Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: CFA-Sound DSP Drums

Product: DSP Drums
Format: Downloadable 24-bit WAVs and instruments for Kontakt, & EXS-24
Genre: Anything that needs analog-sounding electronic drums
Developers site: http://cfa-sound.com
Price: $22.50
Demo: Audio demo and free samples available

DSP Drums is the latest sample set from developers CFA-Sound. It consists of 540 drums & 40 loops in 24-bit WAV format sourced from u-he's popular ACE Softsynth, as well as mappings for Native Instruments' Kontakt and Apple's EXS-24. What makes this collection somewhat unique is that it includes both processed and clean versions of all the samples, allowing you to choose the version that is most useful to you. In a hurry and don't feel like messing with compressor settings? Then the processed versions will be right up your alley. Are you a pro at mixing and want to effect the samples your self for a more custom approach? Fire up the clean samples.

The sounds are helpfully divvied up by category with folders for claps, clicks, closed hats, open hats, kicks, loops, misc, perc, snares, and toms. If you're unfamiliar with it, ACE is u-he's easy to understand version of a modular synth. That bit of info should tell you a bit of what to expect from the resulting sounds... very analog and very electronic. If you're looking for acoustic-sounding drums or extremely modern workstation-type drums, best look elsewhere. But if you love the throb of an analog kick and the snap of an old school drum machine snare, this collection is well worth a look.

The processing done here isn't the wild sort of processing the name DSP Drums sort of suggests, but is very well done and tasteful EQ and compression aimed at making the sounds ready to fit into a mix as-is. The processing is all very well done, and I didn't find any sounds I thought sounded over-compressed or poorly put together. The clean samples offer the same great sound quality, but with more dynamic range and a flatter tonal palette.

Not all the sounds come across equally as useful, though. While I really enjoyed the kicks (a nice variety here especially), percussion, and loops (which are very nicely done with a slight IDM or tech house influence to them), the snares and claps were less inspiring. I think this is not really CFA's fault so much as it is the limitations of what can be put together with ACE. Snares and claps are notoriously difficult sounds to synthesize convincingly. Don't get me wrong, the snares and claps are recorded very well and have an excellent presence and snap, they just don't seem as varied as the other tracks and are light enough in feel that they'll only work for certain kinds of music (although further processing of your own would undoubtedly yield other variations).

So what genres does this suit best? I could hear any of these sounds working really well for minimal and tech house, not to mention retro synth-pop styles. The percussion would work great in electro house and anything looking for a high quirk factor. There's a lot of creativity in the sound design, the sound quality is top notch, and the price is very reasonable. Have a listen to the demos and download the demo samples first to see if these are a good fit for the kind of music you make. I'd love to see a future volume include some wilder, more sound-design-y use of effects, as it would really stand out. As it is, this is a great collection, very professionally done. [9/10]

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