A FEW WORDS ABOUT EASTWEST’S COMPOSER CLOUD
While testing the ProDrummer product, I also had the pleasure to try out the new concept of providing sample libraries and virtual instruments to users by EastWest, called the Composer Cloud. Following in the footsteps of Adobe, the Composer Cloud is a subscription based cloud service where you pay a monthly fee and in return receive access to big collection of EastWest instruments.
I must say that upon firing up the EastWest Installation Center, all I could think of was ”How on Earth will I fit all these libraries on my drives?!”. The fact is that there are plenty of real gems in the catalog of EastWest and having direct access to the Gold versions of the orchestral and such libraries, instruments and effects as the Stormdrum 3, QL Ra, Ministry of Rock and the Spaces Reverb, you get an insane value for your money. If you don’t already own most of these products, the cloud service could very well prove to be more affordable for a good while than purchasing all the products separately that you want.
As a small technical side-note, I had to install the Installation Center onto my music computer, which is an offline PC and I like to keep it that way. This time however I had connect it to the Internet and while I am not entirely sure if it is possible to run the Installation Center on another computer, download the product on it and then move it to the offline computer and have the library still work, I consider this as a slight con. On the other hand, the Installation Center makes things very easy for the user, as you handle the downloading, installation and activation from the same program with just a few clicks. No serials, just a few clicks.
There was a little bug I ran into as well dealing with download locations and drives that don’t have enough space and changing these locations while the download is on pause. I managed to get the program get stuck in a loop that didn’t allow me to cancel the download at all but also not choose another location for it. I managed to fix this by digging my way to a log file which I removed and the download reseted itself and I was able to restart it with the correct download location.
EastWest just released this news at the time of writing this review:
”All customers will be on the same plan: $29.99 a month for all 50 products in Composer Cloud. Subscribers currently paying $49.99 a month will have their rate cut by 40%. People on the $29.99 7 product plan will be given the everything plan. All the month-to-month plans are going away, any Composer Cloud member will be able to stop and start their memberships as they wish without any penalties. The student plans will remain the same: $14.99 for 7 products. Current EW customers that took advantage of the early access deal will not see their rate go up next year. EastWest will also introduce a free one month trial for anyone to test drive two of our most popular libraries, Hollywood Strings and ProDrummer (Joe Chiccarelli’s volume). So, the concept of $29.99 a month equals access to 9,000+ virtual instruments, all 50 products worth over $11,000.”
For that price I’m sure it will be a huge temptation to some to get that access to all that goodiness. I know I will definitely be considering it when my try-out runs out.
Today’s market is blooming with great traditional drumkit sample libraries from many different companies. A new contender in this category is the ProDrummer by EastWest and while having very nice features and variety in sound, it’s a bit of a bag of mixed feelings for me. But let’s just get to the bottom of it all.
So far ProDrummer consists of two drumkit libraries, Volume 1 and Volume 2. Both are bought separately or as a bundle. Volume 1 is a 60 GB collection of different drum kits and midi grooves produced by music industry professional Mark ”Spike” Stent and EastWest produced Doug Rogers with drummer Steven Sidelnyk (Madonna, Seal, Massive Attack) in the sticks. Volume 2 is a 40 GB library with different kits and grooves produced by another industry pro Joe Chiccarelli along with Doug Rogers while having Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen) in the drums.
The kits in both of the Volumes consist of a Bassdrum, Snare, 3 Toms, Hi-Hat, 2 Crashes and a Ride.
The Spike Stent volume (Volume 1) includes Drum Workshop, Slingerland, Gretsch, Ludwig, Yamaha, Orange County, Zildjian drums, hi-hats and cymbals recorded in five different rooms. It has seven different kits to choose from, each with several different variations of the selected kit such as Pop, Rock, Punk, Ballad, Industrial, Electro, heavily effected mixes and Dry and Master mixes. Each of these different mixes are basically like presets which have selected mics turned on and might have certain FX applied to the instruments to create a unique sound. The Master mix has all the mics turned on.
The Joe Chiccarelli Volume (Volume 2) has Craviotto, Ludwig, Tama, Slingerland, Gretsch, Istanbul and Zildjian drums, hi-hats and cymbals recorded in three different rooms and it has four different kits with different mixes such as 80s, Indie Rock, Garage, Natural, Pop, Rock, Funk, Crunchy, 808 and more.
Both libraries include three versions of all the preset files for each kit. The Lite, PS (Powerful System) and normal .ewi files. Lite obviously is lighter on the system at the cost of detail, PS is for fast computers and have more detail and the normal files are a good middle ground.
Included also are over 14 000 ready midi grooves in various different genres. Both Volumes include the same grooves.
The different mics used in recording these libraries come in plenty. There are the Room and mono room mics, Distortion mics which were passed through an effects processor or a chain of them, the kit 1 and kit 2 mics which work as alternative room mics or small spot mics with an effected sound when mixed in, a shotgun mic pointed at the snare drum to enhance it in the mix, PA mics which were recording public address speakers in real time and bring fatness and lowend to the mix, the Overhead and OH mono mics as well as the Bleed channel which is a combination of all close mics of the drum that is not being hit at the moment.
Both libraries come with 24-bit 44.1kHz samples with 16 velocity layers. The number of round robins is not stated anywhere, but personally I could hear two variations of each velocity sample when using the most demanding patches. The manual states that the Powerful System instrument patches contain extra Round Robin articulations and some Double articulations that should help with the so called machine gun effect. When I put a steady snare beat to loop and leveled all the midi data to the same velocity, I could hear the two variations of the snare hit repeat over and over. This was with the most detailed and powerful patches of the library. There being 16 velocity layers, you will have a bit less room to make your drums sound human than with some other libraries in the same price range.
However, ProDrummer does have good variety in different sounding kits and this is largely due to the good number of different mics used in recording the kits but also due to the effects processors that are included with the products.
These effects are the EastWest’s own Amp Simulator that has 80 different presets to choose from to add distortion and re-amping characteristics to the sound and the Ohmicide multiband dynamics and distortion to further alter or mangle the drums. These effects are integrated into the Play interface and can be assigned to any instrument channel of the kits individually.
In overall I found the presets selection to be rather comprehensive, or at least versatile enough to bring more value to the two libraries. I found myself loading up nearly every mix of each kit while searching for that specific sound because most of the mixes sounded so different from each other. I just couldn’t stop and not check to hear what the next one might sound like. I recommend the Lite patches for this kind of browsing since the loading times can get tedious with the PS/Normal patches if not on an SSD.
The Play engine has come a long way from it’s initial release and ProDrummer takes full advantage of the latest version. Upon loading up the library you are greeted with a bit different interface than with the other EW libraries. The player view presents you a big drumkit, removing the piano keys from the bottom and replacing them with controls for such features as a Song Builder, Grooves Menu and a Velocity Processor.
The huge picture of the drumkit is interactive and works with the mouse. Clicking on the drums cause them to play accordingly. The hits on the drums are animated, whether you use the mouse or keyboard for playing them. Fun and pretty but doubt that useful.
The Song Builder works as an integrated timeline for the Play interface to place midi grooves on from the grooves menu. Basically you can build the whole drums track of your song inside Play. The midi grooves can be dragged from the menu to the timeline or straight into your DAW. I know that I probably won’t be using the integrated timeline too much, but I can see the potential there for example for quick drumline sketchings.
The Velocity Processor is basically like a compressor, but it doesn’t process the audio directly. Instead it modifies the MIDI data before the samples are triggered. The data gets processed in real time resulting in immediate changes to the dynamics of the performance. It’s a nice and quick way to affect the dynamics of the drums in a transparent manner.
From the player window you can also do something rather important and that is select and swap all the instruments in the kit. Actually that isn’t all, you can also layer multiple intruments on top of each other too. By clicking the Drums button, the image of the drumkit gets overlayed with little drop-down menus on top of each instrument and you can swap them or add in as a new layer in the mix. When you want to add the new intrument as a layer on top of the existing intrument, you need to hold down the Control key while clicking. Not all the kits however have the option to swap/layer intruments.
In the Mixer view you see all the channels for each mic used to record the kits. By clicking the channel name you enable or disable the selected mic and thus sometimes can greatly alter the sound of the whole kit. Clicking the FX button on a channel you open up the FX view where you can enable or disable the two new integrated effect processors, the Amp Simulator and the Ohmicide and also modify the settings of both. The Amp Simulator is fairly simple and you basically just browse through the 80 presets or create your own by adjusting the six knobs for different frequencies, drive and volume to get a very processed sound. The Ohmicide on the other hand is a much more complex processor and has an extensive section in the user manual pdf, which I recommend reading through. But as a general note, the Ohmicide is a magnificient saturation effect and does so much altering to the sound source that it alone can take your focus for hours.
The other effect units in the FX window are the same ones that are integrated into the latest Play Engine by default. They are also very useful with this library, especially the nice SSL Transient Shaper and Compressor.
In the master channel FX view you can also add in the EW Convolution Reverb and the SSL Stereo Bus Compressor which are also there by default in the Play Engine.
As an observation the Hi-Hats, Crashes and Ride were mixed very loud in the different kits and needed lowering to sit in the mix better.
The Sound and Conclusion
This is the crucial part of any library, ”How does it sound?”. Well, as I mentioned in the beginning of this review, ProDrummer is a bag of mixed feelings for me. I was surprised to hear only two variations per drum hit, it does limit the library when trying to go for more human-like performance. Some drum libraries out on the market don’t use round-robins at all, instead they program the product in such a way that the machine-gun-effect isn’t present. But this approach reguires an extensive amount of velocity layers. ProDrummer doesn’t deliver too well in this regard in comparison. That doesn’t mean however that it sounds bad, it just means exposed, the library is a bit vulnerable in comparison, if comparing human-like authentism in performance.
The included midi grooves are versatile in style but some of them will need tweaking by the user to sound more human when exposed, especially when using the Lite instruments. They still do offer a good starting point for rhythms in different genres of music for users who don’t consider themselves that good with drums.
If ProDrummer has some problems when fully exposed, in the mix it can excel. The different ways you can enhance the sound, the integrated high quality effect processors and all the different mics provide such a toolset that you almost forget the limitations when it comes to human authentism. In fact, I think the two Volumes are actually meant for achieving that commercial top chart music sound rather than authentic traditional drumming styles. When looking at the library from that point of view, the expectations change drastically and you start seeing a whole other potential here. I actually think this idea should’ve been presented in the marketing of the product better.
It’s undeniably fun to modify the existing kits with layering instruments together or adding effects and experimenting with the multiple mics but also just browse through all the different ready preset mixes for cool and unique sounding kits.
All in all I consider ProDrummer to be a versatile kit with a bit grittier and experimental side to it that excels in the mix, but lacks as a highly realistic set of drums for creating highly believable mockups of human performances. For me this library will probably come in handy in industrial and big beat styles with a heavily processed sound, and probably works best with simple top chart sounding tracks. For human sound and authentism there are better products out there, but for the aforementioned ProDrummer is a rather good choice and worth the consideration. And if you have the Composer Cloud, ProDrummer is a nice addition among the other drumkit libraries already there with it’s own unique sounds and worth the download obviously.
Studio Drummer (Native Instruments)
Drumlab (Native Instruments)
Abbey Road series (Native Instruments)
EZ Drummer 2 (Toontrack)
Superior Drummer 2.0 (Toontrack)
Voyager Drums (Best Service)
The Grange (Spitfire Audio)
- Unique and interesting presets
- Great effect prosessing possibilities
- Good for punchy, commercial top chart sound and drum machine-like styles
- Not for authentic performances
- Machine-gun-effect is a problem
- Not at it's best when exposed in mix, unless processed and purposely presented in a non-authentic manner