GETTING AROUND STRIKE
The Main page is where you can modify drum sounds and the rhythmic pattern playback—swing, timbre, timing tightness, basic EQ/compression settings, and the mix of the various mic positions (close mics, overheads, room mics, and even a “talkback” mic).
Two very interesting controls, Complexity and Intensity, map to MIDI pitchbend and modulation controllers by default; they let you adjust, in real time, the drum hits’ intensity and complexity of the parts being played in the current rhythmic pattern. For example, increase complexity and the hi-hat gets more complex, the snare drum plays more grace notes, and the whole kit gets busier—but still within the same general rhythmic pattern structure. You can even specify which individual instruments will be affected by these controls, and to what degree. These controls make Strike a far more expressively playable instrument than most drum machines and samplers. (Of course, you can record this data as automation and edit it.)
When played from a keyboard, the lowest octave provides individual mute switches for each of the 12 instruments in a Strike drum kit. The highest two octaves trigger individual samples, while the middle three octaves trigger various patterns (the bottom octave white keys trigger verse patterns, while the black keys trigger intro fills). The next octave up triggers bridge patterns on the white keys and fills on the black keys, while the highest octave handles choruses and outros. (There’s a virtual keyboard for auditioning patterns, but it doesn’t generate MIDI note data—so you still need a hardware controller.)
A QUESTION OF STYLE
Each Style has 35 (editable) patterns containing various alternative rhythms for different song sections—intros, verses, choruses, etc.—mapped in a consistent way from Style to Style. So, once you’ve charted out your arrangement, you can “switch drummers” by calling up a different Style. How would that country tune sound as a bossa nova? It’s easy to find out. And, you can adjust the relative response to complexity and intensity for each instrument, as well as the playing dynamics, hit variations, timing, and offset of each kit element. Want the snare to vary tonally with each hit? Just raise the hit variation control.
The Kits are editable for timbre shift, attack and decay times, and sample sizes; note that you can’t load individual samples within a kit (e.g., load just the kick drum samples from a different kit). Also, no expansion packs are available yet. But the quality of the included sounds is generally very good, and the amount of sonic variations exceed what you’d expect from the relatively modest number of drum kits.
The Mix screen is extremely comprehensive, and in addition to having lots of choices for level, panning, multi-mic mixes, etc., each instrument can have up to three insert effects using Strike’s onboard processors. There are also multiple outputs if you want to add other effects.
STRIKE, OR FOUL BALL?
Part sample library, part sound module/ drum machine, and part expressive instrument, Strike is a knob twiddler’s delight—without being so complicated that it intimidates new users. Drawbacks are few; overall, Strike offers flexibility, control, cool grooves, good drum sounds, impressive realism, stability, and the superb “playability” characteristic of AIR’s virtual instruments. If you need a great virtual drummer for your Pro Tools sessions, audition Strike. I’d say it’s a hit.
Product type: RTAS plug-in virtual drum instrument (Mac/Windows XP).
Target market: Pro Tools users needing powerful, expressive drum sounds.
Strengths: Exceptional sonic control and stylistic nuance. Complexity control edits a style’s “busy-ness.” Intuitive user interface. Musically useful and stylistically-related drum patterns for each Style.
Limitations: Can’t load your own sample libraries, or individual samples from the included sample library into a Kit. Can’t change panning perspective (audience vs. player) quickly for the entire kit without adjusting numerous panning controls. Lacks many percussion sounds (e.g., tambourines, shakers).
List price: $299