Review ARPS by Umlaut Audio

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Umlaut Audio ARPS pops as a powerful percussion arsenal in a very small package!

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Review ARPS by Umlaut Audio

While Umlaut has for years been working to provide bespoke sounds to A-list composers, amongst them – Harry Gregson-Williams, Danny Elfman and John Debney, ARPS and their other new offering PADS – mark the first time that they have made their collective talents broadly available to the commercial composers market .

ARPS by Umlaut Audio sells for $49 from Plugin Boutique 

Thoughts

I must admit that my first reaction upon downloading ARPS was “Did my download fail? It’s only 13 Megabytes?” What I found was that ARPS is a VERY compact set of four percussion instruments that allow you to sculpt just about any rhythmic sound bed that you can imagine. Like its sister product PADS, it has a very clean and simple interface.

I talked about this in my review of PADS and it bears repeating here – sometimes we overlook the simple clean cut look in favor of the flashy skins and complex layouts in the belief that it has more functionality. ARPS may be the proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing” in this case.  What it may lack in perceived capability at first blush soon fades from your mind when you start to work with it! Although it is only a percussion ARP and contains four instrument varieties – Kicks, Mids, Ticks and Percs, it gets the job done – and then some.  If you are a composer, sound designer or musician, this can be a very effective tool in your workflow.

I have to admit that this is one of those instruments that I had to tear myself away from to finish the review.

I am going to focus only on ARPS for purposes of this review but obviously if you go beyond the basic instruments and add external plugin effects to the fray, you could just keep extending the possibilities.

Let’s dive into the details. The interface is quite intuitive although as I said with PADS, I wish that there were labels for the effects icons and parameter settings on mouse-over.  ARPS is a 64 step sequencer with 7 different arpeggiation modes, controllable step rate, swing, octave count, step repeat and latch controls. Each instrument comes with 5 snapshots for you to use as a starting point in addition to the standard INIT mode. I would have liked to see more snapshots for each instrument considering many busy composers would prefer to audition snapshots and find sounds quickly.  That isn’t really a deal breaker here as there are so many options to change the sound by manipulating the arpeggiator controls to create your own signature snapshots.

A - Kicks

 

I like the ease with which you can simply draw your own pattern with the mouse and shrink or stretch the step count in even or better still – uneven increments for more unusual sounds. Once you find the ARP pattern that you like, you can move to the effects section and start to twist and bend it to your liking with a really nice set of effects. If you are familiar with PADS, the layout will be clear to you right away, although there are a few differences in the effects available.

B - Mids

 

The effects section is compact and consists of Filter, Distortion, LO-FI (bit crush), Transient Control. Compressor, Delay and a Spatializer to add width to the overall sound.  The dropdown menus used in PADS would have been a welcome addition here for me when choosing Filter types but again overall I really like the functionality this affords within a very small interface footprint. If you wish to stack multiple instances of instruments in Kontakt, this still keeps the amount of scrolling to a minimum.

C - Ticks

The sound of each instrument should be fairly apparent based on the names. Kicks and Ticks are pretty straight forward. While there is no source information on the sounds used in construction, the Mids sound like a variety of Toms in the mid to upper octaves and possibly Frame Drums and the like in the lower octaves. The Percs remind me of Djembe, Bongos and a variety of ethnic hand percussion. Overall very pleasing sound sources to work with and I suspect that some of the source material is synthesized as well.

D - Percs

Let me summarize ARPS this way: Like its sister PADS I really enjoyed working with it and found it to be an excellent percussion bed designer. 

That’s not at all meant to diminish the fact that you can also create back beats and full out rhythmic patterns for electronic music.  Dare I say that I could even find this sitting comfortably in the hands of an EDM or Hip-Hop musician who is bit-crushing backbeats?

The controls are easy to navigate in designing a sequence and the effects provide ample ability to take the sounds and make them uniquely your own.  ARPS is a great product though I find the price point a tick high (pardon the pun) compared to other similar products that are uniquely limited to percussion. Does that mean that I wouldn’t buy it? No. I would indeed still buy it, as I find the usefulness is so broad that is serves a unique role in my kit.

The criticisms that I have are pretty insignificant on balance.  I would really like to see the addition of other wood, metal or even found sound sources as a future expansion to make ARPS even more robust.

At the end of the day, I would recommend ARPS to not only composers, but musicians of any genre that need unique and varied percussive sound beds.

As with any review, I would recommend that you check out the videos and demos below to assist you in making your own decision.

Facts

ARPS weighs in at 20 MB (yes, you read that right!) and requires Kontakt version 5.5.2 or higher and is compatible with both the full and free versions. A trial version of the product is available for download from Umlaut Audio.  There are 5 snapshots provided for each of the four instruments (Kicks, Mids, Ticks, and Percs). Samples are provided in NKX vs. WAV format so individual samples are not unlocked for use in other applications.

Arpeggiator features a configurable free-draw 64 step sequencer with latch and 7 modes of operation. The ARP can also be modified with Step count, Rate, Release, Swing, Octave count and Repeat controls. ARPS also features 7 unique effects to augment your sound. These include Filter, Distortion, LO-FI (bit crush), Transient control, Compressor, Delay and a Spatializer to modify the spread effect of your overall sound.

ARPS is also NKS compliant for those with Native Instruments Kontrol keyboards.

ARPS by Umlaut Audio sells for $49 from Plugin Boutique 

Demos of ARPS

Videos of ARPS