Music software review: Master Sessions Ensemble Drums Collection by Heavyocity

Every time Heavyocity releases something new I’m eager to see what they have been up to. I hold them in high regard when it comes to creating interesting and good sounding Kontakt libraries. Master Sessions (MS from now on) is apparently what seems to be a new series from Heavyocity. First in the release line we have Ensemble Drums which is available as a “Kits” library or a “Loops” library as well as a collection of both. This review is about the Master Sessions Ensemble Drums Collection.

MS Ensemble Drums Kits - Main

Ensemble Drums – Kits

Lets take a look at the Kit part of the collection first. There is what Heavyocity calls “Organic versions” as well as “FX Versions” of the Kit. The kit in itself is the same, it’s just processed a bit different among the different patches. There are 5 menu patches (containing  the full kit), 7 single patches and 19 FX versions. Also, for each patch there is a “HI RAM” version as well. Let’s take a deeper look at the “Ens Drums Menu (Organic) – HI RAM” patch.

It weighs in at roughly 426 MB RAM. It has two different bass drums, three toms, a snare and an extra “click kick”. In shear numbers it doesn’t sound so special but  when you begin to pound the keys it sounds awesome. Yes it’s missing a hi hat and some other stuff to be called a drum kit but it doesn’t matter, it’s not the focus of MS Ensemble Drums. What it does very well is to add a whole lot of body and SLAM to your palette. Each of the sounds have been recorded with three different mics, you can think of them as close, stage and hall. Each of the sounds can be positioned on a virtual stage and this is where you place them in your mix. Close? Ok. Far away on the left? Ok. Since the drums in the ALL patch all are mapped to two adjacent keys each you can easily setup one that is closer and one a bit further back in the mix.

Since you are given control over the mix of this three mics not just in level but also in stereo placement and pitch (yes you can pitch the far mics up 4-5 semitones for a kind of punchier sound!) as well as separate three-band EQ for each microphone position there is actually little need to have anything but a stereo out from this kit. Brilliant!

For those of you familiar with other libraries from Heavyocity I’m happy to say that yes, the Punish knob is available in MS Ensemble Drums as well. This button alone does about 30% of the sound, no really! Want a dynamic, nice sound? Don’t touch it (well maybe just a tiny bit?). Want a bit grittier and a more in-you-face sound? Put it at 50%. Want to make that famous drum sound from “In the Air Tonight” jealous? Turn it up all the way! Depending on the track you’re working on this button can help you set the atmosphere with a simple little twist. What it does? A bit of distortion and compression at the same time I think, in a very pleasing way (for drum sounds at least).

The other patches in the Kit version works just like the Menu-patch, it’s just separate sounds spread out over a few more keys. They are divided as follow:

  • Low Drums All.nki
  • Low Drums Tight.nki
  • Snares Off.nki
  • Snares On.nki
  • Tom Low Rotos n Bass Drums.nki
  • Toms High.nki
  • Trap Case n Door.nki

All of the above also comes in HI RAM versions as well as different FX variations.

MS Ensemble Drums - Loops - EQ & Filter

Ensemble Drums – Loops

The Loops part of the collection is actually divided in two one could say. First there are the “Menu” patches which gives you a different loop per key and then there is the “Singles” patches which gives you one loop with different slices of the loop mapped out on different keys. How you prefer to use it may vary and that the choice even exists is great. Sometimes a single loop split in smaller parts will be the way to go and in other circumstances it will be the loop per key method. Furthermore the loops are divided in “Straight” patches and “Triplet” patches and there is even a “Mutator” variation of each.

In the menu programs each loop has it’s own three-band EQ with gain, frequency and Q-controls. Each loop is also tuneable between -24 to +24 semitones. The ability to pitch with the added ability to EQ each loop on it’s own makes it possible to create some high-pitched driving rhythms with ease, even if the base sound is heavy ensemble drums. The samples have plenty of information in them to shift them in different ways to new sonic places.

MS Ensemble Drums - Loops - Mutator

The loops also have the “Mutator” which in its most basic form is an arpeggiator or a step sequencer, depending on how you look at it. I would like to call the “Mutator” a kind of sequencing slicer. It gives you control over the loops in a very interesting way. Each step in the sequence can trigger a new slice, either from the loop you’re actually playing or from adjacent notes (loops) on the keyboard. So when you set a step to “-5” you are actually telling it to play different slices from another loop -5 semitones from the one you triggered. Confusing? Yes, at first maybe but after a few minutes you’ll start to grasp the usefulness of this little gem. Read the manual if you’re lost, it explains it all in detail.

MS Ensemble Drums - T-FX

But there is more

Both the Kits and Loops patches also contain the “T-FX” scripting. Heavyocity calls this “Trigger FX” and with it you can have additional effects such as distortion, bit crusher, lowpass filter, panning and a delay. Each of these effects can be switched on with a keyswitch and when you release the key the effect is switched off.

MS Ensemble Drums - T-FX Sequencer

But (yes another but) there is more! Each T-FX can be synced to a step sequencers where you control various parameters of the FX. And yes, each effect has it’s own step sequencer. The amount of control you have over just about everything in these patches is quite staggering and I suggest that you actually take some time to read the manual to get full understanding of everything you actually can control. It’s time well spent, trust me.

There is in fact even more than what I have included here such as separate MIDI-files for the performances of the various loops, a “Twist” function which bends the sound in a way (didn’t like it much) and a few more nifty programming perks. As previously said, take some time and go through the manual, MS Ensemble Drums Collection is actually deeper than you first think.

The Patches

In total the Loops section have:

  • 168 straight single loops
  • 46 straight mutator single loops
  • 165 triplet single loops
  • 37 triplet mutator single loops
  • 7 straight Loop Menus
  • 7 triplet loop menus
  • 7 straight mutator loop menus
  • 6 triplet mutator loop menus

Kits have:

  • 5 organic menu versions
  • 5 organic HI RAM menu versions
  • 7 organic single versions
  • 7 organic HI RAM single versions
  • 19 FX versions
  • 19 FX HI RAM versions
  • 5 multis

Conclusion

I have some of the Evolve package in the form of Mutations version 2 as well as Damage but this package will be used the most from now on, no doubt. While the aforementioned libraries sound excellent in their own right, they sound just like ”Evolve” and ”Damage” libraries. The MS Ensemble Drums is more neutral, more sculptural than any of the others. I can make these drums fit in any context I’d like. I could make them sound like ”Evolve” or ”Damage”, or more importantly, I could easily make them sound like ”me”. The sounds are excellent, the programming stunning and the interface doesn’t get in your way. What more could you want?

Requirements:
Full version of Kontakt v5.3.1.37 or later
Mac: OS X 10.7, Intel Core Duo, 2GB RAM.
PC: Windows 7 (latest service pack), 32/64 Bit, Intel Core Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2, 2GB RAM.

Specifications:
3.5 GB uncompressed (1.9GB on disk with NI lossless compression)
Direct download only.

Price:
Collection: $149
MS Kits only: $89
MS Loops only: $89

More information: http://www.heavyocity.com

Every time Heavyocity releases something new I’m eager to see what they have been up to. I hold them in high regard when it comes to creating interesting and good sounding Kontakt libraries. Master Sessions (MS from now on) is apparently what seems to be a new series from Heavyocity. First in the release line we have Ensemble Drums which is available as a “Kits” library or a “Loops” library as well as a collection of both. This review is about the Master Sessions Ensemble Drums Collection. Ensemble Drums – Kits Lets take a look at the Kit part of the collection first. There is what Heavyocity calls “Organic versions” as well as “FX Versions” of the Kit. The kit in itself is the same, it’s just processed a bit different among the different patches. There are 5 menu patches (containing  the full kit), 7 single patches and 19 FX versions. Also, for each patch there is a “HI RAM” version as well. Let’s take a deeper look at the “Ens Drums Menu (Organic) – HI RAM” patch. It weighs in at roughly 426 MB RAM. It has two different bass drums, three toms, a snare and an extra “click kick”. In shear numbers it doesn’t sound so special but  when you begin to pound the keys it sounds awesome. Yes it’s missing a hi hat and some other stuff to be called a drum kit but it doesn’t matter, it’s not the focus of MS Ensemble Drums. What it does very well is to add a whole lot of body and SLAM to your palette. Each of the sounds have been recorded with three different mics, you can think of them as close, stage and hall. Each of the sounds can be positioned on a virtual stage and this is where you place them in your mix. Close? Ok. Far away on the left? Ok. Since the drums in the ALL patch all are mapped to two adjacent keys each you can easily setup one that is closer and one a bit further back in the mix. Since you are given control over the mix of this three mics not just in level but also in stereo placement and pitch (yes you can pitch the far mics up 4-5 semitones for a kind of punchier sound!) as well as separate three-band EQ for each microphone position there is actually little need to have anything but a stereo out from this kit. Brilliant! For those of you familiar with other libraries from Heavyocity I’m happy to say that yes, the Punish knob is available in MS Ensemble Drums as well. This button alone does about 30% of the sound, no really! Want a dynamic, nice sound? Don’t touch it (well maybe just a tiny bit?). Want a bit grittier and a more in-you-face sound? Put it at 50%. Want to make that famous drum sound from “In the Air Tonight” jealous? Turn it up all the way! Depending on the…

MS Ensemble Drums Collection


INSTALLATION – 90%


PATCHES – 95%


INTERFACE – 90%


SOUND – 100%


VALUE – 94%



94%

94/100

The MS Ensemble Drums is more neutral, more sculptural than any of the others. I can make these drums fit in any context I’d like. I could make them sound like ”Evolve” or ”Damage”, or more importantly, I could easily make them sound like ”me”. The sounds are excellent, the programming stunning and the interface doesn’t get in your way. What more could you want?

94

Written by: Thomas Mavian

Thomas Mavian is a Swedish composer, producer and record label owner with a soft spot for virtual synthesizers (which he has too many of already). He is currently involved in leading the design and development of a new music sharing service.

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