Producer Spot Review
Subground, Industrial, Hardcore; no they are not building terms, but a few of many electronic music sub-genres that put the kick drum into the forefront of a track.
What is a kickdrum in fact? Images of a stereotypical bass drum may come to mind for those of you more acoustically inclined. But to a producer of electronic music, or rather, music made electronically, it is a collage of transients, bodies, tails and other aspects I do not know of. The kick is the driving force of a track, its heartbeat if you will, and in the words of Fergal Sharkey, “A good heart, is hard to find”. Sampling, layering, and drum synthesizers are the usual methods of kick creation. (Also see: A Complete X-Ray Of Kick Drums)
In my experience, this holy trinity have not been combined into one package, until now.
Stacker from Samplemagic is a drum layering audio plugin which incorporates an analog drum synth, three sampler engines, and a whole host of effects and filters as well as macro controls, a mod matrix, some very nice multi-stage envelope features and few other tricks up its sleeve.
Now, I have never been good at making a good kick sound, and I will admit, my tracks do suffer because of it (mainly due to my inherent laziness when it comes to layering, resampling and the likes), so to have all of this in one place is a serious workflow enhancement from the starting block. Opening up the sampler was my first port of call.
The first thing I noticed was the channel options. The “channels” allows you to flip the stereo channels of the sample and solo them as well as invert the phase of each one which, is the first time I have seen this in a sampler. Phase issues can play an important part in your kick seeming too hungry or flacid in the mix due to constructive or destructive interference in the layering process.
A stereo width option on the sampler allows for some plesant “Haas effect” effects due to the built-in sample delay.
There is a bit crusher, clip filter, flanger and mod shift on the built-in effects panel of the sampler, as well as a 2 band eq with low shelf, high shelf and peak options.
All of this is tucked away nicely behind a super smooth sounding filter that offers 12, 24 and 48 db options as well as a rez option. I have to say, this rez option is my personal favorite out of the four as I found. It added some serious low-end weight to the samples without adding any mud what so ever.
Its “scatter” time displacement tool allows minute shifts in timing to huge bpm locked displacement of sounds, almost acting as a mini step sequencer for the layered sounds. This most definitly will lead to complex, percussive single hits that would usher in a new drum sound.
Personally, I think Stacker’s true strength lies in its envelopes. All four mod envelopes, amp and pitch envelopes have added superior control over an already powerful machine. With a maximum of 8 points per envelope, a whole new world is revealed. With the amp envelope, gone is the need for additional sidechain compression popular in modern electronic dance music. Couple this with the pitch mod and the drum synth, you now have a drum synth that rivals the best on the market.
There is nothing new to drum creation in Scatter, but that is its major strength. Everything you would possibly need is self-contained in this VST/AU plugin and is done almost to perfection. My only small issue is that the samplers have no option to record. I know I have stated that I am lazy when it comes to this, but many of you with a better work ethic than I are not.
This machine can make more powerful kicks than Bruce Lee playing soccer. So, having the “Inception-esuqe” ability of creating then layering all inside Sample Magic’s dream world would reaffirm their self-proclaimed title of “the ultimate drum layer and sound design tool”.
Even though this is aimed at Drum creation, loading a previously created drum sound into one of the samplers along with that bass or lead sound you have spent weeks perfecting, you now have the ability to amalgamate the two with perfect cohesion. Lush evolving soundscapes? Not a problem, load those 30 minute samples you just made with paul stretch and with just a few tweaks of the macros and matrix your studio is awash with a sonic ocean.
There are plenty of other uses that I cannot think of at the moment other than a drum machine for this program, and thats what I admire about it. Everything is there, in one place and done extremely well.
The Final Conclusions
Stacker doesn’t try and rewrite the book on drum sound production, it just rips out all the pages you don’t need and hands you back the essentials in an easy to use program.
I personally have no excuse when it comes to my drum sounds now, as even with my self-proclaimed laziness, it will be next to impossible for me to get anything but a great sounding kit from this.
Stacker plugin is available via Sample Magic website with a 25% OFF introductory price of £59.99. It works on both Windows and MAC in any AU, VST, or AAX plugin host.