Product reviews

I regularly try new audio software, plug-ins, sample libraries, etc. On this page I share some thoughts about these products.

A complete list of products reviewed on is available here.

Review: No Dough NDS-4 Underground House

No Dough NDS-4 Underground House

No Dough’s fourth release in the NDS sample pack series is titled Underground House.

Simply put, this is the heart and soul of the underground house scene in a massive collection of over 7000 professionally crafted WAV sounds, designed to give you that authentic House music vibe you hear from your favorite artists but in a format that is useful for any style of music that requires a punchy analogue sound.

The sample pack features:

  • 4,700+ drum and percussion hits.
  • 59 multi-sampled instruments.
  • 161 bass and synth loops.

The drum and percussion hits include various classic sounds of drum machines and sampled sources, with three variations; Original recordings, driven, vinyl and Revox (Studer tape machine) versions. No Dough used some various outboard gear to get an authentic vibe. Everything is nicely categorized in folders by the type of drum hit. No drum kits are included though.

To record the multi-sampled instruments, No Dough used gear by Oberheim, Roland, some old EMU samplers and FM synthesizers. The sampler patches are split up in various sections. There’s bass, strings & pads, leads & synths and organs and misc. A good amount of sounds.

The bass and synth loops sound very authentic as well. Actually, playing them individually they almost sound kind of low quality, lo-fi. But in a good way.

Loops are ready to be chopped, smashed, distorted and resequenced, each loop features a Recycle version and we have also included a selection of Midi files so you can get at the notes themselves to twist, mash and create.

I’d say that is a good thing, because these loops are meant for chopping. You are not going to get much of a good result by simply tossing the loops together as there are some tuning issues and files have no mention of which key they’re in. This set of loops just isn’t a construction kit type set so unless you stick with using just a single loop and create additional melodies around that, you are supposed to do some of the work yourself. The sound is there though.

Check out the demo track to get an idea of what NDS-4 Underground House is about.

So what do I think?

Product: NDS-4 Underground House by No Dough
Format: 24bit WAV, REX + sampler patches (Kontakt/EXS24/HALion/NN-XT)
Price: £39.99 GBP
Like: authentic sounds, good variety
Don’t like: no key info in loops
Verdict: 8/10

Even though No Dough prides itself in recording in high quality 96kHz/24bit, it’s still vintage synths, gritty sampler sounds, tape machines, and analog processing chains we’re talking about. NDS-4 is not about pristine quality, it is about the vibe of classic underground house music.

No Dough’s key description for the Underground House pack is “tone, warmth and musicality”. I hear that, and I would sum those up and call it authentic. Individually the samples and loops sound somewhat raw to me, lo-fi, perhaps slightly dated. And that’s how it is supposed to be, because once you start putting things together you quickly end up with something that sounds like the real deal. Go check it out.

More information: NDS-4 Underground House

Review: Goldbaby’s Urban Cookbook Vol. 1

When you need some solid electronic drum sounds, Goldbaby’s sample packs are always a good place to turn to. With Goldbaby’s Urban Cookbook Vol. 1, Hugo once again provides quality sounds to help you cook up some delicious dishes, urban style.

Goldbaby's Urban Cookbook Vol 1

Want to cook up some delicious beats… well then you probably need my cookbook. The ingredients are full of saturated fat, MSG, a heap of sugar and are not suitable for a low cholesterol diet. The recipes are perfect for these dishes: Hip Hop, Dub Step, Drum & Bass, Breaks, Grime, Dance Hall, Electro… Although chefs making other dishes like: IDM, House and Techno will appreciate the varied high quality ingredients.

Punchy Kicks, Solid Snares, Hi Hats, Toms, Percussion, Claps, Cymbals, Layering tools, FX, Vinyl Hits, Chord Hits, Bass tools and Rex Loops… just over 1 GB of the freshest ingredients.

The sample pack includes various formats and comes with patches for most common samplers.

  • 3,398 samples (24-bit quality).
  • 200 REX loops.
  • 142 Maschine kits (plus 7 projects) and 13 instruments.
  • 49 presets + 145 kits for Geist.
  • 135 Battery 3 kits.
  • 136 Kontakt 4 kits.
  • 141 EXS24 patches for Logic (can also be imported in Kontakt, Ableton Live Sampler, Halion, etc.)
  • 50 Kong kits, 140 NN-XT patches and 9 Combinators for Reason 5 and above.

I checked out the Maschine version which also comes with the patches for Kontakt, Battery and EXS24. The Maschine kits are divided in folders – Combos (4), Drum Kits (52), FX (20), Hits & Chords (31), Percussion Kits (20), and Vox (15), and to help you find the right type of sound some of the kits are tagged in categories like analog, digital, sfx, etc.

The Kontakt instruments include bass, drum kits, FX, hits and chords, individual drums, layering tools, and vox. It may look like this is basically the same as the Maschine content but there are a bunch of different instruments in here (same for the EXS24 format which you can also load in Kontakt).

While browsing the different kits and instruments it struck me that Goldbaby’s samples always sound “fresh” and up-to-date. The Cookbook includes a fair share of sounds that are similar to the ones in other Goldbaby sample packs, but Hugo records all content for each sample library specifically for said library, which makes sense since Goldbaby’s studio equipment is regularly updated with new gear.

Besides all the kits and patches there is a lot more sample content than was used for the kits so there is a lot to explore, and swapping out sounds within kits is easy. In Maschine the kits come with some lovely patterns and the included projects are a nice bonus, as are the REX loops which feature various percussion loops, fx loops, grooves and more.

In all, this pack has lots of unique content with that vintage Goldbaby vibe. It’s kind of like crate digging without having to do all the hard work. Instant satisfaction!

Check below for an example of the type of thing you can cook up with Goldbaby’s ingredients. A few more demo mp3s can be found at the Urban Cookbook product page here.

So what do I think?

Product: Goldbaby’s Urban Cookbook Vol.1
Format: 24bit WAV, REX / Maschine, Geist, Kontakt, Battery & EXS24 / Reason ReFill
Price: $49 USD
Like: fantastic sounds, well done kits and patches, phat!
Don’t like: –
Verdict: 9/10

With Urban Cookbook Vol 1, Goldbaby does what Goldbaby does best: deliver quality drum sounds with a vintage feel. I think Hugo did a fantastic job with the kits. The combination of sounds in each kit is inspiring and everything is really well produced to get that typical fat, punchy, deep sound. I know a lot of thought went into creating and processing the samples and making sure the kits work well musically, and it shows.

The additional sounds are fantastic. Beautiful chords, guitar strums, useful sound fx, string type sounds. Just love it. Now don’t think this is construction kit type stuff, but these are just a bunch of lovely sounds to compliment the drum/percussion content. Signature Goldbaby.

After spending some good time with this new pack (and already using it in some projects), I think the Urban Cookbook may well be my favorite Goldbaby library to date. Go check it out!

More information: Goldbaby Productions / Urban Cookbook Vol 1

Review: Applied Acoustics Systems Chromaphone

Applied Acoustics Systems’ latest effort in physical modeled software instruments is Chromaphone, a “creative percussion synthesizer”.

It is based on the combination of acoustic resonators to create drums, percussion, string and hybrid synth-like instruments. Membranes, bars, marimbas, plates, strings, and tubes form pairs that are excited by a mallet and a flexible noise source.

Access to different parameters such as the material of the resonators, their tuning and hit position allow for the creation of a vast range of realistic and creative instruments and sonic colors. Whether real, innovative, or with an ethnic touch, Chromaphone will fill your music with rich and organic tones.

Applied Acoustics Systems Chromaphone
Chromaphone has an easy layout with exciter sources and resonator modules in the middle.

Sound is generated with mallet and noise modules which excite the two resonators. The mallet has controls for volume, stiffness, noise and noise color; the noise module uses a white noise generator + multi-mode filter, with dedicated envelope. Both sources can be mixed.

Various resonator types are available: string, open and closed tube, plate, membrane, bar, and a marimba bar. A manual mode lets you adjust the frequency of up to four different partials.

The output of both resonators is mixed proportionally with the balance slider, with the “parallel mode” basically simply mixing the two outputs, and a “coupled mode” which features “bidirectional transfer of energy between the objects”. In simple terms this means that both resonators influence each other, which according to AAS results in tones and timbres that reproduce the richness of sounds from real acoustic instruments.

Chromaphone presets manager

Chromaphone includes a dedicated vibrato effect (pitch modulating LFO), a LFO unit for modulating the Noise module, and a multi-fx section in which you can pick two effects (in series) from a selection of delays, chorus, flanger, phaser, (auto) wah wah, notch filter, 3-band equalizer, distortion, tremolo and reverbs.

The presets library includes over 300 sounds categorized in mallets, percussions, kits, chimes and bells, plucked strings, basses, keys, strings and pads, synths, organs and pipes, soundscapes and textures, and effects sections.

Check the audio demos below to get an impression of what Chromaphone is capable of.

So what do I think?

Product: Chromaphone by Applied Acoustics Systems
Format: VST/AU/RTAS/Standalone
Price: $199 USD
Like: Incredibly versatile, unique sounds, superb quality
Don’t like: –
Verdict: 9/10

If nothing else, Chromaphone is incredibly versatile. So much even, I feel like its tagline “creative percussion synthesizer” is kind of selling it short.

While it does an amazing job with percussion sounds – both the traditional and more creative variety – the types of sound you can get from this instrument are way beyond “creative percussion” to me. The pads, soundscapes, textures, effects etc. in the factory bank show that Chromaphone can do a lot more than percussion, and for even more adventurous sounds I can also highly recommend the expansion libraries by sound designers Martin Walker and Simon Stockhausen.

With its physical modeling, Chromaphone produces wonderfully dynamic, expressive sounds. Experimenting pays off, as just the turn of a knob or two can yield completely different, unique sounds.

Needless to say, Chromaphone is a fantastic synthesizer for cinematic, soundtrack type works. It will likely suit many electronic music producers as well, especially in the area of ambient, minimal, and idm genres.

I am truly excited about this synthesizer and I can’t wait to use it in some of my projects. Go check it out!

More information: Applied Acoustics Systems / Chromaphone

Review: Native Instruments Dark Pressure

Native Instruments Dark Pressure

Native Instruments has teamed up with DJ and music producer Steve Lawler and the sound designers of Loopmasters to bring us Dark Pressure, an expansion sound library for the Maschine platform.

Huge sub-heavy kicks, chunky toms, sharp hi-hats, crisp percussion, warm bass tones and crystallized lead synth sounds – all processed with analog gear and MASCHINE’s internal FX – provide the building blocks for muscular techno, tech-house, and minimal tracks worthy of the world’s most respected clubs.

DARK PRESSURE focuses on percussive one-shot samples and a wealth of exclusive pre-programmed patterns – many created by Steve Lawler himself. Fine-tuned for powerful club sound systems, DARK PRESSURE puts an impressive array of four-on-the-floor rhythms at your fingertips – from full-on energy to hypnotic groove and triplet-driven swing.

The expansion includes five full Maschine projects, 40+ individual kits, some pre-sliced loops, 20+ instruments, and some fx chains.

British music producer and DJ Steve Lawler introduces Dark Pressure for Maschine.

The Maschine projects are basically full tracks with intros/outros/drops/etc. Not something I would consider using in my productions but they do a good job showcasing the type of tunes you can create with Dark Pressure. And perhaps you can learn some new composition/production skills from checking the way these projects are done.

The 42 kits are made up of 671 one shot samples of both drums and other sounds (like chords, sound fx, stabs, hits, vocals, ambiences, etc.) categorized in various types for easy browsing: Analog, digital, percussion, special, vinyl, and multi fx. Each kit also comes with a number of patterns, many of which are apparently done by Steve himself. I would not likely use these out of the box but they provide a good starting point if you need some inspiration. Over 200 patterns are included in total.

Besides the kits you get 64 sliced tribal and percussion loops in rx2 format grouped in 4 Maschine loop sets, plus 11 bass and 10 lead multi-sampled instruments with 4 or 8 samples each. Nothing deep or particularly unique really, but useful and good quality nonetheless. The included multi FX kits provide some interesting effects, including some lo-fi 8bit goodness and a nice space gate type thing.

So what do I think?

Product: Dark Pressure by Native Instruments
Format: Expansion for Maschine/Maschine Mikro
Price: $59 USD / 49 EUR
Like: Good sounds, well done kits
Don’t like: Small amount of instruments
Verdict: 8/10

If you are into minimal, tech or tribal type house sounds, there is a good chance that Dark Pressure is your type of Maschine expansion.

The sounds, kits and patterns are “ready for the club”, as Steve puts it. I agree, and I reckon this pack is especially useful for DJs who are looking to spice up their sets, and producers who don’t want to spend lots of time finding the right sounds and beats.

I am not really into house music production but I enjoyed pretty much all of the kits and sounds in this pack a lot. Steve definitely put a solid amount of personality in this expansion. For me – with the exception of the non-drum/perc single shot sounds used in the kits – there is not all that much content I would consider to be unique or exceptional. That said, there is hardly a dud to be found either.

In short, the Dark Pressure expansion is a well done toolkit for electronic music, with tons of ready to go quality sounds by accomplished producer Steve Lawler and Loopmasters.

Maschine users who would like to go a little deeper will want to check out Steve’s Dark Percussive House & Techno at Loopmasters as well, since this sample pack offers a larger amount of sounds, loops and patches at roughly the same price as the Dark Pressure Maschine expansion.

More information: Native Instruments / Dark Pressure

Review: Dmitry Sches Diversion

Related: , , , , Posted in reviews on May 07, 2012 - comment 1 comment

Early 2010, Dmitry Sches released Ambient Voices, a soundset for the Zebra software synthesizer by u-he.

I was quite taken by Dmitry’s sounds, which I would describe as deep, rich, moving and edgy. Digital sweetness. With such a stunning debut I was kind of expecting there would be more soundsets in the near future, but… almost a year and a half passed without anything new. And then, I find Dmitry announcing something new over at KVR.

Hello! I’m Dmitry Sches and I proud to introduce new software synth – Diversion.

To be honest I didn’t even notice the first line in Dmitry’s announcement, as my eyes were all over the screenshot posted directly below it.

Dmitry Sches Diversion
Diversion screenshot taken from the initial release in August, 2010.

I know a good looking GUI doesn’t mean good sound, but a nice interface definitely helps spark my interest. Turns out the feature set is pretty impressive as well.

Diversion has 4 oscillators with waveforms that are done on the fly, in real-time. The idea here is that these generated waveforms (so not wavetables) allow for output with smooth two-dimensional morphing capabilities and clean high frequencies. Sure enough, Diversion sounds clean and crisp to my ears.

Various waveform shapes are available, grouped in basic, fatty, resonant, synthetic, harmonic and noise categories. The X/Y pad lets you play with the timbre of the sound source, usually with brightness and tone parameters (depending on the selected waveform).

Diversion oscillator fx

Below the waveform selection are another four controls in which a selection from 7 oscillator effects can further modify the sound. Things like boosting high frequencies or creating aliased, inharmonic sounds can be achieved here. The effects go from subtle to rather dramatic.

Oscillators 1 and 3 have frequency and ring modulation controls, where the paired osc 2 and 4 are the modulating sources. A mono multi-mode filter with saturation stage and output section is also available for each oscillator.

Two bus sections take input from the oscillators and offer a stereo version of the filter found in the oscillator sections, distortion and lo-fi (bit crusher and decimator) effects. Each oscillator can route its output to either one or a mix of both bus processors.

Arriving at bottom panel we find a Mod Matrix with 4 sets of 6 modulation slots, and three tabs to switch between the FX Matrix, Modulation panel, and Arpeggiator.

Diversion FX Matrix

Available effects include the usual things like delay, reverb, EQ, chorus, etc. and a special kind of pitch shift effect called GrainShifter. Two instances of each effect unit are available to route to up to 8 effects per fx line, with a separate fx line for each bus output. The point where both buses are mixed into a single signal (from which on effects are applied to the mixed output) can be changed. It’s a bit of an odd system at first but it works quite nicely and is flexible enough to create complex fx chains.

Diversion’s modulation system features 4 LFO’s, 4 envelopes, 4 MSEG’s (multi-segment envelopes), and the “Master Morph” X/Y controller (in the bottom of the middle blue screen). These can be assigned to parameters in the modulation matrix, or directly from the controls to be modulated. Quick and easy.

Finally, the 16-step trance gate and 32-step arpeggiator provide ways to create rhythmic and melodic sequences. Pretty straightforward stuff really. Not something I personally use a whole lot, but I always hear people appreciate these types of features so it’s nice to have a well-rounded set of arp and gate tools at your disposal.

The best way to experience Diversion is to give it a spin yourself. If you are short on time the official audio demos a pretty good job showcasing its sounds and character.

Note that Diversion is currently available as a VST instrument plug-in for Windows only. Dmitry has recently announced that version 2.0 is in development for both Windows and Mac platforms. A release is expected late Fall, 2012.

So what do I think?

Product: Diversion by Dmitry Sches
Format: VST for Windows
Price: $169 USD excl. VAT
Like: Crystal clean sounds, great workflow
Don’t like: Can get CPU intensive, price
Verdict: 9/10

Diversion is pretty amazing. It has a wonderful workflow and even though at first sight this is no ground-breaking synth, Dmitry has implemented a number of unique features that make Diversion stand out from the crowd. Most importantly though, this synthesizer offers a high quality sound, one I would describe as being pristine, clean and freshly edgy.

I think Dmitry’s heart for sound design shows in Diversion. The amount of control over the sound is impressive. A lot of sonic depth is provided with things like the oscillator tone-shaping section, multi-mode filters, and a comprehensive modulation system. The included presets showcase a lovely selection of bread & butter type modern day sounds.

Diversion has a lot to offer, but it comes at a cost: CPU. The manual includes some tips on how to reduce CPU usage – which is helpful, but personally I prefer to keep the CPU intensive sound and bounce it down rather than make changes to the sound in order to reduce CPU. Make sure to check the demo version to see how your system copes, especially since the plugin isn’t exactly cheap either.

In short, Diversion is an incredible feature-rich synthesizer with an outstanding sonic quality.

More information: Dmitry Sches / Diversion

Review: FXpansion Tremor drum synthesizer

As someone who prefers to work “inside the box” I was pleased to see FXpansion introduce its DCAM: Discrete Component Analogue Modelling sound generation technology with the release of Synth Squad. The modelling of individual circuit components enabled FXpansion to put some of that vintage analog flavor in its digital products.

FXpansion Tremor

Much in the same way, Tremor takes drum synthesis to a new level.

Tremor is a software drum machine with powerful synthesis, effects, modulation and step-sequencing. DCAM circuit-modelled sound generation is fused with new ideas to produce original sounds with the punch and extreme sound pressure of old-school analogue.

Tremor’s dance drums, funky beatscapes, abstract machines and undiscovered sonic terrain are suited to all kinds of electronic, urban and experimental music.

Just to make sure we’re on the same page, Tremor is all about drum synthesis. There are NO samples. FXpansion’s drum sampler instrument Geist (the successor to Guru) already covers this base. Who knows, in the future FXpansion might combine the two into something new or provide some add-on type thing, but for now these are totally separate products.

FXpansion Tremor
Tremor’s main screen with the step sequencer in the top part, mixer slots and the synth fx panel for the selected synth module in the bottom. Lovely workflow and ditto looks!

As the above screenshot hints, Tremor is a full-featured drum synthesizer instrument. Its main features include:

  • DCAM-modelled synthesis and FX
  • Specialised oscillator with drumskin vibration partials
  • Filtering and drive with multiple responses
  • Deep, intuitive TransMod modulation system
  • Polyrhythmic pattern step-sequencer

Sporting a total of 8 individual – and identical – synthesizer modules, Tremor allows you to build your drum kits within a single instance. The specialized oscillator in each module has controls for pitch (and fine), shape to morph the osc waveshape from saw to square to triangle, PWM which sets the pulsewidth for the square waveshape, FM for pitch modulation with speeds up to 1024 Hz (allowing audio rate modulation), and a sync control for adding harmonics by increasing the oscillator frequency while syncing it to the sub oscillator.

FXpansion Tremor synthesizer panel

The Harmonics section has only four knobs and a single switch for controlling the oscillator partials, but much of what sound you will end up with is determined here. The details of what exactly goes on in this section gets a bit technical but basically you get the drumskin vibration emulation in “Membrane” mode, while the “Harmonics” mode resembles a regular synth.

A bandpass filtered white noise generator can be mixed with the oscillator to create snare, hihat, and clap type sounds, or sound fx type things like noise sweeps. The sub osc control with three octaves is also available from the mixer panel.

To further shape the sounds you get pre- and post-drive with various modes, a multi-mode filter featuring clean and fat models with various response modes, (G)LFO’s with sync options, S+H, three envelopes, and a comprehensive modulation system named “TransMod”. Tweaker’s paradise!

FXpansion Tremor modulation

The TransMod modulation system allows you to route a single modulation source to multiple synthesis and effect parameters, each with its own definable depth.

Modulation depths are represented visually on the parameter itself, rather than in an abstract list of assignments.

The TransMod system is an impressive piece of work, with lots of advanced features for creating dynamic sounds. A modulation source can be routed to multiple synthesis and effect parameters, so if you are an experimental sound designer you will love this.

FXpansion has also made sure to include a bunch of built-in effect units that can be used in up to 3 FX slots – the FX Chain – available from the synth fx (individual fx/chains for each of the 8 synths) and master fx panels. Dynamics, equalizers, filters, modulation fx, delay, reverb, distortion, and more effect units allow for powerful sound processing, especially since you can use the TransMod system to modulate fx parameters.

Tremor comes with an internal step sequencer with 24 patterns, in which you can create rhythms simply by clicking on the step cells for each one of the 8 sounds available. The sequencer shows note velocity, repeat and probability values and a little arrow indicated the length of a track (which can be different for individual tracks). Creating patterns is quite intuitive and use of mouse, drag and key combinations offers a nice workflow. Each pattern also has up to 4 “graphs” for creating automation sequences.

Tremor graph screen
Step-based automation sequences for modulating Tremor’s synthesis parameters

The editing features of the sequencers are pretty comprehensive and include things like stretching and expanding of values, invert, reverse, global randomize, and more. Patterns are mapped to MIDI notes for easy triggering. All in all the sequencer is both fun and powerful. So much even that I am using it to drive other instruments by sending the patterns to Tremor’s MIDI out.

If you prefer to automate parameters from within your host or with external controllers, Tremor also includes mapping and MIDI learn systems.

This is Tremor in a nutshell, and if you made it this far in this review and you are still interested you should go get the 30-day trial version and dig in. To be honest, Tremor’s factory presets and demo songs left me somewhat unimpressed but when I actually tried the plugin I instantly experienced the potential of this instrument.

If you’re pressed for time and still want to get a good impression of what Tremor is capable of, you should check out the demo tracks for the Tremendous Beatz soundset. Patchpool’s Simon Stockhausen does a fantastic job showcasing the versatility of Tremor with some quality sounds, check it out below.

So what do I think?

Product: Tremor by FXpansion
Format: VST/AU/RTAS/standalone for Mac and Windows
Price: $149 USD / 119 EUR
Like: Great synth engine, rich feature set, intuitive & fun
Don’t like: Can be CPU intensive
Verdict: 9/10

Tremor offers great sound quality and the it is well capable of producing traditional drum machine sounds, as well as some more abstract, experimental type of percussive stuff. Add to that an easy to use sequencer, a great selection of effect units and a comprehensive modulation system, and you have a proper beast at your fingertips. With all that power comes great responsibility. Using up to 8 individual (polyphonic) synths and effect chains can get a bit CPU intensive. On my 3 Ghz Intel Duo core I easily hit 50%, but I take that without complaint. Tremor is not the first plug-in that reminds me that quality comes at a cost.

You would perhaps expect an instrument like this to be rather complicated/hard to use, yet FXpansion managed to give Tremor a clean, intuitive workflow with clever visual feedback on the interface. Creating sounds, building kits, and sequencing rhythms proves to be engaging and fun.

Tremor is a most excellent drum synthesizer workhorse for anyone interested in creating drum and percussion sounds with a computer. Intuitive, flexible, and abundantly inspiring.

Well done, FXpansion. Well done indeed!

More information: FXpansion / Tremor

Review: Precisionsound Exosphere soundscapes sample library

Precisionsound Exosphere

Precisionsound has recently released Exosphere, a collection of soundscapes.

Featuring corrosive textures, unstable machines, electronic ambiences, and twisted voices, Exosphere is a creative toolkit for film, game, and multimedia sound design, as well as for producers of electronic music.

Exosphere features

  • 50 stereo 48khz 24-bit WAV files.
  • Over 55 minutes of audio.
  • 1 program for all versions of Steinberg HALion.
  • 1 program for NI Kontakt 1 and 2.
  • 1 program with scripted GUI for NI Kontakt 3 and above.

While 50 samples might not seem like a lot, they’re over 1 minute each so you still get a total of 55 minutes of audio.

The sounds were designed to inspire music composers and sound designers by delivering lengthy loops with a wide dynamic range. To help identify sounds, the files have descriptive names like “Malfunctioning robot” and “Contamination zone”.

Static glitches, radiation crackles, chilling space winds, robotic bleeps, warbled voices, dark pad-like background ambiences… Exosphere!

The included patches map all sounds across the keyboard for easy auditioning. The Kontakt 3 patch also has some controls for Hi- and Lo-pass filters and stereo width.

Listen to Precisionsound’s demos below to get an idea of what Exosphere sounds like.

So what do I think?

Product: Exosphere by Precisioundsound
Format: 24-bit/48kHz Wav + sampler patches
Price: $29 USD
Like: Quality sounds, long loops
Don’t like: –
Verdict: 9/10

Exosphere is exactly what is says on the tin, a bunch of glitchy, threatening, and abstract soundscape loops. The atmosphere is seriously creepy, with a constant feeling that something is about to go horribly wrong.

The sounds are well designed with lots of movement and variations, without getting too complicated or being overly processed. The vibe and quality is consistent across the library. Organic, mechanical, unsettling, yet intriguing.

Well recommended!

More information: Precisionsound / Exosphere

Review: Soundiron Glass Beach sound library for Kontakt

I count Soundiron among some of the most interesting sound library developers I know.

Whether it’s the 30-voice male chorus of epic choir library Mars, M1 Garand’s rifle sound fx, a tear-jerking Emotional Piano, or the Bronze Bin percussive sounds made with a trash can, Soundiron seems to be able to take any sound source for a proper deep sampling session and turn it into something beautiful and useful.

So how about a bunch of glass pebbles on a beach? Enter Glass Beach.

Soundiron Glass Beach
Glass pebbles at “Glass Beach”, MacKerricher State Park (Fort Bragg, CA)

For this sample library Mike Peaslee went on a trip to record sounds at a place that was once used to dump refuse.

From the City of Fort Bragg website:

Beginning in 1949, the area around Glass Beach became a public dump. It is hard to imagine this happening today, but back then people dumped all kinds of refuse straight into the ocean, including old cars, and their household garbage, which of course included lots of glass.

By the early sixties, some attempts were made to control what was dumped, and dumping of any toxic items was banned. Finally in 1967, the North Coast Water Quality Board realized what a mistake it was and plans were begun for a new dump away from the ocean.

Now, over 30 years later, Mother Nature has reclaimed this beach. Years of pounding wave action have deposited tons of polished glass onto the beach. You’ll still see the occasional reminder of its earlier life, such as a rusted spark plug, but for the most part what you’ll see is millions of pieces of glass sparkling in the sun.

In 50 years we’ll probably be saying the same thing about some of the things we do in this day and age, but… what were they thinking?!

The Glass Beach library includes 225 samples (24bit/44kHz, non-encrypted PCM wav files), which are used in 31 Kontakt patches in three categories.

The percussion section includes various pebble sounds (hit, scrape, bounce, etc.) and some individual footsteps. These are mostly high pitched click-type sounds, great for adding some interesting glitchy elements to your music, or you can use them as a support or main part in your percussion. Using these sounds with the included “Uberarpeggiator” Kontakt script is easy and fun.

Soundiron Glass Beach Uberarpeggiator
The Glass Beach Grain Hit patch with the “Uberarpeggiator”

The ambient soundscapes category includes sounds of waves crashing on the shore and in a tide pool, a waterfall trickling down a sea cave, and some sounds of man and his best companion walking through the sea glass sand and the pebbles on the beach.

Since these samples were recorded in an outdoor location you might also notice some “unintended” sounds, most audibly some sea birds (I guess). One of the presets actually includes a flock of geese flying over. The lengthy ambience samples can be set to start at a random position with the “Random” control to achieve a kind of round-robin effect.

Lastly, there’s the special fx section. Here we find a number of designed instruments, including some synth and pad type sounds, creative percussion, sound fx and more. Quite a lot of processing is going on with most of these, and in some instances unrelated samples are used as well (e.g. the Glass Piano). These are not necessarily typical for Glass Beach. However, they are a nice addition to the palette of sounds and they work exceptionally well with the other content in Glass Beach.

The Kontakt instruments include a number of performance controls (controls vary per instrument), the Tone/FX panel with various effects, and there’s the custom “Uberarpeggiator” script mentioned earlier.

A collection of 40+ convolution impulse responses is included as well. These are readily available in the reverb section of the Tone/FX tab for some instruments, or you can use a 3rd party software of your choice.

Check Mike Peaslee’s video below for a quick tour of the Glass Beach library.

So what do I think?

Product: Glass Beach by Soundiron
Format: Kontakt 3.5+ (unlocked), 24bit/44kHz samples
Price: $9.99 USD
Like: authentic & original, well designed sounds, value for money
Don’t like: –
Verdict: 9/10

Glass Beach is found in Soundiron’s “Experimental” category of instruments — and rightly so. It’s basically a mixture of field recordings and designed instruments which match the character/vibe of the location. Obviously this library is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. To me, the sounds of Glass Beach are quite beautiful, evocative and inspiring.

The glass pebble sounds have a unique quality, great for creating glitchy rhythms. I reckon the ambiences will appeal to soundtrack composers, for film/tv/games, or perhaps for use in music productions that just need that soothing quality of sea and beach sounds. The included “special fx” patches are well designed and a valuable addition to the library, bringing greater diversity of sounds. I absolutely love some of the delicate, dreamy and hauntingly beautiful tonal patches.

Soundiron is selling this library for $9.99 USD, a real bargain if you ask me. Glass Beach is packed with unique sounds, it is well produced, and — true to Soundiron’s mission — it feels like a proper labor of love.

More information: Soundiron / Glass Beach