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09 August 2013

IMPACT SOUNDWORKS JUGGERNAUT Review | £99 / $139*

Electronic dance music has an increasingly voracious appetite for heavy beats and thunderous bass. Dubstep, and its deranged sibling brostep, are consequences of the dance producer's penchant for filling every frequency gap below 200Hz while honking midrange in your face with splat, wow and parp.

As PA manufacturers figure out ever more inventive ways to disembowel clubbers with low-frequency emitters, those at the munitions' supply end of sonic-attack are busily plumbing the depths of the sub-woofer domain with rich, analog tones from hardware synthesizers and the more cost-effective welly of certain soft synths. Native Instruments Massive is a key example of the latter, living up to its name when wobbling bottom, but it could be that Impact Soundworks has devised a more focused driving experience in Juggernaut: Cinematic Electronic Scoring Tools. Let's take it for a trundle...



As the CEST part of its name suggests, Juggernaut is aimed at soundtrackers seeking those hammering timbres that drench modern action-movie trailers. However, not to miss a trick, Soundworks also bills the library as a vehicle for the clunking thrap of dubstep, brostep and complextro.

On immediate acquaintance, the developer is not wrong. Maybe it's the shiny new Yamaha HS8S subwoofer (the old one surrendered to the strains of Skinny Puppy) in the Fell Surgery that voiced an initial prod of bass as a kick in the gut. Whatever, it's clear from the off that the audio on which this Kontakt 5 (and 5 Player) instrument is based is in no way phlopsy, perhaps deserving of a wide-load caution for nearfield drivers. Here be bullets, as whipped from the dev's product page:

* More than 500 unique sound sources
* Cinematic FX: impacts, risers, drops, sweeps, reverses, textures
* Deep multisampled basses - Solid, Distorted, Fuzzy, Motion, 1shot
* Kicks, snares, thips, slams, splashes, crashes, perc and tonals
* Original content, no drum machines
* 10x round-robins for all percussive sounds
* Comprehensive scripted patches - Bass and Drums & FX
* Dozens of preset drum kits
* Custom bass rhythm and FX presets
* One-click FX: reverb, delay, EQ, compression, etc
* Custom user presets
* Open & editable set of 24 WAV samples for drag-and-drop use in your DAW

The library was devised by a sound-design team headed by Impact Soundworks co-founder Andrew Eversa and including Mick Gordon and Jordan Fehr, among others, who between them bring pro movie and game-soundtrack sensibilities to bear.

Their efforts add up to a pair of Kontakt devices totalling 2.7GB of data: Bass, with timbres ranging from low, phat and clean to low, phenomenal and disgusting; and Drums & FX, which is in effect a 32-channel mixer/drum machine hosting some truly boggling stabs, atonal hits and risers/drops/sweeps/reverses - dual-purpose movie elements and dance cues for throwing big shapes.

Bass, meanwhile, has a rhythmic/gate sequencer by which held notes can be stuttered up or triggered anew at each step for punchy, pulsed patterns. Both are graced with effects, as you can see from the screenshots, and a smattering of presets, along with user slots in which to store your own creations. Here are examples of what might result...



Those unfamiliar with Northern English will find in the above a timbral definition of the word 'thrutch'. Subtle, Juggernaut is not, although it's certainly ripe for surgical EQ carving when creating space to accommodate the rest of an arrangement.

It's doubtful that you'll need to boost many of the presets, such is the richness of the sounds on which they're based. And, even better, all of the root FX and percussion files are supplied as 1.67GB of WAV files that can be dropped into a track, simplifying composition and arrangement for those times when you need to bludgeon a film director or club audience in a hurry.

Manipulation by MIDI control codes is catered for should time be on your side, but the real joy of this title is its raw impact (that'll be the dev living up to its name, then). Juggernaut is a thumping great monster of a bass and percussion engine, spurting welly from the off and pumping productions with low-end torque, leaving you in the happy position of having to rein it in when trying to be tasteful rather than having to beef it up.

However, it performs best at full revs when you can forget about such soppy notions as 'lilting' and 'delicate'. Open it up and watch everything leap out of the way. Since this instrument was first announced on Doktor Fell @MuzoBlog, a free, Facebook-based music-tech news source that you really should Like, it's been held at an intro price, hence the asterisk in the heading, to whit...

*Juggernaut is download only and has an intro price of $139 direct from Impact Soundworks, rising to $179... at some as yet ill-defined point. On this side of the pond, Eurodistrib Time & Space has Juggernaut for d/l at £99 - another time-limited intro offer with an end date also TBA

So, the title offers good value for money (it's easy to say "more of this" and "more of that would be nice", but the developer has to make a call on content per dollar) and is very easy to use, although the same could be said of most Kontakt instruments.

The decision to make core sounds available as WAVs is welcome, although manoeuvring Juggernaut in Kontakt is what really excites. Many bass-oriented synths and hefty drum libraries have trundled through the Fell Surgery and Impact Soundworks' impactful work is an example of one that truly plasters grin on face, all the better to loosen fillings with.

If you haven't got a sub and plan to invest, act quickly and put the $40 saving towards whichever model of LFE matches your monitors. Juggernaut's solid bottoms make it worth the spend. As for aforementioned ease of use, let's close with a substantial driving lesson for this heavy thuds vehicle…