Review: Sonicsmiths The Foundry - EMusician

Review: Sonicsmiths The Foundry

Create sounds with controlled randomization for Kontakt
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One of the more interesting, albeit imprecise ways to create new synthesizer sounds is through parameter randomization, though it can often leave a sound designer miles from his or her goal. For that reason, many patch-randomizing features let you randomize a select group of parameters instead of tossing the dice on the entire program.

Two instances of The Foundry loaded into Kontakt 5: The upper screenshot is the default window with the four synth channels and their respective effects settings and randomization buttons to the right. Clicking on the Randomize button opens the AARE window (shown in the lower screenshot). Sonicsmiths’ The Foundry (for Kontakt 5.3 and Kontakt Player) follows the latter course, offering patch randomizing to the Nth degree while giving users the ability to greatly hone their search.

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The Foundry launches as a single 4-channel instrument with no multis. Each channel starts with a default patch, where you can load different presets into each channel.

Although The Foundry comes with nearly 14 GB of samples, don’t expect to find realistic orchestral instruments, pianos, or guitars: This instrument is about creative sound design, and its timbres veer toward non-representational pads, rhythmic synths, and less conventional tones. Many of its samples develop interesting characteristics over time, including vocal utterances, subtle detuning, and eerie motion.

Each channel offers a row of eight buttons that enable effects, such as granulators, filters, convolution, a rotary speaker, and a sequencer. Editors for individual channels can be muted or enabled.

The Foundry’s Adjective Assignable Randomizing Engine (AARE) operates like a typical search engine, in which you can specify the properties you need. Click the Randomize button and a panel appears with a list of general sonic qualities arrayed in columns of buttons. The first column offers general functional categories: Pitched or Non-pitched, FX/Hit, Texture, Simple, or Complex. The other three columns carry aesthetic preferences, such as Dark, Mellow, Cold, Mysterious, Breathy, Muted, Organic, Synthetic, Pulsing, and Nasty. Selecting a button randomizes the sounds within your choice of qualities.

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I found that selecting fewer categories resulted in more desirable results. There is room for variety here, but I wish there was some facility for user-generated tags, or a more varied set of adjectives.

A pull-down menu adds sound-shaping tools by way of templates for sequences, voice morphing, envelope settings, and more. These, too, can have their parameters randomly changed, which proved very helpful in targeting performance characteristics. You can also randomize individual parameters.

The Foundry gives access to each channel’s envelopes, effects, filter settings, LFOs, and just about any other parameter. If randomization comes close to something desirable, you can easily fine-tune it. If not, design your own sound without using randomization. A number of wholly or partially initialized templates are included so you can work with neutralized modulation or effects settings, for example.

I particularly appreciated the Grainer, whose granular effects provided radical departures from the timbres, and Body, which applies convolution from a nice collection of impulse responses.

At present, recalling saved user patches using the Kontakt patch-selection arrows leaves a jumble of graphics onscreen, so you must use the Load button or the browser instead. Nonetheless, The Foundry is valuable for creating new sounds and adds a sense of fun and discovery to the details of sound design.

STRENGTHS

Complete or a la carte randomization of patches. Nice selection of waveforms with plenty of animation. Granular and convolution DSP.

LIMITATIONS

Cannot use Kontakt’s patch-selection arrows.

$299
sonicsmiths.com