Ocean Way Drums Gold gives you a library of huge-sounding multimiked drums, with mix presets from Allen Sides and extensive user tweakability
If I told you that there was a drum sample library recorded in a top-quality studio (Ocean Way Recording) by two highly respected producer-engineers (Steven Miller and Grammy Award winner Allen Sides) using a tried-and-true software platform (Native Instruments Kontakt Player 2) and the expertise of a major sound developer (Sonic Reality), you would expect a superior product. In the case of Ocean Way Drums (OWD), you would not be disappointed. OWD features numerous and varied multisampled kits, meticulously recorded by Sides and Miller using classic microphones in Ocean Way's vast Studio B. You get a library of drum sounds that are fat, punchy, and extremely realistic. These may be the best-sounding sampled drums I've ever heard.
OWD Gold ($895) includes a whopping 40 GB of sample data, which comes on six DVDs. Kontakt Player 2 (standalone and plug-in) is bundled with the library. (Also available is OWD Platinum [$1,795], which comes on its own hard drive with an astounding 120 GB of samples.) For both Mac and Windows users, a CPU with a minimum 2 GHz clock speed is recommended.
DRUM SOUND HEAVEN
The OWD Gold library consists of 19 kits, all of which offer samples derived from close, overhead, and room mics on each cymbal or drum (hi-hat, ride, and crash; kick; snare; and high, medium, and low toms). Each kit element features numerous Velocity layers for additional realism.
OWD's user interface lets you adjust the levels of the various mics used to record each element. On many of the snares, you also get a knob called RMX, which dials in a gated reverb sound. Many of the kicks have both RMX and Thwack controls, the latter being a heavily compressed signal. For instant gratification, there are six keyswitchable mix presets for each kit, mixed by Sides himself (see Web Clip 1), which give you progressively more room sound as you step through them. These presets can also be adjusted for individual elements.
The kits range in sound from clean and punchy to big and fat. Each comes in two flavors: the C 12A version, for which the snare was miked with a stereo pair of AKG C 12As on top, and the 57 version, which has a mono Shure SM57 on the snare. (You can get 57s and C 12As on the snare in both kit types through the knobs in the OWD interface.) Both kit configurations offer stereo Sony 55P mics under the snare. Each kit is also available in either a Snares On or a Snares Off version, which refers to whether the snares were on (and thus rattling) or off when the other drums and cymbals were recorded. Overall, an immense amount of mixing control is available here.
OFF THE MAP
All the kits are offered with keymapping for Roland V-Drums (featuring the TD-20 brain) and for Sonic Reality's proprietary I-MAP scheme. I-MAP is designed to make drum programming easier and more expressive from a keyboard (see Web Clip 2). Once you get used to it, it works extremely well. The version of OWD I reviewed did not offer GM keymaps, so it wasn't usable with preprogrammed MIDI drum sequences (or previously existing MIDI drum parts). However, the next update of OWD, which may be out by the time you read this, will add GM-mapped kits and a collection of MIDI files. Even before that comes out, a software patch that adds the GM-mapping feature will be available for download from the OWD site.
The PDF manual offers tips for using the library with Drumagog software (you need to download a free helper program before doing so). The idea of using OWD's sounds for drum replacement is tantalizing indeed.
I do have a few minor issues with OWD. There are no brush or Blastick samples, only stick hits. Depending on the musical style you're recording, that could be a limiting factor, although for straight-ahead rock and pop and a lot of contemporary country, these drum sounds are spot-on.
Another quibble is that the kits don't have descriptive names, only numerical ones (Kit 1, Kit 2). That fact made it difficult to recall what each kit sounded like; when auditioning the kits at random, it was tough to remember which ones I'd already listened to. Miller told me that he and Sides decided against descriptive names (especially brand names of drums in the kit) because they didn't want users to have false preconceptions of what the kits (which are all custom setups) sound like. Finally, I would have liked a printed manual, not just a PDF.
Overall, OWD is an amazing product. Yes, it's relatively expensive and requires a lot of disk space, but it offers world-class drum sounds and an incredible amount of mixing control.
Value (1 through 5): 5
Sonic Reality (distributor)