Heavyocity Evolve

Evolve is, at its heart, a Native Instruments Kontakt Player sound library much like Damage before it. To say ‘before it’ is a bit of a stretch, though, because a Kontakt 2 Player version of Evolve has been around for a few years now. The update we’re reviewing brings it into line with NI’s latest Kontakt Player, version 5, and with it comes a few improvements.  Continue Reading

Heavyocity Damage

Heavyocity Damage

Damage is a triple A rompler that uses Native Instrument’s Kontakt player to house a massive soundbank of devastating percussion sounds that smash their way through your productions. The Kontakt player concept has been gaining traction for a while, and revolves around a self contained, non-editable version of the Kontakt sampler; Kontakt has a very clever scripting engine built into it that allows ambitious mechanics to get distilled into simple to use top level controls, and when combined with custom user interfaces the Kontakt Player can be made to feel like an instrument in its own right. NI are obviously very happy with Heavyocity as shown by the advertising co-branding, so let’s take a look at the ins and outs to see if it’s worth the pretty large price tag…


SPECS:

Requires: Win/Mac, standalone or VST/AU/RTAS, 30GB for install

 

PROS:
  • Fantastic sounds
  • Great effects
  • Loads of live playability
CONS:
  • Huge install
  • Entirely self contained
Price at Review: £239 Damage is packed with unique, dirty sounds. It’s not going to be your go-to plugin for main drums, but it’s great for cinematic sounds and garnish. Just make sure you have plenty of free space for the install.

 

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Like any good rompler, the included sounds are very unique. Heavyocity have gone fire and brimstone on everything from burning pianos to smashing cars with wrecking balls, but they’ve dialled things in a little and recorded some classic snares, cymbals, and other percussion staples with world class equipment to make sure that the resultant collection still resembles drums. The quality of the sounds is pristine, and ensembles were recorded with unbelievable precision, but don’t expect to load up Damage and smash out your main drum section if you’re producing any dance or beats music. The sounds in Damage are huge and intense, and there’s little if anything in the way of clean, snappy hits that you might typically use to drive a track. Damage comes into its own when using it as the bells and whistles (not that there are many bells and whistles included) of the percussion of your track.

there’s an array of amp envelope sequencers that can be set to note on messages to allow you to switch between them

The loops are split into a few different general feels, ranging from ‘mangled pop’ to ‘epic organic’. In the broader categories, there are patches that load in loops on every key over two octaves, allowing you to layer up and create big parts. It’s impressive how well the timing and general sound of all the loops sync up, even if it does feel a tiny bit lazy to use them, and to really get busy with tweaking individuality there’s an array of amp envelope sequencers that can be set to note on messages to allow you to switch between them. There’s also the option to load individual loops into the player, which brings up a different interface page.

 

In the individual loop mode, loops are sliced and individual slices can be panned, pitched and level adjusted, and there are four controls each for randomness, freeze, and ‘slice drop’ (which skips slices rhythmically). The four controls for each make the effect incrementally stronger, quicker, or larger, and everything keeps time no matter what happens. There’s a reverse loop button too, but weirdly it doesn’t follow the behaviour of the rest of the controls and actually shifts the playhead back; rather than playing from slice five after hitting reverse on slice three to get a 1, 2, 3, 2, 1 effect (as you would get if you froze slice three for two slices using the freezer), it plays from slice two again. Each slice in the loop can also be individually triggered, and all the effects are also triggered from keyboard keys. You can also drag the loops, with timing data in tact, into your sequencer – great for putting your own spin on things after using a loop for inspiration.

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AAS Swatches

Creating a High Quality Free Audio Plugins Shortlist (part 1)

One of the things we’re trying to pull together behind the scenes is a comprehensive, high quality bumper pack of multi platform software that can be used free of charge. We’ll be warming things up on the tips and tutorials front when it comes to specific software, but I’d really like to be able to make guides that use the same thing that you use so that you can follow along really easily, and maybe even share project files and presets with you too. As a taster, here’s a quick list of some of the things we’ve uncovered…

Native Instruments Reaktor Player is a free download from NI that allows Reaktor instruments to be loaded without owning the full version of Reaktor – and some Reaktor instruments are free too! The most impressive might be Carbon 2, included in the free Factory Selection pack, a solid subtractive synth that could even be used as your workhorse instrument.

Applied Acoustic Systems AAS Player is a simple sound bank player, and AAS are behind some of the best acoustic and analogue modelling software in the business.

AAS are behind some of the best acoustic and analogue modelling software in the business

Weighing in at just 6MB, AAS Player has 80 sounds, which are presets taken from products in the AAS stable – and thus sound fantastic.

Audio Damage Rough Rider is a compressor that can be used to create fiercely pumping audio. It’s not by any means a compressor that handles signals with grace and subtlety, but for that balls-to-the-wall effect it works really well.

Brainworx Cleansweep is a free filter, simply featuring low and high pass filters that can be operated by separate knobs or, for quick control, a joystick. The ability to switch between four settings and the superb quality mean it’s a shoe in for a main channel filter for mixing your channels.

Camel Audio CamelCrusher is a simple but effective audio distortion plugin.

used just right CamelCrusher can seriously thicken up drums and bass sounds

It’s sensitive, and has quite a bright sound, but used just right it can seriously thicken up drums and bass sounds.

Arto Vaarala Kirnu is a very usable yet powerful MIDI arpeggiator. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful arps we’ve laid eyes on, with everything from automated steps to a step sequencer, swing and gate functions, MIDI learn built in, and it’s all built into a simple interface.

That should keep you going for a little while – if you have any particular favourites do let us know! Oh, and if you’re not already, make sure you’ve Liked our Facebook page so that we can keep giving you tips, tutorials, free stuff and more inspiration!

batteryfull

Review: Native Instruments Battery 3.2

Battery has been around for a long, long time, and has survived more than one rationalisation of Native Instruments’ product line. Battery 3’s been hanging on in there with point releases for a couple of years now, and the recently landed 3.2 update adds in a few more features. We decided to take a look, and get a little refresher course on v3 as a whole while we were at it…


SPECS:

Windows (XP/Vista 7), P4 2.4GHz or Core Duo/Athlon64 min / OSX (10.5+) Core Duo. 2GB RAM.

 

PROS:
  • The best software, cell based sample player available
  • Huge library
  • Very nice onboard effects
CONS:
  • No synthesis
  • Sample pack support appears to be winding down
Price at Review: £149. Battery is the best at what it does, it’s mainly a shame that it doesn’t have a drum synth engine built in.

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As far as drum samplers go, Battery’s had the pleasure of sitting at the top of the pile more or less since its inception. Battery 2 didn’t mess with the original’s winning formula, and Battery 3 has also wisely stuck to the foundations of the software. That foundation is essentially a matrix of sample cells up to 16×8 in size (increased since version 2), which can load a wide variety of audio file formats into them ready for velocity layering, application of effects, and eventually triggering either in standalone mode or by your favourite sequencer. The interface itself is separated into said matrix, at the top, and an edit pane below. Selecting a sample cell brings up its editing options in the multi tabbed pane, and it’s these editing options that have been bolstered most in the 3, 3.1, and 3.2 updates.

velocity level editing is made really simple in Battery

Whilst Battery doesn’t support direct sampling, its sample editor is very powerful and if you’re used to a hardware drum sampler you won’t be disappointed, as sample level editing on a high resolution screen facilitates new levels of precision.Similarly, velocity level editing is made really simple in Battery, with visual cues and a mouse led design, and loop points (four per sample, no less) are very quick to define and set rules for.

Those of you who are still stuck to your hardware samplers for their ease of use and immediacy will find the improved MIDI learn and autoload two of the most useful additions to 3.1 and 3.2 respectively, opening up a much more modern workflow whereby a basic controller pairing is memorised by the software, trumping previous versions’ slightly awkward initial patch setup. Battery’s 16 outputs also come in handy for bussing out individual sounds to effects chains and groups, and with colour coding of cells a simple process, having Battery on a large monitor as opposed to a miniature (and often monochrome) display is a real boon.

Battery has a big library: 12GB of big. Within, you’ll find a huge variety of acoustic and electronic drum kits, and best of all a huge amount of acoustically recorded velocity layers for maximum realism. It’s not the only library you’ll ever need for drums, but it definitely covers most bases.

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Maschine Mikro and iMaschine

Native Instruments Announce Maschine Mikro and iMaschine

We saw one of these coming, but not the other. NI have just announced their latest new hardware: Maschine Mikro. Maschine Mikro is a miniature version of Maschine, which retains full sized pads but appears to augment the original’s functionality with dual colour LEDs, judging by the blue glow in the promo pics, and a single screen.

Maschine Mikro could be something special

It looks like it could be perfect for one of the use cases Maschine is increasingly moving towards – a hands on way to augment your DAW experience. What with Maschine 1.7′s Komplete 8 integration and the fact that it still has the best direct sampling function on any software, Maschine Mikro could be something special, especially considering its $399/€349 price tag, which includes the large Maschine library and software as well as the controller. We’ll find out, and definitely be making a video for it, in the very near future.

It didn’t take a genius to guess Maschine Mikro was on the horizon when NI dropped Kore, but we were a little surprised with iMaschine! In the spirit of other companies who’ve created studio in a box software – Akai’s Synthstudio and the various Korg offerings come to mind – iMaschine is a mini studio with a mini price, and the ability to load projects into the full version of Maschine. It’s a shame it’s iPhone/iPod Touch only, with no native iPad version, but maybe going full sized would be a little too close to the actual Maschine for comfort. It might not be the most exciting of the two announcements for existing computer musicians, but it could act as the gateway drug for a whole heap of those of you reading who haven’t already bought in to the world of production yet…

Both products are out on the 1st of October – Native Instruments have some extras… Oh, and here’s pad virtuoso Jeremy Ellis giving Mikro what for!

Native Instruments Komplete 8

NI Release Komplete 8 with Maschine Integration

Native Instruments’ stable gets bigger every year, and so the Komplete bundle inevitably grows. This year, though, they’ve really pushed the boat out.

Komplete Ultimate is delivered on a 240GB hard drive packed to bursting

Komplete 8 includes all the major software products in the NI lineup, but Komplete Ultimate is delivered on a 240GB hard drive packed to bursting with more or less literally everything they’ve got. It’s an extra $550/€500, but for the guy who’s gotta have everything it’s a tempting old offer. In a pretty predictable move considering the discontinuation of Kore – but really interesting nonetheless – Komplete now benefits from total integration with Maschine. This is something we’re really eager to play with, so watch out for our reviews on both Komplete 8, Maschine 1.7, and videos on the coolest features coming soon…

vintage compressors

Native Instruments Release Vintage Compressors

NI, the production mill that seemingly never sleeps, is back again with a very interesting bundle.

Vintage Compressors takes three vintage compression circuitry types – FET, Electro-Optical and VCA

Vintage Compressors takes three vintage compression circuitry types – FET, Electro-Optical and VCA – and creates three separate analogue style compressor models for Guitar Rig Player. At €199 this is a serious collection, and we’re looking forward to giving it a thorough test. You can listen to the audio examples over at the Native Instruments website, and if you update to the latest edition of Guitar Rig Player you’ll be able to test them out in demo mode yourself….

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6

Review: Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6

Native Instruments, in their quest to streamline their product lineups into easily understandable categories, recently released the Komplete Audio 6 and booted their Audio Kontrol 1 into retirement. Rather than a simple rebadge however, they’ve designed a whole new product; we take a look to see what’s changed…

Product: Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6

Compatibility: Mac/PC

Connectivity: 4x 1/4″ TRS outputs and stereo S/PDIF out, 2x 1/4″ TRS inputs, 2x combi inputs with +48v and stereo S/PDIF in. MIDI in, MIDI out, headphones.

Price: £249GBP / $299USD

The Komplete Audio 6 doesn’t stray too far from the design blueprint NI laid out for their audio interfaces a while ago; a thick steel coat wraps around three and a half of the box’s surfaces, with the sides tough matt plastic and the fascia a glossy black with lights to indicate levels and inputs.

The Komplete Audio 6 doesn’t stray too far from the design blueprint NI laid out for their audio interfaces a while ago

NI have given the displays a refresh, and the new look (shared with the Traktor Audio 6 and 10) makes it easier to take in information at a glance… and we think it looks nicer too.

Input and output wise, every analogue connection is balanced, with a stereo S/PDIF input and output, four ¼” TRS outputs and two inputs round the back, and two combi jack inputs on the front which can provide phantom power. There’s also MIDI in and out on the back, as well as a clever USB port that locks the cable in and makes it really difficult to pull out by mistake – perhaps a feature developed more for NI’s Traktor Audio range than what will in most cases be a somewhat sedentary piece of equipment, but cool nonetheless.

The Komplete Audio 6 supercedes the Audio Kontrol 1, and the hardware is much more streamlined.

Komplete Audio 6 supercedes the Audio Kontrol 1, and the hardware is much more streamlined

The top panel now simply features an analogue 5o’clock – 7o’clock dial which attenuates the level of output one and two, with gains for the inputs and direct monitoring channel on the front of the unit. Output three and four adjustment no longer have analogue gain attenuation, permanently set to 0dB.

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NI Komplete 6

NI Komplete Audio 6 Out Now

The Komplete Audio 6 from Native Instruments has just been released – one’s winging its way over as we speak, and there’ll be a review of it very soon.

one’s winging its way over as we speak

Until then, check out the announcement and all the specs in my previous post here – this could be the ideal small interface for home and project studios…

Razor Oscillators

Review: Native Instruments Razor

Price: €69

Available: Now

Compatibility: Mac/PC, within Reaktor 5 or Reaktor 5 Player

Of all your synthesisers, the majority are likely to be subtractive. Subtractive synths work by taking a raw sound wave and using filters to remove harmonics and change the sound wave as it passes through them. Conversely, additive synthesis, which is the technique of choice for Native Instrument’s latest synth Razor, works almost backwards. If you consider that at a basic level all sound waves are created by the sum of individual sine waves, it’s possible to model those individual waves, or partials, to combineand create any sound. That’s what Razor does, and so right off the bat it has not only a different range of easily accessible sounds to many synths in your arsenal, but also a slightly different interface and very different way of creating those sounds.

“Everything you see on Razor’s interface is really just a simulation”

Everything you see on Razor’s interface is really just a simulation. Whilst you may see two oscillators and two filters, there’s really just a single big oscillator that generates up to 320 partials, or harmonics of a sound – the partials are manipulated by the controls to behave as a final result, rather than an actual sound that goes through various stages.

The oscillators range from classics, pulse, saw, and noise, to more inventive and avant-garde sounds, such as the Prime oscillator that only creates partials on prime number frequencies and the pitch bend oscillators that create the audio effect of a pitch bend without actually altering the oscillator’s pitch.

“Razor is deep, but also relatively complex to a newcomer to additive synthesis and even intermediate sound design fans”

There’s also a formant generator, which contains a variety of different wave shapes and creates phoneme type sounds. As an added modulation option, when used on oscillator one the formant oscillator alters the phase of the partials on the entire sound – Razor is deep, but also relatively complex to a newcomer to additive synthesis and even intermediate sound design fans.

Because most of the filters and effects are created by manipulating the partials of the sound, it’s possible to do things that can’t happen by simply using an effects stage. Reverb tails and delay echos, for example, can be ‘played’; rather than being created after the generator stage they are an intrinsic part of the generator. Aside from the way that they’re generated and the unique opportunities that provides, the effects are fairly standard stereo effects: auto pan, stereo spread, chorus, reverb, synced reverb, unison noise and simple pan. There’s also a dedicated echo section.

“There are two filter sections, each with different filter types”

There are two filter sections, each with different filter types. Filter one has a few different low pass designs – ramping, broad, phaser, and dirty – as well as a band pass and an interesting EQ decay filter which allows you to program a five band EQ to surge or decay. There’s also formant, a formant decay filter, and an even more explicitly phoneme based vowel filter, as well as a vocoder setting, which allows you to send an audio input to the plugin, use the oscillator section as the modulator and the filter as a carrier for some mad results. Filter two contains more standard filter types such as low, high, and band pass, comb, and there’s also a phaser which has a less linear sounding alternative called waterbed, pseudo pitch bend, noise, and gate.

“The dissonance effects mess with the harmonic spacing of the partials”

The dissonance effects mess with the harmonic spacing of the partials, which can create interesting and unnatural sounds. When using the dissonance effects, the loss of low frequencies are often a side effect. To counteract this, Razor features a Safe Bass section that acts like a crossover and prevents bass frequency partials from being modulated. There’s also the danger of out of control harmonics becoming overloud, and so the Spectral Clip section transparently clips partials (it can also be used more aggressively to simulate a low pass filter).

The only effects that are more standard are the final dynamics stage, with the saturator, compressor, limiter and clipper which help to even out some of the drastic modulations in amplitude and tone that can occur with the modulation of the parameters – there’s an amp envelope and two freely assignable ones, two LFOs, everything you’d expect to be able to tie to a parameter from velocity to aftertouch, and the ability to tie a parameter to the steps of the echo effect.

The frankly beautiful display in Razor shows the amplitude of the partials in the sound at various stages, and can also be set to an oscilloscope view. Aside from looking great, it’s makes it a lot easier to grasp how both the additive synthesis engine and harmonics work; it’s almost a science lesson in your sequencer!

“The system toll in Razor definitely depends on the complexity level of the patch you’re working with”

The system toll in Razor definitely depends on the complexity level of the patch you’re working with. With both oscillators, filters, and the dissonance, stereo, and shaping stages active you’re going to be looking at a pretty hefty whack – the Oh Drat 2.93gHz i7 iMac started to splutter at around six instances of some of the biggest polyphonic presets each playing three or four note chords at 96000Hz and my preferred buffer size of 64 samples. Thankfully there’s a processor economy switch in Razor, which help you to go a little further with the patches. Another point of interest is that the synth gets more power hungry as it’s required to generate more partials. Chords are an obvious way of creating more, but also lower frequency sounds take more to render.

A point of interest is that Razor’s not actually a standalone synth, but a Reaktor instrument; it doesn’t necessarily mean much in terms of power requirements but an annoying thing about the package is that whilst Razor works just fine without the full version of Reaktor, you won’t be able to save your own presets within the free Reaktor Player. Whilst this isn’t a total deal breaker, it’s a feature that for the price of the synth should be standard.

So, having looked at its unique qualities, what’s Razor really good for? For a start, and probably the main thing that it’ll get used for by many, is its ripping bass sounds. It does a tremendous job of generating harmonic laden, crisp sounds with nasty bottom end – and thanks to the Safe Bass dial and the dynamics section, modulating the sounds to get talky, morphing growls and barks without losing bottom end thickness is possibl

It does a tremendous job of generating harmonic laden, crisp sounds with nasty bottom end

Long, pad like atmospheres and sound beds are also a strong point of the additive synthesis engine, with realistic and dynamic changes to harmonics as the partials interact. It’s definitely not a go to synth for every day sounds, and it’s not really ideal for synthesising realistic instruments or ‘sweet’ tones.

THE WRAP UP

Razor sounds great at what it’s designed for, and that’s creating tearing bass sounds and huge, morphing soundscapes. It’s definitely a synth that you’ll enjoy bringing out when you have a specific sound in mind rather than being a good all rounder, and if you don’t have the full version of Reaktor then you’ll likely be annoyed that you can’t save presets. The additive synthesis engine is really deep and creates very varied sounds, but the included presets are a powerful library of current popular electronic music sounds that you’ll enjoy without learning how every last dial works.

 

A video review of Razor’s sounds and capabilities will be available soon!

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