Review: Dark Matter by String Audio

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Once in a while, I start a review of an instrument that’s been on my hard drive for a couple weeks, a month or more and think to myself “I wish I would have gotten to this sooner!” That is exactly how I felt once I fired up Dark Matter from String Audio.

Dark Matter sells for $99 exclusively from String Audio

Jump to the Demos of Dark Matter

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Review: Dark Matter by String Audio

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Dark Matter is String Audio‘s flagship library. It was created to be a “powerful tool for outstanding/complex cinematic textures” and SUCCEEDS with flying colors! The library downloads as 13 GB and does require the full version of Native Instruments Kontakt 5.5.1. The library comes with just under 200 Kontakt presets and contains over 3,000 exquisitely designed samples.

Dark Matter sells for $99 exclusively from String Audio

 

Thoughts

For the first release from a new developer, you don’t expect to see so many rave reviews from well know composers, especially before you have even heard about the instrument, But, that is exactly what has happened with Dark Matter.  I had some pretty high expectations going into my review of the instrument.  I think I might have even been a little cynical before starting the review, with all the testaments about the library it would really need to deliver big-time to stand up to the hype.

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Dark Matter presets organized in 3 ambiguously labeled folders.

The libraries’ presets are organized into 3 different rather ambiguous categories: Black, Gray & White. This is very much in keeping with the sparse and deliberately cold, simple tone of the interface. Some will love the interface, some will not, but Dark Matter needs to be played to be appreciated. At first pass, the interface might not sell you on the powerful sounds sculpting capabilities that lurk within!

At first pass, the interface might not sell you on the powerful sounds sculpting capabilities that lurk within!

The way the instrument works is that it contains 4 separate layers with loaded samples. Each of the layers has independent pan, volume and pitch controls that can all support MIDI learn. You are also able to randomize the instruments samples and parameters with the handy “Random” button in the center. The Random function is a really welcome addition to the instrument and something that I wish more developers would add to their libraries, as it allows for so much exploration and the “happy accidents” that result.

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Dark Matter loads 4 different samples into it’s “layers”

Playing through the presets and randomizing the sample into the layers, I really loved the depth and character this instrument is capable of. Each preset was a pleasant surprise to my ears as I never knew quite what I would hear next. The quality of the playback is exceptional. The sample sets are rich and full of depth and live up to the promise of “complex cinematic textures” with flying colors.

Each preset was a pleasant surprise to my ears as I never knew quite what I would hear next.

My first critique of the instrument reared it’s head here, as I wish I knew which samples were loading into the layers. There is no clear indicator, meaning you’re operating the instrument “blind”. Furthermore, the instrument also doesn’t allow for you to choose the samples you would like to load into the layers and combine them to create your own presets. This seems strange that this functionality wasn’t included. The quality of the sound design during playback and the large selection of presets somehow makes up for this oversight in my opinion. My only thought is the developer wanted users to experience playback without “label bias” and force composers to work with the sound alone.

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Dark Matter FX section

Dark Matter also contains a set of instrument effects that can be controlled right on the front of the interface with FX settings, 2 LFO’s and High/Low Pass filters. The FX section allows for 5 different effects including: Lo-Fi, Screamer, Tape Sat, Delay & Chorus.

The library comes with 50 different IRs and allows for 6 reverb sends with these beautiful, yet rather strange faded slider controls. To be honest I had to look up where the IR controls were in the manual. I knew the instrument had 50 of them but couldn’t find them at first glance. As it turns out, the IR section (below) is comprised of 6 fader bars that you adjust with your mouse (or assign a MIDI CC to) and fade from transparent to black to indicate the amount of send.

There is no indication which IR’s are being used and no way to select speceific IRs.

Again, I must critique the instrument as I have no idea which IR’s are being used and no way to select an IR that I might have loved in a different instrument. This, and the inability of selection and labels on the layer samples, limit the customization of the instrument and are the only real CONS in my book.

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Every once in a while I start a review of an instrument that might have been on my hard drive for a week, a month or even 2 or 3 and think to myself “I wish I would have gotten to this sooner!” That is exactly how I felt reviewing Dark Matter from Sting Audio.

The stark black and white interface is for the most part, very intuitive. The only exception being the reverb sends which I expressed above. The HUGE PRO is the sounds. This instrument is a testament to the power of sound design and the developer deserves recognition for creating such a fresh and innovative library.

I think Dark Matter will be very appealing for ambient-electronic music producers and especially useful for composers working on projects that require fresh sound design for television, film and games.

Dark Matter sells for $99 exclusively from String Audio

 

Dark Matter Demos

Dark Matter Videos

Dark Matter from stringaudio on Vimeo.