Gothic Instruments – Dronar Master Edition
Creating an Atmosphere…
Gothic Instruments have since 2014 been quietly releasing their highly successfulDronar series of atmospheric creation libraries.
The force behind Gothic Instruments are Dan Graham and Adam Hanley, Dan being the product visionary with earlier credits for various Zero G libraries under his belt, whilst Adam is responsible for the scripting side. The credentials of the Dronar series would be incomplete without also mentioning the sound design talents of Alessandro Camnasi who created much of the content.
I realise that the phrases ‘quietly’ and ‘highly successful’ may not quite gel together, however the reason for this literary marriage is a personal one, Namely that up until now the Dronar series had not been on my radar due to the fact that they have been purely full Kontakt libraries,specifically meaning that they did not support the NKS standard, and so we as blind users would be restricted without GUI access to loading just the provided NKI presets with little options for exploiting the full potential of this flexible composers sound design and creation tool.
Dronar Master Edition…
The introduction of the Dronar Master Edition dismisses many of those access issues, and bundles together all of the first eight modules in the series, and bestows Kontakt player and most importantly for us NKS support into the whole collective library.
Dronar Master Edition will munch 30Gb out of your hard drive (50Gb uncompressed), and runs in either Kontakt player or the full version of Kontakt 5.8 and above, and naturally Komplete Kontrol.
The library uses the Continua Connect software download application, which of course we know to be wholly inaccessible to screenreaders, so some sighted assistance will be required to instigate the download procedure.
One important implementation that Gothic Instruments have now introduced for Kontakt users in common with other developers is the adoption of the snapshot loading system, there is only one single NKI file which once loaded reduces the load times of further presets.
Those of us enveloped in the cozy Komplete Kontrol world probably don’t even need to care about this, but for those who use Kontakt libraries outside of KK it means the drudgery of trawling through NKI files is a thing of the past, as snapshots load considerably faster than a standard NKI file.
On the subject of presets, Dronar Master Edition provides us with no less than a whopping 2068 presets (yes you did read that correctly!) which I think probably has to be the largest number supplied by any of the many libraries I have reviewed to date, this for me immediately places it highly in the value for money stakes.
Copious numbers of presets are always particularly welcome for us, as in common with many sample libraries, within Dronar there is no readily accessible NKS solution for loading, mixing, matching and creating entirely from scratch our own totally bespoke presets from the huge pool of cross module sample sources that combine to make up the whole product.
Do not be too disheartened by this though, as there is still plenty we can do to individualise our sound design efforts, and with this much material to work with there is certain to be something here to float your creative boat.
Be warned though if you love sound you are likely to find yourself on a sonic journey with many paths, and a route map that you have shredded multiple times in a positive way as you explore the almost endless soundscape possibilities that Dronar Master Edition throws at you.
The Master Edition contains the following eight modules which had previously been released on an individual basis, Hybrid, Guitarscapes, Live Strings, Dark Synthesis, Cinematic Atmospheres, Vintage Synth, Brass, Metal & Glass. as you can see quite an eclectic mix of sound sources. There are three later Dronar modules not included here which I am guessing could find their way into a future release or update, these being Dronar -Glitchscapes, Dronar – World Flutes and the newly released Dronar – Rolling Percussion. I would love to see the addition of a Dronar Vocal module (Dan or Adam if you are reading this!).
Komplete Kontrol Assignments…
gothic Instruments must have had quite a task in compiling the browser section for the Komplete Kontrol browser. The extremely fluid nature of the sound presets means their assigned genres are not in my opinion rigidly defined in tablets of stone, in other words many of the patches can work equally well across multiple musical flavours, despite this they have had a good stab at doing so, and what we have forms the basis for a very comprehensive categorisation system and a road to discovery.
Knob 1 & 2 – Vendor and Product
Knob 3 – Banks, Alien, Atmospherics, Bass, Chaos, FX, Guitars, Horror, Inspirational, Leads, Pads, Pulsing. All of these genres are blends that utilise samples from across all 8 modules, and each individual module is also listed separately under their respective module names of Hybrid, Guitarscapes, Live Strings, Dark Synthesis, Cinematic Atmospheres, Vintage Synth, Brass, Metal & Glass
Knob 4 – Unallocated
Knob 5 – Types, Bass, Bowed Strings, Brass, Drums, Guitar, Mallet Instruments, Organ, Plucked Strings, Sound FX, Soundscapes, Synth Lead, Synth Misc, Synth Pad, Vocal
Knob 6 – Sub Types, Analog Bass, Digital Bass, Distorted Bass, Upright Bass, Cello, Double Bass, String Ensemble, Synth Strings, Violin, Synthetic Brass, Cymbal, Acoustic Guitar, Classical Guitar, Clean Electric Guitar, Digital Guitar, Distorted Electric Guitar, Chime, Other Mallet, Other Organ, Mandolin, Other Plucked, Big & Bad, Machines, Metal, Nature, Noise, Orchestra, Other FX, Ambivalent, Destructive, Gloomy, Heavenly, Hypnotising, Insanity, Peaceful, Wind & Noise, Classic Poly Lead, Dirty Lead, Huge Lead, Other Lead, Soft Lead, FX Synth, Melodic Sequences, Stabs & Hits, Sweeps & Swells, Airy Pad, Basic Pad, Bright Pad, Chime Pad, Chord Pad, Deep Pad, Dirty Pad, Evolving Pad, Layered Pad, Other Pad, Synth Choir,
Knob 7- Modes, Arpregiated, Chord, Dry, FM, Granular, Long Release, Long Forward Evolving, Monophonic, Percussive, Processed, Sample Based, Sequence Forward/Loop, Slow Attack, Surround, Synthetic, Tempo Synced,
Knob 8 – Presets x 2068 (No, No, I am definitely NOT going to list them!)
NKS Parameter Mapping…
Page One – Main, Sends & Mix
Knob 1 – Intensity
Knob 2 – Movement
Knob 3 – Reverb Send
Knob 4 – Delay Send
Knob 5 – Mix Low Volume
Knob 6 – Mix Mid Volume
Knob – 7 – High Volume
Knob 8 – FX Volume
Page 2 – Envelopes
Knob 1 – Low Attack
Knob 2 – Low Release
Knob 3 – Mid Attack
Knob 4 – Mid Release
Knob 5 – High Attack
Knob 6 – High Release
Knob 7 – FX Attack
Knob 8 – FX Release
Page 3 – Filters
Knob 1 – Low Cut-off
Knob 2 – Low Resonance
Knob 3 – Mid Cut-off
Knob 4 – Mid Resonance
Knob 5 – High Cut-off
Knob 6 – High Resonance
Knob 7 – FX Cut-off
Knob 8 – FX Resonance
Page 4 – Filter Modulation & Tone
Knob 1 – Low Filter Envelope
Knob 2 – Mid Filter Envelope
Knob 3 – High Filter Envelope
Knob 4 – FX Filter Envelope
Knob 5 – Low Tone
Knob 6 – Mid Tone
Knob 7 – High Tone
Knob 8 – FX Tone
Page 5 – LFO
Knob 1 – LFO Rate
Knob 2 – LFO Shape
Knob 3 – LFO Pan
Knob 4 – LFO Filter
Knob 5 – LFO Pitch
Knob 6 – LFO Sync
Knob 7 & 8 – Unallocated
Page 6 – Distortion, Chorus & E.Q.
Knob 1 – Distortion Drive
Knob 2 – Distortion Damp
Knob 3 – Chorus Rate
Knob 4 – Chorus Amount
Knob 5 – E.Q On/Off
Knob 6 – E.Q High
Knob 7 – E.Q Mid
Knob 8 – E.Q Low
Page 7 – Compressor
Knob 1 – Compressor On/off
Knob 2 – Amount
Knob 3 – Time
Knob 4 – Make-up
Knob 5 – Mix
Knob 6 – Drive
Knob 7 & 8 – Unallocated
Page 8 – Delay
Knob 1 – Delay On/off
Knob 2 – Time
Knob 3 – Feedback
Knob 4 – Width
Knob 5 – Damp
Knob 6 – Level
Knob 7 & 8 – Unallocated
Page 9 – Reverb
Knob 1 – Reverb On/off
Knob 2 – Pre-delay
Knob 3 – Size
Knob 4 – Level
Knob 5 to 8 – Unallocated
Page 10 – Gater
Knob 1 – Gater On/off
Knob 2 – Rate
Knob 3 – Amount
Knob 4 – Width
Knob 5 – Pan
Knob 6 to 8 – Unallocated
The Dronar Concept …
the reference to Low, Mid, High and FX within the context of the Dronar engine refer to the four sample sound sources which combine together to make up any given preset.
Although we have the four sound channels stated each channel is actually made up of two sample layers, meaning that there are up to 8 separate sample sources working together to form some of the patches, which certainly accounts for the complex level of timbres, sound animation, washes and tones found in many of the presets.
The first four pages of NKS parameter mappings provide us with a good level of individual control of each of the four sound source layers. Allowing us to mix, blend and mute as we see fit. We are also able to access attack and release for each layer and adjust filter cut-off and resonance settings, along with filter envelopes and tone controls.
When we reach page 5 and beyond the controls become global, meaning anything we tweak affects all four sound layers simultaneously, which is not too much of an issue, however it would have been nice to have some way to control the gater page section for each layer individually.
There is a built-in appregiator within the Dronar engine, whilst present visually in the GUI this has unfortunately not been mapped to NKS, so we will instead perhaps need to make use of Komplete Kontrol’s own arp albeit on a global basis for all layers as a potential workaround here. This is purely from a ground-up sound design perspective of course, as amongst the many presets there are a fair selection that make use of the inbuilt arp already enabled within the patch.
Dronar has an interesting algorithm built into it’s engine which assists with the playability of the library. Being primarily an atmosphere based product, the general idea is that for best results it should not be played like a piano. The nature of the beast leans toward slow moving notes and chord progressions where relevant, with this in mind Gothic Instruments have a clever system in place which spreads out the notes of a triad chord, if indeed that is what you opt to play , (1 to 4 notes are what is suggested). The low or bass sound source then generates automatically a root note, and the high source does likewise for it’s own chromatic range, the FX source then adds it’s own topping to this audio pizza and hey presto you have instant doom, gloom, chaos, sci-fi, horror, ambient, natural sounds or whatever else you happen to cook up.
This approach seems to work remarkably well, testimony of which is amply proven when dialing through the masses of pre-hear sound examples. Once again I thank the stars for pre-hear particularly with a library of this size, and is way up there with inventions such as sliced bread and cling film!
The ‘intensity’ knob or velocity for want of a better word is mapped to the mod wheel by default, which works really well with this type of library. Allowing you to move subtly from a quiet background pad, to bolder dramatic tones in a smooth transition, you can also tweak the ‘movement’ control to affect the way more animated presets work, this can prove really effective and add some additional expression to a track.
Finally another neat trick is to turn on the de-sync control, which uncouples the syncing of all the LFO’s associated with a sound source, which can result in some rather pleasantly creative chaos or happy accidents as I like to call them!
Dronar Master Edition is certain to appeal to any composer working in game, tv, theatre, film or radio, the soundscape creation potential is quite vast, having said that there is enough melodically playable content within the library to appease the more ardently music conscious amongst you with some very useable string, guitar and brass based presets lurking within the various modules. Provided the primary use of the library is born in mind, this being not to replicate those instruments verbatim, but to use their core sounds and hybrid flavours in a creative and mood evoking way.
There is an awful lot going on in many of the patches, and the sonic range will happily fill pretty much the whole audio spectrum if you want it to, there are a myriad of usage options, you may simply want one Dronar preset doing the donkey work while you play an ambient guitar or piano line over the top, or conversely taking out a couple of the sound source layers can quickly and drastically alter the vibe entirely leaving space for a more conventional music framework from which you can hang your melodies, flexibility is definitely something Dronar Master Edition has in spades.
You can probably tell that I’ve been pretty impressed with the Dronar Master Edition, certainly along with most libraries it has the odd accessibility shortfall. Specifically I would liked to have had someway of getting into all that lovely sample goodness to allow for total preset creation. individual panning of the sample sources across the stereo field would have been nice, as would a way to click the ‘randomise button’, a feature which does what it suggests and completely creates a new patch by loading ramdom samples.
As ever I have to stress that this implementation is rarely the fault of the developer, more a limitation of what can be done within the confines of the Komplete Kontrol system.
Given the sheer volume of presets present however I can quite happily forgive these omissions and file them away under ‘NKS accessibility Utopian Dreams’ and get on with the more pleasurable business of sound creation, which this library actively cries out for you to explore!
As always please do check out the links below to hear some of the great walkthrough videos available. I have deliberately put together those that relate to Dronar Master Edition, but you can easily do further searches for any of the individual Dronar Modules I have outlined within the review for more in depth sound examples of what is included.
Gothic Instruments Dronar Master Edition is available as a download from Time & Space at £247.20 (On offer at time of writing Nov 17th 2018)
Time & Space Product Page:
Gothic Instruments DRONAR Master Edition
Gothic Instruments Dronar Master Edition Trailer
Gothic Instruments Dronar Master Edition Walkthrough
Sample Library Review – Dronar Master Edition First Look
(c) Chris Ankin
November 17th, 2018
The author accepts no responsibility for subsequent purchase decisions made as a result of reading 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 in combination with information 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.