Review: AizerX – Hybrid Cyberpunk Toolkit by Keep Forest
Superbly produced and very modern sounds
Instant epic trailer results
Ability to heavily customise the sound design elements
Samples available as separate WAV files
On trend multi-sampled instruments
A lot of empty GUI space for non AizerX engine patches
Certain patches will be too ‘finished’ for some composers
Steep learning curve for the AizerX engine
Minimal customisation possibilities for pulses, loops or instruments
WAV file duplication adds significantly to the hard drive footprint
The trailblazing AizerX series continues with another instalment of hard-hitting sound effects, huge drums and unique hybrid instruments. Hybrid Cyberpunk Toolkit is arguably the most cutting edge to date, focussing firmly on the latest zeitgeist in trailer music.
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Review: AizerX – Hybrid Cyberpunk Toolkit by Keep Forest
Keep Forest are a specialist sample library company from Minsk in Belarus that have been releasing a number of very popular collections for specific uses. Alongside a more traditional instrument and vocal product line there are three other series that focus solely on big, bombastic film scoring use. The hybrid Evolution libraries gave rise to the historically themed Vikings releases and from there was born the AizerX series. All four AizerX libraries are geared for hybrid and sound design compositions and consist of SFX galore alongside processed loops and instruments.
The latest AizerX incarnation is focussed on a niche that is growing in popularity – Cyberpunk. This is a dark, dystopian vision of the future. It’s the world of Blade Runner and Jeff Noon novels where the future is not all shiny spaceships and perfect robots, but far more gritty and disturbed. This is reflected in the sounds on offer here, which are a blend of both synthetic and organic sources, always heavily processed.
AizerX – Hybrid Cyberpunk Toolkit sells for $299 from Keep Forest
The Kontakt content is divided up into 5 folders that each contain multiple nki patches and there is also the Generator patch which appears outside these folders. This will be familiar to previous users of the AizerX products and is the place for creating your own custom sound design effects. However, as the idea is to make it easy for composers with little time or less experience in making epic SFX, much of the core sound design is already done. Instead, what you are doing is blending and layering multiple sounds that already sound pretty stellar. The interface is pretty mind boggling at first glance, but still relatively intuitive once you are over the shock!
I won’t go over it in depth as SLR has covered how it works in previous reviews of AizerX libraries, so if you want to get the details I recommend you check them out. Basically for each preset there is a pre-whoosh and a main hit and then 4 other sounds (A, B, C and D) that can be arranged in the time domain, layered on top. In the screenshot below I have A, B and C starting a bit off the main hit to give a slight flam and then sound D, which is a non transient scrape, comes in as a tail when the main hit is nearly faded out. You can also record or draw in automation for pan, pitch and filter for the whole sound in this wav view section, but I did not do it on this particular example.
Each of the 6 sound sources have their own volume, filter, tuning, ADSR, stereo width and LFO and the glowing electrical orb image in the middle functions as an X/Y controller that controls the relative volumes of four of the sound sources. This can even be recorded and played back for real time, repeatable volume changes meaning the whole sound can morph over time. As if that was not enough, there is a mixer page to add extra processing using a range of familiar Kontakt effects.
It might all seem a bit much for some users, but for those of us seeking really unique sound design it is peerless in the marketplace right now. The sheer range of permutations is huge and you can fine tune your braams or mega hits to an incredible level of precision. A very detailed randomiser gives control of how far you let chance run, either randomising the whole sample set or just the values of the current samples. This gives rise to something really interesting – creating round robins of SFX. Trailer music can often have sound design as a key ‘hook’, but repeating it can sound quite robotic. By randomising selected parameters, maybe switching one or two of the layers and tweaking sample start times and then saving it as a new preset, you can build up round robins that give a more organic and interesting feel to repeated sound design motifs.
Undoubtedly such control means the interface is inherently complex, but to get you started you can access 819 presets across a range of categories as shown below.
These load across the keyboard with one key having a whoosh included and the neighbouring key cutting to the chase and triggering straight from the main hit or body of the sound. Key switches in lower octaves pitch the sound across 24 semitones, which effects the tuning of all six sound modules. These presets are excellently created and for the non-tweakers offer instant access to a range of very modern sound design.
Should you want to avoid any layering and customisation and seek less complex sound effects without using the AizerX engine, there is an entire folder that puts various one shots across the keyboard, with the red lower keys enabling transposition. Note that this transposition is relative to the individual sample tuning and and not absolute. There is a comprehensive range from alarms to downers and much more.
These are the exact same sounds that appear in the Generator patch, but broken out into individual components. For selected patches there is a handy Only Hit button to take off any whoosh. Most of the GUI is not used, but you do get access to filters, sample start and ADSR. I have no idea why they could not have designed a more basic interface that displayed the waveform bigger for any patches not using the AizerX engine, as it seems a huge waste of space.
There is still a great deal more to Hybrid Cyberpunk beyond epic hits and mega braams and I will take you through the other parts of the library that certainly give credence to the toolkit part of the product title. The loops and stems comes in two patches. The Trailer Drum Loops puts a range of BPM synced loops across the keyboard, colour coded according to type.
The red section on the lower end is all your bass heavy kicks and subs progressing through punchy kicks/toms to snares, hats, cymbals, metal percussion and various clicks, shakers and weird stuff. They all knit together really well and you can create some really good combinations. The Tonal Loops is a similar idea of having no single sound being overly complex, meaning you can layer them better and create your own combinations. The tonal versions have key switching to keep you in tune too.
The loop theme continues with ten patches dedicated to pulses. They are divided into various categories as shown below.
Each patch includes one pulse per white key with keys in the lower register controlling the pitch. As they are all synced to BPM this is a hugely flexible way of being able to quickly audition pulses and then fit them to the tempo and key of your piece. Be aware though that going too far from the original key results in some pretty undesirable clicks and glitches with some of the pulses. They all have a gritty futuristic texture and can really hype up the tension. Being heavily processed (some even with filter sweeps) and quite complex they are designed to slot straight into trailer and film cues. Aside from combining different loops there is little here to enable composers to customise these pulses which, depending on your viewpoint, will be a plus or a negative. Inf act, they could have stemmed out each pulse and added ways of manipulating them into a whole new product, such is the depth and variety of samples on offer here. A small number of these pulses and the previously mentioned tonal loops are not pitched correctly, so watch out for that until Keep Forest fix it in an update.
As I personally tend to shy away from too many pre-composed loops my favourite part of this library aside from the sound designer section is the Playable Instrument collection. There are some really inspiring sounds here, from distorted basses to reverb soaked plucks. Again the main interface is virtually empty, though on clicking the FX button it flips to a new window that displays the chain of FX used.
You can easily customise the chain of effects and change their settings from this page. Bypassing them reveals the source sounds to be pretty tame synth sounds, but the programmers have done a great job adding saturation, delay and copious amounts of convolution reverb to give them all a larger than life sound.
Last but not least is a small but brilliant sounding Hybrid Trailer Drums patch with deeps subs, punchy hits, biting metals and super dry short sounds. Layering standard orchestral drums with this patch can really spice up your percussion parts – it’s like injecting them with a huge dose of epic energy! They come with 8 round robins for each articulation and a handy Retrigger button to toggle a choke that cuts off the decay on the previous sample, enabling fast rhythms to not get swamped in multiple reverb tails.
In addition to the Kontakt library, Keep Forest have also included most of the samples, apart from the Playable Instruments, as 48khz, 24bit WAV files. Auditioning them is not as intuitive as Kontakt of course, but the file names include the key and BPM where relevant and it is a good option to have for simply dragging and dropping straight into your DAW. Slightly annoyingly, not all the file names match the Kontakt versions correctly, so it is not always easy to locate the corresponding WAV file should you want to find it. I am a little baffled as to why they did not use the WAVs directly in Kontakt instead of compressing them to NCW format. This duplication of sound content present in both the Kontakt and the WAV folders only adds to the hard disk space required.
Also in this folder and not included in the Kontakt version are a number of construction kits at a variety of tempos and in a number of different keys. There are stems for Cyberpunk, Drum and Hybrid Pulse. In addition they have invited a number of accomplished hybrid music composers to create works in this gritty, dystopian style and present them as Artist Stems. Personally, I would not be that interested in using another composers stems, but at the very least they are good learning resources to reveal how professional tracks break down into their constituent parts. There is a useful additional folder here also that includes all the factory presets from the AizerX Generator engine printed down as individual WAVs.
In terms of pure sound quality for trailer and film sound design, there are few developers to match Keep Forest and Hybrid Cyberpunk is on the bleeding edge of what we are hearing in the cinemas these days.
In terms of pure sound quality for trailer and film sound design, there are few developers to match Keep Forest and Hybrid Cyberpunk is on the bleeding edge of what we are hearing in the cinemas these days. The ability of the main engine to deeply customise SFX puts bespoke, world class sound design within the reaches of composers willing to devote time to it. The only downside is a rather complex GUI that appears a little cluttered and is not helped by the poor graphics issues with Kontakt, which can make so many small buttons and text labels a strain on the eyes at times. All the other loops, pulses and instruments are of a similarly high level. They are all crafted wonderfully to fit current trailer trends, but therein lies a problem. As they are pretty much out of the box ready, these sounds might not be quite as in vogue in a few years, so depending how quickly trends change there might be an inherent shelf life on a library such as this. Also, personally I feel with some of the pulses and loops they are doing too much of the work that I want to do as a composer and it almost feels too easy at times to trigger a pulse, a few cool loops and some huge braams and get instant results. There is a certain irony to the machines taking over on a cyberpunk focussed library! This construction kit approach is a double edged sword though, as it means deadlined crunched composers can turnaround amazing sounding cues in a shorter time, albeit with less customised sounds.
This library is firmly aimed at aggressive hybrid and sound design based cues. If you are working in a more traditional orchestral genre or prefer more subtle and organic sound design there are other options better suited for your purposes. But for those creating actions cues for film and TV or specialising in blockbuster style trailer music AizerX – Hybrid Cyberpunk Toolkit provides world class sounds at your fingertips. Although the GUI could do with some refinements, the main AizerX engine is peerless in combining stunning SFX with total control of them. The heavily processed instruments are inspiring to play and sound very current. The toolkit side of the library with all the premade loops gives instant results, but might be too ‘off the shelf’ for some users. One thing is for sure, you will be hearing sounds created from this library in many of the biggest blockbuster trailers over the next few years!
Hybrid Cyberpunk Toolkit comes in both Kontakt lossless NCW format and as individual WAVs. The library is 12.5 GB in size, consisting of 500+ stems, 130+ drum loops, 320+ pulses, 70+ playable instruments, 1000s of SFX and 819 AizerX engine presets. The full version of Kontakt is required.
AizerX – Hybrid Cyberpunk Toolkit sells for $299 from Keep Forest
Contributor Sam Burt reviews AizerX – Hybrid Cyberpunk Toolkit by Keep Forest
“The trailblazing AizerX series continues with another instalment of hard-hitting sound effects, huge drums and unique hybrid instruments. Hybrid Cyberpunk Toolkit is arguably the most cutting edge to date, focussing firmly on the latest zeitgeist in trailer music.”