So they are at it again with the next in line for the Master Sessions. I’m of course talking about the second release in Heavyocity’s Drum Ensemble series, Ethnic Drum Ensembles Collection.
I won’t go as deep in this review as I did in the last one covering Master Sessions Ensemble Drums Collection, because much of what is said there applies to this release as well.
Installation was a breeze with a download of about 1.9 GB and no problems installing. Since this is a review of the whole collection of Ethnic Drums, it can also be mentioned that the ”Kits” part is approx 860 MB and the ”Loops” are just over 1 GB on disk. Ethnic Drum Ensembles does not show up in the library tab in Kontakt since it is not a Kontakt Player library. It shows up in the regular file browser like any other non-player library. This also means that it needs the full version of Kontakt to function without limitations.
The previous Ensemble Drums Collection was sampled from more ”traditional” drums such as toms, roto toms, bass drums, floor toms, snares and such. Ethnic Ensembles focuses on non-western percussion in the form of conga, bodhran, djembe, dumber, frame drums, surdos, taikos and more. The beauty of it is that they (just as Ensemble Drums) aren’t recorded in solo, they’re recorded in ensembles which makes for a huge sound. And I mean HUGE!
Ethnic Drum Ensembles – Kits
As before, we are spoiled with a bunch of good presets covering every aspect you may like. There are in total 28 different instrument presets (with as many in a high RAM version) plus 4 multis (whereas 2 have hi RAM versions).
Going through the FX patches made me realise how versatile the distortion tab is. Load up the patch Ethnic Frame Ensemble FX Tight n Burnt and turn the Punish knob to just about 1 a clock and un-mute channel 3 and raise the level to just about -28 dB. There, a very ”in-your-face” type of sound with a good deal of character. Play. Turn off the distortion and you have a perfect pillow-in-the-back-of-your-head type of sound that almost sucks the eardrums backwards/outwards. Yeah I know, sounds crazy, but it’s kind of hard to describe another way.
Another nice thing is the the way you can use the Attack knob for the different channels. Take the patch Ethnic Low Ensemble FX SUB for example. If you turn up the attack a bit on channel 2 and 3 you can almost create an underground explosion kind of sound. By the way, this patch made me appreciate my monitors and room even more than I already do, that patch made me smile.
The patch Ethnic Drum Ens Menu (Organic) Stretch will for sure end up in my scoring template. There is a Hi-RAM version that takes up about 426 MB of RAM. Not ”that” much but the ”regular” patch takes up merely 75 MB! That is a lot of heavy drums for a very small memory footprint and in a somewhat busy mix I don’t think anyone could hear a difference. The amount of patches in my Kontakt template this one single patch replaces is worth the price of the whole library alone.
Ethnic Drum Ensembles – Loops
This is where we find the biggest difference when comparing the the Drum Ensemble. There are three patches named Straight 8th STEM 1 (Low) Loops, Straight 8th STEM 2 (Mid) Loops and Straight 8th STEM 3 (High) Loops. This is exactly what you think it is. The loops are divided in low, mid, and high registers, and when you play them all together, it sounds just like the full loops. Divided like this, your options open up.
First, you can trigger them independently, creating ”new” loops on the fly. This of course means you need three separate MIDI tracks to control it but it is a very small price for an almost limitless amount of loop combinations.
Second, you can have each stem on a separate output and treat them differently in regards of EQ, compression, reverb and what not (and for some this is even more important). More snap in the mids? A bit duller in the lows? A touch of backwards delay on the highs? No limits. And of course you can combine the two for even more control.
I hope that there will be an update to the former installment in the Master Session series, Drum Ensemble, that splits up all the loops in a similar way, because it gives you a lot of freedom and control at once. Both in the creativity department and sonically: you can twist/mangle or polish to your heart’s content. It is, in one word, awesome.
I have done this ”manually” by using duplicate versions of the Ensemble Drums‘ ”breakout” patches. The breakout patches gives you a smaller set of loops but divided in four zones on the keyboard. The lowest playable octave gives you the full loops, next three are the low, mid and high parts of the loops. While this is still totally doable with the Ethnic Drum Ensembles the stem patches makes it all so much easier to setup. Plus, you get ALL the loops in one go.
Looking in the ”Loop Menus” folder listing, we see there are in total 10 straight 8th loop patches, and just as many in a triplet version. If that wasn’t enough, there are another 20 patches using what Heavyocity calls ”Mutator” (a concept carried over from the AEON Collection, where loops can be even more creatively sequenced and re-arranged). All of these loops are also available in a ”single” version counting in total 200+ patches. The singles patches even come with a low, mid and a high stem patch!
First impressions (don’t always last!)
I’ve got to be honest. I had so high expectations on this library that when I first loaded it up I felt disappointed. ”Is this all?!?” I thought to myself, ”Where is the usual wizardry?!?”. I also need to explain that we had just moved. I had some stress finishing this review before we would need to start packing but that plan fell through, sick kids and what not. Well, the move went OK and after a couple of weeks living in utter chaos (read: without a functioning and unpacked studio) I sat down again to finish the review. But what the … I simply had to rewrite it since my first impression was just totally, well, off.
Sometimes the mind plays tricks on you for no particular reason and sometimes you’re just plain stupid. I was the latter. My feel of ”lost wizardry” in this library has no grounds whatsoever. It’s just that Heavyocity constantly release libraries that are so good, that what was once ”wizardry” is now more of a ”standard”. I hope you understand what I mean with this, and let’s end it with the fact that I’m glad we moved, for more reasons than one.
If you think you need anything more in the lower department after you have loaded and used Ethnic Heavy Bottom Ensemble, I suggest you check out your monitoring, because you don’t really need any. And if you still think you do, then just load up Ethnic Low Ensemble FX SUB that would be all you ever need, like, ever. The new divided stem patches are great! The sound is great! The Punish knob is great! Put simply: Ethnic Drum Ensembles – Collection is another must-have from Heavyocity!
Full version of Kontakt v188.8.131.52 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.
3.5 GB uncompressed (1.9GB on disk with NI lossless compression)
Direct download only.
MS Kits only: $89
MS Loops only: $89
More information: http://www.heavyocity.com