XLN Audio XO Review – The Smart Nebula For Your Drum Samples

XLN Audio have got adventurous with their latest creation – a drum sample library and kit construction software that uses the processing power of our computers to creatively display ALL your drum samples as a nebula of samples, and enable quick switching between sounds, and shaping thereof, to speed up workflow as you create your music.

This is a fantastic solution to the eternal problem that producers have of tracking down sample sounds that could be scattered all over your system, and putting them all in one place. Even if you’re hyper organised you still typically have to go through various folders or software to locate drum sounds. XO puts them all immediately in one place.

I think that in terms of efficiency with choosing samples to build your kit, they stand head and shoulders above every other drum library I’ve come across

There’s an initial setup, as you direct the software to all the different folders containing your drum samples. You can link as many places as you can find; even samples from other drum libraries. As it scans the samples the software intelligently assigns a category to the sound, and places it in the cloud of samples with a representative coloured dot (different colours representing different elements of percussion). It’s even clever enough to place sounds with similar timbres close to each other – so within the Kick cloud of red dots, you’ll find heavy thumpy natural sounding kicks all clustered together in one place, and clicky snappy 808 types all bunched up in another area.

Now here’s where it gets interesting – you can click and drag your mouse through this 2D cloud, and listen to each and every sound in the cloud. It’s a really incredible way to audition your sounds. A little trail is created so it’s easy to backtrack if you hear something you like as you sweep through all your sounds.

If you don’t have much in the way of sample libraries at the moment, not to worry, as XLN provide .5GB of samples with the software, which in terms of One-shot samples is a LOT of sounds to get you going – roughly 8000!

As you find the sounds you like, you can load them into one of the 8 channels by clicking the arrow next to it. Done.

There are preset sequences to load up from XLN that cover a wide range of genres. An appropriate sounding kit is loaded with the sequence, and from there, you can quickly scroll through similar sounding kits that XLN picks, or you can go to town and start assigning different one shots to each channel, creating totally new kits. It really is the most flexible construction kit library I’ve come across in that regard. You can really quickly cobble random sounds together until they fit what you’re looking for. You can sync to host tempo, so you can shuffle through sounds while the track is playing to ensure that the sounds fit within the piece. Even once you’ve done that, XLN recommends similar sounds either with options to change the whole kit, or sound by sound presenting a dozen or so similar sounds to click and choose from. Excellent.

Sequencing and shaping

Once you’ve found sounds you like, you can take a blank sequence to build on. It’s a robust if fairly simple 16 step 2 pattern affair. There’s cool elements, like roll per step, a cool accentuation element which can be randomised, swing, and a super useful nudge per channel, that enables you to push elements back and forth in the groove, to get that head properly nodding. There’s a cool window called the beat combiner, that gives you different preset sequences to choose from for that specific channel. The changes you make don’t get saved until you hit the green arrow, so you can really mess with the sequence, and if you get nowhere, revert easily back to the original sequence. Each sound can also be spectrally tweaked, with a simple sample start and end point select, panning, envelope, filter, velocity sensitivity, and cool playback options such as reverse, poly or mono (will they cut off the previous sound as they’re repeated, or layer over). There are also global effects that each channel can send to, and global level and pitch controls.

Once you’ve done all your work to your drum sounds, you can export them as separate wavs, or a full track wav, and a midi track. These can all be then be added back into your DAW to mix up into the song as you prefer.

Conclusion

XO has really gone far towards solving the issue of having ALL your drum samples in one exact space, enabling immediate audition of everything on your system. And the creative visual solution is really pleasing to work with – something I value a lot in my day to day work. I think that in terms of efficiency with choosing samples to build your kit, they stand head and shoulders above every other drum library I’ve come across. Absolutely fantastic.

In terms of the editing and sequencing sections, I felt that both are solid, covering the basics well, with a few really creative ideas. I found myself looking for more depth and flexibility in both engines: more control over effects elements for example, and a much deeper sequencer – with different step lengths, some more probability controls to create evolution within the patterns, more patterns per sequence preset, and more flexibility to shape stutters and rolls. I’m really interested to see where XLN take this software in development. I’m not sure whether they’re intending this to be a one stop shop for construction kit needs, but I think it definitely could be. The sample selection process is just wildly awesome, and bringing the editing and sequencing elements of this software up to comparison with other leading competitors would make it a drum library to be reckoned with!
All in all though, this is an excellent piece of software from XLN audio, and I hope it is developed further, as it has massive potential to be the central source for all things construction kit!

XO costs $179.95 and for more info click on over to here.

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