Review: Boutique Drums – Jolene by Musical Sampling

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Jolene is a no-nonsense drum library perfect for producers needing to create an instant vibe. It’s quick to learn, fun to play and sounds superb.

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Jump to the Demos of Boutique Drums – Jolene by Musical Sampling

 

Review: Boutique Drums – Jolene by Musical Sampling

We covered Musical Samplings first foray into non-orchestral sampling a few weeks ago when they unleashed Boutique Drums Ruby on us. It totally won me over, so I was very excited to get my hands on the followup. Thankfully nothing has changed in regards to the ethos behind this line of drum libraries – we are still all about simplicity, realism and a superbly curated set of ‘baked in’ presets. We are also back at Hey Hey Studios in Griffin, Georgia with Brian Scoggin of Casting Clowns on the stool. What is new is the kit, which is a definite move away from the aggressive, rock style of Ruby and from the teaser video appears to be a boutique C&C drum set. This time it’s a bit more laid-back, yet punchier and for want of a better term, more ‘vibey’. Musical Sampling are pitching this towards indie, alternative, country and pop and in that regard it is potentially a bit more flexible than Ruby is.

Boutique Drums – Jolene sells for $79 from Musical Sampling

Thoughts

The interface is my ideal one page affair that requires no manual, although there is a very short explanation of each control on the Musical Sampling website.

Main Interface

There are individual volume faders for kick, snare, hi-hat, toms, cymbals and grooves including options to route to individual Kontakt outputs. You can also audition each piece by clicking the icons above the mixer.

Mixer

Below the faders is where you select the Global Mix Presets. There are eight ‘baked in’ presets that were created outside of Kontakt using a selection of outboard and software. Here you select the preset for the whole kit, but each kit piece has the option to select it’s individual preset so you can easily create custom mixes to suit your own taste.

Mixer Dropdown

The bottom of the GUI provides humanization control. By hard quantising your midi and setting to Tight, Natural or Loose it will randomly offset all the one shots by various amounts resulting in a less robotic feel. This does not effect the hi-hat grooves, which remain locked to the timing of the live performance. Groove Speed enables a quick change to half or double time for the hi-hat loops (more of which later).

 

Humanization & Groove Speed

Just like Ruby the learning curve is minimal and is aided by colour-coded keys that trigger kick, snare, ghost snare roll, side-stick, rimshot, two toms, five hi-hat states (tight, normal, slightly-open, mid-open and all-open) hi-hat chick (which also functions as a hi-hat choke), crash, ride rim/crash and ride bell. All the main drums come duplicated on two keys making it easy to play rolls. Users of Ruby should note Jolene has two toms and one cymbal compared to Ruby with three toms and two cymbals. For the type of beats Jolene leads you to play I did not miss the extra tom or cymbal, especially when I discovered the ghost snare roll, which Ruby lacks. This hides away on the key below the kick drum (so don’t miss it!) and is a sublime roll that when leading into a full snare thwack or kick gives a lovely bit of groove and realism. Love it!

 

Keyboard

Further up the keyboard are the live 8th note hi-hat grooves. These come in 3 tempo versions – 90 BPM, 120 BPM and 140 BPM – and each one of those has five different hat states, from super tight to fully open. This sounds complicated but they are well colour coded and accurately mapped on three different octaves for each tempo. Although Kontakt will sync any of them to your DAW tempo, it pays to pick the one closest to your desired speed to minimise time stretching artifacts. All have a nice release trigger for added realism, though the option to disable this would be welcome to make it easier to get a tight end of bar cut when programming with MIDI. I really love these grooves – so many other libraries have whole kit grooves and the kick and snare are rarely where you want them, so it makes total sense to have a super simple hi-hat groove over which you can lay down the main drums.

The first C note of each groove bank showcases a brilliant feature whereby the modwheel will crossfade through the five hi-hat states so you can trigger the groove and simultaneously open the hi-hat up, just by moving the modwheel. It is amazingly smooth and realistic and perfect for building into heavier sections then coming back out of them, just as a real drummer naturally would.

Another under the hood trick is automatic triggering of repetition samples for the hats, rides and toms, so when playing fast repeated patterns the isolated sample is triggered first followed by the repetition sample. It is fairly subtle but makes all the difference for added realism.

The functionality gets a big thumbs up from me and I am pleased to say the actual sounds are just as impressive. Be warned though, if you like to select what mic is on the bottom of the snare drum or how much kick is heard in the overheads, this might not be the library for you. The presets give virtually no control beyond choosing which one you like, but they are all so varied and brilliantly produced the lack of control instead becomes a blessing as you spend way less time tweaking.

Global Mix Presets

 

Moving left to right they broadly move from close to roomy and then to more experimental. Sunshine is pretty close mic’ed and sounds super phat. Workhorse is a solid natural sound with an airy room. Zipline is much more roomy yet still with a punch. Rebel has a fair bit of compression going on and oozes character. Spring appears to have a good dose of spring reverb added, especially to the snare and arguably works less well across the whole kit and might be more suited to individual drums. 8ball is likely a figure-of-eight mic and gives a slightly wider stereo field, bags of ambience and sounds quite lo-fi. Lola is really cool with saturation, colourful EQ and compression generously applied. Finally, there is the Tightrope preset which might have broken a few skins in the process as everything is tuned right up – it’s more of a special effect preset rather than one to use for the main drums, but great to have regardless. Although the presets are processed nothing is overcooked, so they lend themselves well to additional processing by the end user.

As it is the same kit in the same room all the presets blend really well, so you can for example have a roomy snare and a tight kick with trashy cymbals and whilst it might not sound hugely realistic it is a cohesive timbre. Some users might pine for more control, but I found in practice if I needed more room for the snare I could simply select a wetter preset for only that drum. On the subject of the snare, for my money this is one of my favourite ever multi-sampled snares and the highlight of the library. It’s very much a taste thing I know, but if you like your snare with plenty of body, minimal ring and super punchy you will be very happy!

As with Ruby the only slight improvements would be a choke function to cut off cymbals and the ability to latch the hi-hat grooves on, so both your hands are then free to play the one shots over the top.

It also comes with a comprehensive set of Trigger files (.tci) for Stephen Slate Trigger 2, though as I do not use it I could not try them out. Knowing the quality of Musical Sampling however, I would expect the Trigger presets to work flawlessly.

Ruby is well worth checking out if you like the sound of Jolene and my review of it is here
In comparison I would say Ruby generally sounds more aggressive and captures more of the room reverb, whilst Jolene is beefier and drier. The latter seems to have less transient snap and more of a solid tubby feel in the drums, with the snare being much less ringy than Ruby. The Jolene hats and cymbals sound a bit more refined than Ruby, which can get more wild and trashy.

This could easily be a ‘go-to’ kit for indie rock or more organic pop and will be of interest for producers, composers and songwriters who need to achieve a great sound quickly, yet still with some ability to make it individual.

Musical Sampling have bucked the market trend of giving extensive control of the minutiae of instruments for some years now in their orchestral products and continuing this approach in their new drum line is equally as welcome. You can simply trust that the the recordings and processing is superb and get on with playing! The hi-hat grooves and the ability to open the hats using the mod wheel is a real boon in this regard and makes laying down a convincing beat quick and fun. The kit itself is full of character, with excellently produced preset variations. Boutique Drums Jolene is highly recommended and should be on the shortlist for any discerning writer looking for new drum libraries.

Facts

Boutique Drums Ruby is a 7GB library requiring the full version of Kontakt. The samples are 48khz/24bit compressed to NCW format and it also includes a full set of files for Stephen Slate Trigger 2. It is a watermarked library downloaded via the Continuata Connect downloader application.

Boutique Drums – Jolene sells for $79 from Musical Sampling

 

Demos of Boutique Drums – Jolene by Musical Sampling

 

Videos of Boutique Drums – Jolene by Musical Sampling


Contributor Sam Burt reviews Boutique Drums – Jolene by Musical Sampling
“Jolene is a no nonsense drum library perfect for producers needing to create an instant vibe. It’s quick to learn, fun to play and sounds superb.”

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