Sounds: January 2009

PROPELLERHEAD SOFTWARE: REASON ELECTRIC BASSIf you’ve checked out any of Propellerhead’s ReFills, you’ve probably already bought Reason Electric Bass (REB) . . . so go back to making music.
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I got turned on to this series with Reason Drum Kits, which almost sounds “alive”—and so does REB. This set of eight sampled electric basses (from Fender, Rickenbacker, Music Man, Gibson, and Kay; some are played with fingers, some with a pick) work only with Reason, but they fully exploit what Reason has to offer. There are “Combinator” patches with multiple signal chain options, “producer” patches, keyboard layouts that let you add in realistic nuances (e.g., fret noise, slides, hammer-ons, etc.), and effects presets for Reason’s processors. There are even “templates” using particular mics, basses, and amps for building your own patches, and audio examples for quick auditions of the bass sounds.

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Propellerhead’s “hypersampling” technique involves multiple velocity levels, different samples with the same velocity so hitting two notes in succession sounds natural, and capturing instrument nuances. It certainly works. And based on the quality of this collection, the price is a bargain. Are they simply nice guys? Is this a ploy to get people to buy Reason just so they can run REB? Whatever. If you use Reason and need playable, expressive electric bass sounds, this is what you want.

Contact: Propellerhead Software, www.propellerheads.se
Format: Two DVD-ROMs with identical content, but one with 16-bit resolution and one with 24-bit resolution
List price: $129

SONY: BHANGRA BREAKS

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Sounds readers know I tend to like sample libraries with exotic forms of music, because throwing in even just a loop or two from one of these collections can really spice up a tune. Here, the spice is curry: Come with me to the Punjab, where hip-hop, dance, Bollywood, and classical Indian music collide in a beat-drenched, melodically-flowing confection known as Bhangra.

This is a collection of mix ’n’ match loops (not construction kits) with Sony’s usual excellent Acidization. Twelve “combination” loops are basically mini-rhythm sections; 185 loops are percussion-based, with instruments like tabla, dholak, dhol, and the like. For melodic interest, you’ll find flutes, harmonium, keyboards, bass, mandolin, and tumbi (the latter is the signature sound of many Bhangra rhythm loops).

Much of Banghra’s strength comes from adding westernstyle loops; this collection wisely sticks to core Bhangra sounds, so it’s up to you to add your own culture clash. Good as this set is, though, I want more—like some of those great Bhangra vocals and chants! Also, I felt a few files were “overmaximized.” While that’s part of the Bhangra sound, I’d prefer the option to screw up the sounds myself, thank you.

But those niggles don’t diminish an adventurous, eclectic collection that adds a welcome taste of the exotic. Pass the tandoori chicken, please.

Contact: Sony Creative Software, www.sonycreative software.com
Format: CD-ROM with 504MB/293 loops (+25 bonus loops from other libraries); 16-bit/44.1kHz
List price: $59.95

BIG FISH AUDIO: BONE CRUSHING DRUMS

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Even though none of my bones were actually crushed, no one will nail this title for deceptive advertising—we’re talking crude and lewd, dude. Loops are duplicated as dry and room versions, and separated into four folders: garage (198 loops total), hard rock (170), punk (158), and rock (310). The folders are further divided into “drum construction kits” with fills, beats, intros, etc., making it easy to cobble together complete parts.

These are human-played (often at breakneck tempos), so there are slight timing variations—but rather than sounding wrong, these add “feel.” Also, the loops are not overdone. You might expect “bone crushing loops” to have distortion and extreme filtering, but thankfully, the files are minimally processed for the most flexibility.

REX and Apple Loop slicing is good, but for the WAV files Acidization is haphazard: Some are, some aren’t. Big Fish says putting Acid on the cover was a typo, so just consider these as ordinary WAV files. I’d advise considering them as ordinary WAV files. Also, only the Pro Tools version is multitracked; in a few of the stereo loops, I would have preferred less cymbals (or better yet, cymbals as a separate loop) but a little EQ does the job.

This set is about attitude (love the oomph on the toms!), so if you’re looking for polite pop, look elsewhere. These raw materials are indeed raw—and some judicious processing fulfills their potential.

Contact: Big Fish Audio, www.bigfishaudio.com
Format: DVD-ROM with about 1.42GB (836 loops) of unique 24-bit/44.1kHz WAV files, duplicated as Apple Loops (and REX files where possible); also has Stylus RMX installer
List price: $99.95 (DrumCore version $79.95, Pro Tools/OMF/AIFF version with multitracked drum projects $199.95)