Review: Barrage by Hidden Path Audio

by

Though there are arguably more comprehensive and detailed alternatives, Hidden Path Audio have made a boom into the market with Barrage. This hybrid drum library brings a new approach to orchestral drums with two features which set it apart: the Ensemble Designer and Sound Design Percussion.

Jump to the Demos of Barrage by Hidden Path Audio

Jump to the Videos of Barrage by Hidden Path Audio

Review: Barrage by Hidden Path Audio

Barrage is the first product from new sample library developer Hidden Path Audio. The man behind the whole enterprise is experienced LA composer and sound designer Jonathan Kranz. It is a hybrid drum library comprising ensembles, single drums, sound-designed percussion and an innovative custom drum kit engine. This particular area of sample libraries is a crowded place right now, with a plethora of quality orchestral drum collections for the composer to choose from, but Barrage has a few tricks up its sleeve which bring something new to the table.

Barrage sells for $149 from Hidden Path Audio

Thoughts

The first thing you will notice on firing up an instance is a futuristic looking, yet easily accessible interface. It remains a one-pager unless you go into the Ensemble Designer, more on that later. The basic setup is a whole bunch of multi-sampled ensemble drums such as taikos, surdos and djun djuns, alongside a similar folder of single drum sample sets, which comprise a wider range of drums. It was refreshing to see some slightly less common drums included, like the tanggu and the giant gong drum.

All the basic insert FX are present and correct such as EQ, filters and envelopes. There is also an FX section letting you add reverb and delay. There are crush and slam knobs too, which simply access the sampler saturation and compression plugins, but they do not work half as good as a third party plugin in your DAW placed after Kontakt in your signal chain.

By far the most important section of the main page is the mixer which gives you 3 mic options enabling a range of spaces to be dialled in.

By far the most important section of the main page is the mixer which gives you 3 mic options enabling a range of spaces to be dialed in. The close fader is the spot mics on the head and off-centre, the stage is a Decca Tree of Neumann M50s with Schoeps CMC5/CMC6 also and the hall sound was captured with some Royer ribbons and Sennheisers. With such great mics all feeding high end Millenia pre amps, it is no surprise the sonics on offer here are of excellent quality.

All of this was tracked in a popular LA scoring stage. It gets you that filmic sound, but it is not the huge cavernous room that many competing libraries offer. The stage mic is possibly a touch too dry and the hall has a relatively short decay. It is more of a controlled and neutral big room sound that can also work well in conjunction with other libraries that offer a more epic and characterful ambience. If used by itself it leaves more scope to use your own reverbs, whereas with certain competing libraries that are super wet at source, this is less of a viable option.

All the samples sound nicely processed and are very clean with plenty of bite to cut through a dense mix

All the samples sound nicely processed and are very clean with plenty of bite to cut through a dense mix and with no nasty resonances. They have some fairly deep velocity layers, up to about 8 on many patches with 6-8 round robins on average. Articulations are thin on the ground for the ensemble sets, but the single drums offer a range of hit types such as rolls, mutes, sticks etc depending on the specific drum.

All well and good so far, but nothing out of the ordinary, until we encounter the Ensemble Designer. This engine is a great example of using a minimalistic, simple approach to result in complex results and I found it very intuitive and fun to play. Basically it lets you customise your own percussion section from four main elements – a sub, main hits, accents and a tail – using a matrix selector. So for example, you can have an FX sub on one key, then a hit combo of taiko with surdo on a neighbouring pair next to an accent of metals layered with snare, and finally an atmospheric tail on the highest keys.

I found it very intuitive and fun to play

Each section has its own volume control too, so within less than two octaves you can create a really neat custom kit. Some tight sample editing of transients throughout this library means that these multiple stacked hits work flawlessly, with no flams or major phase issues. It also makes them hugely responsive, especially for fast playing. While there are limitations regarding mixing between individual layers, in practice it makes for a superb tool to create complicated and evolving sequences using only a single nki. I found myself coming up with new beat ideas simply due to the influences of being able to select different sound combinations so easily. There are plans afoot to further enhance the Ensemble Designer to give a little more control to the user, yet without making the GUI anymore complicated.

The icing on this drum cake is the Sound Design Percussion folder. In here are 6 nki patches, each of which mangle the source audio on a particular theme. I loved the Drumageddon patch with a whole host of brutal hits, Mega Metals with some pure iron savagery and my personal favourite Sub Chaos, which features awesome smooth attack, low-passed booms to shake your seat. This area of the library is by no means a bonus add-on, but a carefully crafted and incredibly useful collection of numerous sounds.

Barrage gives you is a concise collection of good quality drum sounds with a clean, punchy and controlled sonic signature.

Hidden Path Audio have made a bold entry into the booming (sorry!) market of sampled instruments with such high production values. Barrage is not your fully comprehensive, de-facto orchestral drum library. Particularly regarding the ensemble section, it is just not deeply-sampled or varied enough to fulfil that role, but at this price point you just cannot expect that. What it does give you is a concise collection of good quality drum sounds with a clean, punchy and controlled sonic signature. However, where it really shines is in the innovative Ensemble Designer and the Sound Design Percussion, both of which are hugely inspiring and exciting to work with. As a boutique addition to a composer’s existing standard percussion library it is well worth checking out.

As with all of our reviews be sure to check out the demos and official videos to make sure the library is right for you.

Facts

Full Kontakt version required. 2.3 GB of sample content. 3 folders of ensemble hits, single drums and sound designed patches.

Barrage sells for $149 from Hidden Path Audio

Demos of Barrage by Hidden Path Audio

Videos of Barrage by Hidden Path Audio