Review: Boutique Drums Ruby by Musical Sampling
Sounds amazing straight out of the box
Can be both super realistic or more ‘designed/drum loopy’
That ride crash, oh yeah!
Varied and well curated mix presets
Great hi-hat grooves with a clever crossfader to open the hats upMakes you feel like a rock god
No choke for the cymbals
Might lack the mic control and more unusual articulations some users require
Sampled drum kits – there’s nothing more to add is there? Try telling that to Musical Sampling! A developer renowned for orchestral samples has just released Boutique Drums Ruby and it is one of the best rock drum kit sample sets out there.
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Review: Boutique Drums Ruby by Musical Sampling
Musical Sampling have a special place in my heart as their Trailer Brass was the first commissioned review I did for SLR a couple of years ago. Since then I have bought their entire product line. There is a simplicity of use and an emotion and clarity in their recordings that just really works for my tastes and workflow. I also applaud their approach of releasing quite specific libraries that have a singular focus on a particular style or group of articulations, as opposed to vast libraries that do a bit of everything. To date everything they have done has been strings or brass with a relatively dry soundstage that means they are hugely flexible alongside other more roomy libraries.
It is no surprise that they continue this ethos with their latest release, Boutique Drums Ruby, but it is a huge surprise that their latest offering is a rock drum kit. A quick watch of their first look video and I was itching to get hold of it and lay down some phat beats!
Boutique Drums Ruby sells for $99 from Musical Sampling
The goal of this library is simplicity and no frills beefy sounds, so I will mirror that and go over the functionality first and then discuss the sound itself. As is typical of Musical Sampling we have a tidy, one page interface with everything you need clearly laid out.
There are mixer channels for kick, snare, hi-hat, toms, cymbals and grooves and clicking where it says default brings up options to specific individual Kontakt outputs. This makes it a cinch to output different sections of the kit to separate tracks in your DAW for extra processing. You can also audition each piece by clicking the icons above the mixer.
In the next section you will find the Global Mix Presets, which enables selection of seven different mixes for the kit. It is worth pointing out at this point that what you get in Ruby is just one single drum kit and these presets toggle between ‘baked-in’ mixes of this kit. None of the Kontakt plugins are being used as it was all created in the studio using various bits of hardware and software and top draw engineering skills. Pressing any of these presets brings up that preset for the full kit, but each kit piece has a pulldown (or you can use the arrows to cycle through), so you can use whatever preset you want on that individual drum. This enables you to easily create custom mixes to suit your own aesthetics.
The bottom of the GUI provides humanization with various degree of tightness. This means you can hard quantise a beat, set to Tight, Natural or Loose and it will give a less robotic feel as it randomly offsets all the one shots by various amounts. 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 grooves (more of which later).
It is a tiny learning curve and you will be creating beats within seconds. Usefully colour coded keys divide up the kit into kick, snare, side-stick, rimshot, floor tom, two rack 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), two crashes (dark and bright), ride rim/crash and ride bell. All the main drums come duplicated on two keys making it easy to play rolls. The real only omission here are extra cymbals like chinas or splashes, but this is designed to be a simple rock kit so you do not miss them at all.
Further up the keyboard we come to a really interesting feature of live hi-hat grooves playing 8th notes in five different hat states from super tight to fully open. These come in 3 tempo versions mapped across different octaves – 90, 120 and 140 BPM. 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 artefacts. All have a nice release trigger for added realism, though it’s arguably a touch loud on the most open hi-hat grooves. 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 just a hi-hat groove that you can then lay down your boom bap on top of.
The first C 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 and coming back out of them, just as a real drummer naturally would.
Another under the hood trick is the automatic triggering of repetition samples for the hats and rides 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 the realism factor.
All of this is great, but counts for nothing if the raw sounds are sub par, so how does it sound? Well, from the first snare whack I was grinning ear to ear. Starting with the default Workhorse mix preset it just sounds banging right off the bat. Drummer Brian Scoggin from Casting Crowns apparently chose some quite rare and vintage pieces for this particular kit and it really shows. Combine that with a beautifully balanced, slightly warm room sound (Hey, Hey Studios in Griffin, Georgia) and great outboard processing and you have a rock drum sound that for my money is as good as anything I have heard from sampled content. Special mention should go to the ride crash which really opens up at higher midi velocities and can give that huge sloshy groove vibe.
To be honest at first, having non of the familiar controls for room mics, overheads and more detailed stuff like the balance of the snare top and bottom mics, I thought it might come up short. However, the presets simply cover so many types of sound so well that it was never an issue. Infact, not having the option to tweak so much just freed me up to spend more time on the actual playing. The eight mixer presets are shown below.
The first three preset names are self explanatory, but I will briefly describe the others. Jock is super phat and punchy (and uses an alternative snare), Reaper is aggressive and open with an interesting snare sound, Fig 8 is totally lo-fi and filtered, Driven is saturated and compressed to the max and Bottomed is cavernous and lo-fi with plenty of crusty low end. It’s a well thought out collection of typical mixing setups and more experimental ones.
The icing on the cake is that they combine so well as it is still the same kit in the same room, just processed and mixed differently. I got best results combining the first five presets in various combinations and the other three more drastically processed mixes with each other. Mixing the more heavily effected presets with the more refined sounds lacked a little realism, though it could still work for more experimental use for sure. In the example below I have given each piece of the kit a different mix to create a hybrid mix.
With eight dynamic layers and up to sixteen round robins the playability of Boutique Drums Ruby is sublime.
With eight dynamic layers and up to sixteen round robins the playability of Boutique Drums Ruby is sublime. It feels very responsive and especially once you include the live hi-hat loops the end result is very convincing. The only slight improvements might be a choke function to cut off cymbals so that can be done in midi rather than editing the printed audio file later. Also, an ability to latch the hi-hat grooves on would be useful, so both your hands are then free to play the one shots over the top.
At first it may seem a little pricey for a single drum kit, but actually it compares well to other individual Kontakt kits and add-on kits for other drum specific soft samplers. It even 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.
Whether this is for you will depends a great deal on what you already have and what genres you work in. It is certainly not the best option if you need a range of different kits to fit multiple genres and if you need something subtle I would look elsewhere. As is the way of Musical Sampling this is a specialist and unique product that does one thing extremely well – a single custom drum kit that packs a heavy punch. The sound quality is as good as far more complex (and more expensive!) libraries and actually I would probably reach for Ruby over the top of them in many cases, as it is simply more intuitive and quicker to use. Although it rocks out with the best of them, I am also excited to use it in some hybrid cinematic contexts, as I think the power and punch coupled with a fairly wet Roomy setting might really layer well with both orchestral and electronic beats on the right cue.
Less is most definitely more when it comes to Boutique Drums Ruby, making it so much fun to play, whilst remaining pliable enough to suit a host of situations. If you are a producer that wants awesome sounding, quick results and non of the fuss these might well be your dream drums. Quite simply – it rocks! Big time.
Boutique Drums Ruby is a 8.6 GB 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 download application.
Boutique Drums Ruby sells for $99 from Musical Sampling
Contributor Sam Burt reviews Boutique Drums Ruby by Musical Sampling
“Sampled drum kits – there’s nothing more to add is there? Try telling that to Musical Sampling! A developer renowned for orchestral samples has just released Boutique Drums Ruby and it is one of the best rock drum kit sample sets out there.”