled (with latch options) so that’s all good. This lovely instrument circumvents the aforementioned typical shortcomings by putting the GUI real estate to maximally efficient use. There are four loop layers, each loaded with a HUGE array of loops covering significant amount of genres. Each loop layer is divided into sixteen slices which the sequencer/grid plays in any number of steps up to sixteen. Here’s the real kicker: EVERY SINGLE step of every slice can have something happening to it in wide variety of ways. The screen shots give an approximation of the kind of power you have per step, not to mention, MIDI assignments to the various controls. If that itself was not enough, we have a randomize feature which randomizes whatever you wish. It reminds me a little of a similar feature in Transfuser, but this implementation is very clear. It can actually apply this randomization to your selected parameters every time the sequence plays or leave it as a one-off. You may end up playing for hours without noticing how much time is passing when you start testing out the various combinations, given the huge number of loops and the above loop mangling options.
By the way, there is more under the hood, if you weren’t yet already convinced. Every single effect on the individual layers as well as the master shows up as a clearly labeled and quite useful GUI with all the essential parameters. This is a great piece of work all around, bolstered by the number of loops on offer which are augmented through a superior randomization capability.
The price point is a bit steep and at $299, and there is competition from everyone from Geist 2 to Transfuser 2 to Loop Loft’s Drum Direktor (instruments which also qualify as competitors to Beatbox as well). If Kontakt Player got over its hang-up of no user samples policy it would be amazing, but as I said, you’ve got 5 GB of loop content and the kind of creative control that should have you grooving in no time, provided you have some groove in you in the first place.
Below is another a gallery of screenshots, this time for Beatbox. Click on any one to see it full size.
UVI had to work less since it had control over its GUI and that made things good from the start. This software is essentially a handy compendium of pretty much every blasted drum machine under the sun and then some, plus a noise tone generator. Then there is the much-appreciated ability to use your own samples in the other “parts” available in the sampler (although sadly not in the individual sample slots of Beatbox Anthology 2).
So you have your various electronic kit elements, each of which can be layered with two of the drum machine samples provided and then augmented with a third synthesis layer. Everything from the ADSR Envelope to filters to distortion to offsets can be done in the edit window for each of these drum elements. They can be sent to the two delays and two reverbs, etc. for more goodness. The sequencer is nice and simple allowing most operations to be done quickly thanks to something called “function”, which quickly allows various groove elements to be set across the track with ease. The there’s a whole range of built-ins inspired by the drum machine samples. If this wasn’t enough there is an abundance of audio loops available, again authentically sampled from the original machines, which can be layered using the UVI architecture (use another “part”).
The other part will take this loop, and slice it with a great visual interface. This is typical UVI and, as usual, it kicks serious ass. The screenshots show the wealth of options for looping including a graphic representation of the loop wave.
The sequences can be generated into MIDI and dragged to a DAW without issues. I made up a fair number of sequences with ease using features like the aforementioned groove elements and parameters like groove-and-nudge, but had issues playing them back through the instrument, until I pitch shifted them down a couple of octaves as per the helpful colored keyboard. It would have been easier to have it ready when I exported it, since I could demo the correct one as I built a song.
I would recommend Beatbox Anthology without hesitation to anyone into drum machines. For the price you would be hard pressed to do find a bigger collection (I can only think of Drums Overkill), although it does have a fair amount of competition, in both the full and player Kontakt worlds, and in other formats as well. If you are willing undertake the effort to collect it, a lot of this sort of thing is available out there for free as WAV samples that can be mapped to your free sampler of choice. But if you want to save yourself the trouble and have an exhaustive library with a great interface, sequencer and effects at your fingertips, this is the way to go. You have decades of history in a sleek ultra-modern interface.
So there you have it, more beats for the bang in your buck, and more loops than a RnB top ten.