Review: Dark Matter 2 by String Audio
Innovative new design with more significant control over sound design
Multi engine design offers great sonic sculpting potential
Double the original sample content
Introduction of snapshots instead of presets
Wide range of available sonic production possibilities using 1-6 of the available layers
Hard to find any significant cons
String Audio is back with the follow-up to their advanced textural workhorse, Dark Matter 2. The library has raised the bar on innovation with intuitive design, ease of workflow and controls that allow composers to create unique signature sounds quickly.
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>> String Audio has announced an Everything Bundle containing both Dark Matter 1 & 2 as well as the Alchemist Impacts and Textures libraries for $285 (reg $356.00)
For details visit String Audio
Review: Dark Matter 2 by String Audio
Dark Matter 2 marks an important milestone for developer String Audio as they take another giant step forward in improving on the already excellent Dark Matter 1. Dark Matter 1 upon release was an instant hit with composers around the globe. With an innovative and totally revamped interface plus double the sample content, this is one library you don’t want to miss!
Dark Matter sells for $`169 exclusively from String Audio
String Audi is offering SLR Readers an exclusive discount of 10% on the Dark Matter 2 or Everything Bundle using coupon code “SLR10CUT”
Owners of Dark Matter 1 can upgrade to Dark Matter 2 for $89.00 from String Audio
Dark Matter 1 garnered high praise when it was released last year. It immediately attracted the attention of A-list composers recognized as a library that filled a unique gap in the composer toolset by providing unique tones and timbres that were missing from other libraries currently available in the marketplace.
Dark Matter 2 takes the original concept quite a bit further this time around with a complete interface redesign, the introduction of snapshots, randomization and double the available sample content.
Dark Matter 2 takes the original concept quite a bit further this time around with a complete interface redesign, the introduction of snapshots, randomization and double the available sample content, making Dark Matter 2 an even stronger contender than its predecessor. Having snapshots categorized by sound type now, along with the multi-layer engine functionality ensures that the working composer can experience significant improvements in workflow and overall time savings. Sound-wise, this time around we have even more of those great pulses, drones, aural textures, soundscapes and atmospheres that we have come to love from Dark Matter 1.
The first thing that is immediately noticeable in Dark Matter 2 is the revamped engine and overall interface design. The amount of
control that you now have over designing and customizing your sound is immediately clear once you get past your initial hesitation to view the main engine interface like the cockpit on a 747. The design is in fact not complicated at all and is very well designed once you spend just a couple of minutes and look at how the design elements have been laid out. Dark Matter 2 now contains a six layer sound engine with robust controls over not only the entire snapshot but also the capability to zero in and fine tune each layer.
One of the standout functions here that I really like is the ability to randomize virtually everything about the sounds that you are constructing.
If you look at each of the six layers of the main engine, you will see that you have an assigned sample encapsulated by a large circle that controls the overall volume of that layer. Inside of that bigger circle are controls for LFO and Pan Volume. Below that are controls for Solo, Mute, Lock and Bypass controls along with fine tuning controls for Boost, Pan, Tune and Cut. Each of the circular controls allows you to drag your mouse from one side to the other to change the overall depth. Below those are standard ADSR controls along with the Randomization button and the control to turn the Color engine on and off.
Having 340 snapshots available is extremely valuable for two reasons. First of all, it gives you a great place to start in selecting by category the type of sound that you’re looking for including Atmospheres, Soundscapes, Pulses, Gritty sounds and Low rumbling textures amongst the many others. The less obvious reason is that each of these snapshots shows you how the controls change and all of the possible combinations that go into deriving particular sounds. It is really useful for learning to tweak the engines as you create new sounds.
This is a library that can be used based on its snapshots alone or you can create your own signature sounds with just a little bit of work in tweaking the parameters.
One thing that I should note here that I really like about the new interface is the ability to lock any one of the layers or multiple layers once you have found a sound that you like and made tweaks to and then have the ability to randomize and have those specific layers remain unchanged as you get a whole new palette to fill in around it.
At this point you’ve noticed that the library construction contains five separate engines; the Main Engine, the Color Engine, the Motion Engine, the Effect Engine and the Reamp Engine. The overall design cleverly ties the functionality of all of these together via the Main Engine, however there is a great deal of customization that can be done on each one of the other engine pages.
The Color Engine contains six convolvers that can be turned on and off individually or you can collectively disable the entire engine. Each of the convolvers is derived randomly from a pool of over 120 different Impulse Responses. As with the functionality in the Main Engine, you can lock in a particular convolver or group of convolvers and randomize the remaining items. By dragging your mouse up and down you can change the depth from full output which shows as the darkest color to a lower output which will change to a faint gray. Again, I find this to be a very deliberate set of controls that can really make a difference in sculpting your overall sound.
Moving on to the Motion Engine, Dark Matter 2 sports a robust Arpeggiator that allows you the same degree of surgical control that is available in the other engine components thus far. You can have the ability to affect the Note Order, number of Steps, Velocity, Rate and Edge Repeat using the controls across the top of the page. You can manually adjust the steps and velocity by dragging each line up and down or using the mouse to draw your own pattern. Below the Step matrix are controls to set Duration, Swing, Octave change across arpeggiation, Repeats and control to turn the Arpeggiator On/Off or to set it to latch. Finally, you have the master controls for Amp and Pan LFO that is sent to the Main engine for each layer. I also like having the ability to select the individual waveforms to be used for each. This is another example of the deep level of control that you have to control your overall sound.
Below the Step matrix are controls to set Duration, Swing, Octave change across arpeggiation, Repeats and control to turn the Arpeggiator On/Off or to set it to latch. Finally, you have the master controls for Amp and Pan LFO that is sent to the Main engine for each layer. I also like having the ability to select the individual waveforms to be used for each. This is another example of the deep level of control that you have to control your overall sound.
The Effect Engine contains pretty much the standard fare that that you would come to expect, but in this case there are some additional controls that are specific to each of them along with the ability to randomize all of the effect parameters. Once again I will note that there is the capability to lock each one of the parameters if you want to prevent it from being changed during a randomization operation. There is also a HP and LP filter control that can be turned on here. You can turn off the use of effects on a layer by layer basis on the Main Engine by using the bypass button under the main layer control. I typically like to use premium plug-ins and mix “in the room” however I do at times find myself enjoying the sculpting effects that become really effective when sketching sounds in a tool like Dark Matter 2. They often stick as part of the final mix as they would be difficult to add later on in this same manner.
You can turn off the use of effects on a layer by layer basis on the Main Engine by using the bypass button under the main layer control. I typically like to use premium plug-ins and mix “in the room” however I do at times find myself enjoying the sculpting effects that become really effective when sketching sounds in a tool like Dark Matter 2. They often stick as part of the final mix as they would be difficult to add later on in this same manner.
The Reamp Engine for all intents and purposes puts the bow on Dark Matter 2 by allowing you to punch up the sound on a layer by layer basis including adjusting the frequencies, presence and overall tone. As is customary throughout the entire design of the library each of these layers can be turned on or off to allow you the greatest flexibility in sculpting your sounds.
I think the thing that I found most intriguing about working with the library is the fact that you can use it for very simple sounds by electing to use only one or two layers and create some really interesting and gentle underscores or you can use it “full tilt” and come up with some masterful and bombastic trailer compositions or film score pieces that range from crystalline textures to alien soundscapes, pulsing action sequences, tense buildups and virtually anything else that you chose with a with a little bit of imagination and tweaking.
Dark Matter 2 really does raise the bar for innovation and overall control in a hybrid library.
Let me be clear – there are elements here that are not new or revolutionary on their own, however what really makes this stand out for me is the design, workflow and inherent control that the composer has over creating unique signature sounds that are missing from many other libraries. I have been a user of Dark Matter 1 since it came out and found it to be an indispensable part of my composing toolkit. Dark Matter 2 has taken my level of satisfaction to a whole new level for me personally and has allowed me to add texture and custom timbres that have completely changed the overall mood of some of my newest compositions.
I think that Dark Matter 2 is an extremely powerful tool that any working composer or electronic musician needs to have if they are looking to separate themselves from the pack.
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.
Dark Matter 2 downloads as 21GB (35+GB compressed) and contains over 5,000 Samples. The library includes all of the major content from Dark Matter 1 plus 15+GB of brand new sample content with 340+ pre-programmed Kontakt Snapshots.
Dark Matter 2 requires the full retail version of Kontakt 5.5.1.