Review: ATOM from Audiomodern
Review: ATOM from Audiomodern
Audiomodern is certainly no stranger on the sample library scene. This time around, they bring perhaps their strongest offering to date in ATOM, a new library targeted specifically at the film and video game composer communities. ATOM is an all-around impressive and very solid offering with a unique workflow and varied array of unique audio source material as a foundation.
Originally Published July 18, 2017
Over the past two years, we have seen more and more developers throw their hats into the ring offering a Hybrid library, all with varying degrees of success. Not to name names here (sorry, it’s just my personal rule), as everyone knows who is who and who created what, but I firmly believe that we have now reached a significant saturation point in the marketplace for the Hybrid library.
To be quite blunt, I am really looking for entrance in the marketplace now to be more about offering something unique and something that has that genuine “WOW” factor. From my perspective, the most critical factors in a composer’s selection of a new tool still come down to getting an elevated level of functionality, workflow improvements and the overall variety of timbres and tonal colors that are being offered.
Essentially to me the big question becomes “what is the great differentiator in a new Hybrid, or honestly any library for that matter?”
Over the past several months, I have continued to have the opportunity to work with some the new and continually innovative Hybrid libraries. I have already reviewed several of them and see something bright on the horizon.
My first impression of ATOM was quite favorable. After spending about five minutes playing through many of the preset sound sources, I was very much liking what I was hearing. ATOM is derived from a number of unusual sound sources including field recordings of a WWII torpedo, a tuned anchor, Koka’s Experimental Box, noise from modular systems and a variety of other off the beaten track candidates.
The sound source material addressed my first challenge of sound. I quite enjoyed the uniqueness of the timbres on offer. The second thing that I’m looking for is innovation in the interface and workflow functionality. I found that for the most part, ATOM pretty much checked the boxes for me in that area as well, even offering some additional and quite useful functionality I had not yet seen in a similar tool. Without giving away too much of the plot line, let’s dive into the library itself.
ATOM has a really nice clean interface. Besides having preset drop-down and standard controls in the upper portion of the interface, at the very bottom are the navigation tabs for the other key elements in the library. ATOM contains six key types of preset sounds that are categorized as Atmospheres, FX, Keys, Percussion, Sequences and Synthesizer sounds. The library itself contains a Mix section, individual controls for each of the two Layers of sounds and a dual layer Arpeggiator. There is a nice clean workflow throughout the library that makes experimentation to find unique sonic treasurers a really straight-forward experience.
Whether you are selecting one of the preset sound sources or creating your own using the dual layer section of the mixer, the layout is pretty self-explanatory. That was welcome news to me as one of the big issues that I have with the library is the delivery of the manual as an image file. That was one piece I found difficult to navigate but not something that you can’t overcome by pasting it into a conventional document or converting it to a PDF.
The other thing that I found lacking here was any type of randomization functions. That would have been something that would have been a really nice feature to have given the excellent sound sources that the library is built on. You can build your own randomized sounds by choosing different sources on each one of the layers and then have controls for tuning, fine tuning, EQ, volume and your ADSR controls. You can also turn off one layer and use the individual sounds on a solo basis. The Mix page also contains the mixed layer level controls for LFO, Filter, Load and Master volume and compressor.
I like the extensive level of control that was provided for each individual layer of sound. I would have liked to have seen even more than two layers as an option in order to build more complex sound sources, but that does not diminish the quality of what ATOM has to offer. This is another one of those places where I would like to see the ability to randomize settings as a way to experiment with the sound. Understanding that this is on a layer by layer basis, I clearly understand that it would add a greater level of complexity to the overall scripting of the library.
Each individual layer of ATOM offers reasonably deep control over sculpting the overall sound of the source that is being used.
I like the layout of the controls and found them to be well organized and maybe the only thing that would have helped is some slightly darker text for the labels as gray on gray can be difficult to read at very high resolution.
Working down from the top left are Filter controls, Stutter control, Delay control for two delays and Unison control for dialing in the level of de-tune and number of voices. The large dials in the center section provide controls for Stereo width, Drive control and panning. Across the left side of the interface you have controls for Chorus, Lo-Fi and the Convolution engine. As I said, there is an extreme level of control over each layer of sound that ultimately make up the sum of the whole. You can also use the slider switch in the lower right-hand corner to link the FX across both layers and control everything from one place.
The actual piece of technology that I found to be most enticing in the ATOM library was the Arpeggiator. Here you have a fairly sophisticated Arp for each of the individual layers, which by the way can be linked like the FX if you choose. Each of the 16 steps has an independent volume control and pitch editor. Like all of the other pages in the library, you can turn off one or both of them by clicking on the power button. I found that they yield some very interesting results when using two different arpeggiators and swapping sound sources. The rest of the controls are fairly standard offering Pattern, Octave, Gate and Rate selectors.
The LFO button on the Mix page gives you the pop-up control to select waveform and to select the depth and rate. You can also choose whether or not you want to tempo sync.
The Filter pop-up gives you control over the filter envelope and resonance controls. You can also turn the filter and envelope controls off.
The Mode pop-up allows you to choose between Monophonic, Polyphonic and Legato as well as to set the Portamento glide.
The Master pop-up allows you to set volume, balance and turn on and control the built-in compressor. There are elements of every hybrid library where I find myself challenged on using internal effects versus using premium plugins as I want a balanced sound when mixing with other libraries. There are some elements of the effects within ATOM that I think are crucial to the overall makeup of the sound that is achieved in the end. I may not use the reverb and compression but some of the other elements certainly add character and color to the overall sound. The on-board FX are quite adequate but for me, it is simply a personal preference.
I said at the very beginning of this review that I am becoming more and more skeptical about new Hybrid libraries and their ability to deliver something unique to the already large palette of sounds that I have in my toolkit. To take that a step further, I really look at the workflow with a critical eye.
I think that ATOM is one of those libraries that I will find myself using on a fairly regular basis given the unique timbres it contains,
coupled with a really crisp workflow. I find it to be a nice little experimentation machine using some sound sources that don’t seem to be present in many of the other libraries that I have and I attribute that to the sound design team at Audiomodern.
ATOM is a really solid contender for use in film scoring, trailer work, video games and electronic music. Imagination and a little bit of experimentation here goes a long way with yielding some pretty nice results. I would actually like to see future updates to this that would contain even more unique sound source content and obviously the big ask for me would be randomization function in being able to continue to mix-and-match sound sources and settings in the layer controls using something like a Random button. I think that would move it even farther the up ladder.
Overall, well done to Audiomodern on another great library and I look forward to a follow-up of this caliber from them.
As always, please check out the audio and video demos with the links provided below to make sure that this is the right tool for your unique needs.
ATOM downloads and installs at 6.75 GB and requires a full Native Instruments Kontakt 5.5.0 or higher license. Native Instruments Kontakt Player is not supported. ATOM contains over 3,000 samples and offers over 180 unique sound sources.
Demos of ATOM from Audiomodern