Review: KickTom by Sound Dust
Very deeply sampled (up to 128 velocity layers!)
Detailed, clean recordings
Large variety of toms
Some good electronic options for kicks
Unique and creative impulse responses
Brilliant use of colours in the interface and keyboard
Lacks certain standard controls such as ADSR
No key switches for triggering articulations
EQ frequencies are fixed and only global filtering
Frustrating mouse behaviour on the main page
In built manual is not very comprehensive (so watch the walkthrough!)
KickTom is a no-nonsense percussion library that is a one-trick-pony and proud of it! It thumps, thwacks and throbs, using an engine that is both superbly fast and functional, yet also very creative.
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Review: KickTom by Sound Dust
Sound Dust is one of the more eccentric and experimental samplists out there, so it was a bit of a shock when KickTom arrived at SLR, as it’s far more on the functional side of things. Pendle from Sound Dust is no complete stranger to more utilitarian libraries, as the Sponge and Rubber Bass collections show, but KickTom really does take us back to basics. I find this quite welcoming actually because as the sampling world gets ever larger, companies are releasing more and more esoteric tools often at the expense of the simpler stuff, and you know, sometimes you just need a good old low-end wallop! This is where KickTom comes in with a huge wealth of kick and floor tom types and articulations with a sequencer built-in. Of course, there is a little smidge of wackiness in there, mainly in the shape of some inventive impulse responses, but before we go there let’s take a look at the main event.
KickTom normally sells for £40.00 from Sound Dust
There are 15 drums sampled, all neatly laid out in rainbow colours on the keyboard. Pressing the key automatically changes the interface to the drum in question and also matches the colour – the latter is the first time I have seen this and it’s a novel idea, though less effective when playing polyphonically for obvious reasons. A matching set of keys further up does exactly the same, except this time it triggers a sequence and not a one shot. I liked the way this facilitated playing a pattern with the right hand and adding accents with the left. Each drum has identical controls as shown below.
The left side of the GUI has all the parameters to shape the sound, such as sample start, transient control, tape, delay, and the standard volume and pan. There is no dedicated ASDR which is a shame, but the Snap fader does give control over the attack. It’s worth noting effects are turned on and off by clicking the FX title, which keeps the interface nicely uncluttered. The EQ has a tidy-looking visual, but there are no filters, and frequencies are fixed with no EQ control on the bells, so it’s mostly there for very general tone shaping, as opposed to detailed finessing. One bugbear on the main page is that once you have clicked a control and want to move it whilst repeatedly hitting the drum, it is stuck and you need to click it again – this may seem like a small thing, but in practice, it’s pretty frustrating. It does not occur on the mixer page, so I imagine it’s just a coding issue that got overlooked. The most interesting parts of the main page are undoubtedly the impulse responses and the Articulator.
With the IRs you get loads of brilliantly creative options to play with, each of them per drum. There are amp sims, boingy springs, and epic clouds, plus some really interesting special effects. The latter enables you to blend your chosen drum with a hat, snare, clave and even the C note of a felt piano or Rhodes. The sub impulses are very useful too, for adding tuned low-end beefiness to a drum.
The Articulator opens up the instrument to automatically play various flams, drags, rolls, and simple patterns. The selected articulation includes between two and four parameters to tweak it to perfection. I really like this, but to be really playable I feel it needs key switches, as there is no easy way apart from using the dropdown selector to change between articulations. You are stuck with the articulation selected which limits the performance aspect that could be possible.
As I mentioned at the start, further up the keyboard is where all the sequencer triggering occurs and it is a well-featured and clearly laid out affair, comprising of lanes for velocity, pitch, and decay.
Steps extend up to 64 with triplet and straight rhythms at 1/4 to 1/32 note values. The Swing, Drag, and Human controls allow you to mold your beats to a range of grooves. The boxes at the very bottom set various preferences with the latch being very welcome, especially as it features a way to either replace the keys you press or to add them via the Sticky Keys/Chord Replace button. It will sync to DAW tempo and the Functions button provides a good basic set of patterns, including randomization controls. Mono Note/Poly Note will either cut off the sample when the next note in the sequence is triggered or let it naturally hangover. The Mono option does not work well on every drum though, especially the Floor Tom Mallet where it clicks a lot. Note Toggle lets you cycle only between the notes held down to help you tweak different patterns in real-time.
The way you can combine up to 15 sequencers of 15 different drums, each with different rhythms and step lengths means it’s game-on for crazy poly-rhythms, though equally, it works well for just pumping out a basic pulse. It’s worth pointing out though that the sequencer is always running so there is no option to start a pattern on step one once it is going – adding another key simply locks the pattern in with wherever it is at that point in time. If an update is on the cards at some point I would love to see this added, along with a way of deactivating lanes and a method to copy and paste sequences between drums.
The final tab brings us to the Mixer. It’s a simple affair, but essential as it’s the only place to control all the drums easily in relation to one another.
Aside from the expected volume and pan, you get to change the IR mix and the snap, without having to go back to the main page. Master controls consist of an LPF and HPF along with a reverb with some very creative IRs; a large number are different from the ones you get for the individual instruments and this is definitely where the Sound Dust quirkiness can be dialed in! I did wonder if better use could have been made of the space on the mixer section as it feels a little empty on one side and the mixer controls are pretty small especially the pan knobs.
In terms of the character of the drums, I would say they are very well recorded with no aggressive processing and deeply sampled with up to 128 layers. With that many velocity layers no round robins are included, nor indeed required really. It’s largely a very lively and natural sound, though there is a custom 808 style kick and a special electro kick which eschews volume mapping in favour of 98 FM kicks triggered by velocity. That’s a good way to get loads more samples in the library, but it’s a shame you can’t lock it if you find one you want on repeat. The other two kicks are organic and played with a hard mallet and soft beater. The remaining twelves drums sound like the same floor tom but played either with something on the skin (shaker, tea towel, etc) or with a different implement (soft mallet, fingers, brushes, etc). All of the organic drums have a clean and dry sound with just the right amount of subtle room ambience. They layer with each other really nicely and the electronic kicks are there when you want to add some extra heft to the sound, or simply to make it sound more hybrid.
With the ability to get anything from tub-thumping indie to cinematically vast, and from subtle pulse to thundering poly-rhythmic chaos what you get here for the money is really good value. It’s going to work across such a range of genres as a workhorse, but it also has the potential to become character percussion if you get down and dirty with the huge number of interesting impulse responses. The sequencer opens up the one shots to great effect and I highly recommend checking out the 85 snapshots whilst mashing down on multiple sequencer keys to get you instantly in the groove.
Increasingly, I am drawn to smaller Kontakt libraries that have a real niche, and KickTom sets itself up to do one thing very well and really achieves this. I do feel, however, it actually has more to give; this is purely in usability and functionality, as I think the sounds are great. Pendle hints in his useful walkthrough that there may be more to come using this approach and I really look forward to seeing how this new series expands. Certainly, it’s good to see him developing a few more super-functional instruments that still include that sprinkling of magic Sound Dust.
KickTom is a 1GB download consisting of hundreds of kicks and floor toms across over 1500 samples. There are 15 drum articulations, 15 sequencers,15 algorithm engines, and well over 100 impulse response. It is all housed in a single Kontakt .nki with 85 factory snapshots included. The full version of Kontakt 5.8 and above is required.
KickTom normally sells for £40.00 from Sound Dust
Contributor Sam Burt reviews KickTom by Sound Dust
“KickTom is a no-nonsense percussion library that is a one-trick-pony and proud of it! It thumps, thwacks and throbs, using an engine that is both superbly fast and functional, yet also very creative.”