Review: Output Exhale

Vocal-based sample library for Kontakt
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Vocal-based sample library for Kontakt
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Output is well known for creating instruments that mine expressive and fresh sounds using a wide range of sampling and processing techniques, and its most recent release, Exhale, is no exception. The library focuses on one of the most appealing and commonly sought after timbres—the human voice—and the results will certainly delight and surprise many.

Exhale includes 9 GB of voice-derived samples and requires Native Instruments Kontakt 5.31 and Windows 7 or Mac OS X 10.8 to run. (Output will provide an OS X 10.7-compatible version upon request.) I put Exhale through its paces using OS X 10.11.3 on a quad-core, 4GHz Intel Core i7 iMac with 40GB RAM.

MODUS OPERANDI

Three performance modes—Notes, Loops, and Slices—are accessed from the Main panel. There is some functional overlap, as the Notes section contains chromatically mapped loops, as opposed to the construction-kit style of the Loops mode. Exhale provides its own browser window, and you can move through the patch list using the left-and-right arrows.

You can also search for sounds using an array of tag buttons and criteria ranging from Light, One-Shot, and Percussive to Pure, Heavy, and Complex. Select multiple tags to refine your search. When you save an edited patch, you can assign the appropriate tags. There are no Multis in the main menu, but Kontakt lets you devise your own.

Fig. 1. Exhale offers a wide range of tools to transform vocal samples into exciting and unusual new timbres. As with other Output instruments, Exhale offers four macro sliders that modulate characteristics of the patch; for example Pulse, Filter, Stutter, and Dirt, or Talk, Filter, Stutter, and Reverb (see Figure 1). The macro selections are not hard-wired to each patch; click and hold any of the sliders and a pull-down menu lets you change a macro’s characteristics. You can also edit and scale the range of the macros. For instance, you can right-click on the slider in order to assign a MIDI Control Change message.

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Next to the Main panel button, you can open Exhale’s remarkably deep and well-appointed Engine, which lets you audition and alter everything from the step sequencers that animate the samples to the individual effects, which range from rotation to compressors and reverb. You can even audition and choose different sample groups, change sample start times for individual keys, apply formant filters, and much more.

BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT

The depth of control wouldn’t amount to much unless the sounds had something to offer. Exhale is rife with dual-layered, intriguing pads that sometimes end in vocal utterances, snippets of phrases with a pronounced exotic or ethnic character, or phrases and sliced passages that can be played either in discrete snippets or as continuous phrases. The Patches run the gamut from glossy and pristine to cloudy, mysteriously garbled, and distorted. This is not your typical collection of vocal pads, but rather an insanely creative grab bag of voice-derived instruments that will serve anyone interested exotic sounds.

The elegant user interface, combined with a ton of onboard editing tools encourages you to build your own patches. I highly recommend Exhale for creative artists in search of atmospheric, vocal-based instruments.

STRENGTHS

Broad array of intriguing sounds derived from vocals. Extensive set of sound-shaping tools.

LIMITATIONS

Nothing Significant.

$199
output.com