SonicCouture Sun Drums

SonicCouture Sun Drums

 

 

KK-Access Review

 

 

it was back in October 2019 when upon it’s first release we reviewed SonicCouture Moonkits, a distinctive drum library in which its samples focused more on light & tight brush type sounds.

 

 

In this interim period MoonKits has continued to be popular among users for it’s attention to detail and overall flexibility.

 

 

Now the sands of time have moved on, and once more the chaps at SonicCouture have been back to revisit Konk Studios in North London, keen to recapture the original magic using the same wealth of classic vintage gear to record and sample the long awaited celestial follow up to Moonkits, which is quite naturally called Sun Drums.

 

 

this time around the subject matter involves the use of sticks rather than brushes, but again the emphasis is still for those clean, dry, light tight and snappier hits that are sure to work brilliantly for hip hop, D&B, pop & any other associated funkiness that you might care to throw at them, that’s not to say that Sun Drums are lacking in spades of creative tweakability as we shall discover in more detail later !

 

 

Tech Specs

 

 

Sun Drums is created for use within Kontakt 6.6 or above, as well as the free Kontakt player, and is NKS ready for Komplete Kontrol.

 

 

The data footprint will occupy around 8.6Gb of hard drive space utilizing the 24bit 48kHz stereo samples.

 

 

It features one master Kontakt NKI file, with a further 105 NKSN snapshots, these being the source for our Komplete Kontrol presets.

 

 

Download & Installation

 

 

this is a real breeze, as SonicCouture as a Native Instruments partner have Sun Drums available for direct download and installation within Native Access, so all you need do is paste in your serial to authorise, and then install to your preferred location, and finally re scan Komplete Kontrol to be making some beats very soon after.

 

 

Komplete Kontrol Browser & Plug-In Edit Parameter Mapping

 

 

Browser

 

Knob 1 & 2 – Vendor & product
Knob 3 & 4 – Unallocated
Knob 5 – Type : Drums
Knob 6 – Unallocated
Knob 7 – Character: Sample Based
Knob 8 – Presets

 

 

Plug-IN Edit NKS Parameter Assignments

 

Page One – Master

 

Knob 1 – Play On/Off (triggers built in rhythm)
Knob 2 – Level (master output)
Knob 3 – Compressor On/Off
Knob 4 – EQ On/Off
Knob 5 – Tape Saturation On/Off
Knob 6 – Limiter On/Off
Knob 7 – Bus 1 Level
Knob 8 – Bus 2 Level

 

Page Two – Kick Edit

 

(Note: this mapping convention also applies to Instruments on pages 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 & 14)

 

Knob 1 – Instrument Select
Knob 2 – Kick Level
Knob 3 – Kick Pan
Knob 4 – Kick Pitch
Knob 5 – Attack
Knob 6 – Hold
Knob 7 – Decay
Knob 8 – Velocity

 

 

Page Three – Kick Microphones & Filter

 

(Note: This mapping convention also applies to Instruments on pages 5, 7, 9, 11 & 13)

 

Knob 1 – Beater
Knob 2 – Front
Knob 3 – Bleed
Knob 4 – Overheads
Knob 5 – Rear
Knob 6 – Room
Knob 7 – High Pass Filter
Knob 8 – Low Pass Filter

 

Page Four – Snare Edit

 

Page Five – Snare Microphones & Filter

 

Page Six – Hi-Hat Edit

 

Page 7 – Hi-Hat Microphones & Filter

 

Page Eight – tom Edit

 

Page Nine – Tom Microphones & Filter

 

Page Ten – Floor Tom Edit

 

Page Eleven – Floor Tom Microphones & Filter

 

Page Twelve – Ride Cymbal Edit

 

Page Thirteen – Ride Cymbal Microphones & Filter

 

Page Fourteen – Crash Cymbal Edit

 

Page Fifteen – Crash Cymbal Microphones & Filter

 

Page Sixteen – Master EQ

Knob 1 – Low Freq
Knob 2 – Low Gain
Knob 3 – Low Mid Freq
Knob 4 – Low Mid Gain
Knob 5 – High Mid Freq
Knob 6 – High Mid Gain
Knob 7 – High Freq
Knob 8 – High Freq Gain

 

Page Seventeen – Beat Shifter 1

Knob 1 to 8 – Shift Amount

 

Page Eighteen – Beat Shifter 2

Knob 1 to 8 – Chance Amount

 

Page Nineteen – Beat Shifter 3

Knob 1 to 8 – Shift Steps

 

Page Twenty – Euclidean Beats 1

Knob 1 to 8 – Steps

 

Page Twenty One – Euclidean Beats 2

Knob 1 to 8 – Hits

 

Page Twenty Two – Euclidean Beats 3

Knob 1 to 8 – Accent

 

Page Twenty Two – Euclidean Beats 4

Knob 1 to 8 – Shift

 

Page Twenty Three – Euclidean Beats 5

Knob 1 to 8 – Rate

 

Page Twenty Four – Poly Beats

Knob 1 to 8 – Steps

 

 

Accessibility

 

 

It’s always an enjoyable task to review a SonicCouture product, and having liaised with James & Dan since I first got my hands on Electro Acoustic back in 2017, they have always wherever possible gone out of their way and tried hard to implement accessibility sensibly, taking our needs into consideration as an integral part of their NKS mapping process.

 

 

On this occasion they consulted with Andre Louis who as an accomplished finger drummer was able to provide them with some excellent feedback on what features we as blind users would most likely appreciate, and this has resulted in a very usable set of controls that I feel sure most users will be pleased with.

 

 

There are inevitably bound to be some shortfalls due either to the limitations of NKS itself, or the sheer number of parameters that would result in unwieldy numbers of pages not to mention increased development time, so I believe that with Sun Drums a fair balance has been arrived at.

 

 

We will discuss the keyboard layout later as this for me is one element that could perhaps be addressed further in a future update.

 

 

Making Kontakt

 

 

As always I did spend some time cross referencing the parameters from the single master Kontakt NKI file with those presented within the NKS mapping, and there are certainly a good number of additional controls there available for automation within the DAW parameter list.

 

 

On this occasion though, it might not be quite the dead end situation we often encounter with these additional Kontakt only parameters, and I will elaborate upon this in due course.

 

 

Everything Under The Sun

 

 

Well perhaps not quite everything, but certainly you are going to discover a good selection of options for editing your choice of drum samples within the pages of the available NKS parameters.

 

 

As with MoonKits, all The essentials continue to be there, such as individual instrument volume, Pan, Pitch, Attack, Hold, Decay & Velocity.

 

 

The more observant reader will have noticed I mentioned the phrase ‘choice of samples’, and this is because SonicCouture have scripted the ability to select and swap out your preferred options for individual kit pieces.

 

 

The ability to change samples from within the plug-in edit side of Komplete Kontrol has been implemented in a number of libraries now, but rarely in a drum or percussion based product of this nature.

 

 

It is always an extremely desirable feature to have, as many of us will have experienced the frustration of finding that almost perfect factory preset kit for a track, only to find that maybe that kick drum just doesn’t sound right.

 

 

the only workaround in this scenario for most of us who are unable to interact with the visual GUI, was to load another instance of Komplete Kontrol with a singular choice of kick, which of course for some is not particularly friendly upon resources.

 

 

Now with Sun Drums we can quite happily mix, match, mingle and manipulate kits to our hearts content, and then even save out our own uniquely tailored kit as an NKSN snapshot for later recall from the Komplete Kontrol user browser, which makes it entirely feasible for us to build and create our own personalised Sun drum kit preset libraries.

 

 

There are certainly plenty of drum choices to choose from, these include assembled kits from leading manufacturers spanning almost every decade from the 1940’s right up to last years models, with the emphasis being on the smaller vintage classic two tom kits.

 

 

With 5 Bass drums, 12 Snares, 5 Hi-Hats, 4 Tom Sets & 8 Cymbals, this carefully cu rated collective will allow for a huge variety of combinations.

 

 

The ability to select our own kit pieces also ties in quite nicely with the additional Kontakt only parameters that I briefly eluded to earlier.

 

 

Usually having additional Kontakt exclusive controls although appealing is a somewhat limited affair, due to the inability for us to change the core sample that gets loaded into the master Kontakt NKI, to coin a phrase it was a little like giving a starving dog a rubber bone!

 

 

In this case however , the option to swap out your kit items still remains within the Kontakt parameter list as a slider.

 

 

(Note: Access to the Kontakt parameters was based upon loading the master Sun Drums NKI preset into Kontakt outside of Komplete Kontrol within Reaper as the host DAW).

 

 

To cut a long story short, it means we can use any of the extra parameters such as more extensive compression, limiter, saturation, velocity randomisation etc and apply them to our own personalised kit options, and then save them back out again as an additional user NKI preset.

 

 

Not everyone will bother with this somewhat microscopic level of editing of course, but it’s a good example of how implementing a certain feature can go on to unlock the greater potential of a product.

 

 

Instrument Detailing

 

 

SonicCouture have certainly pulled out many of the stops when it comes to the microphone tweaking. As an example if we just focus on the Kick drum alone, we will discover that there are mix level controls for six separate microphone positions.

 

 

Looking at the Kick as an example, We have the Beater, front, Bleed, Overheads, Rear and room with associated High & Low pass filters available overall for the instrument.

 

 

This kind of deeply integrated attention to detail is replicated across each of the individual drum sounds, so as you can imagine you get some fairly finite sound control over Kick, Snare, Hats, tom, Floor Tom, Ride & Crash cymbals.

 

 

Can you imagine just for a moment the sheer level of organisational work that goes into ensuring that the thousands of captured samples are faultlessly tagged and categorised for every instrument, microphone, round robin and velocity layer, it’s really quite mind boggling, and that’s even before the coding and scripting begins, and there’s me struggling with my weekly shopping list!

 

 

Equaliser & FX

 

 

The master page contains simple on/off global toggle controls for Compressor, EQ, Tape Saturation & Limiter.

 

 

under NKS control only the Equalisation has a more detailed set of parameters assigned to it which can be found on page 16 of the plugin-edit mapping.

 

 

This means that any of the other processing that is already applied within a factory preset cannot be tweaked via NKS other than turning them on or off, however in practice as these are applied globally it may be a better option to turn them off altogether, and instead apply their equivalent using one of Komplete Kontrols own FX slots if you really require more detailed control.

 

 

alternatively you could as mentioned previously load up the Sun Drums master NKI on it’s own within Kontakt outside of KK and do some more tweaking there.

 

 

Spatial Awareness

 

 

Sun Drums are quite dry in nature, which is SonicCouture’s deliberate decision in the choice of recording venue, so There are no separate artificial delay or reverb Fx added. As a result any ambience that is present is entirely natural and comes from the mix of microphones that are selected, which is nice to see, as drum libraries that have large amounts of baked in unwanted reverb can be quite frustrating to work with.

 

 

Keyboard Layout

 

 

The Sun Drums keyboard layout to my mind does remain just a little bit unconventional, although MoonKits owners will immediately still feel right at home, new users may be a little disoriented.

 

 

Admittedly this may depend a lot on how they plan to interact with the product.

The Kick, Snare and Hats appear as expected in the more typical general midi location, however the subsequent instruments are spread over a further two octaves.

 

 

I quite understand that this must have presented a challenge, as there detailed sampling for both Sun Drums and Moonkits for that matter incorporate both left and right stick hits, so an absolute general midi layout would have been difficult to implement.

 

 

the current layout is something you can get used to if you are playing and recording your drum parts into your DAW, or are predominately finger drumming, however if you want to perhaps load in some third party midi drum files, or hook up an e-kit, then certainly some reassignments will be required.

 

 

We are unfortunately not currently able to accessibly achieve this ourselves, despite the existence within the GUI of a midi mapping page. At the moment a workaround may need to come in the form of a midi re-router plug-in, particularly if your e-kit drum module is also not accessible which is usually going to be the case.

 

 

In a utopian NKS world, another couple of pages could be added that had knobs assigned to each drum instrument, and when turned, the midi note would be announced, thus allowing for user accessible sample note positioning, I am sure I have seen something like this in another product, but much depends on whether this process can be made automatable for the nKS system from the existing GUI controls.

 

 

Creative Beats

 

 

As with MoonKits and a number of other SonicCouture products, Sun Drums continues to include the Euclidean Beats Engine along with the Poly Beats and Beat Shifter systems.

 

 

I delved into this a little in the MoonKits review, so rather than replicate the text verbatim, I would further suggest checking out James’s walkthrough of the interface where here he does a splendid job of explaining things with some clear audio demonstrations.

 

 

Here Comes The Sun

 

 

So at the end of the day what do Sun Drums actually sound like? I would strongly recommend checking out Jame’s detailed walkthrough which explains the user interface in greater detail.

 

 

An absolute must is Andre Louis’s Sun Drums NKS walkthrough to reinforce the potential of anything you have read here both in terms of sound and accessibility from a blind & visually impaired user perspective.

 

 

For convenience I have provided links to this media at the end of the review.

 

 

As ever the sample quality and overall attention to detailing that SonicCouture capture and build into their products is top notch.

 

 

Even simply whizzing through the Komplete Kontrol pre-hear audio sounds via the preset dial reveals an immediate appreciation of how diversely the kits can be tweaked and edited to realise their cross genre potential.

 

 

All of the sounds are beautifully crisp and clear with a remarkably outstanding degree of clarity and presence, this is something you will immediately appreciate when you hear them through a decent set of headphones or monitors.

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

Sun Drums is a fine example of a polished and high quality follow up product to MoonKits it’s older sibling.

 

 

In this respect it will work as a standalone product or as an ideal companion to the original, with no duplication of content.

 

 

I would really like to see some form of accessible means of re mapping the kit layout on the keyboard to suit a broader spectrum of users.

 

 

Out of Soniccouture’s control of course is The long overdue solution to the routing of individual drum sounds to separate tracks within Kontakt & Komplete Kontrol, and this remains squarely on Native Instruments future doorstep, so for the moment it’s going to be a case of keep calm & carry on.

 

 

The access to important parameters in Sun Drums has been well implemented overall.

 

 

The drum kit instrument sample selection feature and extended microphone positions are a very welcome new addition that is certain to significantly improve the entire customisation and sound design possibilities for the ever growing blind & visually impaired SC customer base.

 

 

Sun Drums can be purchased directly from the SonicCouture website with an introductory 30% discount for £110.00 normally £159.00 until July 10th (no code required).

 

 

Sun Drums – Product Page:
https://www.soniccouture.com/en/products/32-drums/g76-sun-drums/

 

 

Sun drums – Tutorial & Detailed walkthrough with James:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ronCSxYMb4

 

 

Sun Drums NKS Walkthrough With Andre Louis :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1HybxRPTs4

 

 

Sun Drums Kits Playthrough With Andre Louis :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AGlWd0v7XU

 

 

 

(c) Chris Ankin

 

KK-Access.com

 

June 19th, 2022

 

 

 

Disclaimer

 

 

The author can not accept any responsibility for subsequent purchase decisions made as a result of this review,or Any inaccuracies found therein. All opinions and product functions stated are based solely on information perceived as a blind user whilst using the product and/or gathered from official factual sources such as the developer, web or supplied product manual.

 

 

About the Author

 

 

Based in Buckinghamshire, England, Chris Ankin has worked previously as a freelance review author and contributor with articles published in Sound On Sound, Home & Studio Recording and ST Format Magazines.
He has also worked extensively in, and been associated with music, recording, film Soundtrack, Game & media, the creative arts, publishing and investments since 1982 under his own name and various other pseudonyms.

E&OE

 

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