In this post, we set out to put together our favourite plugins for making beats. The criteria employed to do this list has been based on aspects such as great user experience, workflow speed, high-end results, groundbreaking features, flexibility, and ease of use. We have only included standalone plugins in this list as we believe that hardware based platforms such as Maschine or Akai Force, although incredible beat making tools in their own right, belong to an entire different league of products.
Battery 4 is a cutting-edge state of the art drum sampler developed by Native Instruments that combines a spectacular and innovative sample library focused on Urban and Electronic music with a simple yet powerful interface that facilitates a radically intuitive and blazing fast workflow.
The factory library delivers 10000+ samples and 143 drum kits easily managed through a tab based browser that makes searching, selecting and swapping samples and kits a pleasant and playful experience.
Setting up custom kits in Battery is also ultra-fast thanks to advanced features such as hot load and swap, live switching, and drag and drop MIDI learn, which contribute greatly to an uninterrupted creative flow environment. This ease of use, coupled with total compatibility with every imaginable audio file format, including REX2, NKI, SF2, WAV and AIFF, makes Battery a one stop solution as a software drum sampler.
The samples are laid out in a cell matrix of up to 128 cells with mute and solo switches for each cell with a color coding system that allows you to group the samples visually. You can also route cells and cell groups through three different types of audio buses, and render samples in place in order to free up DSP processes.
The sample editing is also extremely powerful, swift and comprehensive, with the inclusion of a main panel loaded with real-time controls for volume and pitch envelopes and velocity, two sampler modes including a stretch algorithm for high quality time stretching, a dual high/low pass filter, a compressor, and two send effects for reverb and delay, as well as an editor panel for precise audio editor style edition with functions such as looping, cropping, normalise, fade in and out, reverse, and more.
The editor panel also includes an additional module devoted to stacking multiple samples with independent editing capabilities that opens up a vast and powerful environment for advanced sample based sound design. A waveform display with additional controls for tuning, volume, pan and reverse, as well as start and end points, complete the sample editing section.
Battery delivers a powerful set of effects for each cell, comprising a reorderable chain of five high quality inserts including Saturation, Lo-Fi, Filter/EQ, Compressor, and Transient Shaper, as well as two time based send effects including algorithmic and convolution reverb and delay. A similar chain of inserts can be found in the master bus as well as in four additional group buses with the inclusion of a Limiter instead of the Lo-Fi module.
On top of all this functionality, Battery features a solid modulation module with two LFOs, a five stage envelope, and eight modulation slots capable of modulating virtually every possible parameter with additional modulation sources such as Random, Constant, Velocity and MIDI CC.
A setup module completes this extraordinary sampler’s feature set with some advanced functionality, such as the ability to setup Round Robin and Random trigger modes for cell groups, MIDI Velocity mappings, and three MIDI effects for articulations, MIDI echo, and MIDI input humanization.
Polyplex is an extraordinary Reaktor ensemble developed by Twisted Tools that re-imagines the drum sampler with a sleek interface and the addition of many groundbreaking features.
Polyplex is built around eight independent sample cells capable of stacking up to four samples.
Each of the cells comes with a set of group controls for basic parameters such as volume, balance, tune, and decay that allow you to shape the overall sound produced by the sum of the four layers.
An array of eight pads allow you to select and preview each of the cells by simply clicking on top of them, which makes it possible to adjust the controls of each sound. The pads come with solo and mute buttons and with a randomizer button that allows you to activate and trigger the randomization feature for each of the cells, which gives you the ability to randomize most of their parameters. This feature makes it possible to create dozens of drum kits on the fly and to experiment with combinations of samples at a speed that I’ve never encountered in any other sampler.
Down below the pads there’s a strip with controls for each of the layers that make up each of the eight sounds. These controls include on/off switches, playback direction, stereo/mono switches, phase inversion, sample selector, pitch, start, pan, volume, sample delay, envelope, and eq. Each of these controls can be selected for global randomization as well as randomized individually, which makes the randomization system extremely powerful and flexible, allowing you to create new patches in a matter of seconds.
At the bottom of the instrument there’s a modulation strip composed of a multishape LFO and a four stage envelope alongside a modulation matrix with multiple targets such as pitch, start, pan, volume, delay, attack, hold, decay, and eq filter shelves and gains.
An incredible strip full of groundbreaking and unusual effects including autopan, compressor, delay, distortion, filter, flanger, FM/AM, freq shift, grain delay, lofi, noise generator, phaser, pitch ramp, reverb, spread, stretch, stutter and sub generator completes the feature set of this amazing drum sampler. Four effects can be selected for each of the eight cells. Two as inserts and two as sends.
In this article, you have been introduced to the first two plugins in our list of best plugins for making beats, Battery and Polyplex. We have seen in detail how these two samplers excel at the task of handling and processing samples in very different ways. While Battery is more of a staple drum sampler for day to day use, Polyplex can prove an excellent addition for complementary experimentation with a fun, fresh and groundbreaking approach. In the next part of the series we’ll feature two more recent players in the plugin arena that are already making big waves within the beat making community due to their cutting edge and novel features, so stay tuned for the next one.