Review – Thunder X3M from Strezov Sampling
Strezov’s Thunder X3M is a percussion library that offers a natural immediacy that’s very organic, much to our reviewer’s pleasure.
by Per Lichtman, May 2016
Thunder X3M ($329 MSRP, available for download at Strezov-Sampling.com) is a percussion library for the full version of Kontakt 5 and a completely revamped version of Thunder Percussion bundle I reviewed a year ago with roughly 9 GB of completely new content, bringing the total library size to 19GB. There’s a wealth of new content and almost everything you liked from the original is here with refinements and improvements. The only thing that got left behind was the bonus drum kit called “Iron Maiden”, which wasn’t up to the sonic standards of the rest of the library (hence a bonus) and also wouldn’t fit the new mapping. Since everything else that I liked from the original bundle is here now, you can get some background by reading the earlier review but I’m going to emphasize what’s new and has changed. You can also read more about Strezov’s approach in our interview this month.
Integration and Interface
Thunder X3M is now a single unified percussion library instead of a bundle. That means that the GUI and mic positions used are now fully consistent between sections and that content is a lot easier to navigate. That’s good because by my count those 19 GB of content yield 100 articulations (78 hits, 11 normal rolls and 11 single mic-position distorted/processed versions of those rolls), with five mic positions (three recorded, two processed with fx). As a result, being able to move quickly is especially important.
There are two patches for adding content from scratch: a basic one for the 78 hit articulations, another for the 22 roll category articulations. You can’t use the rolls patch to map hit articulations or vice-versa but given how differently they are used, that probably simplifies the organization for most people. Each patch has twelve zones, spread across the keyboard: if you’re using an 88-key keyboard, the first zone starts on low C and goes to F, the next zone goes from the F# to the B. This mapping is repeated for successive zones up a total of six octaves. Every key in a given zone plays from the same sample pool (which often has both several dynamic layers and many round-robins) with the same pitch, so the extra keys in the zone are just meant to make it easier to trigger.
Assigning content to the zones is a quick process, especially since the articulations are divided into sub categories. The rolls are divided into rolls and distorted rolls. The hits are divided into Low Ensembles, High Ensembles, Ethnic Percussion, Solo Percussion, Epic Metals, Sound Design Percussion and Distorted Percussion. These categories differ slightly from some of the pre-made patch “Multi Patches” options, and the .nka preset files you can load in the patch GUI.
The Multi Patches cover the overwhelming majority of the articulations and are All Clacks, Epic Metals, Ethnic Percussion, High Ensembles, Low Ensembles, Solo Percussion, Sound Design Percussion and Toms. You may miss a few articulations if you only use these. Then there are the .NKA preset files: “6-zones-of-punchy-taiko”, All Clacks, Epic Metals, Ethnic Percussion, High Ensembles, Hi-Hats, Low Ensembles, “Low_on_Steroids”, Processed Toms, Solo Percussion, Sound Design Percussion and Toms.
Completely New Content
Those of you that read my earlier review may be wondering where a lot of the new sample content is coming from. For starters, there are many totally new articulations: all the Solo Percussion articulations, all but two of the Epic Metals articulations and ten of the Low and High Ensemble articulations. I won’t go into great detail listing all the articulations (since the Strezov site and the manual already do that) but the new content really expands the scope of the library greatly, especially the Solo Percussion. Solo Percussion articulations include solo taikos, a Mahler hammer played on wood, gran casa and three different solo toms, each played with a choice of sticks or mallets. I also enjoy using all five of the anvils now found in the Epic Metals category.
Strezov Sampling went back to the original source recordings used in the earlier Thunder bundle and made a ton of revisions. In some cases the recordings were processed to create new mic positions (for instance, the bass position previously called “grinder” was added for some of the articulations that didn’t have it previously) and in all cases the sample editing was revisited from the ground-up. The result is that library feels much tighter and more consistent, and that some articulations that I previously felt could occasionally be a bit “too loose” are now right in the pocket.
Thunder X3M is now faster, easier to use and more refined but the raw power remains. The acoustic recordings have a very natural, unprocessed sound and area recorded in a balanced hall that makes it easy to mix into a variety of environments. The more processed sounds pack a different punch, of course. The rolls are easy to use: you hold the note and then move the modwheel to crossfade between rolls at different dynamics, infinitely looping until you let go.
The strength of the library lies in the flexibility (and the agility) that the sounds have due to the way they were recorded. Compared to libraries recorded in more reverberant spaces, the timing feels more precise and it is easier to play especially rapid figures – and you can mix the sounds into a wider range of spaces in post with additional reverb, et cetera. The new Solo Percussion have been some of the most used articulations in my tracks, making it fun to lay down a variety of interlocking rhythms between different instruments.
Is It Right For You?
While there are many percussion ensemble libraries on the market, Thunder X3M offers a natural immediacy that’s very organic. Thunder X3M goes much farther than its predecessor in terms of size and usability. There’s not only a wealth of content, but also some very deeply sampled articulations combining both an array of round-robins and several dynamic layers. This is a library that you can quickly get a lot of impact with, but it also offers a lot of room to grow. If you want a more reverberant sound of the box, there are several options. Those wanting a mixture of ensemble and solo percussion that’s more flexible to mix need look no further.