Soniccouture – Haunted Spaces Review
This library has a spirit of it’s own…. read on
Soniccouture are a small UK based company that are well respected within the industry for their high quality sample libraries that have continued to chip away at the boundaries of sampling technology for some 12 years now.
Detailed libraries such as their ‘Balinese Gamelan’ have become a staple of Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate 11, whilst products such as ‘Box of Tricks’ grace the hard drives of many a modern composer. I have previously written a review of their innovative ‘Electro Acoustic’ classic drum machine library, and other products such as their ‘Canterbury Suitcase’ and ‘GeoSonics’ have truly proven their attention to quality and detail in the sampling world.
‘Haunted Spaces’ is the subject of this review and is the much anticipated sequel to the aforementioned ‘GeoSonics’ which has been popular among cinematic and game composers since it’s initial release.
As with GeoSonics this new library draws from a large collection of stunning field recordings made by highly acclaimed sound recordist Chris Watson, whose credits include a plethora of work for the BBC’s David Attenborough ‘Life’ & ‘Planet’ documentaries. Chris is also a sound designer and composer in his own right, and if like myself you are old enough to remember pioneering electronic bands like Cabaret Voltaire then it is somewhat impressive to learn that Chris was a founding member.
SOURCES OF INSPIRATION
In SonicCouture’s own words this is a ‘Cinematic Soundscape Instrument’ a role with which it justifiably excels, given the depth and range of the included sample content there is certainly plenty of options and source material to fulfil the ambiences that it’s title suggests.
The 5.5Gb library contains some 400 presets which draw from 128 of Chris Watson’s original recordings, to compliment these there are further sample sources and waveformstaken from SonicCouture’s own material which combine to produce some pretty spectacular and highly atmospheric sound design presets.
The Haunted Spaces recordings have literally been gathered together from all corners of the planet and include some amazing locations. I’ve listed these below in order to show the breadth and variety of sonic landscapes you are likely to encounter.
Hydro-electric power station tunnel, Iceland, Vigeland Mausoleum, Norway,
Gomantong bat caves, Borneo, Orford Ness, Centrifuge Room, Aztec City, Mexico,
Waitomo Caves, New Zealand, Brussels Zuid station, Abandoned ranch, Mexico,
Mountain Lake, Lofoten Islands, Norway, The Entrance Of Hades, Eleusis, Greece,
The Pagodas, Orford Ness Atomic Warfare Research Base, Suffolk, Abandoned Railway, Mexico, Abandoned wool storage space, Patagonia, Place du Georges Pompidou, Paris,
Perspehone’s Well, Eleusis, Greece,
I’m not entirely sure what David Attenborough would say about the air miles or global footprint Chris clocked up in this collection, but I’m willing to abandon my own somewhat lacklustre green credentials in the interest of having these unique sounds in my sample library collection!
I would certainly recommend checking out the video interview with Chris Watson (see link at the end of this review), he certainly has an infectious and passionate take on his sound recording work, which I feel is reflected within the library.
As tradition dictates, here is the structure of the browser side of the library before we get into the meat of the edit section.
Knobs 1 and 2 are for SonicCouture and respective product name,
We jump to Knob 5 for ‘type’ which can be either: all types, Bass, Bowed Strings, Percussion, Piano/Keys, Sound FX, Soundscapes, Synth lead, Synth Misc, Synth pad and finally Vocal
Knob 6 is assigned to sub types providing such categories as Digital bass, Synth strings, Other percussion, Small metal, Other piano/keys, Machine SFX, Nature SFX, Noise SFX, Other FX, Shots FX, Water FX, Ambivalent, Destructive, Gloomy, Heavenly, Hypnotising, Insanity, Peaceful, Wind & Noise, Dirty lead, Other lead, Soft lead, FX Synth, Melodic sequences, Other sequences, Percussive synth, bury pad, Basic pad, Bright pad, Chime pad, Chord pad, Deep pad, Dirty pad, Evolving pad, Layer pad, Other pad, Synth choir
Knob 7 is mode which is ‘sample based’
Knob 8 is where the presets reside and your gateway to sonic travel!
As with several other libraries released during 2017 SonicCouture have here opted to use the X,Y control method for morphing and shaping sounds within the library. There are four possible sound/sample sources in any given patch and unfortunately due to the GUI implementation these are seemingly not able to be mapped to a physical control knob for us to select which is unfortunate.
I will list the pages and knob assignments before commenting further and concluding the review…
Page 1: Knob 1 X control, Knob 2 Y control, Knob 3 play, Knob 4 unassigned, Knob 5 level, Knob 6 level B, Knob 7 level C, Knob 8 level D
The X and Y controls allow for mixing and intensity of sound between the allocated sound sources within a given preset, turning off the ‘play’ switch of Knob 3 allows unrestricted morphing away from preassigned x & y automations saved in the presets, the other knobs are straightforward volume level controls of the sources.
Page 2: Pitch & Pan, very simply Knobs 1 to 4 control pitch of the four sound sources, Knobs 5 to 8 control panning of the same
Page 3: Again very simple Knob 1 to 4 controls frequency cut-off of the allocated sound sources, Knobs 5 to 8 provide control of resonance
Page 4: Attack & Release, Knob 1 to 4 are attack and Knobs 5 to 8 are relase
THOUGHTS & CONCLUSIONS
Of the many libraries I have reviewed I have a very healthy respect for SonicCouture not only for the quality of their libraries but in their willingness to support our community. When I spoke to Dan from SonicCouture he conceded he had struggled a little to provide full and meaningful parameter mappings that would provide extended access to blind users and I have to award top marks for us even being in his thoughts at that stage.
I have often been critical of libraries that are sound design orientated that fail to provide access to all important sound source selection of samples or waveforms because without this our sonic palette is limited to tweaking presets. This ommission can sometimes be forgiven provided as is the case here where a healthy selection of presets/snapshots are available as start edit points.
The truth is there is an awful lot of GUI elements here that we are unable to access at all. We regularly have to forego things like inbuilt sequencers and programmable effect chaining, and to be fair this can be as much down to our keyboards hardware lmitations as unhelpful GUI design, just how do you click the equivelent of a mouse button using a Komplete Kontrol keyboard?
Having said all this, I would still like to see further mapping of effects parameters in a future update as this would extend the audio possibilities still further, it’s great that we have frequency cut-off, resonance, panning and attack & release which beyond the brilliant presets are the libraries saving grace from a blind access perspective.
In my view the whole ethos behind having a keyboard with hardware capabilities is that they should be utilised as much as possible, sighted users have the choice to ignore them and use the GUI with a mouse instead, however we do not of course have that choice so I continue to advocate this preferance.
In a utopian scenario I would like to have grafted the mapping controls from GeoSonics onto Haunted Spaces to resolve my little gripes, however although desirable these mapping shortfalls do not detract from my enthusiasm for this library.
Overall this library is a winner particularly if you are working in the film/tv/game arena, the sounds contained within are inspirational and can adapt to be subtle and unintrusive bacground padding, or ramped up for totally upfront and in your face disturbing scariness, which for me displays the versatility of a well crafted product.
At the time of writing I am in the final throws of scoring a short independent ghost/horror film and hearing some of the Haunted Space content made me want to go back and swap out a few elements in the soundtrack, which is a great testiment to this libraries inspirational appeal. However sadly personally akin to self induced deadline pressure!
Haunted Spaces is available as a download from SonicCouture at £139.00 with a further 30% introductory discount until 12th January 2018 (after applying code OISSYBUDE) . Information and pricing correct at time of publication on 24th December 2017.
Official Video Walkthroughs
Chris Watson Interview
Inspired by Sound Walkthrough
(c)Chris Ankin 2017
The author accepts no responsibility for subsequent purchase decisions made as a result of this article,or Any inaccuracies found within this review. All opinions or product functions stated are based soly on information perceived as a blind user whilst using the product or gathered from official factual sources on the web or product manual.
About the Author
Chris Ankin has worked previously as a freelance review contributor with articles published in Sound On Sound, Home & Studio Recording and ST Format Magazines.