Review: Cerberus by Audio Imperia

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Cerberus is a focused and well-polished library that offers ensemble drums with just enough processing to punch and thump hard straight out of the box, but remain recognizable as real drums.

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Review: Cerberus by Audio Imperia

Cerberus, named for the mythical three-headed dog, is a deep sampled ensemble drum library (three players, hence the name) that focuses on providing the standard “big drums” used most often in modern hybrid and trailer music. This package is the latest installment in Audio Imperia’s “Blockbuster Percussion” lineup, and serves almost as an extension of their flagship orchestral library, Jaeger, as these drums were recorded on the very same stage. While there were only a few types of drums sampled for Cerberus, the use of the new “stacking” feature and various mic positions and effects give us a good variety of “dressing” for the raw samples and makes this library feel much bigger than its core content may seem.

Cerberus sells for $299.00 from Audio Imperia

At the time of publishing Cerberus was on sale for $249.00

Thoughts

When opening Cerberus, you’re presented with a number of patches – the “ensemble drums” category is the main meat of this library, while the drum kit, loops, and sound design feel like a very generous bonus selection.

The ensemble drums come in any combination of processed, unprocessed, tight, and loose. We all know the processed drums are the reason we are here, but the raw recordings are also available for when hyperreal isn’t necessary. The difference between tight and loose patches is simply the use of the “stacking” effect in the interface, which stacks multiple round robins into one hit, making the ensemble of 3 players sound like 12 (or 9 or 6). The tight patches are much cleaner hits with one strong transient, while the loose patches are more like flams with a wider stereo spread and more randomization on the transients.

As a whole, the ensemble drums sound fantastic. The drums sampled are gran casas, kick drums, three sizes of toms, orchestral snares, and various rimshots/clacks. The processed versions are well compressed and saturated to sound modern and punchy with some nice high-end snap that lets them cut through busy mixes. The gran casa ensemble includes a modwheel dynamic crossfade roll, as well as prerecorded rolls at 3 different speeds. It’s likely you won’t need much additional processing to get these drums ready for hard-hitting modern music, but they are still very recognizable as real organic drums, and there is room to process them more and turn them into absolutely insane slams.

The solo drum kit is a cool addition, and it definitely has its place in modern trailer music.

The solo drum kit is a cool addition, and it definitely has its place in modern trailer music. It’s a bit odd that it isn’t mapped to the standard midi drum key layout, but it is possible to remap them within the Kontakt interface. This has a processed and natural version as well and shares its interface with the ensemble drums.

In addition to the drums, Audio Imperia also loaded this library up with bonus content including tempo synced drum loops and sound design elements created from the source material. The loops come in 120bpm, 90bpm (don’t worry, they stretch to your project tempo), 4/4, and ¾ variations. Each loop also has its low, mid, and high stems laid out on the keyboard, allowing you to layer stems to create your own combinations. For a TV or library composer who writes lots of underscore, these loops are going to be incredibly useful. The sound design elements include various hits and textures that sound otherworldly, disturbing, intense and all those other adjectives you associate with trailer sound design. This bonus content is perfect for manipulation via Cerberus’s powerful interface, which we’ll take a look at now!

 

Cerberus shares some design elements with other recent Audio Imperia libraries, including the “Big Knob” and mic mixer. The bottom zone lists instruments and articulations. You can change the assigned key or disable/unload specific instruments here to save on RAM if needed. The top right has some basic controls such as dynamic range, expression, and sample start offset. Dynamic range is all the way down by default, which makes sense for the more processed and compressed samples. Below this are some options, including the “stack” feature I’ve mentioned, which lets you stack up to 4 round robins to create a larger ensemble. You can adjust the randomization of the timing and widen the stereo field of the ensemble here, which is what the “Loose” patches do by default. Velocity curve and low CPU mode are also available in this dropdown menu.

The raw patches come with 7 mic positions, while the processed versions simplify it with 3 premixed positions.

The raw patches come with 7 mic positions, while the processed versions simplify it with 3 premixed positions. These mics can be loaded, muted, solo’d, mixed, and panned in the upper left zone. The center of the interface holds Audio Imperia’s signature “Big Knob”, which is essentially a macro that controls several parameters of various insert FX at once. Clicking the gear icon gives you a closer look at what the knob is doing.

Here you can choose an effect from the dropdown menu and adjust its parameters, as well as choose which parameters are controlled by the knob, and how much. compression, distortion, chorus, lo-fi, flanger, rotator, and flanger are the options here. These configurations can be saved as presets as well!

Clicking the “FX” button in the main panel bring you to the step sequencer and FX rack. All effects and parameters in the step modulator and inserts can be activated via keyswitch, with the assigned key written on the interface button. Dragging the little keyboard icon left or right shifts all the keyswitches over on the keybed, giving you some choice on the keyboard layout. The step sequencer can do really cool things to the loops or sound design to make them your own, such as wobbling the panning or automating filters. They still work on the drum hits, but it just doesn’t make as much sense on the short nature of drum hits. All of the parameters in the Step Modulator support latching as well.

The inserts and sends are accessed with the other button on the top, and they include the basic Kontakt effects separate from the big knob. These are always welcomed on any Kontakt instrument, but its safe to say most users will likely deploy their own VST plugins for these purposes.

The main interface panel is a little different on the loops and sound design patches. Basic controls such as volume, pan, pitch, and envelope are up front and occupy the left and right sides. The bottom section holds filters and a basic EQ, which really shine when assigning the parameters to midi CCs to control in real time and create cool filter sweeps. The waveform is in the middle, allowing you to control the starting point or even play the elements backward, both globally or per loop/effect.

Cerberus might seem like a small amount of content compared to other libraries that occupy the cinematic percussion niche, but a lot of care and detail went into Cerberus to ensure that it sounds great from the get-go and provides just enough choice to not paralyze the user with overwhelming mic positions.

In a big picture summary of Cerberus, it might seem like a small amount of content compared to other libraries that occupy the cinematic percussion niche, but a lot of care and detail went into Cerberus to ensure that it sounds great from the get-go and provides just enough choice to not paralyze the user with overwhelming mic positions. Between the natural recording, processed punchers, and bonus sound design, Cerberus could carry your trailer percussion needs for a very long time all on its own.

Facts

Cerberus requires 13.4 GB of disk space installed, as well as the full retail version of Kontakt 5.5.2.8 or higher. Gran Casas, Kick Drums, Low Toms, Mid Toms, High Toms, Snares, and various clacks were recorded for this library, as well as a solo drum kit. Bonus loops and sound design crafted from the original source recordings are provided as well.

All recordings were made with 7 different mic positions on the same stage as AI’s Jaeger orchestral library.

Cerberus sells for $299.00 from Audio Imperia

At the time of publishing Cerberus was on sale for $299.00

Demos of Cerberus by Audio Imperia

 

Videos of Cerberus by Audio Imperia