Review – Two Innovative New Drum Instruments for Kontakt Player
The march of progress continues, with many new contestants being introduced in the wonderful world of virtual drum instruments. We take a look at two recent entries, and compare them to the competition.
by Suleiman Ali, Jan. 2016
Anyone remotely interested in drum libraries is aware of the large number of options that help in getting you from zero to drum hero in a short while. I have noticed a trend where the initial focus was on the technical sound aspects, followed by a wave of easy GUI and usability minded solutions. Currently, it’s a mix of both these types, with the titles like EZD2, AD2, SD2, BFD3 and SSD4 leading the way. Then there are the virtual ”drummer” innovators like MDrummer and Jamstix. Furthermore, you can find at least twenty other developers/companies that are making a name for themselves in the drum software world and often filling niches that some users find irresistible.
For some, market saturation may have been reached already, but for others (myself included) it is a great time to be alive and making music. Every new drum software title adds something to the spectrum, and the healthy competition pushes the makers to innovate constantly. On review this time are two relatively new contestants, Rattly and Raw’s Martin France Drums and Impact Soundwork’s Shreddage Drums.
Meet the Makers
Rattly and Raw are a UK company who has recently started making a name for themselves in niche products, and it appears from the marketing as well as the sheer depth of the software that Martin France Drums may end up being their flagship product. They promise completely real sounding drums that have minimal pre-processing, allowing the user to mix the drums as they would in a real studio. The sound can them be sculpted as per requirement using the on-board FX or external plug-ins.
Impact Soundworks have already made a name for themselves with a small but diverse (ethnic/world music to heavy metal) range of products that have been well received. Shreddage Drums is an addition to the Shreddage line (guitar / bass) and definitely fit into the modern-rock/metal mold, with mix ready sounds out of the box.
Both companies focus on Kontakt powered products, and these two are no different. But as you might have gathered, this is where the similarity ends. Each company has a very different philosophy, as can be gathered by the web pages for both products. Go on and have a look – I’ll wait.
The download and installation for both the products was a breeze, as was the activation. Both products work in the Kontakt Player as well as the full Kontakt, which should be good news for the small and poor contingent of musicians/producers who still have not given in to the extortion scheme.
I used Reaper (64 Bit) on Windows 8.1 with Roland Tri-Capture for testing, and both worked flawlessly as advertised on the latest Kontakt Player. Initial impressions confirm that both are indeed quality products. Furthermore, both of them fit bang into the niche described by their respective developers.
I will describe the work flow for Shreddage Drums first as it works pretty well out of the box, albeit in a modern rock and metal context. The included bread and butter MIDI loops go a long way towards reinforcing that impression (though definitely top notch Groove Monkey grooves themselves). The minimal controls are a breeze to work with, and the basics can all be tweaked with a WYSIWYG interface. There are a number of great presets to choose from, including a plain vanilla raw version which is great for people wanting to start out with scratch. Overall, it took me around 10 minutes from installation to hearing what it can do in different contexts, so I would defiantly rate the ease-of-use and intuitiveness as high for this product.
Martin France Drums, on the other hand, offers some pretty deep tweaking and some very raw sounding drums as a starting point. Again, there are a number of tweaked presets available, but in this case you will definitely want to delve deeper, because that is definitely where the instrument shines. This work flow takes longer to get used to, since the controls are at least twelve to fourteen tweakable knobs per drum piece. The love and hard work that has gone into this product definitely shows when you get to edit the individual mic decays for overheads, room and close mics (separately or linked), alongside the more standard mic level controls. So the depth of user controls is definitely a major selling point here.
Both the libraries offer plenty of variety in terms of kit pieces, with a wide spectrum of drums and cymbals available. Switching between pieces is fast and makes testing out different sounds in a mix context really easy.
Martin France Drums has four bass drums, eight snares, eight toms, eight rides, five hi-hats, and three crashes. These can be freely combined, and coupled with the deep editing, you can have your dream kit going in no time at all.
Shreddage Drums has three bass drums, five snares, six toms, one hi-hat and seven cymbals. Again, with the mix and match approach (freely combine kit pieces), you can get to your ideal working kit pretty fast.
The Presets and FX
Both the libraries have great, ready to rock presets that are great starting points for tweaking. These presets are also good indicators of how the parameters and effects sculpt the sounds. Thankfully both sets of presets also rely on straight forward naming conventions to convey what each preset represents.
The FX in Shreddage Drums and Martin France Drums cover most of the basics, and can be as subtle or extreme as you want, which can get you twenty kits out of one. Shreddage Drums specifically has compressor, tape saturation, transient designer, EQ and reverb, all of which follow a similar aesthetic to the general feel of the library. Similarly Martin France Drums has compressor, tape saturation, transient, distortion, EQ and reverb. Again the FX racks follow a similar GUI to the rest of the library. I really cannot fault either library’s effects and the final decision is truly in the ears of the beholder.
Both the drum libraries are well thought out products that will definitely attract a variety of users. My only criticism is not related to the sound or usability. It is the lack of a groove-window/interface in either. In the case of Shreddage Drums, there are plenty of basic rock and metal grooves included but neither integration into the GUI nor a step sequencer. For Martin France Drums, there are no grooves included; neither is there provision for a step sequencer. But to be honest, this is just me being pedantic. While they may not replace Superior or BFD3 just yet, if you are into virtual drum instruments you may want to invest in both, which at this price is a no brainer.