Reason Drum Kits ReFill Collection ($129) is the latest ReFill product from Propellerhead. ReFills are sound banks that have myriad samples and patches for Reason Instruments, and this latest release features goodies for several Instruments, with an emphasis on the NN-XT sampler. There are 17 custom-tailored acoustic drum kits for NN-XT suitable for vintage soul and funk, indie-pop, and rock styles. You also get 70 ready-to-use ReDrum patches, 8 reverb patches for RV7000, 23 distortion and compression patches for Scream 4, and assorted MIDI files, song templates, and raw samples. A keymap, manual, and studio log (which documents how each kit was created) are provided in printed and PDF formats.
The drum samples are all original and were individually recorded using top-notch mics (such as Neumann U87s) and vintage outboard gear at Stockholm's Atlantis Studio, a facility that has been in operation since the 1960s. A wide selection of drums is represented, including DW, Yamaha, and Gretsch, as well as Meinl, Paiste, and Zildjian cymbals.
Installation requires you to drag-and-drop the content (which is extensive) from the DVD to your preferred drive. The minimum system requirements are 512 MB of RAM on either a Pentium III/1 GHz PC or a G4/550 MHz Mac. The ReFill comes in 16-bit and 24-bit formats; other than bit count, the versions are identical. Either version puts a fairly substantial dent in your hard drive: the 24-bit version requires 1.9 GB, and the 16-bit version consumes 612 MB. The Instrument presets and songs also require different load times depending upon which version you're using. Loading the 16-bit version of the example song “Robotic” on my Mac, which exceeds the RAM requirement but has a processor that matches the minimum spec, took a healthy 2 minutes and 15 seconds, and the 24-bit version required a whopping 4 minutes and 15 seconds. Loading the 24-bit version of the song on a Pentium 4/2.4 GHz laptop with 512 MB of RAM took 2 minutes and 20 seconds. The songs and patches were usable on both machines; in both cases, however, I had to kick up the buffer in Reason to handle the 24-bit versions.
The drums and presets in this ReFill collection sound very good — the high quality is apparent. The samples themselves are not large, but in the case of the NN-XT patches, Velocity switching is used, and many samples are loaded on each key. For example, in one patch I counted 56 samples on a single key. In addition, the collection uses a feature that Propellerhead calls Hypersampling, which randomly selects a different sample, mic position, and dynamic level when you repeat a note (a snare-drum fill, for example).
I browsed through most of the sample songs (from which several of my Web Clips are derived) with delight. From rock ballads to funk, the songs showcase the collection's excellent potential, especially when using the NN-XT (see Web Clips 1-12). The downside is the sample songs' extremely long load times — most songs, though less than 32 bars, take several minutes to load. The same is true of the NN-XT patches — but like the songs, they're worth loading. I tried out all 17 kits, and each has its own nuances, flavor, and surprises, including muted and extra “live” drums, hand claps, finger snaps, drum rolls, and a variety of hats, cymbals, snares, and toms. There are even dedicated brush and mallet kits, though the brush kit unfortunately did not have much brushed-snare work. The sample songs take advantage of NN-XT's multiple outputs, which are used for the separate routing of different drums and mic angles. (Using the outputs with your own tracks makes for an unusually satisfying sample experience.)
I also cruised through many of the ReDrum patches, and although they are much less sophisticated than the NN-XT patches, they are fun in their own right. The ReDrum patches use the same sample library as the NN-XT patches, and the sounds are fat. But because there aren't any layered samples, the patches lack the subtle dynamics of NN-XT. (They require, however, a fraction of the load time.) For urban styles such as Hip-Hop or R&B, the ReDrum patches are the ticket.
Although I can't cover all the goodies here, I especially like the array of mic positions used and the natural mic bleed that comes through in the samples. The Reverb and Distortion presets also deserve a mention. Suffice it to say, there's plenty of quality all around. On the downside, you'll need a powerful computer to make proper use of all this juiciness, and the raw samples cannot be used outside of Reason. Overall, Reason Drum Kits ReFill Collection is an excellent selection of samples and plug-and-play presets. I recommend it.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4