Checking Out: Orchestral Percussion SDX by Toontrack

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Toontrack has something really special here with Orchestral Percussion SDX. The huge dynamic range, beater options, and stereo, 5.1 & 11.1 options, will make this tempting for those looking to create realistic percussion performances with depth, dynamics, and clarity.

Jump to the Videos of Orchestral Percussion SDX by Toontrack at Time Space

Jump to the Demos of Orchestral Percussion SDX by Toontrack at Time Space

 

Checking Out: Orchestral Percussion SDX by Toontrack

Orchestral Percussion SDX by Toontrack normally sells for $279 from Time + Space

Thoughts

It’s been over 20 years ago since Toontrack hit the scene selling CD-ROM drum packs. Since then the developer has continued to grow organically creating helpful tools and expansions for their users. I’ve been an EZDrummer user for years. I love the simplicity and absolutely love the continued release of EZX sample expansion for the library which are my “Pokemon” (I have to get them all).

When Toontrack released an orchestral sample set, Orchestral Percussion SDX, it piqued my interest.  The first thing to note here is that the barrier for entry to using the Orchestral Percussion SDX is Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 3 plugin.

It is hard to review the library without also mentioning my thoughts on Superior Drummer. For those of us who are EZDrummer users and fans, the big difference is that while EZDrummer offers you record-ready drum sounds and playback right out of the library, Superior Drummer 3 offers you raw, unprocessed sample, multiple mic positions, extensive mixing performance, and an advanced Audio to Midi interface for those looking to alter or beef-up drum kit audio with samples.

Those who have Superior Drummer 3 will most likely echo my sentiments that just over a year after SD3s release and there always seems to be more to learn about this plugin. The deeper you go into the instrument the more layers of functionality there are to discover of what you can get out of the sample set, sound manipulation, mixing, and programming.

Superior Drummer 3 is Toontrack’s professional drum production tool and a big bonus for those of us who have been hoarding the EZX Expansion is that they load right up into Superior Drummer 3.

Ok, now let’s get back to Orchestral Percussion SDX. Orchestral Percussion SDX is like having 2 separate orchestral sample libraries.  While library 1 focuses on the “lead” concert percussion (ie. timpani, taiko, bass & snare drums, & cymbals, the second library focuses on the “accent” percussion (such as congas, bongos, woodblocks & hand percussion).

The Orchestral Percussion SDX interface is both visually appealing and also helps make the instrument instantly playable right out of the box with a simple studio illustration showing the various instruments available. Each of the instruments can be clicked to edit/change sample sets and also highlight as a visual indicator for which instrument is being triggered.

I would have liked to have seen a quick way to identify the keyboard note that triggers the instrument but it wasn’t obvious to me where that information would be found. Upon further inspection, I found that the plugin is designed to refer to midi notes as numbers and not keyboard notes (C3. C4. etc). This style of MIDI mapping seems a little confusing as 99% of my virtual instruments refer directly to midi notes which I have become familiar with.

Orchestral Percussion SDX Grooves Interface

Superior Drummer 3 allows you to playback, sequence and browse your loaded midi groves in a number of ways. For Orchestral Percussion SDX does include a nice selection of midi sequences that trigger an array of traditional orchestral performance. Thanks (again to the SD3 engine) these midi grooves can be drag-and-dropped to your DAW’s midi channels. There are some very helpful starting drum performances included in the Orchestral Percussion SDX although with orchestral percussion my initial feeling is that this will not be as helpful as traditional drum kit performances as orchestral percussion tends to be more sparse and specific to the composition at hand.

Orchestral Percussion SDX Mixer Panel

Toontrack seems to have thought of everything with interacting an orchestral sample set into the SD3 engine, with ways to create rolls and cymbal swells, preset mixing environments and the ability to playback with Stereo, 5.1 and 11.1 surround sound. For most users, the 11.1 surrounds will be overkill, but I think for those working on feature film and game scores the pristine sample set with all 12 channels of recording available will add huge depth and space to a final mix. Even just testing out the instrument in stereo, i love how the library sounds. Playing back any of the sample sets and it sounds like what drums really sound like right in the room, which is a great place to start.

The other big note on Orchestral Percussion SDX samples is the dynamic range. I am not sure how many layers there are but each percussion instrument seems to have a huge range of velocity layers. The recordings for the samples were done in the same studio as the Superior Drummer 3 core library, Galaxy Studios, which claims to be “the most quiet recording space of this size in the world.” I believe it from hearing these samples in action.

Orchestral Percussion SDX Audio to Midi Panel

The last thing I wanted to test out was the Audio to Midi feature. this was specifically designed for those who record drum kits and want to replace or augment their drum performance with high-quality drum samples. The developer also has posted that they are capturing information from users for refining the algorithm for audio to midi  so I only expect this to improve in the future.

For my purposes, this seemed like a challenge to see just how far I might be able to use the functionality to record some hits on my desk and convert it to an orchestral percussion performance. As you can see in the video above, it worked pretty well and I have a feeling with a little time and streamlining, this might be something I incorporate into my composition process, allowing me to add a little human performance for each of my percussion instruments.

Toontrack has something really special here with Orchestral Percussion SDX. With the huge dynamic range, and tons of controls the sky is the limit with the sonic shaping controls. I would recommend this to any SD3 user who is looking to add a truly realistic sounding studio orchestral percussion set into their arsenal.

For those who do not have SD3, it does have the dependance of needing to purchase the plugin as well, which is available as a bundle.

Facts

Orchestral Percussion SDX comes with over 120 individual instruments. The samples were recorded at the same studio as the Superior Drummer 3 core sound library with Stereo, 5.1 and 11-channel Surround output options.

Orchestral Percussion SDX by Toontrack normally sells for $279 from Time + Space

Orchestral Percussion SDX is also available bundled with Superior Drummer 3 and the normally sells for $599.

 

Demos of Orchestral Percussion SDX by Toontrack at Time Space

Videos of Orchestral Percussion SDX by Toontrack at Time Space