Disclaimer: This is a translation of the original review from Professional Audio Magazine. Click here to see the original Version.
Richness of detail par excellence!
The young company Deadline Entertainment had a drum set built by Cube Personal Drums according to their very specific sound ideas and sampled it in extreme detail.
From Christian Vaida
After my colleague Henning Hellfeld was able to report extensively on the recording of this drum kit in the most beautiful bathing weather in issue 02/22, I may now write about how it does as a finished contact instrument in snow flurries.
Henning has reported extensively on the physical drum kit and its recording, so I refer to that and would like to add, however, that I know Cube Personal Drums personally and hold them in high regard. In addition, I also have a few cymbals from the company Samsun, which were also sampled for this instrument, and am absolutely convinced of their high quality. All the more I am looking forward to the test of this virtual drum kit, whose source material raises high expectations in me.
The miking of the set was very extensive, just as you would want when mixing. All microphones (more than 30), plus two parallel mixes from the console, are completely in the internal mixer, but can also be output to the DAW, so that all options are open when mixing.
Why yet another drum library?
Iguana Karma Edition is a Kontakt library for the free Kontakt Player that wants to make a complete drum set including cymbals virtually playable, as authentic as possible and with the best possible sound directly. So many other companies have already tried this and with the large number of drum libraries, some of them quite good, I first thought to myself "Who needs another drum library?". Sure enough, this exact drum set and cymbals really don't exist anywhere on the market yet. That alone may not be a convincing argument. Three other arguments in favor of this instrument are, first, the way you play it, because the concept is clearly and positively different from the usual concepts, second, the extremely detailed sampling mentioned at the beginning, which is audibly reflected in the authenticity of this drum library, and third, in the many unprocessed microphone channels, which keep all your options open when mixing. Deadline Entertainment has completely redesigned this instrument to suit their own needs and ideas.
The richness of detail of the sampling is already evident in purely quantitative terms from the sheer size of over 120 GB compressed (NCW), which corresponds to an original size of about 350 GB, recorded in 48 kHz and 24 bit, and the number of about 261,000 samples. This huge number results from, among other things, eight dynamic levels and a full 24 round-robin samples per instrument and hand (yes, left and right hands were each sampled separately and are on two keys next to each other), the highest number of round-robin I've heard of so far. That's multiplied by the crosstalk into almost all the microphones, the number of which was more than 30. For the fact that it is only a stereo instrument without surround channels, already a remarkably high number, whereby also really all channels are present in the mixer. Since the number of samples is exorbitant and pushes Kontakt to its limits, not every, but the vast majority of microphones were also used for crosstalk. Whether this makes that much of a difference sonically and whether it has a positive effect at all, since one usually wants to reduce it, I can only judge in the course of the test. It is possible because the intensity of the crosstalk can be regulated.
Highest quality microphone preamps contribute to the excellent quality of the library, of course, as well as the good sounding room, the microphones and especially also the very good drums from Cube Drums and the Samsun cymbals. The experience, the effort and the care of the creators have of course also a significant part in the fact that Iguana Karma Edition plays sonically at the highest level. In terms of authenticity, this set has the edge.
Because of the limitations in Kontakt, not all samples could be packed into one instrument. For this reason, the sounds were divided into two sets, Clear Edition, the regular set, and Red Edition, which is sonically based on Bonham. The four tom toms (10", 12", 16", 18") are identical in both sets, while the bass drums (24"), snare drums and cymbals differ in each case. The left and right bass drums sound distinctly different, which is why it's best to always play double-bass parts on one drum and switch to the other for different song sections. With three different beaters (felt, wood, plastic) each, a pinch more sound variation comes into play. Each bass drum was miked with three mics, including a subkick, which gives you some design options in the mix. The snares were also miked with three microphones, dynamic and small diaphragm on top and a dynamic on the bottom, for the carpet.
So both instruments (Clear and Red) added together include four 24" bass drums with three different beaters each, four snare drums (two Cube Custom Beech, one Pearl 30th Anniversary and one Tama Starphonic) and two different Samsun cymbal sets with 5 crashes, 2 hi-hats, 2 chinas, 2 splashes and 2 cowbells each. The crash cymbals have been played with the tip (tip of the drumstick) in addition to the usual way of playing, as is usually the case with the ride. The left hi-hat has even been given a whole 18 different playing styles, including four different degrees of opening multiplied by the stick positions tip/edge and this in turn multiplied by left and right hand plus kicked hi-hat. The cymbals are therefore very extensive and varied, which makes me particularly happy because of the high sound quality.
Clicking on the red bar at the top of the GUI takes you to the settings. Clicking on the red bar at the bottom opens the mixer where all the individual channels, 16 busses and the effects are located. Most channels are mono, but overheads (OH and OH REAR, two different OH positions plus the mono overhead DIRT), two rooms (ROOM C and ROOM F) and two recorded sums from the mixer are stereo. These sums were designed quasi as parallel buses, therefore already processed with effects and have the function to add more attack (DR ATT) or parallel compression (DR PRESS) to the mix. The individual channels, which can be processed as usual in the mixer (fader, pan, digital EQ), go to up to 16 stereo busses, but can also be routed to the individual outputs of Kontakt, as well as the busses. The routing to the buses is already sensibly predefined, so for example all snare microphones go to the snare bus and so on. But you can also rename the busses and route all single tracks wherever you want. The single tracks have only one EQ each, but the buses have a Solid G compressor, Solid G EQ, tape saturation and plate reverb under FX1. Under FX2 there are four IR sends with the three rooms from the Karma studios in which the recordings took place to choose from.
The animation of the drumming is very realistic and fun to watch. The opening of the hi-hat even visually matches the respective sample exactly. Clicking on a drum allows you to swap the sample if an alternative is available. Clicking on the top edge takes you to the settings, clicking on the bottom opens the mixer. Click on MIDI Machine to change its settings.
Sampling was done like a classic recording session and the goal was to give the user full creative freedom in the mix. Therefore, sound processing was largely dispensed with, the library consists of the naked original sound, which in my opinion is a very commendable difference to many other libraries that already deform the sound so much that you can no longer "save" anything even if you would like it to be more natural.
Despite the naturalness of the sound, the instrument sounds really fat, powerful, assertive and balanced right from the start. This is due to the great effort that the makers put into the sound check. These kits are so well produced that you can start right away and still have maximum flexibility in the mix. A good instrument, well tuned in a good sounding room, high quality preamps and suitable microphones in the right place - good sound is not magic, but experience, taste and effort. You can hear all this in the instrument.
Iguana Karma Edition is sonically designed for louder music styles such as heavy metal, hard rock, rock and so on, but at the same time, thanks to the many microphones and the natural, unprocessed sound, it can still be used flexibly in other areas. Especially the cymbals are absolutely universal.
As for the mixer, the effects are just standard fare provided by Kontakt. If you really want to mix properly, you can and should route the individual tracks or at least the busses individually into the DAW's mixing console and mix there.
To answer the question of crosstalk: Yes, it makes a big sonic difference whether you set more, less or no crosstalk at all. Clearly better or worse is not a specific setting though, it depends on what sound you want to have. Without crosstalk sounds very crisp and dry, while with crosstalk it sounds more natural and a bit more spatial, just as you would expect from a real miked drum kit. In this respect, it sounds more authentic with crosstalk. With this library you are closer to a real drum sound than with most other libraries.
With the MIDI machine, grooves, fills and so on can be started via MIDI note. In short, it is possible to create very authentic sounding rhythms in the one-finger system. For each instrument there is a separate key, so that one instrument can play the groove alone or in pairs. A new and interesting approach.
But I'm more interested in recording very individual beats. And that works very well here. Samples for left and right hand are placed directly next to each other on the keyboard, so that you can also play very fast parts very differentiated by finger drumming, which is unfortunately not the case with most other libraries. What is immediately noticeable is the natural sound. Thanks to the left-right split with eight dynamic levels and 24 round-robin samples, you don't get the infamous machine-gun effect even with really fast and many notes. Even the most comprehensive and expensive competing products suffer from this. This is where Iguana Karma Edition stands out in a very positive way. The uncompromising implementation is reflected in the great sound. Some other things, such as extensive MIDI grooves, a sequencer, pitching the samples or changing the sustain, unfortunately have to be done without in this library. Due to the immense number of samples, you also have a rather high resource consumption. The memory is occupied with over 7 GB and the CPU load easily rises to 20 percent. Other Kontakt instruments, on the other hand, try to stay under 1 GB and only use about 10 percent of the CPU. The crosstalk can be controlled very detailed in each channel individually, but that means adjusting hundreds of faders individually. I still hope for a macro controller in an update.
Overall, the library could be more comfortable, some great features of other instruments are not available here. On the other hand, playing in with a drum sound that sounds authentic right away is a real pleasure.
Um den Leistungshunger einzuschränken gibt es das Kit Submix, das mit den üblichen Kits vergleichbar ist. Hier sind nicht mehr alle Spuren einzeln enthalten, sondern sinnvolle Submixe. Trotzdem ist immer noch jedes Instrument einzeln da, nur nicht die Einzelmikrofone. Das klingt zum Einspielen aber genauso gut und man kann das Kit später, vor dem Mixdown, mit einem großen Kit austauschen, um dann wieder den vollen Zugriff auf alle Mikrofone zu erhalten. Die könnte man dann einfach ins Projekt rendern und müsste so nicht ständig Kontakt mit seinem großen Ressourcenverbrauch laufen lassen.