The Loop Loft Drum Direktor FNK-4
This powerful self-contained KONTAKT Player drum machine lets you load a one-shot or looped sample into each of its 16 pads, merging loops and hits into elaborate composite kits. Although you can’t import your own samples, about 300 live funk and breakbeat loops and one-shots are included, and with the ability to instantly slice individual sounds and regions out of the loops by moving start markers and shaping envelopes, there’s far more mileage here than that number suggests.
Each pad can be routed to one of eight colour-coded mixer groups (hello, KOMPLETE KONTROL Light Guide!), each with its own transient shaper, compressor, EQ and effects sends (reverb and delay), while the per-pad sound design tools include filtering, stereo width adjustment, bitcrushing, and controlled randomisation of pan and tuning. An intuitive step sequencer is also provided, featuring up to 32 steps, four velocity layers, automatic choking, accenting and the ability to key-switch between eight patterns.
Drum Direktor FNK-4 (and its siblings DD From The Garage and DD Cinematik) is a cleverly designed and surprisingly flexible virtual beatbox with a superb sound library at its heart.
Check out The Loop Loft Drum Direktor FNK-4 here.
Native Instruments BATTERY 4
A bona fide classic among plug-ins, BATTERY 4 is as essential for beat production today as it has been since version 1, launched almost two decades ago. That familiar cell-based interface brings together up to 128 single or multi-sampled sounds in a kit, which can be freely configured using BATTERY’s flexible grouping, routing and triggering options. Below the informative waveform display, the editing tabs give ready access to an extensive range of per-pad parameters, including pitch and amp envelopes, filters, time stretching and vintage sampler emulation, assignable modulation, effects and even the execution of preset drum rudiments (flams, drags, ruffs, etc). The browser features tagging and a search function, and integrates all your installed Expansions as well as the 143 diverse kits that come with BATTERY 4; and instant cell rendering brings resampling to the party, for serious sound design potential.
BATTERY 4’s workflow is as slick as they come – with or without a KOMPLETE KONTROL attached – and it sounds incredible, whether using the included kits or processing and triggering your own samples.
Check out Battery 4 here.
Rob Papen Punch
Although best known for his stellar soft synths (all NKS-compatible, incidentally), renowned sound designer Rob Papen is also responsible for this sonically superlative hybrid drum machine. Merging synthesis and sampling, Punch gives you 32 sound ‘pads’ to work with, each housing a bespoke synthesis model for its specified drum type (kick, snare, hats, clap, etc) or a sample (250 are included and you can import your own). Pads are edited individually in terms of tuning, filtering, modulation and effects, or collectively in the Easy page – very handy for quick tweaks.
For onboard playback, Punch’s sequencer is wonderfully creative, offering eight MIDI-triggered four-track grooves, each one independently assignable to four of the 32 pads. Trigger grooves in series to build arrangements, or stack them on top of each other for dense, intricate percussion beds.
Despite its impressive depth and comparative complexity, Punch’s sensibly arranged (if rather small on a high-res display) interface makes it easier to use than it at first appears, particularly with the aid of those eight auto-mapped KOMPLETE KONTROL knobs; and it’ll come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Papen’s synths that it sounds absolutely immense.
Check out Rob Papen Punch here.
Wave Alchemy Evolution
Five years in the making, the 5GB soundbank powering Wave Alchemy’s ambitious KONTAKT Player library comprises over 28,000 one-shot samples, taking in a mind-blowing arsenal of drum machines, synths, acoustic instruments and found sounds. It’s put to use in a supercharged 12-voice engine, each voice blending three sample layers: Drum (body), Transient (attack) and Layer (a ‘sound design’ element – subs, clap tails, etc). There are no constraints as to what kind of drum can be loaded into each voice, so you’re free to build the ten-snare kit of your dreams; and the Mix page opens up a high degree of sound-shaping control, from detailed pitch and filter modulation to compression, transient shaping, and delay and reverb processing.
Once again, the sequencer is a highlight, enabling all 12 voices to be sequenced together, or individually in Zoom mode, and facilitating step-based modulation of volume, pan, pitch and effects sends, and – most importantly – Evolution’s eight assignable Macros.
A drum and percussion juggernaut, Evolution represents the current state of the art in Kontakt drum machines.
Check out Wave Alchemy’s Evolution here.
Vir2 Vital Series Mallets
This unusual KONTAKT 5 library racks up eight tuned percussion instruments in parallel: Marimba, Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Tubular Bells, Glass Marimba, Song Bells, Vibraphone and Crotales, each multi-sampled across up to four velocity layers and five round robins, and played with a variety of switchable beaters (Hard, Soft, Rods et al). Simply enable the instruments you want, shape their amp envelopes, balance and pan them to taste, then apply the onboard effects (EQ, Distortion, Delay, Reverb, Transient Designer and Compressor), filter and LFOs (modulating volume, pan, pitch and cutoff) to utterly transform the resulting percussive mash-up. You can even dial in authentic ‘two-handed’ rolls.
With its straightforward interface and beautifully captured source material, Vital Series Mallets is much more than just a great source of realistic tuned percussion, extending out into sci-fi tones, spacey atmospherics (gotta love those Bowed Crotales!) and evocative keyboard-style sounds.
Check out Vital Series Mallets here.
Native Instruments ABBEY ROAD 60s DRUMMER
Improving significantly on the original ABBEY ROAD 60s DRUMS, ABBEY ROAD 60s DRUMMER adds a full-on mixer, complete with effects including SOLID EQ, TRANSIENT MASTER and SOLID BUS COMP, and an enormous library of rock ’n’ roll, blues, jazz, soul and psychedelic rock grooves. The drums themselves are the main event, though, recorded to tape at the eponymous mythical studio by engineer Mirek Stiles (whose previous credits include The Beatles’ 2006 Love album) and comprising two legendary kits – a 1967 Ludwig Hollywood and an early 60s Gretsch Round Badge White Marine Pearl – with up to 30 velocity layers and six round robins per drum. Both sound, ahem, fab, the Ludwig being the more rounded and up-front of the pair, and the Gretsch more open and vibey.
For retro pop and rock production, ABBEY ROAD 60s DRUMMER could be the only virtual drum kit(s) you’ll ever need. It’s well worth a look as a source of original breakbeats for sampling, too.
Check out ABBEY ROAD 60s DRUMMER here.
Impact Soundworks Super Audio Cart
From classic drum kits to vintage games consoles and computers. Impact Soundworks’ endlessly entertaining KONTAKT Player library comprehensively samples the soundchips of the Sega Master System and Megadrive, Nintendo Gameboy, NES, Famicon (the Japanese NES, boasting more sounds than its global counterpart) and SNES, Atari 2600, and Commodore 64. Alongside a wealth of crunchy raw waveforms, nostalgia-inducing basses, leads, ‘guitars’ and other melodic instrumentation, Super Audio Cart also features a ton of drum kits, many of them sounding every bit as fresh and punchy now as they did back in the day.
Four patches can be layered at a time from across the whole library, so mixing and matching, say, a Megadrive kick drum with a 2600 snare is very much an option. There’s plenty to get your teeth into in the effects, sequencing and modulation departments, too, making the primitive chiptune noises at the heart of Super Audio Cart eminently suitable for use in any modern electronic music context.
Check out Impact Soundworks Super Audio Cart here.
In Session Audio Shimmer Shake Strike
There aren’t many virtual instruments dedicated entirely to ‘top line’ hand percussion, but Shimmer Shake Strike is unarguably the best of them. The title refers to the three categories of multi-samples that are loaded into the three layers of the playback engine in any combination as an ensemble: ten tambourines (‘Shimmer’), 24 shakers (‘Shake’), and a selection of 33 cowbells, claves, agogos, handclaps, castanets and other ‘Strike’ instruments. The layers are mixed and processed in a well-equipped mixer, but it’s the ingenious (albeit quite fiddly) Pattern sequencer that sets In Session’s unique library apart. Here, staggeringly realistic three-line performances can be programmed over up to 64 steps, thanks to the 13 articulations provided for every tambourine and shaker (surely a record!), and a very effective humanising algorithm.
Sounding every bit as good as its cheerfully photographic GUI looks, Shimmer Shake Strike represents the last word in shaker and tambourine emulation.
Check out In Session Audio Shimmer Shake Strike here.