Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: Impact Soundworks "Juggernaut"

Product: "Juggernaut"Cinematic Electronic Scoring Tools Sample Library
Developer: Impact Soundworks
Format:  Native Instruments Kontakt 5 and Kontakt 5 Player
Price: $179
Demo:  Audio demos on product page.

"Juggernaut" is a Kontakt-based instrument aimed at providing fresh new bass, drum, and FX sounds for composers of electronic scores for games, trailers, commercials, television, and movies.  It is divided into two custom Kontakt instruments, "Bass Juggernaut" and "Drums and FX Juggernaut", the purpose of if each being fairly obvious from their names.

Bass Juggernaut consists of about 50 bass patches divided into selectable categories for Solid, Mover, Disto, Fuzz, and One Shot.  Patches are selected by a custom preset window, which also includes octave controls to knock the sound up or down by octave in pitch.  A master volume dial sits to the right of this.  Below and to the right is a simple ADSR envelope to control the Amplitude, Coarse and Fine tuning controls, selectable pitch bend amount, Mono/Poly mode, a global limiter effect on/off switch, and a control to delegate whether the modwheel triggers a vibrato effect or opens the filter cutoff.

To the right of that are two panels.  The first of these is a very simple gate sequencer that allows you to create rhythmic patterns of varying velocities.  There is no way to re-assign the sequencer to modulate any other parameters, but it is still quite useful for creating dynamic rhythmic patterns.  A handful of knobs allow you to select the number of steps, the sync note value, and other timing-oriented parameters, and a drop down menu includes a handful of very good preset patterns and the ability to save you own brand new patterns.

Below that is a multi-effects section that consists of filter, reverb, delay, bitcrush, EQ, chorus, amplifier, and phaser effects, all with individual on and off options and a handful of adjustable parameters per effect.   As with the sequencer, you can save presets for your effects combinations.

Sonically, the source sounds tend to fall into the categories of sub basses, distorted or overdriven synth basses, FM basses, and Massive-like wavetable timbres.  Everything is well-recorded, looped, and mapped, but I have to be honest that most of the sounds left me a bit underwhelmed.  There is nothing especially heinous here, but I found most of them to have a rather static, digital feel to them.  For instance, there are some nice Massive-like wavetable basses, but after the initial attack, they settle into a smooth, but boring sustain.  Part of what makes Massive so appealing is how much you can make the sound evolve just through modulation alone.  Sadly, there just aren't many modulation options available here, so you're kind of stuck with what you've got.

There is potential here for sure.  Adding a second layer/oscillator and allowing the user to select waveforms and tunings for each would expand the potential number of sounds a lot.  Expanding what can be modulated with the sequencer beyond just gates would be great, too, although you can get some very cool-sounding stuff out of the gate sequencer alone.  More, and more-interesting source material would be great, too.  I'd just love to hear some more "alive" sounding sounds.  These definitely sound like sampled sounds to me.  There is just a certain sterility here that reminds me a bit of early ROMplers.


Fortunately, the Juggernaut Drums & FX instrument fares much better.  The center of the interface consists of four sections of 8 virtual mixers channels each.  A different drum or FX sound can be loaded into each slot with individual tuning, levels, and pan position, allowing you build complete kits. And, unlike with Juggernaut Bass, there is actually the option to save your patches.

To the right of the virtual mixer are some controls for auditioning sounds.  A switch allows you to switch between the drums and FX samples, while category buttons allow you to audition specific types of sounds all at once.

Below that is an effects section similar to that of Juggernaut Bass, but with a few additional options. In this case, your effects are saved with any patches you save versus being loaded and save on a separate menu.  Also found here is a simple ADSR amplitude envelope and a "1-Click Hype" button that instantly adds transient, saturation, and exciter effects to whatever the loaded kit is.

The quality of the sounds on offer here are tons more interesting than the bass section, in my opinion.  Although there is no round-robin or multi-velocity samples here, the sounds themselves are far more compelling and also far more deserving of the "cinematic" description.  Make no mistake, these are no subtle drum sounds, these are all aggressively processed and in your face.

The Effects section is just as excellent as the Drums section with a huge selection of drops, sweeps, uplifters, impacts, and more, all of which have a great sense of oomph.

Juggernaut is a bit of a mixed bag.  On one hand, the bass instrument kind of left me cold.  Your mileage may definitely vary here, but there is nothing here I would reach for before firing up a softsynth or a hardware synth.  This wouldn't be as much of an issue if there were more options to layer and sculpt your sounds, but, with the exception of tweaking the effects, Bass Juggernaut is more or less a preset machine.  I think there is great potential here for a hypothetical Juggernaut 2, if Impact Soundworks expands that flexibility a bit.

The Drums & FX section, on the other hand,  is fantastic.  Again, these are heavily-processed, loud, in your face sounds.  If you want something subtle, you'll probably want to look elsewhere, but if you want some aggressive drum, percussion, and FX sounds, this has those in abundance.

Pricewise, I think Juggernaut is a bit over-priced for what it offers.  There is some good stuff here, but probably not $179 worth.  I'd find it much easier to recommend at the $99 price point. (Or perhaps offer the Bass and Drums & FX instruments separately at a lower price?)

Impact Soundworks has made some fantastic sample libraries, and I feel like they will continue to improve if they stick with it.  "Juggernaut" feels like an instrument in transition to me as it presently stands.  A Juggernaut 2 with more dynamic samples and increased sound-tweaking capabilities could be a monster indeed.  As it stands, this is a great place to look if you need some hard and gritty drum samples.  [7/10]


line of control said...

Sorry...couldn't resist the Juggernaut!

Tom said...

Haha... I was pretty much thinking of that the entire time I was working on the review.