I've listened to many drum-kit libraries that focus on building a particular vibe through creative production techniques. Yellow Tools' Pure Drums (Akai; $149.95) takes a decidedly different and perhaps more traditional approach: record the drums as simply and purely as possible. All samples are dry and in mono without room ambience or added reverb. Some sounds use a fair amount of compression, but many others sound very much as though you were simply putting your ear dangerously close to the drum (or cymbal) itself. I first compared Pure Drums with several other drum libraries that exhibit lots of ambience, compression, and so on. Initially, Pure Drums sounded somewhat flat and drab in contrast to the other libraries.
Drums Straight Up
The trick is that the drab quality is intentional. The CD-ROM's sparse documentation notes that the samples are presented dry so that “there are no limits to your creativity.” Because the drums are completely dry, you can add compression, EQ, and ambience yourself to create your own finished drum sound.
That is a either great advantage or a major drawback, depending on your preference and working style. If you need samples that you can instantly drop into a track with no processing required, then Pure Drums is probably not for you. However, if you want to make your own decisions about processing, this collection gives you plenty of raw material to blend to your liking.
Through extensive Velocity switching — more than I've seen in any other drum library — the samples enable as much creativity in playing and programming as they do in production. For instance, each kit includes no fewer than 44 snare samples: 16 Velocity levels each for left and right hands and 4 levels of Velocity each for side stick, flam, and buzz roll. All of the snare samples are also available in a separate program, laid out with one sample per key. Kick and tom samples offer 16 Velocity levels, hi-hats have 6, and cymbals provide 4. This structure is identical for all programs on the disc — a commendable degree of organization! With so many levels of Velocity available, it's relatively easy to make parts sound natural, expressive, and highly dynamic.
You get 17 basic kits, each with 2 variations. My favorites include Funk Kit A, with its snappy kick drum and a compressed snare that rings, and the solid kick drum and low-pitched snare of Street Kit A. I appreciate the unusual luxury of having two brushed kits (Swing and Jazz) to choose from, but I still wish that their ride cymbals had been recorded with brushes instead of sticks.
Get Your Kicks
Almost all of the snares have an interesting and useful character, but they tend toward higher tunings and can sometimes sound a tad brittle (easily solved by a touch of EQ). Although many of the kicks are solid, several have a disappointing hollow character that I couldn't fix with postprocessing. Finally, there is a good selection of toms, from the beefy Rock Kit to the trashy Jungle Kit, but not one includes the sympathetic buzzing of the snare drum, which is sometimes desirable.
Overall, Pure Drums is fairly successful. The pervasive Velocity switching is amazing, but not all of the sounds measure up to this level of control. Considering the affordable price, those interested in more sonic and expressive control over their drum sounds should certainly give it a listen.