I’ve always been a fan of ambient drum sounds, from the classic “one-mic” ’60s recordings of Ringo and company to the nuclear test-blast snare drums of the ’80s. UK company Perfectionear obviously shares my enthusiasm, as their new drum sample CD offers room ambience in abundance. The variety of sounds is large, ranging from tight, controlled kits to explosive, viciously compressed ambient bashes that shake the rafters. Throughout, the drum sound is fairly traditional and natural. The samples were taken from two drum kits — a vintage Ludwig set and a modern Yamaha kit — with Zildjian and Paiste cymbals. The sounds were simultaneously recorded from several different mic positions, so you get close, medium, and very ambient versions of the same recordings, which can be layered and mixed to taste.
Drums: Hits & Ambience Vol. 1 offers a large selection of single hits, but has no loops or performances. “I love the clarity and punch of these samples,” second listener Jim Aikin commented, “but I’m not sure I’d characterize the selection as ‘large.’ The S5000 CD- ROM contains only 351MB of files.”
Using MIDI to layer drums often results in unwanted flams, but I’m pleased to report that layering these dry and ambient recordings worked surprisingly well. At no stage did I hear any timing conflict between the dry and ambient signals: Blending the two gives a smooth, unified effect.
Both kits were recorded in three different locations: a small sound booth, a “normal” room, and a large room. Counting the different mic positions within the two rooms, there are in effect 14 types of kit. In addition, there are very heavy-sounding compressed versions of the “large ambience” samples, auxiliary piccolo and damped snares, rather noisy cymbal swells (played with sticks), and stick clicks. Most instruments were played at several different dynamics, there are plenty of performance variations (including some nice snare rolls with ghost notes), and the cymbals decay naturally, so it’s possible to program very realistic-sounding kit performances. The cymbals have been deliberately recorded without EQ, and I would probably be inclined to brighten them up in a mix.
Some small criticisms: A couple of the Ludwig dry bass drums’ attacks sound clipped. And while the programming is generally sensible, the toms are mapped in reverse order so that the lowest tom appears on the highest key. This can be remedied by climbing over the keyboard and playing it from the other side.
All in all, this is a powerful collection of drum kit samples. Many musicians, producers, and programmers will find it useful. – Keyboard Magazine
Percussion follows the same format as the original Volume One Drums, Hits & Ambience where each instrument typically comprises two sampler programs: one close-miked and the other miked at a distance in a live room. By loading both programs and adjusting the balance, a variety of interim stages can be created between very dry and very wet. Furthermore, there’s a choice of two ambience samples, one large and one medium, providing adequate opportunity for customisation. Some dry samples recorded in a booth are also available for some of the sounds. You can even work in surround with these samples by using the dry sound plus medium ambience at the front and large ambience at the rear. Each ‘layer’ of an instrument is mapped to the same set of MIDI notes, so when you’re progamming drums from a sequencer, all you need do is copy the original MIDI track to the track driving the ambience samples.
The instruments are provided as separate hits mapped over a number of adjacent keys depending on the type of sound, just like the first volume. The programs don’t follow GM mapping as some of the sounds aren’t in the GM set and, in any event, many sounds include a number of playing variations within the same program.
The sounds are mainly familiar percussion elements applicable to many musical styles and include tambourines, cow bells, blocks, shakers, triangles, congas, bongos, cymbals and bells. There’s an especially large selection of cymbal and gong-type sounds, plus more bell trees, rainsticks and chimes than you can shake a (drum) stick at. Pretty much every form of mainstream percussion is represented here, but what makes this collection different, apart from the obvious luxury of having variable real ambience, is that rather than getting one of each type of hit, you frequently get several variations in addition to velocity switching. For example, with bongos you get a right and a left-hand version of each hit, and with shakers you get upswings, downswings and ‘loops’.
Heard in isolation, the dry samples are clean and well recorded, but don’t sound particularly unusual. It’s another story when you add the ambience on another track and then start juggling with the level, though, as the whole thing comes to life in a way that adding reverb to dry samples rarely achieves. There’s a slight ‘fiddle factor’ in having to load up two sets of samples to play an ambient instrument, but the result is generally worth it, and I can think of no competing product that offers the same facility. An audio disc is included along with the Akai S3000 format CD-ROM, so auditioning sounds is easy. Volume Two makes an excellent addition the first, which featured basic drum kit sounds, and the ‘plus ambience’ approach is a significant step forward in making samples sound more natural. – Paul White (Sound on Sound)