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14 February 2011


Under the hammer...
  • Superior Drummer 2.2.3 | £199

  • The Metal Foundry SDX | £119

  • Metal Foundry Presets - Andy Sneap | £9.95

  • Acoustic drumkit manufacturers are peculiar among musical instrument fabricators in that, out of the box, their products are... How to put it kindly... Point is that, being bulky for their relative lightness in weight, drumkits are a pain to transport. And setting them up for studio session or gig is like putting together a wing-nut and Allen-key festooned Meccano kit. The pointy point, however, is that all too often an untreated acoustic kit sounds knob. In either live or studio scenario, the sound engineer must add a welter of microphone stands to the existing forest of cymbal and tom stands in order to support a small fortune’s worth of microphones, which leads to a spaghetti of mic cables that makes the wires hanging off the keyboard rig look almost minimalist. And what do those microphones hear? A godawful mess of ringing and gunnng-ing as each batter-headed kit bit, even if perfectly in tune, resonates unpleasantly, nay infuriatingly, during the soundcheck.

    While bassist, guitarists and kazoo ensemble are up and running within a handful of minutes, the drummer and sound engineer still face an age of damping a lively collection of percussion instruments into submission. For the kit manufacturer, all that time and money spent choosing optimum tonewoods for the drum shells, crafting them into tubes of fine tolerance, pressing, milling and plating the metal components that hold everything together, et al, is made a nonsense by mic-up prep. Out comes the gaffer tape, cardboard, expanded polystyrene and whatever else is necessary to kill extraneous ringing from the tom skins. Meanwhile, off comes the front of each kick drum and in go duvets to calm bottom-end boinnng. It’s bad enough with a standard rock kit, but for heavy, and especially prog, metal acts the sheer number of kit components complicates things, and denudes the gaffer supply, an inordinate amount. Who’d be Neil Peart’s drum roadie, eh?

    It’s no wonder that in the studio, where time and space are at a premium, the drummer often ends up swigging Jack Daniels on the control room sofa while the techno-spod band member gets busy with a synthetic percussion solution. For metal bands, which in live performance might devote more than half of the stage area to an outrageously OTT drumkit, artificial percussion engines are particularly time, space and cost effective when recording. Add in an engineer’s/producer’s demands for supreme controllability and flexibility of thumpy, crashy noises and you’ve a ready market for digital percussion. This is where Toontrack’s three-headed hydra of Superior Drummer, The Metal Foundry and Heavy Metal Presets slithers hither.

    In place of twin kicks, a dozen toms, 3,000kg of cymbals, £thousands of mics and enough audio cables to wire a Wagnerian orchestra, a Tiger to Snow Leopard Mac or Windows XP to 7 PC loaded with £330 worth of Toontrack software, alongside your favoured DAW, looks a mite more manageable. Actually, a quick word on price. UK distributor Time+Space is forever doing discounts, bundle deals and crossgrades on Toontrack products, amongst others. Make sure to keep an eye on the Special Offers link on the company’s homepage for news on the latest, er, special offers.

    Back to the metal: Superior Drummer 2.2.3, or S2.0 to its chums, offers a MIDI file and percussion sample library, a replay engine and processing facilities that are as sophisticated as an AC/DC song isn’t. The Metal Foundry SDX provides a large crucible of yet more metal, along with extra MIDI files that are downloadable once the product is registered via Toontrack’s trad challenge/response method. And the downloadable S2.0 Producer Presets: Metal Foundry Presets - Andy Sneap expansion brings even more heavy kits to the party, so we’re not lacking variety. Time, I guess, to look at each in turn and see how it all meshes...

    TOONTRACK SUPERIOR DRUMMER 2.2.3 (S2.0) | £199
    One of the neat things about Toontrack’s product-line administration is that, once you’ve set up an account and registered a title, the serial number and computer-specific authorisation code are stored on the developer’s system. Also available is a download link to the original product (larger titles, of course, still require the original installation discs - S2.0 is supplied on five DVDs, for example) and d/ls of any extras and updates. So even if your computer goes mammaries-up, once fixed it’s easy enough to re-deploy Toontrackery without having to dig out the original packaging. I digress.

    Launched back in 2008, Superior Drummer 2.0 is a sample-based percussion plug-in for AU, VST and RTAS hosts running on Mac or PC. It includes The New York Studio Legacy Series Vol 1 sound library and employs the above-mentioned developer’s server archive method so existing users can upgrade via download to v2.2.3 to access an oodle of enhancements to S2.0. The original is reviewed far and wide across the infotainment web-o-sphere already and is, byely and largely, drowning in the drool of approbation. But if you’ve spent the last three years with your head in a spitoon, let me get a summation off my chest by stolidly expectorating a few phlegmatic info-gobbets. First, however, take in Toontrack’s take on what S2.0 totes...

    At S2.0’s core is a sample library captured at New York’s Avatar Studios, known prior to 1996 as The Power Station - recording musicians active in the ‘80s and early ‘90s will remember this name well. The Avatar library comprises some 150,000+ sound files that would occupy more than 60GB disk space if it hadn’t been losslessly scrunched to 20GB for the full install. You might as well go full phat, what with TeraByte drives nowadays costing about the same as three bottles of JD. In the UK, that is.

    We’ve three kick drums recorded with plastic and felt beaters, with and without snares engaged. Speaking, or writing, of snares, they're recorded top and bottom and as struck with sticks, again with and without snare wires a-rattle, plus a variety of other implements including rods, brushes and felt mallets. The same striking stuff goes for the three hi-hats, five toms and five cymbal set-ups, including four rides. Oh, and a cowbell boshed with a stick. Just the one cow, mind, but like every other element, it can be re-pitched. Two tabs at top left enable you to switch between the oh-so-pretty Standard, or ‘Construct’, view and the more traditional, drum-machine style (boring) Classic view.

    Get instant jollies by mouse-clicking on an instrument or pad to trigger the sound assigned. Both views offer access to alternative kit pieces via drop-down menus so, for example, a click on the Snare menu icon reveals a choice of seven different snares. If you’re not a percussion anorak, you might want to scroll past the following full kit list for Avatar. However, if you are, grab a box of tissues and lock the door...

    Kick drums
    • GMS 18x22 & 14x24-inch
    • GMS Doubleheaded 14x24-inch
    • Nir-Z GMS
    • Ludwig Black Beauty
    • GMS Piccolo 13-inch
    • Slingerland ‘70s 6.5x14-inch
    • Rogers Wood 4.5x14-inch
    • GMS Ash Shell 6.5x14-inch
    • GMS 5x10-inch
    • Sabian HHX Manhattan Jazz 14-inch
    • Sabian Hand Hammered 16-inch Crash
    • Sabian HHX Evolution 13-inch
    • GMS 10, 12, 14x14, 16x16, 16x18-inch with coated heads
    • GMS 12, 14x14, 16x16, 16x18-inch with clear heads
    Cymbal setup 1
    • Position 1: Sabian AA medium Thin Crash 19-inch
    • 2: Sabian hand-hammered HH Fierce Crash 18-inch
    • 3: HHX HHXtreme & Evolution Crash 18-inch
    • 4: Sabian AA Thin Crash 18-inch
    • 5: HHX Evolution Crash 18-inch
    • 6: HHX Xtreme Crash 19-inch
    Cymbal setup 2
    • Position 1: HHX Evolution 16-inch
    • 2: Sabian Jack DeJonette Encore 13-inch
    • 3: Sabian Jack DeJonette Encore 18-inch
    • 4: HHX Evolution Ozone Crash 16-inch
    • 5: Sabian Jack DeJonette Encore 18-inch
    • 6: HHX Evolution 17-inch
    Cymbal setup 3
    • Position 1: Sabian AAXplosion 21-inch
    • 2: Sabian AA Salsa Splash El Sabor 13-inch
    • 3: Sabian AAXplosion 21-inch
    • 4: HHX Evolution Effects Crash 17-inch
    • 5: HHX Extreme Crash 16-inch
    • 6: HHX Evolution Ozone Crash 18-inch
    Cymbal setup 4
    • Position 1: Sabian 20-inch AAX Chinese
    • 2: Sabian HH 20-inch Dark Chinese
    • 5: Sabian AAX Mini Chinese 14-inch
    • 6: Sabian HHX 18-inch Chinese
    • Position 1: SabianAAX Mini Chinese 14-inch/HHX Evolution effeks Crash 17-inch
    • 2: Sabian AA El Sabor Salsa Splash 13-inch/AAX Chinese 20-inch
    • 4: Sabian Hand hammered Dark Chinese 20-inch/HHX Evolution 16-inch
    • 5: Sabian HHXtreme Crash 16-inch/Evolution O-Zone Crash 18-inch
    • 6: HHX Evolution O-Zone Crash 16-inch/HHX Chinese 18-inch
    • Position 1: Sabian AA Dry Ride 22-inch
    • 2: Sabian HHX Dry Ride 21-inch
    • 4: Sabian Hand hammered HH Vintage Ride 21-inch
    • 5: Sabian Hand hammered HH Raw Dry Ride 22-inch

    And a cowbell. Oh yes. If that lot is not enough, remember that New York Studios Vol 2, recorded at the defunct Allaire and legendary Hit Factory studios, is available as a £119 SDX for further expansion. When creating libraries, the production team does not just whack each drum or cymbal and go with that. Oh no. Percussion instruments sound different when hit at different velocities, and when affected by the energy of a preceding thwack, so it’s multi-sample city for all kit pieces, hence part of the reason for the ridiculous number of sound files and enormous potential for exceedingly realistic performances. No burp-gun rolls and drags here, unless that’s what you want, in which case it’s a doddle to militarise by deactivating certain Humanize functions. Having mentioned Pitch and Humanize, dialogs for both of which are sat at right, let’s move up to the Envelope shaper and its ADSR parameters for each instrument, which translate to Note On, Aftertouch - on a drumkit? - and Note Off - eh? Yup, with a controller keyboard and S2.0’s fiendishly flexible keymapping facilities for triggering individual voices or stacks, it’s possible to manipulate aftertouch to curious effect.

    Skipping back to the initial production stage, Avatar is a recording studio not short on premium mics and a wide variety was deployed to capture individual kit elements as well as room ambience. But you don’t have to stick to the mics used for, say, the snare. Mics can be mixed and matched with alacrity, or with Microphone Assignment if you prefer, and their bleed adjusted via mixer controls. While there are plenty of per-channel mixer presets on hand for the time-pressed, or lazy, it’s something of a skinny mixer in that there are no integral EQ controls, but no matter. In steps UK developer Sonalksis with five plug-in processors that enter the signal chain as either inserts or sends, so we’ve Hi-pass/Lo-pass Filter, 5-Band EQ, Compressor, Gate and Transient Designer plugs for fine tonal control. Once you’ve configured a useful array of plug-ins, save them out as presets for instant recall during another session.

    Short of tweaking the effect of room ambience by mic manipulation, there’s no built-in reverb. Then again, it’s the kind of processing oft applied globally, so it shouldn’t be a stretch to assign your preferred plug-in reverberator to a send - perhaps an ambient setting from Toontrack’s EZmix Metal, more on which in a forthcoming post concerning the EZmix phenomenon - or to individual elements if you split the kit into 16 stereo outs. On the subject of elements, and unlike S2.0's little bro' EZdrummer, you’re not limited to what the loaded sound library has to offer. S2.0’s X-drum enables you to import items from other SDX libraries, and even EZdrummer’s EZX expansions, making for truly monstrous percussion sections that, if deployed live as physical instruments, would relegate the rest of the band to the bouncer pit. Tell you what, I’ll duck out and let Toontrack’s head of sound design Mattias Eklund take you through X-drum kit building, keymapping and more, voiced in his own dulcet Scandinavian tones...

    If you’re gagging to know what the media makes of S2.0, press comment can be had from Time+Space’s S2.0 reviews archive. But by now, you’re doubtless crying: “Oh. The humanity?” Well, the product does ooze impressive wetware by the names of producer Pat Thrall, Grammy-winning Neil Dorfsman (he responsible for S2.0's mixer presets) and skins wizard Nir Z who between them have worked with such heavy metal legends as Sting, Joss Stone, Dire Straits, Celine Dion and Beyoncé. OK, you can bung Def Leppard, Oasis, Bruce Springsteen and Kiss onto the roster as well if it makes you feel better. The original motivation for the product came from Thrall, who wanted to capture the sound of the Hit Factory before it was torn down and turned into condos. Dorfsman, Nir Z and the Toontrack crew came on board and so S2.0, recorded with the able assistance of Mattias Eklund and Henrik Kjellberg, was born.

    That was then, but this is v2.2.3, perhaps the most significant aspect of which is that Superior Drummer now shows up as a 64-bit instrument plug-in. A good job too, considering the amount of RAM it’s possible to gobble up when creating monster kits. (Tech note: 32-bit apps address a maximum 4GB RAM, whereas 64-bit offerings bust through that limit.) Naturally, for all its scope and flexibility, S2.0 has to deliver sonically, and does it ever. It’s perhaps the most realistic percussion suite I’ve ever heard and, if triggered by a real drummer using an electronic kit using the bundled Toontrack solo for standalone performance, you can’t really tell the difference between Avatar’s library and an expertly mic’d kit played in a perfect acoustic space. And even if your real drummer is by now in A&E, poisoned by JD, of a yellow pallor and monged on chlordiazepoxide, the bundled MIDI grooves provide plenty of scope for working up pro-sounding performances.

    Further, grooves can be further mashed in a standalone scenaro with the bundled EZplayer pro in conjunction with Toontrack solo, hence you need not boot Logic, Cubase, Live, Pro Tools or whatever if all you’re seeking is a drum track for a live guitar, bass and vocal jam. But is Avatar metal? Can it provide the heavy hits necessary to compete with overdriven bass and drop-tuned guitar rammed through kiloWatts of black-liveried backline? Can it cut through as the singer strives for a prolapsed larynx? I’ll come off the fence and say ‘sort of’. Listen and ponder...

    Slow Rock

    Medium Rock

    Faster Rock & Tribal

    Tight & Tribal Rock

    Well Laid Back

    Galloping Along

    Still The '80s

    Down To The Bone

    For metal drumming reminiscent of the 1970s and ‘80s, Avatar is quite splendid to these aged ears. The sound-shaping flexibility of S2.0’s front end, while easy enough to grasp, is way powerful and gives immense control over nuances of performance, kit element interaction and ambience. You’d expect, and get, the means to adjust relative levels, pan positions and pitch, but to be able to manipulate mics, instrument envelopes, the implementation of Voices & Layers and various Humanize functions take things that much further. X-drum for bringing in elements from numerous expansion libraries is a real winner, as is the Bounce feature by which MIDI performances can be exported as sub-mixed audio files, with channel bleed and split overheads rendered as separate files if need be, ready for import into a DAW. Sound-wise, however, the Avatar library may not be enough for true heavy metal toxicity. For those whose roots (bloody roots) are more in the ‘90s and 21st Century, maybe a touch more tonal thrutch would add much, and such may pour forth from The Metal Foundry...

    Hell ain’t no bad place to be if the drumkits are anything to go by. In fact, starting out in 1999, Toontrack built itself on the successes of Drumkit From Hell and dfh Superior, allegedly the first true multi-sampled drum recordings for use with a virtual instrument. DFH was the brainchild of Mehsuggah’s Frederik Thordendal and Toontrack’s own Mattias Eklund who called in Meshuggah drummer Tomas Haake to record the original samples. Ten years later, all three were involved in the creation of The Metal Foundry SDX, aided and abetted by Dugout Studio’s Daniel Bergstrand, Studio Gröndahl's Pelle Gunnerfeldt, Tonteknik Recording's Pelle Henricsson, Eskil Lövstrand and Magnus Lindberg, along with Jocke Skog from Clawfinger. They’re the folks behind Foundry’s rock/blues-ish/metal kits which comprise some 300,000 sound files occupying 35GB of data space. Gene Hoglan and Dirk Verbeuren, meanwhile, pitched in with custom MIDI files to give you a head start when drumming up metal beats.

    If some of the above names are unfamiliar, bear in mind they’ve been variously involved with such acts as Steve Vai, Strapping Young Lad, In Flames, Dark Funeral, Behemoth, The Hives, Moneybrother, Fireside, Refused, Cult Of Luna, Khoma, Nocturnal Rites, Naglfar, Guillotine... the list goes on. And if those acts are unfamiliar, you’re probably reading the wrong article. However, it’d still be educative to see how Foundry was put together so, to that end, cop for this vid...

    You will, of course, need S2.0 already installed to access Foundry’s extensive library, which ships on a whopping five DVDs, so you know you’re getting a lot for your lolly. The relevant MIDI files are downloadable once you’ve installed and registered the product. When all that’s sorted, drummers and audio engineers gird thy salivary glands and take a look at the percussion instruments and microphones brought into play...

    Right kick
    • Sonor Tomas Haake Custom Designer Series 18x22 & 20x24-inch
    • Sonor Tomas Haake Custom No Front Head 18x22-inch
    • Sonor Tomas Haake Custom SQ2 18x22-inch
    • DW Collectors Series 16x24-inch
    • Tama ImperialStar Royal Pewter 14x22-inch
    • Tama ImperialStar Placer Gold 14x24-inch
    • Ludwig Amber VistaLite 14x26-inch
    • Ludwig Silversparkle 14x20, 22, 24 & 26-inch
    Left kick
    • Sonor Tomas Haake Custom Designer Series 18x22 & 20x24-inch
    • Sonor Tomas Haake Custom No Front Head 18x22-inch
    • Sonor Tomas Haake Custom SQ2 18x22-inch
    • DW Collectors Series 16x24-inch
    The kick drum outs are recorded with a Neumann U47 FET, while ins are captured with a BeyerDynamic M88, except for the Ludwig 26-inch (M88 on batter head), the Sonor with no front head (Electro-Voice RE20) and the Tama and Ludwig 20, 22 and 24-inch (Sennheiser MD421)
    • Sonor HLD598 8x14-inch
    • Tomas Haake Engineering 7x13-inch
    • Sonor Artist Series 6x14-inch
    • Sonor Tomas Haake Custom 7x14-inch
    • Pearl Reference & Ian Paice Signature 6.5x14-inch
    • Pearl Free Floating Brass 5x14-inch
    • WFL Marching Snare with Wood Hoops 12x14-inch
    • Ludwig Supraphonic 402 & Clear Vistalite 6.5x14-inch
    • WFL U.S 276 6.5x15-inch
    • Pearl Reference Low Pitched 6.5x14-inch
    • Pearl Free Floating - Maple & Sensitone Aluminium 5x14-inch
    Neumann KMS105 and Sennheiser MD421 are used for snare tops, while dynamic and condenser Audio Technica AE2500 are used for the bottoms. For Snare Trash, a 1940’s Philips 9549 has been unearthed
    Hi-hats - DPA 4011 mic
    • Sabian HHX Stage Hats 14-inch
    • Sabian HHX Power Hats 14-inch
    • Sabian HH Hats 15-inch
    • Sabian HHX Stage Hats 15-inch
    • Paiste Giant Beat 15-inch
    Rack tom 1
    • Tomas Haake Custom Designer Series 8x10 & 9x12-inch
    • Tomas Haake Custom SQ2 10x10-inch
    • DW Collectors Series 9x12-inch
    • Tama ImperialStar 1975 5.5x6 & 8x12-inch
    • Ludwig Amber Vistalite 10x14-inch
    • Ludwig Silversparkle 8x12-inch
    Rack tom 2
    • Tomas Haake Custom Designer Series 9x12 & 10x13-inch
    • Tomas Haake Custom SQ2 14x14-inch
    • DW Collectors Series 10x13-inch
    • Tama ImperialStar 1975 5.5x8 & 9x13-inch
    • Ludwig Silversparkle 9x13-inch
    Rack tom 3
    • Tomas Haake Custom Designer Series 10x14-inch
    • Tomas Haake Custom SQ2 10x12-inch
    • DW Collectors Series 11x14-inch
    • Tama ImperialStar 1975 6.5x10 & 10x14-inch
    • Ludwig Silversparkle 10x14-inch
    Floor tom 1
    • Tomas Haake Custom Designer Series 15x15 & 16x16-inch
    • Tomas Haake Custom SQ2 16x15-inch
    • DW Collectors Series 13x16-inch
    • Tama ImperialStar 1975 12x15 & 16x16-inch
    • Ludwig Amber Vistalite & Silversparkle 16x16-inch
    Floor tom 2
    • Tomas Haake Custom Designer Series 16x16 & 17x18-inch
    • Tomas Haake Custom SQ2 18x18-inch
    • DW Collectors Series 14x18-inch
    • Tama ImperialStar 1975 14x16 & 16x18-inch
    • Ludwig Amber Vistalite & Silversparkle 16x18-inch
    All toms are recorded with Sennheiser 421s
    Ride position 4
    • Sabian Morgan Agren Custom Ride 22-inch
    • Sabian Tomas Haake Custom Power Bell Ride 22-inch
    Ride position 5
    • Paiste Giant Beat 24-inch
    • Sabian HHX Legacy Ride 22-inch
    Crash 1
    • Sabian HHXtreme & Stage Crashes 16-inch
    • Sabian HH Sound Control Crash 15-inch
    • Sabian HH Splash 12-inch
    Crash 2
    • Sabian HHX Stage Crash 18-inch
    • Sabian HH Thin Crash 16-inch
    • Sabian HH Crash 19-inch
    • Bosphorus Traditional Series 19-inch
    Crash 3
    • Sabian HHX Legacy Ride & Medium Crash 20-inch
    • Sabian HHX Stage Crash 19-inch
    • Paiste Giant Beat 18-inch
    • Sabian Morgan Agren Custom Dark Crash 20-inch
    Crash 4
    • Sabian HHX Groove Ride 21-inch
    • Sabian HHX Stage Crash 19-inch
    • Sabian HH Medium Ride 22-inch
    • Sabian HH Splash 8-inch
    Crash 5
    • Sabian HHX Stage Crash 20 & 21-inch
    • Zildjian Medium Crash 18-inch
    Crash 6
    • Sabian HHX Stage Crash 19, 20 & 22-inch
    • Bosphorus The Hammer 20-inch
    China 1
    • Sabian Paragon Chinese 19-inch
    • Sabian AAX Mini Chinese 14-inch
    • Sabian AAXtreme Chinese 19-inch
    • Sabian HH Chinese 18-inch
    China 2
    • Sabian AAXtreme Chinese 21-inch
    • Sabian HHX Chinese 18-inch
    • Sabian AAX Chinese 20-inch
    • Sabian AAXtreme 19-inch
    • Sabian HH Splash 10 & 12-inch
    • Sabian HH Thin Crash 16-inch/ Paragon Chinese 19-inch
    • Sabian HH Sound Control Crash 15-inch/ HH Chinese 18-inch
    • Sabian HH Splash 12-inch/ AAX Mini Chinese 14-inch
    • Sabian HHX Stage Crash 18-inch/ HHX Chinese 21-inch
    • Sabian HHX Stage Crash 18-inch/ AAXtreme Chinese 21-inch
    Oh, and a Ludwig cowbell by Paiste. Overheads are courtesy of Microtech Gefell M930 and Neumann SM2 (over the drummer), mono ambience is via RCA A44; close ambience by DPA 4049; far mono ambience by Neumann U47; and far ambience by Neumann U87

    By now, I’d guess you’re keen to know what all this tasty kit sounds like. No problem - below are audio files to inform, entertain and excite. Whether you’re a straight-ahead rocker-cum-heavy metaller, or pump out death metal, thrash metal, progressive, punk, black, white, nu, glam, gnu, cheese, Dalek - whichever subset of rock’s increasingly fragmented genre that you, or your critics, have hit on - here’s a muckle of metal over which to muse...

    Made Of Iron


    Terror Tory

    Snot Lip

    Texas Metal




    Mmm, thumpy-crashy. You’ll have witnessed the capabilities of SD2.0’s front end and what it can do for the Avatar library. Well now, Foundry’s sample sources are similarly malleable, making this SDX a good buy for those into genres other than metal. The supplied grooves are hard as nails and I’d defy a non-drummer to emulate such performances using a mouse or piano keyboard for input into a DAW’s drum editor. Nevertheless, you can still sequence your own in the DAW for more straighforward passages, or draw on one of the many pro-authored MIDI libraries, such as Toontrack’s own MIDI Packs, for lighter patterns in other genres.

    The various Avatar kit configurations eat a fair bit of RAM, but the Foundry kits are larger and Sneap’s stuff, reviewed below, shoves kit libraries in excess of 1.7GB into memory. Thankfully, machine management via the Memory & Status dialog at bottom left is good and slick, with the means to purge RAM when switching kits. You can also elect to reduce bit depth from 24 to 16 to further lighten system load and create headroom for more Sonalksis signal processors in the mixer section, or for other plug-ins in the DAW, even. Yet more system resources are freed up should you mute the samples for ambience and for bleed, but the more you remove, the more realism you’ll lose. While testing, I used Logic Pro 9 running on a MacBook Pro with 4GB RAM and encountered not a glitch, although it’s easy to see how things could become wobbly when getting adventurous with X-drum additions, processing plug-ins and instrument/FX plugs on other DAW channels.

    As I’ve said before, a laptop and drum sample library won’t cut it live for a metal band, particularly during the obligatory drum solo which would rapidly descend into farce (the thought of several thousand long-hairs moshing to a dry-ice enshrouded plinth with just a Vaio or MacBook atop makes I chuckle). Arm-twist or sozzle your drummer into acquiring an electronic kit, or at least train him or her to use a MIDI sequencer, and work up the drum tracks thereby to save a stack of time and therefore cash in the studio. The drum tracks rendered with S2.0 and Foundry are more than realistic enough to carry through to final production and in a blind study, there’s no way your home audience would be able to detect the difference between real and Superior synthetic. If I were to dole out awards, The Metal Foundry and Superior Drummer 2.2.3 pairing would be in line for a gong. But I don’t. Let’s just say that together, these two Toontrack titles are well sick. That’s ‘very good indeed’ in ‘hood-speak and nothing to do with emesis, although that depends on how loud you’ve cranked the monitors. Don’t go away, mind. We’re not done with matters metalline just yet...

    Photo by Cam Vallance, 15/12/07

    The idea behind S2.0 Producer Presets is to bring the signature sounds of various performers and producers into Superior and thus expand your sonic palette. Specific to The Metal Foundry is a collection of five kits gathered up and committed to binary by Andy Sneap. You know him - he’s that guitarist chappie from thrash metal band Sabbat, they of Nottingham, Englandshire. In fact, Mr Sneap is rather more than just a guitarist. He’s a songwriter, record producer and engineer who has production and mixing credits for releases by Accept, Cathedral, Cradle Of Filth, Megadeth, DevilDriver, Napalm Death, Benediction, Trivium, the delightfully named Pissing Razors and many, many more. He picked up a Swedish Grammy for his work on Opeth’s Deliverance and US Grammy nominations for his contributions to Killswitch Engage’s The End Of Heartache and Megadeth’s Endgame and Sudden Death. Want to know more?

    Andy has his own recording facility, Backstage Productions founded 1994 in Derbyshire, England, likes Metric Halo’s ChannelStrip plug-in for Pro Tools, prays to record a band that’s actually taken the trouble to rehearse the whole album and reckons Mr David Scott Mustaine is “cool to work with”. More? OK, he was born on 18 July 1969, is nicknamed ‘Undie’, cites Capt James T Kirk as one of his heroes, is a fan of the film This Is Spinal Tap and in 2007 he looked suspiciously like the bloke in the photo above left. His mobile phone number is 07... No, that’d be silly. Anyway, you get the point that he’s up to his ears in heavy metal, has worked with some of the greats and certainly knows how to set up and record a drum kit. Here’s the man himself in a two-part interview explaining the thinking behind and the making of Foundry Presets...

    With S2.0 installed and The Metal Foundry loaded, let’s have a listen to what he delivered to Toontrack, this time in the context of full song arrangements. We've Testament More Than Meets The Eye, Exodus Downfall, 36 CrazyFists Caving In Spirals and Accept Kill The Pain, so click the blue button at left and chill. Or not...

    Awesome bigness abounds amid these sounds and you’ll see from the image that Andy likes to make full use of X-drum, expanding the Foundry kit extensively. Applied to your own material, it’s simply a case of loading the kit that best fits with the rest of the arrangement, making a few EQ tweaks here and there, and letting the sequencer roll. Couldn’t be much easier. Each of the presets - Alaska, Atrocity, Legacy, Teutonic and Deutsche Ballade - is of distinctive character in terms of both timbre and ambience. And, for a change, the names of the kits are vaguely reminiscent of their tonality. To my ears, at least. At a mere £9.95, or €12, for all this metalliferous mayhem, you simply can’t buy Foundry and not download Andy Sneap’s preset pack packing, as it does, whacking great hits and crashes in the same great vein as ye olde Drumkit From Hell, but with a 21st Century twist. The only extra I’d like to see is a top-down view of an animated drummer in the Construct window just for the fun of witnessing arms and sticks flailing, but that’s more daft whimsy than of any practical use. And that, my fiends, concludes our superior-metal soirée. Armed with the above Toontrack trio, your drum tracks will be none more black before you know it and will sound so realistic that in the studio your drummer might need sedation. A dozen litres of JD should do it which, coincidentally, costs roughly the same as the full Toontrack Superior metallic pack. At least, it does at my local off-licence.
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