Tonehammer has been steadily growing a reputation as a company that creates great-sounding virtual instruments, catering specifically for the needs of soundtrack composers. The owners of the company, Troels Folmann and Mike Peaslee, have many years experience in the worlds of Film, TV and Video games. As a result, the virtual instruments they create have a devoted following, and have garnered credits from many top productions such as “CSI: Miami”, “SplinterCell”, and the Oscar nominated “District 9”.
“Transmissions” is the first volume in the Ambius Series, focusing on creating ambiences, drones, and evolving pads that reflect, in their words, “the dark, the cryptic, the unnatural and the subliminal…”
The instrument is designed specifically for NI’s Kontakt sampler (version 3 and up) and comes with 2.5GB worth of content, consisting of 288 patches, and the accompanying 24bit stereo wav file samples. It is possible, with a fair amount of work, to use this library with other samplers, but it would be nice if other formats were supported, as has been the case with the Microhammer series.
At the moment, I’m writing the soundtrack to a video game that requires a certain amount of tension and suspense, so I stuck “Transmissions” alongside the software I’m currently using in Logic, and put it through its paces.
The sounds are, as promised, mostly ambient pads, drones, and soundscapes. They are split into 3 categories, entitled, “tuned”, “melodic” and “horror”. Each patch comes with a custom set of controls, for Low pass filtering, multi-layer cross-fading, and reverb wet/dry. Straight away the sonic qualities, and organic nature of the patches, capture your attention. The audio samples used in this instrument are all field recordings from various sources – the usual (bells, choirs, pianos), to the slightly more unusual (wind, swarms of bees, a dentist drill, an empty factory) These samples, combined with the included bonus convolution reverbs, provide a great foundation for the mysterious atmospheres that the creators intended.
A lot of contemporary soundtrack music contains elements of both traditional harmonic composition, and sound-design, and I found that this instrument complements that style very well. Just by browsing the presets of the instrument, I could create harmonically rich, slowly evolving pads to bolster the melody, or just as easily, create creaking, gurgling atonal textures, to give the music a sinister edge, or as transitional soundscapes between scenes.
Of course, all these patches can be easily and instantly manipulated and tweaked, by using the custom-built (automat-able) controls in Kontakt. Standout patches to me were the “Watervox” variations (beautifully warm, haunting and complex pads of convolved human voices), and the EVP patch (Stark, echoing, groaning, creaking soundscapes.)
The one slight disappointment with the instrument were the ‘pulses’ patches. The set of small percussive blips didn’t really inspire (unlike the rest of the sounds). I felt like they were a bit of an afterthought to what is otherwise a deep sample set.
“Transmissions” is an average memory consumer. If you are trying to conserve RAM, however, there are “lite” and “solo” versions of all the patches. For more detailed information on the sounds of Ambius 1: Transmissions, and requirements to use it, check out the product page (see link below).
Tonehammer live up to their reputation for quality, with a focused and beautiful palette of organic atmospheres to use for those more mysterious moments in your compositions, ranging from the subtle and ethereal, to the downright dark and disturbed. NOTE: it is on sale at the moment, for $59. It will go back to the original price of $79 on the 28th of Feb.
Ambius 1: Transmissions is a beautiful sounding, intuitive virtual instrument, providing great value for money for the atmospheres it’s capable of creating.
Does a great job of creating a wide range of otherworldly atmospheres
Intuitive – simple to control, yet deep
Comes with a useful PDF manual
Lite and Solo options great addition for less powerful computers
Bonus Convolution reverb patches
Great value for money
LOVE-IT OR HATE-IT
It all depends on Kontakt. If you’ve got it, you’ve got instant ambient playtime. If you haven’t got Kontakt, you’ll be very limited until you’ve created the instrument in another sampler.
“pulse” sounds are not very inspired
Some full multi-layered patches use a lot of RAM
Kontakt patches only, no EXS24 or SFZ
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About The Author
Composer/Producer, and keyboard player. He has written and recorded soundtracks for a wide variety of media and co-owns DOsounds.com with Jake Owen, a music production company that gives him an excuse to buy more analog gear.