In this review I will be taking a look at the 'Roots - Sticks' and the 'Roots - Brushes, Rods & Mallets' Superior Drummer Expansion Packs.
TOONTRACK ROOTS SDX - OVERVIEW
Drum libraries seemed to come of age a few years ago. Thanks to computer technology, it became possible to utilise incredibly large libraries that offer the user every conceivable drum hit and nuance, to create the perfect drum sound in your track, coupled with the ability to import a live drummer's groove, so that you could combine those wonderful sounds with the live feel of a drummer and then get them to play at the tempo you request.
The reality is, for many producers, drums and grooves are where you begin when trying to put together a feel for a track, as many producers of the like of Mark Ronson will testify.
I’ve long been a user of the Toontrack Superior drum library. It’s solid but flexible approach to placing drums in your track have obvious benefits for the end user, however one of the aspects of this package that has always been high on my list of plus points is the ability to expand your library with the purchase of one of Toontracks' SDX libraries. Need more sounds? Buy an SDX expansion pack!
There are already a great selection of SDX expansion packs available, but there are now two additions to the SDX lineup, which for many will prove invaluable.
TOONTRACK ROOTS SDX - TAKE 2..... EXPANSION PACKS!
The first pack is named ‘Roots - Sticks’, and forgive me for stating the obvious here, but it offers a wide variety of drum hits played with (you’ve guessed it!) sticks. The second pack is named ‘Roots - Brushes, Rods & Mallets’, which although obvious to some, might not be so well known to others. Brushes tend to be used more in Jazz, especially in ballads, but brushes also have a wonderful subdued quality when striking a tom or swirling around a snare. Rods on the other hand, or Hot Rods to be more accurate, are a wonderful cross between sticks and brushes. They look like several pieces of Wooden Dowel taped together, largely because that is exactly what they are(!), and have all of the transient definition of a stick, but with the lighter quality of a brush, and for me they are an absolute favourite. Lastly, there are the mallets - mostly used in classical percussion, mallets have another level of subtlety and sound wonderful on cymbals, so when you put together both packs, you really do have it all covered.
So why this library then? Well, the secret weapon in Toontrack’s arsenal is the studio where they made all the recordings. Blackbird Studio’s in Nashville is legendary amongst people that know about how to make a great recording, as it has the most wonderful live room, allowing Toontrack to capture every element and ambience of the drum kit. But what use is the room without the mic’s to catch that ambience? Blackbird is also equipped with one of the finest mic stores in the world. They have multiples of just about every classic mic ever produced, so the engineers were really able to go to town. In addition to this, the control room is equipped with some of the finest vintage outboard ever produced, all going through one of the finest desks ever made - a Neve 8078, which was allegedly owned in a previous life by Motown and then by Donald Fagen.
One nice recording touch is that the engineers placed a pair of mic’s right by the ears of the drummer. This is an old and highly musical recording trick. When a musician plays, they listen acutely to make the best sound they can and it stands to reason that what the musician ‘hears’ is what they react to. Hence, placing mic’s right by the ears of the musician who is performing is going to give you a highly detailed account of the performance - a very nice touch!
TOONTRACK ROOTS SDX - INSTALLATION: THE ROAD TO MORE FILES
Once you have installed either or both of these libraries, which can take a while given that the Brushes, Rods and Mallets library is the smallest library at 28Gb, you then have to go through the inevitable registration, but the rewards are great. Once registered, you can download more MIDI content, meaning that you get Roy ‘Futureman’ Wooten playing a whole plethora of grooves related to the libraries. I can never have enough choice of groove when working and the addition of more abstract brush and rod work is invaluable to my library. Being played live, it fits right into the pocket when it comes to building up a track. There are even tracks described as ‘Jam tracks’, which are deliciously long takes that build beautifully over time, and being MIDI you can either use the whole thing, or chop out the bits you like.
Of course, the first thing you want to do when you have installed all your new samples is hit the 'play' button and hear what they sound like. Thanks to the design of Superior Drummer, you can use old and new grooves with old and new samples. It’s so flexible, the possibilities in combination are endless, for every sound you could want.
TOONTRACK ROOTS SDX - CONCLUSION
As a professional user of Superior Drummer I have always found its content and usability incredibly useful, but you do find that once you have used the main elements of the library, you are keen to find more of the same, which is why these 2 SDX expansion packs are so useful. There’s no gimmickry as with some other libraries. You don't find yourself wishing that they hadn’t put loads of effects on the whole mix, as you do with some West Coast based companies. You just get a whole batch of great drums, hits and sounds, with a highly useable set of grooves to go with it. In other words, more of what you get in the original Superior Drummer and so much more!
Do bear in mind that this is an expansion pack! In order to get at these wonderful libraries, you must have Superior Drummer installed already.
You also have purchase options - you can buy the Sticks SDX or the Brushes, Rods & Mallets SDX separately, or you can by them as a bundle with a small reduction in the total price.
For my money, this is the most useful of the SDX packs thus far, depending on personal taste of course, but in any case they are a worthy addition to any existing Superior Drummer setup.
Here you can see some of the choices - All styles there for the taking!
One Designer Kit! You decide which drum you want where!
For more information on any of the Roots SDX Expansion packs or to buy one, click the relevant link below: