The iconic tagline for Ridley Scott’s Alien reminds us that “in space, no one can hear you scream.” But thanks to NASA – and an enormous black hole at the center of the Perseus galaxy – we now know what gravitational collapse sounds like. The chillingly spectral soundbite features a multiverse of celestial drones that range from darkly dystopic to sonorously soothing and everything in between.
If you’re looking to enter the cosmic void and take your productions to their event horizon, you’re going to need some seriously experimental synths. So here are our five favorite drone ensembles from The REAKTOR User Library.
Far from conventional, these innovative instruments are packed with thrumming murmurs and buzzing hums that range from the meditative to the malevolent. Read on for a brisk breakdown of each evolutionary ensemble, and click the embedded links for a free download.
As usual, make sure you’re running the full version of REAKTOR.
4x4 Drone Thing V2
Oscillator creator John Squibb is back with a strikingly sonorous experimental synth. This hauntingly ethereal instrument combines 2×4 banks of sine waveforms with 2×4 banks of sawtooth waveforms, and each bank is passed through a high/low pass filter with sine, tri, and pulse LFO modulators – which makes for one dramatically dynamic drone noise generator.
Colin Chabot’s Space Modulator is the legendary self-playing ensemble SpaceDrone on steroids. This absorbingly ambient instrument creates beautifully evolving textures and tones that are perfect for sculpting bold celestial soundscapes – while the added option of setting the scale and notes gives you the power to program a personalized interstellar voyage all your own.
Britta Harmonic Drone Synthesizer
Robert Sigmuntowski’s additive sound generator Britta develops dreamily meditative drone sounds from additive sinus tones tuned to harmonics. And each harmonic has an on/off switch and speed knob for panning and swells, plus the ability to set a root note and fine-tune your tones – which means the mystically-minded can use it to dial in homebrewed healing frequencies for mind-expanding meditations.
TTQ’s four-voice drone synth is great for sculpting cinematic soundscapes and tense, atonal atmospheres. Inspired by experimental synthesizers like the organismic analogue LYRA-8 and the chaotically atonal Stereo Field, Droplets 4 features interconnected controls and a simple two-step sequencer for each incredible voice – which makes it perfect for dialing in just the right amount of deep space dread.
Boasting an anarchic assortment of sound sculpting features – including twin distortion controls, a bit crusher, two LP filters, two wavetable oscillators, three LFO’s, and a chorus effect – Bolle’s crushingly heavy CRUDE makes for one deliciously diabolical drone generator. Not sure how to start your journey to pure sonic destruction? Surrender to chance and press the RND button to randomize all controls except master volume.
There’s more where that came from – don’t forget to explore the full User Library for an almost limitless archive of instruments, effects, sequencers and more. Should you need a hand finding the cream of the crop, we’ve a whole series right here on the blog. You’ll find it all over on the aptly named Free Stuff section.
Sound design: Konstantin Grismann