Review: Native Instruments Acoustic Refractions

Native Instruments Acoustic Refractions

Acoustic Refractions is Native Instruments’ latest addition to the KORE SoundPack family.

From the product page:

The brand-new ACOUSTIC REFRACTIONS KORE SOUNDPACK delves into a weird and wonderful world of highly idiosyncratic sound design. Ever wondered what it would be like to turn the Golden Gate Bridge into a giant instrument? Or what musical potential can be found in blocks of ice? This KORE SOUNDPACK is packed full of bizarre, inventive, and beautifully playable instruments that won’t be found anywhere else.

Acoustic Refractions includes 100 instruments created by musician and sound designer Jeremiah Savage. I couldn’t really find a lot of information on Jeremiah, or the “Echo Exist” he apparently founded, which is a shame because I’m interested in reading more about him and his approach to sound design.

Jeremiah describes some of the instruments in Acoustic Refractions on the NI website.

Acoustic Refractions - Bridge Nether, Rain Blade & Pagophone
Acoustic Refractions – Bridge Nether, Xer Pagolin, Rain Blade & Pagophone
  • Bridge Nether“Walking under the Golden Gate Bridge I found the sound of metal clanging and gates shaking an interesting idea for a playable soundscape and textural noise. With the addition of slight synthetic and tonal characteristics the sound can be played across the range of a keyboard. Proving that any physical object can be made in to a musical instrument no matter how complex.”
  • Xer Pagolin“This sound was made from sampling Dry Ice with various pieces of metal rubbing against or placed on it. When you do this it causes the metal to vibrate at various frequencies causing the metal to sing creating different noises depending on how it is applied.
  • Rain Blade“While I was driving in the rain I realized the effect of the rain pelting the window and the windshield blades clearing it away had sort of a hypnotizing effect. I wanted to produce a similar effect with this sound. The friction of the blades on the window and the sloshing sound of the rain evoke this image.”
  • Pagophone“I replaced the standard xylophone (latin for wood) blocks with pagophone (latin for ice) blocks to create this instrument of ice. I also samples and created various wintry effects such as melting ice and arctic winds to complete the impression of it being a cold instrument. It can also be morphed into scraping pad sound. Inspiration came from the musician Terje Isungset who creates all his instruments out of ice. But he can only play them in ice caves. You will not have that limitation with this instrument.”

I think that should give you a good idea of what Acoustic Refractions is all about. Check the demo sounds at the Acoustic Refractions product page for a taste of what some of these instruments sound like.

Acoustic Refractions is available as a digital download from the Native Instruments online store for $79 USD / 69 EUR.

So what do I think?

A breath of fresh air. That’s what Acoustic Refractions sounds like to me. It is a wonderful library, full of truly unique and intriguing instruments. Some of them are real works of art IMHO. However, this SoundPack is not going to appeal to every KORE user. I’m thinking this will mostly suit people who do soundtracks, experimental music, or just enjoy playing with unique sounds/instruments.

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a Massive Expansion Vol. 3 (4, 5 or even 6 perhaps), but I think Native Instruments totally hit the mark with this different kind of SoundPack. It’s fresh & unique. I hope NI will find some more sound designers like Jeremiah Savage to work on SoundPacks in the future.

More information: Native Instruments

  • http://www.nickstutorials.com SoundDesignTutorials.com

    This is the kind of thing I’d like to see more of from NI (and other companies, for that matter). I don’t know how many more techno drum packs need to be released before people feel like they have enough variations on the 808. This, on the other hand, is truly unique and interesting!

  • http://torley.com Torley

    ^ I’m with you. There are wayyyy too many overlapping sample libraries out there which cause paralysis by abundance of choices… another good example are all the “pristine pianos”, whereas grittier upright fare captures my attention. More niches should be filled lovingly.

    I’m considering getting this SoundPack, the stories behind the sounds are intriguing. Maybe it’s time for me to redeem my coupon!

  • http://www.nickstutorials.com SoundDesignTutorials.com

    “another good example are all the “pristine pianos”, whereas grittier upright fare captures my attention.”

    I’m the same way with piano samples and plugins. I usually end up running bit reducers and the like over the pristine pianos to dirty them up a bit :)

  • Kenny

    I’m just as sick of all the “me too” samples, but moving in the direction of what is essentially soundfx is not the way to go.

    I also shared your desire for grittier pianos, and I’ve tried out 2 different ones, but they both fell flat in the stark glare of reality. It drove me absolutely insane to hear the same keys out of tune by a couple of cents. When in a mix with other instruments, in tune instruments, it’s just intolerable.

  • http://www.jrrshop.com Eric Dahlberg

    The product description says there are 100 instruments but are there also 8 variations per instrument as with other SoundPacks? Also, Acoustic seems to share some commonality – sound-wise – with Absynth Spectral Expansion and True Strike Tension, which of the three would you recommend for getting the most number of interesting, distinct sounds?

  • http://rekkerd.org ronnie

    Hi Eric,
    Acoustic Refractions and True Strike Tension don’t have that much sound variation for each instrument/sound.

    Acoustic Refractions has some really unique sounds that you won’t find in any other library, great for cinematic stuff. Not so versatile perhaps. True Strike Tension is all about big drum sounds, also a bit limited maybe.

    Absynth Spectral Expansion certainly covers a wider range of sounds. Here you do have lots of variations, sometimes radically different from the original sound.

    Some of the sounds are less distinct though, but that’s also part of what this library is about, namely highly playable sounds.

    Did you check the sound demos for these products on the NI website? Those are a good indication of what you’ll get.

  • http://rekkerd.org ronnie

    Torley, I see you did get this soundpack!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vng0L08y7L0
    Lovely video!

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  • Zoran Rajcic

    what is serial number for Acoustic Refractions

    • Anon

      The number you got when you bought it.

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