As noted previously here on ANR (see our Driven Drum Machines and Tape Drum Machines reviews), smart developers are standing out from the crowd by using unique recording chains to create their sample libraries. Enter Wave Alchemy with their latest offering: Drum Tools 01––Minimal Techno & Tech House. Does this two-year-old sound design team based in the UK live up to their name and transform sounds we’ve heard before into something special? Drum Tools 01 is available as a download containing over 1900 electronic drum samples. The list of sound sources and signal processors reads like a who’s who of classic and boutique studio gear, including top-shelf drum machines (Jomox, Elektron, Roland, etc.), analogue synthesizers (Korg, Moog, etc.), EQ’s, compressors, and filters. But Wave Alchemy didn’t stop there: the sample set also includes “field recordings and the recording of live drum and percussive instruments.”
For sample libraries of this size, a logical and consistent file structure is crucial. On this front, Drum Tools 01 delivers. Opening the library’s main folder reveals that the samples are well organized into six instrument categories. The usual suspects are here, such as ‘kick drums’, ‘snare drums’, and ‘hi hats’. Also included are more exotic samples, via the ‘glitch’, ‘sound effects’, ‘303 licks’, and ‘chords & stabs’ folders (the latter two offered as ‘xtra bonus sounds’). Rounding out the library are the preset kits, samples for deeper sound design and creativity in the ‘drum tools’ folder, and, finally, this entire library dithered down to good old 16-bit for some lower fidelity goodness. Further, kick, snare, and percussion samples are arranged into subfolders by tone and type. Need a ‘punchy’ kick drum? You got it. How about a ‘layered’ snare? Check. Looking for some ‘blips & pops’? Who isn’t? Go get ‘em. Good file organization = less time searching and more time creating.
OK, time for the main event: the samples. What better way to audition Drum Tools 01 than to load up one of the 13 included drum kits? The developers really went the extra mile here by providing the kits in a variety of popular formats, which we can divide into three main categories. First off, the kit samples are copied from the main library and housed in their own folder, allowing for near universal compatibility with DAWs, samplers, and virtual instruments that load .wav files. Secondly, the same kits are presented in native sampler formats (Battery, Kontakt, Reason NNXT, Halion, EXS24 and SFZ), allowing the user to load the kits quickly into Logic, Reason, Battery, etc. Finally, the drum kits are, uhm, packed into a Live pack, compatible with version 8 of the popular DAW.
How do the kits sound? Overall, the audio quality is excellent. The kits easily meet the expectations raised by the library’s impressive specs. And the sonic scope of the kits is inspiring. Each one has a unique character, demonstrating the variety and depth that can be drawn from this library. Standouts include the ‘Berlin Minimal’ kit, with its cone-rattling kick and analogue flavored tones, as well as the ‘World Kit’, with its wide range of percussive sounds. These days, ‘fat’ and ‘warm’ are terms that get thrown around quite a bit, but the included kits prove that Drum Tools 01 earns these all-important adjectives. The included kits are an excellent launching pad for exploring the rest of the library. I began swapping out kit pieces with immediately useful results. While developing my own kits, I was struck by the rich, full sound of this library. While sounding great on their own, these samples are just begging to be tweaked. I placed a filter plugin after some minimal stabs and chord hits, and, well, a goofy little smile crept across my face. I also placed a convolution reverb on one of my DAW’s sends, loaded up some processed 808 sounds, raised the send level, and was genuinely blown away. Wave Alchemy really hit the perfect balance with this library by creating samples that have plenty of character on their own, but without being so unique that the user is given little room to customize them. Considering the reasonable price of this library (£39.95), as well as the depth and variety of the samples offered, Drum Tools 01 easily falls into ‘must buy’ territory.
Perfection is not of this world
Well-deserved praise aside, though, there are some disappointments. For one, I found the hi hat samples to be slightly over processed. For me, many of these samples sound as if they were recorded with an EQ setting that creates an unpleasant harmonic ringing quality. On a positive note, this effect was less noticeable in the mix. And while I was impressed with the preset kits in general, there is a lack of continuity as to how they are organized. For example, the smallest kit includes 11 pieces, while the largest kit has 33, and the placement of the pieces varies among all of the kits. I think that a clear product concept would have been conveyed by the developer if the kits had been arranged consistently. The added advantage of this approach would have been that MIDI clips could have been included with this library, and even swapped between the kits, to really showcase the usefulness of these samples. Finally, the Ableton Live pack falls short of its full potential. For example, the installation of the Live pack did not go as expected, since the drum kits were not immediately accessible. Similar drum sample libraries I have installed create drum rack presets, along with corresponding MIDI clips, right in Live’s library. However, I had to search for the drum racks and resave them in the proper folder. Additionally, the drum rack presets do not come with programmed macro knobs and effect chains. I think the developers missed an opportunity here to share their vision of how their already deep sample set can be tweaked to perfection, with a little help from Live 8’s built-in tools.
CONCLUSIONS Drum Tools 01 offers inspiring, unique sounds that are full of character and ready to be sculpted. This package is a great choice for anyone who is not satisfied with all too often vanilla-sounding drum samples that are included in some libraries. Sound designers and beat makers should find plenty of quality material here too. In particular, the ‘drum tools’ folder contains samples for enhancing sub frequencies, as well as transient type sounds, to help add some complexity to your arrangement. Finally, while this library has a few minor flaws, the developers appear to be actively involved in listening to user feedback, making improvements, and adding value to the package (see this thread over at kvraudio.com).
Drum Tools 01 easily falls into ‘must buy’ territory.