OD is no stranger to Heavyocity’s work. We’ve reviewed both Evolve and Damage very favourably in the past, and the main thing we’ve taken from them is the impeccable quality of the sounds that Heavyocity are capable of.
Similarly to past efforts, Aeon is a Kontakt Player library (Kontakt not required) split into two main banks – instruments and loops – and then split further within them. Again true to form, Heavyocity have harnessed the power of Kontakt’s effects and scripting engine to open up creative possibilities within the library – Aeon builds on Heavyocity’s existing concepts and represents their most complex work to date. Let’s take a look…
Heavyocity Aeon Review: Information
Price: $399 (also available separately: Melodic $299 and Rhythmic $199)
Format: Kontakt 5 Player
Size: 14GB (around 27GB, compressed losslessly)
The size of an instrument library is sometimes overstated, I think. Too often you’ll be told how many patches or samples you’re about to buy – or how much space they’ll take up on your hard drive – but I could record a thousand samples of me spending five minutes scraping a mic across a radiator in 192/32 and it probably wouldn’t sell much. The beauty of Aeon is that the size of the library is directly related to how much time’s obviously gone into it. Just because 27GB is about two thirds of what Native Instruments supply with their Kontakt 5 library – a library that has an entire world of sonic variety from acoustic to electric to electronic instruments – doesn’t mean you’re going to get two thirds of the variety of sounds. What you get with Aeon Melodic is a medium sized collection of meticulously multi sampled sounds, sometimes up to six round robin samples on a key. The difference between the samples is very subtle, but anyone who has ever bemoaned the inorganic nature of sampler instruments will be appeased and then some.
Heavyocity’s methods afford some absolutely killer synth patches. Painstakingly multisampled – velocity, pitch, and round robin – modular analog synths give hold to polyphonic patches that are pretty stunning in their sound. If you are of the opinion that a soft synth is the ultimate in flexibility and any sound difference between it and a hardware, especially analogue synth, is negligible then you might be underwhelmed – until you listen – because sampled synth patches is a large portion of Aeon’s game. It’s that last few percent of realness and quality that Heavyocity are focusing on here, and they do it well.
Don’t expect many ‘basic’ sounds from Aeon Melodic. Don’t expect many dry ones either. You will find piano, hammond organ, rhodes, guitars, strings, and so on, but this isn’t a library to buy for dry sounds. Strip the patches of their effects and modulations and sometimes you’ll get to brass tacks and an ‘in the room’ sound, but to do that you’d be taking the salad out of the sandwich.
Aeon Melodic is where the meat of Aeon lies when it comes to ‘instruments’, but Rhythmic is a separate bank that contains around 300 loops for you to get straight down to business. Don’t expect drums and percussion from Rhythmic – these are rhythmic (clue’s in the title), largely staccato instrument loops of the same ilk as the sound of Aeon Melodic. You can approach the loops in three ways: load one of five suites (nine if you count duplicates grouped by timbre) with each key in the patch triggering a loop, load an individual loop and rearrange each sliced hit, or load a trio of loops from a list curated to be particularly harmonious with each loop having an octave of pitch.
One of the advantages to building a library in Native Instruments’ Kontakt Player is the terrific suite of effects that you can harness. It might be the sample source, recording method, and treatment of sounds that make Aeon’s bare samples sound good, but its the way Heavyocity have tapped into Kontakt’s myriad effects – from filters to bit crushers to saturators, reverbs, delays and more – that allow you to transform those samples and make your copy of Aeon sound different to your neighbour’s. Effects are sensibly laid out and you’re never overloaded with options, so dialling things in is simple – and everything’s key switchable via the top end of the keyboard.
The Twist dial that’s found in Aeon is a ‘big knob’ that controls an LFO modulated tone control, and the other big one, Punish, adds saturation and compression. The difference they can make to a patch’s general feel is tremendous, and I’d posit that Heavyocity chose these two controls to be the big, central ones in patches so that you gravitate towards them to get a different sound before worrying about individually dialing in effects (and if you’re anything like me, getting lost in weird and wonderful sounds and never creating anything). It’s a definite, positive choice for UI, and it works.
Step Sequencer and Arpeggiator
Aeon uses step sequencers to add automated modulation potential for the effects in their patches. This is a great way to add some extra interest to sounds, and with each effect having its own sequencers for two different parameters (for instance, cutoff and resonance in the filter) creating something that has a life of its own is a cake walk. There is a shortcoming, though, and that’s that the sequencer is always running, and whilst tempo synced it doesn’t restart when your sequencer does… unless you assign a MIDI CC message to the on/off button of the sequencer and send it with your phrase.
In addition to the modulation step sequencers there’s a bank of arpeggiator patches in Aeon, and the arp that Heavyocity have squeezed into the Kontakt Player is very powerful. As well as cycling notes in chords in various ways, as you’d expect, you can also program in steps of pitch, velocity, and length and have them run with the arpeggiator, monophonically or in chords as pressed. Presets for major and minor scales ensure you stay in key during an improvisation session, and you can chain up to eight patterns together to build pretty much an entire track simply by holding down a few keys. It would have been nice to be able to control which pattern is currently playing via a key – that would really explode the live and improvisation capabilities of Aeon.
In Aeon Rhythmic, the arpeggiator is called the Loop Mutator – trademarked, no less – and it works in a similar way except instead of pitch, you select deviations from the slice reference. For instance, a sequence with 0, +1, -1 will play slices 5, 6, 4 if you hold slice 5, and 7, 8, 6 if you hold slice 7. Chords and so on still work, and the Loop Mutator thus massively adds to the value of the loops in Aeon Rhythmic. They might just be loops if you use the audio as is, but in no time at all you can mutate them into something completely different that simply uses the original as a launching point.
I’ve touched on this in previous reviews of Heavyocity libraries, but it’s more the case than ever here in Aeon: some of the sounds are so ‘ready’ that if part of your creative process hinges on spending a good chunk of time running cables (virtual or otherwise) out of a sound source and through a bunch of technical and creative effects to massage your sound into existence you might feel a bit out of a job! When the end result is the only thing you’re focusing on, Aeon might just be your saviour; pressing just a single key will often be so dynamic, evolving, and fill so much of the sound stage that you can pretty much record a MIDI note and call things quits. This is especially the case with the Hits section of the library, which I think is definitely the weakest area of Aeon. It’s comprised of vaguely tonal drones and atmospheres, and whilst perfect for composers scoring video work with foreboding acoustics it feels a bit… soulless. If process is half of what makes music production cathartic for you, you might feel like you’re ‘cheating’. I’m not even sure where I’m going with this to be honest – making sounding great easy shouldn’t be a negative point in a review!
Aeon won’t be absolutely everyone’s cup of tea, and it is definitely priced towards the professional end of the market. There’s a possibility that you won’t ‘get’ the price, but it’s (presumably) there because of the excellent attention to detail and the ready to use nature of the sounds. I’ve not heard anything better for the sounds that Aeon makes – certainly not as an all in one – and I’m looking forward to sitting down and writing with it soon – there are albums worth of sounds and inspiration here and your copy won’t sound like anyone else’s.Head to Heavyocity to get Aeon!