Review: Heavyocity DM-307 Sound Library

More Sounds, More Grooves
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HEAVYOCITY HAS long been at the forefront of unique sound libraries that have a strong rhythmic inclination. With DM-307, the developer offers an enormous number of grooves and sounds, while providing novel ways to put them together.

In a sense, DM-307 is an impressionist’s drum machine. Although its sound library hosts a decent number of conventional-sounding kit elements, DM-307 is anything but conventional, serving up processed and warped drum sounds with apologies to no one.

The instrument takes advantage of the deep feature set of Native Instruments’ Kontakt 5 sampler; you’ll need version 5.3 or later of the free Kontakt Player or the full Kontakt sampler. DM-307 is only available as a download and includes a standalone version as well as AU, VST, and AAX plug-ins.

Once installed, the software takes its place in the Kontakt browser, where its instrument patches and multitimbral configurations are immediately available. The Instrument browser hosts a menu comprising kit grooves, kits, and loops. Kit grooves are patches with drum maps and patterns, whereas kits are blank slates awaiting user input.

Kit subfolders harbor drums arranged for DM-307 pattern sequencing as kits or in a separate subfolder as kit elements. (The latter makes it handy to build patterns by kick, snare, cymbals or other components.) The Standard MIDI drum folder mirrors the DM-307 kits (minus the pattern grids) with mapping more or less consistent between kits. Though not quite conforming to a Standard MIDI drum map (kicks are on C1 and D1, for example), these are intended for conventional sequencing in the host program’s MIDI tracks and make it easy to replace previously recorded MIDI tracks with DM-307 sounds.

Common Ground Common to all patches and multis are Heavyocity’s prodigious DSP and real-time control via T-FX, which uses MIDI notes at the upper range of the keyboard to momentarily trigger any of five different processor types—distortion, lo-fi, filter, pan, and delay. Alternatively, each effect has a sequencer for tempo-based modulation. Tempo-synched gating effects with successive keys trigger different note values.

Fig 1. The Main Window is common to all DM-307 patches and grants access to the multieffects, the amp envelope, and Twist and Punish. You can apply the amp envelope to individual sounds on the patch key map. Another common feature is the panel of controls on the Main screen (see Figure 1). Master Effects and Volume Envelope controls flank a central bank of controls labeled Twist and Punish, as well as a context-sensitive field for selecting a sample or a loop. All Master effects, including Twist and Punish parameters, apply globally to loops and kits. Twist affects the tone of the selection, and appears to be some sort of multimode filter, while Punish is a compression and saturation effect. Volume Envelope controls have a drop-down menu, letting you choose a note number or a kit piece by name to control the envelope of a kit element, or a loop from a loop menu. Because loops and kit samples are mapped to MIDI notes, you can select one for editing from your controller and alter its pitch, pan position, and level.

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Modus Operandi With the exception of the Standard MIDI drums, all grooves are created in step time; there is no real-time keyboard input. All patches and multis (except for the Standard MIDI kits) rely on step sequencers for groove creation and sonic animation.

Fig 2. The Grid Window is where most of the pattern sequencing happens. Each of the five banks contains its own sample map. Groove building starts with the Grid window, which is immediately visible when loading a kit with a pattern (see Figure 2). You will find up to five lanes of banks, which are either numbered or named after the kit element represented, depending on whether you have chosen an element kit (for example, a percussion, kick, or hi-hat kit). Change the time signature by globally lengthening or shortening the number of steps per pattern.

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Below the sample maps, every sequenced instrument (multis included) has a key switch to globally trigger playback. Keys above the key switch mute individual banks in an instrument, while in a multi, the individual instrument tracks are muted. In this way, you can additively or subtractively create dynamic rhythm tracks with a single keystroke.

Add patterns to an instrument via a knob that extends the number of patterns (up to 8), and a drop-down menu for each pattern that lets you order them in any way you’d like. Of course, you can copy and paste patterns, as well as add variations.

Fig 3. The Step Sample feature lets you trigger different samples attached to a bank’s key map. Clicking and dragging the white bar under an event in the sequencer transposes the event, causing it to trigger a different sound (indicated just below the event at the top of the panel). But there’s a lot more going on in the sequencers. Clicking on any bank reveals another group of sequencers—Step Velocity and Step Sample. The ability to edit velocity is an expected feature, but Step Sample is the real eye-opener. Each bank’s sequencer lane—whether it is a kit element or a full-blown drum-and-percussion kit—contains its own key map of instruments, usually a variation on a theme (e.g., a map of different kicks, or possibly, snares). Dragging up or down on a step will select a related sample, providing a wealth of sonic variety (see Figure 3). The samples can be wildly diverse in timbre and effect, but because they are related functionally, they add tremendous sonic interest without disrupting a groove with the wrong kit element. (Find audio clips at eumusician.com/august2014; this example references Clip 1.)

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Loops operate differently. Loop menus lay out a variety of grooves across the key map, and you play them by holding down the keys you want. Single loops work more like a REX file, arranging the loop slices above a key that triggers the entire loop. You can select (by MIDI note) any slice of the loop, and edit its panning, tuning, and level, or randomize any or all parameters. Single loops and loop menus have a Mutate window which works like an arpeggiator and lets you alter the way loops play back with respect to duration, note number, and velocity. With Singles, note number affects the slice selection, while with loop menus, it can select a different loop.

Multi instruments take advantage of the modular nature of the DM-307 library and often combine groove elements as well as full-kit grooves. Although time signatures and note values are global in single patches, multis can easily handle polyrhythms by changing the pattern lengths in the constituent patches (reference audio Clip 2). A common panel gathers composite patches under a global trigger button and faders, with a mute button for each composite patch. I created some serious rhythmic turbulence by merging several multis at once; one button triggers them all in sync, and even if they don’t all fit together, there’s plenty of room for experimentation (reference audio Clip 3).

Truly Groovy DM-307 combines an enormous set of tools for customized groove creation, with a number of ways to use these tools. However, the most compelling aspect of DM-307 is its collection of sounds, loops, and grooves. Kits and sounds range from pristine and realistic to punchy, distorted, and abused. For ambient music, industrial, dance, soundtrack—this is a go-to library for situations where interesting sounds matter.

The loops and kit grooves are supple and musical, and the multis are masterfully assembled and orchestrated; the Latin and ethnic material is a standout, with a wealth of authentic, and sometimes esoteric, styles represented. That said, don’t neglect any of the industrial, pop, or hip-hop folders—they’re all packed with compelling grooves and sounds.

Heavyocity DM-307 emerges at the very top in a bumper crop of great drum machines and groove libraries.

SUMMARY

STRENGTHS Great sounds and grooves in a flexible, musical sequencing environment.

LIMITATIONS Step input for pattern creation only.

$299
heavyocity.com