Review – Master Sessions: Ensemble Drums Collekction by Heavyocity
This is a library of big drums for scoring professionals, but the price is accessible to all. So, maybe it is time to become a novice professional. Stock libraries want you.
by Alex Arsov, Nov. 2014
This sound library is a collection of big, epic drum kits and loops aimed for professional score composers. What does exactly have in common with you, as you are not a movie composer? Actually, I’m professional musician, but my most steady income has often come from my hobby, making music for stock libraries. After all it costs as much as an average VST instrument, the only barrier between you and the so called professional score composer the requirement for a full version of Kontakt. If you don’t have it, this library will work only 15 minutes per session.
There are plenty of big, epic drum libraries around; what makes this library so special, if anything? The first thing I noticed was that all drums and loops sound very “attacky”, strong and clean – very aggressive but without being annoyingly so or overly saturated with overtones. It is somewhat aggressive, only a gentle way. It strikes like thunder but remains harmonically well balanced, working very well with a string section without pushing the whole string section down when it hits really hard. Actually with some other big, epic drum libraries I’ve spent some quality time with, I’ve had to spend time cutting the low end on drums, trying to find that attack hot spot to sit well with a string arrangement. As you can hear from demo clips presented on the Heavyocity site, they also go well with dark synths and all other up-to-date score combinations (with various effects, and even with piano.) My main mastering trick for all types of genres is a final listen on my laptop, just with the internal speaker. Of course, you can’t hear deep basses on that tiny speaker, but it should sound balanced anyway, representing all the instruments equally. Try this library on your laptop speaker and you will be surprised. It still sounds very prominent, full and punchy without being annoying in any way. The second big issue, the reason this library stands out from the rank, is the total control that you have over the all drum components. Let’s not forget to mention the excellent stage window, where you can define space and position of all elements with a single click, from dry and close to the humming drums from far, far away, changing position on the fly.
Master Sessions Ensemble Drums Collection is divided into a Kit section and a loop section. There are seven different multi-sampled drum ensembles.
Every kit has its own window, where percussions are ranked mostly in two groups over the keyboard. Lower you can find tuned percussion, by semitones, while in the upper part of the keyboard you can find same sounds being compressed having a more aggressive, emphasized attack with greater punch attitude. The kits that we get in this package are Low Drums All, Low Drums Tights, Snares Off, Snares On, Tom Low Rotos and Bass Drums, Toms Highs and “Trap Case n Door”(an odd preset name for the sound of big containers) with Hi Ram versions.
In the middle of the main interface is a mixer section where we can see three big sliders for mixing between three microphone positions. If you don’t like the naturally recorded reverb from third microphone, you can decrease the level on that slider, adding additional reverb from the effect section on the left part of a main window. In the effect section you may choose between twenty different convolution spaces. But let’s return our attention to the main central part. For all three microphones, actually samples sampled with particular microphone position, we also have pan and tune knobs for defining those two parameters. Purge buttons under the mute, solo buttons will unload those set of samples for that microphone position – ideal for all “not enough RAM” users. At the top of the three sliders you can see two additional menus, Twist and Punish, opening on either of them will bring you a big knob for adding tone altering effect with Twist or adding additional compression and saturation with Punish knob.
Left of the mixer section is an effect section where you can tweak or even switch off one of the four effects that can be used with every kit. Those effects are Delay, Modulation, Reverb and Distortion. While on the right of that main window is a Volume envelope section where you can fine tune the ADSR envelope, and at the bottom is a Performance part for setting velocity level and pitch bend range, with a small button on the left of the bottom performance area that will open to you the gate to heaven. Then there’s a button that opens so-called “Stage” window. Here we can see some sort of a XY network where you can define ratios between overall gain, pan position and amount of reverb with just one click by pressing anywhere where net wires are crossed. I know it sound a bit weird on a paper, but in practice, it works like a charm. No objections here.
So, that’s about it for the main section inside the kit window. As you can see, at the top of the right side of graphical interface is an Equalizer section, where you get separate big window with more than enough controllers for all three channels to make your drums happy, or dangerous … it is up to you.
Under so called T-FX section you can find Advanced controllers, so specific and common to most of the Heavyocity libraries, a part where everything goes wild. This is actually a set of controllers that will make a whole thing a bit denser and more dynamic. The main content of this section is a dual step sequencer window where you can freely draw movements for up to two effects at once, making your drum arrangement more vivid and dynamic avoiding the repetitive feel inside the drum arrangement, even if you play the same pattern over and over. In a kit and loop sections this step sequencers could be applied changing the level of distortion, lo-fi, panning, filter and delay.
Loops come with the same set of controllers and an almost identical graphical interface, except that the mixer section is different as there is a loop graphical preview instead of the three microphone positions that are presented in a kit collection. Also there is a loop Mutator, we can find it on the same place where the Stage window is accessible in a kit library. This Mutator is basically an arpeggiator that can re-arrange MIDI notes you played through keyboard. Actually loops are recorded as some sort of REX loops so it is possible to re-arrange this way. The result is not always amusing, but with a little work and practice it is possible to get something new and interesting. The truth is that you should not overdo the parameters otherwise the result can be pretty choppy.
There are perhaps only 300 loops, but those loops are split into elements, and in the Mutator directory, you can load presets that contain various loop elements organized in keyboard groups: lower with loops containing lower elements, a middle range we can find loops that cover mid frequency and so on. Pressing various keys you can make new combinations out of these elements. Some presets don’t offer that option, but most do, so in spending some time combining elements it is not hard to get really new and fresh material, increasing the not-insignificant number of included loops to the maximum.
Along with this Mutator directory you will find a directory with single loops, another containing a larger number of loops ranked over the keyboard. All in all, those loops along with separated loop elements (combined from the kits, so we get hi drums, toms, etc. … separately, and all those parts build the loop) are ideal combinations when you use it with kit library.
Master Sessions: Ensemble Drums has a surprisingly friendly pricing given the sound quality and programming possibilities. The truth is that this is a pretty specialized product, aimed mostly for soundtrack, score producers, but if you are in that business, or if you have ever dreamed to start writing music in this direction, then this could be just the right thing for you. Stock libraries are waiting you.
I already have similar products, but this one offers a bit more flexibility than most other product in the same range, allowing you to get better results in less time. It is easy to program and it sounds very aggressive even without piling on a ton of effects; it cuts easily through the mix. Even just by listening to demo clips on the Heavyocity site, you will notice that Master Sessions: Ensemble Drums sounds very up to date. This is especially true considering the flood of various sci-fi movies that Hollywood has produced lately, with every battle or other intense scene in those movies being lined with these kinds of drums in combination with some dark drones or fast string lines.
$149 USD only, but you will need a full version of Kontakt.
More info and demo clips available at: