Welcome to the second and final part of this series. This article is a follow-up to the Best Plugins for Making Beats Part 1 in which we delved into the main features of Native Instrument’s Battery and Twisted Tool’s Polyplex. This time we’re going to review yet another two software instruments which excel at the task of making electronic beats.
This drum sampler developed by XLN may have given rise to a completely new approach when it comes to sample management. While traditional drum samplers force you to preview and import samples by manually browsing through your system folders, XO scans your entire sample collection and gives you a cloud-like representation of it sorted by similarity and neatly arranged in different color areas representing each type of sound.
This allows you to sweep through all your samples at an unprecedented speed without having to switch between folders or deal with obscure file names. All the complexity and tediousness of traditional file based sample browsing, tagging and sorting is hidden away so you can focus on making beats. XO sorts any folder you throw at it regardless of where it is located and whether it contains duplicates, multiple formats or inaccurate file names.
You can add as many folders to your collection as you like and then dynamically select the ones you want to be active in the browser with a search and filter module that allows you to single out the exact type of sounds you wish to browse through. This includes a search field where you can type in words that match your samples file names, nine categories of drum shots, a favorites list, and a set of filters based on frequency, length and ‘drumminess’.
XO’s browsing experience is further enhanced by a history feature that allows you to move back and forth across a browsing path that gets traced as you sweep throughout the cloud of samples. This allows you to explore your entire collection without losing track of all the samples that you have previewed. Once you find a sample you like, you can assign it with a simple click to one of the eight available slots or store it in a separate shortlist for later use.
The concept of sound similarity is fully present across the entire interface and works at both sample and kit level, allowing you not only to find similarly sounding replacements for your single samples, but also for your entire kit. This feature makes it possible to create innumerous drum kit variations in a fraction of the time needed in other instruments.
XO allows you to make beats with its built-in multi-pattern and multi-track step sequencer, with your own MIDI, or with a combination of both, which makes it suitable not only for the studio, but for the stage as well. The editing area features sample and pattern edition side by side in a convenient and agile interface that allows you to control every aspect of your beat from a single spot with some added neat functionality such as sample and pattern randomisation, which allows for an extra boost in workflow speed and inspiration.
Beats in XO can be exported in both WAV and MIDI formats as separate stems or as a single mix into your DAW in case you want to add some further edits or apply some external sound effects. It also allows you to export drum kits, one-shots, stems and mixes in dry and wet versions into your computer, which also makes it an excellent tool for sample management and drum kit creation.
Wave Alchemy Drumvolution
Drumvolution is a drum engine developed by Wave Alchemy for Native Instrument’s free Kontakt Player. This means you don’t need to own the full version of Kontakt in order to use it.
Powered by a ground-breaking collection of electronic drums and sound design elements, the library contains more than 400 presets covering all modern genres.
Drumvolution features 3 layers per sample pad which can be blended, transformed and morphed with an x/y controller. This allows for an unparalleled range of sound design choices and flexibility when it comes to picking a sound for each of the 20 sample pads available.
Stuffed with a comprehensive set of controls and modulators for basic sample parameters such as volume, pan, offset, sample selection, velocity sensitivity, and AHD amplitude envelope, the instrument gives you full control over the playback and shape of the included samples.
Two additional control and modulation sections for pitch and filtering complete Drumvolution’s extensive sound shaping capabilities with a big host of controls including fine and coarse pitch shifting, pitch shifting velocity, and dedicated filter and pitch LFOs and envelopes. All of these controls can be mapped to a sweeping set of macro controls capable of handling up to 42 destinations.
Drumvolution also includes a full fledged 12-channel mixer fitted with volume, pan, solo and mute buttons, as well as send effects for Delay and Reverb. Each of the 12 channels can be assigned a combination of two sample pads from the 20 available, making it possible to create a staggering amount of completely different drum kits on the fly.
A powerful built-in step sequencer culminates the impressive feature set of this incredible drum sampler with a 32 step multi-track sequencer with individual track lanes that allow you to sequence your beats as a whole or by looking at each individual track in isolation. The sequencer comes with polyrhythmic sequencing capabilities for the creation of evolving and experimental beats, as well as individual and global per step accents.
And that is a wrap to this series on some of our favourite plugins for making beats. In this article we’ve taken a closer look to a couple of heavy weights in the beat making plugin arena. The first one, XLN XO, is an avant-garde, innovative software instruments with a cutting edge and pioneering approach to sample management; whereas the second one, Wave Alchemy’s Drumvolution provides a solid and comprehensive solution to beat making with an incredibly well designed instrument with its own built-in sample library, mixer, and step sequencer.