Review: Sample Logic Rhythmology

An entirely new level of beat creation
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An entirely new level of beat creation
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Sample Logic’s Kontakt-based instruments always generate serious buzz, thanks to their clever use of Kontakt scripts and detailed user interfaces. Their latest offering, Rhythmology, already has soundtrack producers like Charlie Clouser and John Debney singing its praises, which is no surprise considering that Rhythmology’s beat-based processing tools focus squarely on the groove.

FOUR ON THE FLOOR

Rhythmology’s overall approach is straightforward. At the top level are Multi Instruments, each of which contains four Loop Cores, loop-centric layers derived from the software’s integrated 5.2GB library. These Cores are assigned to keys C3 through G3, with C3 playing all four loops simultaneously, and D, E, F, and G triggering each core independently. This approach adds playability to Rhythmology, as you can tinker with arrangements on the fly and sequence the results within your DAW.

In Rhythmology, Sample Logic has combined a high-quality loop library with dynamic rhythm sequencing and effects for up to four loops simultaneously.

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Additionally, you can create up to four custom variations of each Multi Instrument, with different patterns and effects options for every element. The variations are accessed by playing C2, D2, E3, and F2 in conjunction with the loop trigger keys. With a bit of planning, you can create up to 16 variations (four for each Loop Core), and then use them for different sections in a given arrangement. It’s a bit tricky at first, but Sample Logic’s interface makes it fairly intuitive once you get the hang of it.

The package comes with 337 Multi Instruments and 490 preconfigured Loop Cores, along with over a thousand single loops that can be used to roll your own custom Loop Cores. I’ll be candid here: I was expecting the Multis to specialize in the trendiest of dance genres, but was pleasantly surprised to discover an extensive collection of grungy industrial and experimental electronica, as well as a nice selection of acoustic/organic material. Of course, there’s some classic house and trance in there, but the majority of it goes beyond club music, which will help keep Rhythmology relevant as musical fashions change.

Many of the loops have an edge to them, making them useful for soundtrack work and forward-thinking electronica, as well as adding spice to rock and pop. Digging deeper, I discovered extremely aggressive loops with a Nine Inch Nails or Square-pusher vibe, not to mention a variety of more cinematic resources with apt names like “Running from Tanks” and “Tunnels to Treasures.”

Because all four Loop Cores are visible simultaneously from the main interface, it makes it easy to explore the elements that comprise them. As a matter of taste, I encountered several multis that I loved as a whole, but wanted to change one aspect by swapping out its Loop Core. This is a quick way to customize sounds without getting too dirty, and I suspect that many users will opt to work in this manner.

TO THE CORE

While the immediacy of the Multi Instrument presets are obviously the main draw for Rhythmology, the real action is in the individual Cores, which offer tools that should be immediately familiar to fans of the Roland AIRA MX-1 and TR-8, as they allow per-step editing of essential audio features and an extensive array of effects options. And the 490 preconfigured Cores fully demonstrate the power of this technique beautifully.

The Loop Core presets are wide ranging and include melodic and chorded material, drum loops, a large selection of electronic sound effects, and organic world percussion. As a whole, these sound excellent and they complement each other well, though it would have been nice to have a wider variety of completely dry sources; many of the individual loops are heavily processed, even in their raw state.

I searched for an option to import some of my own loops into the Loop Cores, but to no avail. Even so, with over a thousand loops and the ability to process them beyond recognition, it’s going to be a while before the possibilities are exhausted.

Fig. 1. A view of Rhythmology’s effects page, where you can step-sequence a variety of parameters to customize the sound further.

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Static FX. In terms of processing, there are two approaches available for each Loop Core. The first type applies to basic loop characteristics, such as number of steps, which steps are active, transposition, volume, pan, stutter and reverse (see Figure 1). A small pull-down below each step also allows you to reorder the sequence. At first glance, this feature implies that the loops are simply sliced a la ReCycle, but it quickly became apparent that the slices themselves are also tempo-stretchable, which gives the instrument a clean, modern sound.

Dynamic FX. This is where the heavy audio processing happens. Each Loop Core also includes six slots for applying any of 20 effects on a per-step basis, much like Roland’s MX-1 mixer. These effects range from filters and EQs to classic effects like chorus, reverb, and delay, along with some wonderful exotica such as formant shifters, vowel filters, and a few different flavors of distortion.

In addition to presets, the effects all offer customizable parameters for tailoring the sound of each. If you’ve never experienced step-sequenced effects, you’ll be in for a treat here, as it’s a fantastic way to imprint your own personal groove style on Rhythmology’s library of loop sources. Additionally, each of the six effect sequences includes 16 useful pattern presets for use as starting points.

Popping open the parameter view for each effect also displays an additional step sequence for many of the processors (compression and EQ don’t include this option). This sequence is hardwired to only one factory-defined parameter per effect, but those routings are intelligent and useful. For example, the filters allow cutoff sequencing, while the delay and reverb give control over the wet/dry mix. Programming these additional sequences is a breeze, with a simple level adjust parameter for each step, so even newcomers can quickly get the hang of it.

After two weeks of testing, I can honestly say that with so many sequenced effects—in addition to the loop-restructuring tools—transforming loops within Rhythmology delivers moments of real creative inspiration. What’s more, the ability to include four performance variations per Loop Core lets you experiment with “alternate takes,” much like a four-way undo function, until you get exactly what your track needs.

IN THE MIX

The effects are so much fun to work with that it’s possible to overlook Rhythmology’s integrated mixing page, which offers more than just level and pan options. Here, you can also adjust the attack and release times for each slice, which is handy for both percussive and pumping effects. There’s also a dedicated EQ on each Core, with 14 presets available. These are controlled with a single knob, but the presets are so specialized that it feels fairly efficient. There’s also an Energizer knob that applies a combination of compression and saturation, for those who like their loops bricked.

The mixer’s output bus includes its own six-process mastering chain, featuring the same array of effects in the Dynamic FX section. While these can’t be automated like the others, they’re great for adding polish to the mixed output, which is crucial when using Rhythmology in a live context—especially if you’re blending the software with fully produced tracks in a DJ set via Native Instruments Maschine or Komplete Kontrol, which are both fully-compatible with Rhythmology.

DEEP GROOVES

As loop-based instruments go, Rhythmology is deep, useful and loaded with thoughtfully designed resources. While its target audience is clearly dance music producers, there’s so much material that it could easily be a one-stop application for commercial and soundtrack composers working on a tight deadline: And that alone could make its $299 price tag a bargain for busy pros.

STRENGTHS
Loop tools with four discrete tracks. Six sequenced effects per track. 5.2GB library of bundled loops. Integration with Maschine and Komplete Kontrol. Mixer.

LIMITATIONS
No sample-import features.

$299
samplelogic.com

Francis Prève has been designing synthesizer presets professionally since 2000. Check out his new soundware company at symplesound.com.