Review – Soundiron’s Apocalypse Percussion Elements
Soundiron’s aptly named APE (for short) is a percussion powerhouse. It sounds like massive primordial percussion and jungle drums that evoke strange primal emotions, all controllable via a fantastically designed yet simple GUI.
by Suleiman Ali, Sept. 2015
Those looking for percussion libraries are currently spoiled for choice, with the currently marketed products running the gamut from the 200 plus GB behemoth that is the Evolution Series World Percussion to single instrument focused items like CryptoCypher’s Solo Tabla (2.1 GB). In between these two extremes, there is a lot of variety to be explored including award winners like the 3 Storm Drum incarnations (the latest being 84.7 GB) and Vir 2 World Impact : Global Percussion (12.2 GB).
Soundiron’s primary horse in this race is the Apocalypse Percussion Ensemble, a 24.8 GB monster of a library, which pretty much defines how to nail a focused, useful and elegantly designed percussion library. Like most of the above mentioned libraries this is primarily aimed at professional TV/Film/Game composers with a price tag that reflects this ($249 USD).
So what about the small guys, the hobbyists, the tinkerers, the home recording artists or the garage bands? That is where Apocalypse Elements comes into play. It does not need the full Kontakt but works in the free Kontakt Player, has a much smaller footprint (2.15/4.3 GB uncompressed), mixes down the multiple mics to stereo samples and has a very affordable pricing ($99.00 USD).
Installation and Activation
I used a i5 based HP Laptop with 6 GB RAM running Windows 8 (64 Bit) alongside a Roland Tri-Capture audio interface. The DAW was 64 Bit Reaper version 4.78 and the library itself ran in 64 Bit Kontakt Player 5.
The installer files downloaded fast using Soundiron’s own Connect application. Nevertheless, a reasonable internet connection is required to ensure smooth downloading. The Kontakt library activation went quite smoothly and I was up and running in no time.
Into the Heart of Darkness
Upon firing up Kontakt you can see the Apocalypse Percussion Elements in the left hand “Libraries” browser. Opening the instrument shows two folders in the browser “Lite” and “Master”. Both have the same three sub-folders: “Megamixer”, “Standard” and “Tuned Dual-Layer”. The Lite versions are the same instruments with fewer round robins and lower voice limits, allowing those of us with milder system specs to still enjoy the percussion. The master versions have the whole set of samples including all round robins.
At this stage, it is advisable to open up the included .pdf manual, as it helps immensely in understanding what kinds of instruments are available and how they are laid out.
The “Standard” folder is the one to get started with, as the first instrument in that folder contains all available percussion pieces mapped across the keyboard. It is a good place to test all the available sounds. The other instruments in this folder include less than this .nki, with similarly themed sounds clubbed together in instruments (ensembles offering bass and toms, cymbals, clacks, snares and ethnic drums etc.) as well as solo patches.
These patches all offer two additional features that open in little pop-up windows: arpeggiator and release controls. The release divides the sound into four groups (bass, snares, cymbals and auxiliary) and allows tweaking of the release time for each. Since this elements version has mixed down stereo samples instead of the multi-mic samples/controls of the original, the shortening of release times for various elements is a great way to make the sound less roomy and more immediate.
The arpeggiator is an absolute pleasure and of great practical use. It allows three modes, all of which provide a great way to get rhythmic percussion beds going with minimal effort. With the additionally controls for quantization, randomization, etc., it offers a great way to get things rolling. In fact it is one of my favorite tools in getting the right rhythms going on new tracks.
The Mid/Mapping tab provides instant access to over 400 included MIDI grooves that offer a great starting point in using these sounds. Between mixing and matching the percussion to the grooves, I found some amazing combinations that worked a treat.
This part of the GUI also provides detailed mapping options which can essentially assign any articulation of any instrument to any MIDI note. This has three main sections: presets (where you can save your own), instruments and articulations. So in essence , you can pretty much customize any aspect and get your own comfortable layout going, whether playing from a MIDI Controller or using the on board grooves.
The “Megamixer” folder again contains an “All” version as well as the ensembles and solo instruments and allows limited editing of all the included percussion. I would suggest the user try the different included patches and see which sounds, work flow and GUI is most intuitive for them.
I should definitely mention the FX Rack which is a colorful wonder to behold and allows chaining a number of modern and vintage emulations for those larger than life sounds. In fact, the effects are more than sufficient to transform these grooves into completely unique new and often electronica-friendly sounds.
It would be fair to say that I was quite enamored with this library, and found it an instant and intense solution to quick and dirty percussion needs, whether it’s for a soundtrack or a pop track. At the price, it is a more than fair bargain, and may even act as a first stepping stone for those venturing out in the world of percussion libraries for the first time.
APE Elements is available here: