By Jason Cullimore / November 09, 2011
Studio Drummer (US$169.00) is a sampled drum library published by Native Instruments. It is one of the first sampled instruments designed to be loaded exclusively into Kontakt 5 or the free Kontakt 5 Player. Those who have Kontakt 4 or earlier will not be able to load Studio Drummer unless they upgrade Kontakt to version 5. It is available as a 6.8GB download from the Native Instruments website (http://www.native-instruments.com/#/en/products/producer/powered-by-kontakt/studio-drummer/) and also as a boxed product. It is also included in the new Komplete 8 and Komplete 8 Ultimate sample collections from Native Instruments. The installation takes up 7.4GB of hard drive space, but because Studio Drummer uses Kontakt’s sample compression technology, the 24-bit samples actually take up 17GB uncompressed.
Studio Drummer contains six instruments: there are three drum kits, each of which is available in a light and a full version. The full versions may consume more than 420MB of RAM and lite versions over 100MB when loaded, so it is recommended that users make sure that they have sufficient RAM in their systems before buying Studio Drummer. The three kits included are:
The Stadium Kit – This kit has a big, meaty sound that is perfect for rock and metal. There is a large room sound on the kit in its default preset, which gives the kit a powerful, aggressive edge.
The Session Kit – With a smaller, tighter sound this kit would work for many different styles, including pop and country. These drums are tamer than the other two, and have a cleaner sound.
The Garage Kit – This kit sounds rougher and heavier than the Session Kit. Native Instruments correctly suggests that this kit would work for many styles including blues and alternative rock.
There are many articulations in each kit, with up to 25 velocity layers and six alternative samples per hit. Overall, I find that the kits sound clear and realistic, and that the recordings are excellent. The amount of detail in the samples is impressive, perhaps showing the value of recording at 24-bit. Each of the three different presets is recorded from a different drum kit (several drum manufacturers are represented) that suits its own particular target style.
While the kits sound good out of the box, there are many options for modifying the sound. The simplest change can be made through a box on the main Kontakt control screen. This box contains a list of different genre styles ranging from the drier Funk setting to the more ambient Metal setting (there are eleven settings altogether). For more powerful tweaking options, the Mixer tab for each kit allows the user to adjust the level of each microphone separately. Most individual drums have their own microphone; there are also overheads for capturing the cymbals. Each microphone has its own volume and panning controls, compressor, EQ, and tape saturator, plus a plugin called the “Transient Master” which allows the user to manipulate the attack and sustain of the sound. There are also a large number of built-in reverb choices, which are effective and varied. Overall, the Studio Drummer interface provides a powerful ability to customize the sound of the drums, allowing for a great deal of flexibility when selecting the appropriate sound for your track.
Studio Drummer also includes a tab for MIDI drum loops, called “grooves”. This may be one of the bigger selling points for the instrument, although the implementation is currently problematic. The loops are MIDI files that can be auditioned in the instrument’s Kontakt 5 interface. Once a loop is selected, the MIDI data can be placed into the user’s DAW by simply clicking a special area on the Kontakt 5 interface and dragging the icon that appears into a MIDI track on the DAW. The MIDI data will appear there, and so long as that track is set to Studio Drummer’s channel, the loop will play back exactly as it sounded in the audition. One big advantage to this system over a REX or Stylus RMX-like method is that since the loop is placed into the DAW as MIDI data, it will sync to any tempo changes and the loop will sound correct at extreme fast and slow tempos. It can also be easily edited in the DAW, so if you want to create a variation of a loop where the hi-hat is softer and the crash cymbal is played with the splash instead, a few quick edits of the MIDI track in the DAW will produce the desired result.
There are over 3,500 loops included that range in length from one bar (for fills) to two bars. They were recorded live by a real drummer, and they are grouped into eleven different styles ranging from pop to jazz to blues and country. While 3,500 loops may sound like a lot, many of these loops are variations of one another; each style has a number of “grooves” and there are twenty or so midi file variations for each groove. If you find a groove that suits your song you can choose loops from that groove’s collection to ensure a consistent style. Unfortunately, the grooves are ambiguously labelled once you insert them into your project; the name of the loop does not include the groove name or the style, so it is easy to get confused as to which groove your loop comes from if you are going by the name of the loop. The fills are included in separate folders in the Studio Drummer interface, but there is no indication in the browser of which fills work well with which grooves. Selecting fills appropriate for your grooves becomes a process of trial and error, which can be a little frustrating. Finally, with so many variations in each set of grooves, and the similarity of many grooves with one another, there may be too little variety in the types of loop available for some users. I had hoped that Studio Drummer’s groove library would be a one-stop-shop, but I personally find that the groove library does not cover enough ground for me to use it exclusively.
Fortunately, Studio Drummer has a control which allows you to emulate the instrument maps of many other libraries. So, if you have some MIDI files designed for EZdrummer, set Studio Drummer to emulate the map of EZdrummer and drop the MIDI files into your project. They will sound like they were designed for Studio Drummer. Studio Drummer also has mapping templates for Superior Drummer, BFD, Addictive Drums, General MIDI, and several others. It is also compatible with E-DRUMS.
Studio Drummer sounds great, and there are ample ways to customize the sound of the included kits, which allows the library to shine in a wide variety of styles and settings. It offers flexibility for those trying to create a specific sound, and a quick setup for those who just want to load it and play. Those who are interested in this library primarily for its MIDI drum performances may feel a bit let down, but the fact that the library is compatible with so many different types of MIDI drum groove make up for that to a point. I would recommend this library to anyone looking for a single versatile drum library that allows the user to approach a wide range of styles.