Review: Stratus Ambient Loops by Big Fish Audio / FunkSoul Productions

by

In a world where the term ambient is everyone’s musical buzzword, Stratus rises above the clamor, just like its name suggests. Cloud-like, airy, wispy at times, evolving, dreamy, lush and also soulful and mostly upbeat. The team at Big Fish Audio and Funk/Soul Productions have a long history of creating impressive, useful and versatile titles. This time, they’ve teamed to develop an immersive ambient collection of loops specifically for use in Kontakt’s full version instrument.

Jump to the Videos of Stratus Ambient Loops

Jump to the Demos of Stratus Ambient Loops

Review: Stratus Ambient Loops by Big Fish Audio

Stratus is a collection of ambient atmospheres, bass, guitar, piano, rhythmic and processed loops, perfectly poised for use in creating ambient music and sound design projects.

The team at Big Fish Audio and Funk/Soul Productions have a long history of creating impressive, useful and versatile titles. This time, they’ve teamed to develop an immersive ambient collection of loops specifically for use in Kontakt’s full version instrument – although thoughtfully, wav files are also included for those who prefer to work with wavs.
Stratus Ambient Loops sells for $99 from Big Fish Audio

Thoughts

In a world where the term ambient is everyone’s musical buzzword, Stratus rises above the clamor, just like its name suggests. Cloud-like, airy, wispy at times, evolving, dreamy, lush and also soulful and mostly upbeat. At 1,270 loops, there’s plenty of processed and non-processed files to choose from. Files are organized as: Bass, Guitar, Piano (including a reversed version of each loop.) Processed Ambient loops and finally, Rhythmic loops round out the collection.

I found myself inspired after previewing only a couple of the loops! Only minutes after installing, I was able to create something useful. At times, I felt as though these loops were almost as “playable” as any instrument. In the 1st video demo, you’ll see (and hear) some evidence of that. I played the loops live (so to speak) in track one and then added the separate bass and drum tracks later. For someone who typically works by dragging Wav files into place to create a piece of music, this was a nice, natural and very welcome change to my workflow.

Note that everything in Stratus was recorded at 100 bpm in the key of C. The KLI examples I made have varying BPMs from 80 to 120bpm with no undesirable sounds or artifacts usually associated with time stretching poorly formatted loops.

[See VIDEO EXAMPLE 1 “STRATUS KLI LIVE Demo V2” in Video at Top of Page]

Scrolling through KLI interface labeled Part 1, I found that the minimalist layout was perfectly efficient for it’s task. There are no distracting or unnecessary graphics and the menus were straightforward to navigate. As you can see from the screenshot below, the sparse interface provides access to everything you might need. Moving from the bottom of the image to the top, you’ll see the keyboard layout, showing all the keys mapped to which loops are mapped within each instrument. The next area might be more difficult to see.

 

Using a photo editor and my child-like artistic skills, I’ve tried to enhance the image where we’re looking next to help this FX menu pop out a little more from its somewhat camouflaged location. Here you can find controls to select convolution reverbs, access controls for transient shaping, saturation, compression, limiting, as well as processors for delay, flange, reverb, phaser, chorus, and room sounds. Each place where a button labeled FX exists, is a menu of corresponding parameters you can adjust. This makes it very easy to customize the sound and feel of these loops to suit your specific requirements.

Clicking the small square at the far left, a new button is displayed in the menu bar labeled ROOM: SPACES | DRUM ROOM that allows the selection of the various rooms and convolution reverbs I spoke of.

[See VIDEO EXAMPLE 2 “STRATUS KLI Demo 1” in Video at Top of Page]

You can see this menu pop out when I select and scroll through it while the music plays. Notice that, even though this is a collection of Ambient loops, there’s a sweet and soulful vibe going on here. It’s not at all surprising, given the origins of this set, as Funk Soul Productions has produced a number of excellent vintage soul, jazz, and related titles. To me, this hint of vintage charm adds a desirable bit of flavor not found in other Ambient collections.

Moving up through the interface and again to the far left, the FX button at the bottom of the channel marked Ambient Loops, provides and expansive array of controls including amps, cabinets, rotation – a myriad of options to experiment with. I should point out that some controls are only accessible by scrolling downward in the screen shown above. This will reveal the controls found in the screenshot below.

So, while slightly hidden, powerful control of your sound, can be accessed in these seemingly minimalist menus. Very Zen!
One of my favorite options of this instrument, is the ability to select, audition and play loops backwards, in real time. Everything runs in reverse which makes experimentation fun and engaging. I spent an excessive amount of time here listening to tonal variations of various piano, bass and guitar loops. They can even be mixed so that loops play in forward and backward motion at once.
In the [STRATUS KLI 2 Demo video], all the loops used are running backwards (aside from bass and drums.) It’s a clever device to play with and extremely fast work when compared to trying this sort of thing with tradition wav files.

[See VIDEO EXAMPLE 3 “STRATUS KLI Demo 2” in Video at Top of Page]

I did find that some of the drum loops seemed a little harsh in the top end, possibly a symptom of too much compression and processing. A little tweaking with the aforementioned controls should remedy that.

[ See VIDEO EXAMPLE 4 “STRATUS WAV File Demo 1” in Video at Top of Page]

Moving on to wav files, you’ll find all the loops in the KLI package are also available as wav files included in the Stratus package. The wav files are well organized and match the KLI file naming conventions. For those who prefer wavs, the compromise is giving up the tempo flexibility available in the KLI version.

Working with wav files, affords some greater control in editing and effecting individual loops but at a cost of working much slower. Thankfully, there are versions of each loop already reversed for you. I’ve attempted to color code the loops in the video above to make those playing in reverse more obvious. Green means loops are playing normally, while Purple means the loops are reversed.

[See VIDEO EXAMPLE 5 “STRATUS Wav Demo 2” in Video at Top of Page]

In summary, I really enjoyed the Stratus Ambient loops and found things to love about working in both wav and KLI versions. I especially enjoyed the melodic, grooving, almost vintage vibe in many of these loops that work to make this collection a real stand out in the Ambient realm. As always, I recommend exploring all the information and demos available on Stratus to determine if these loops will meet your needs. Check out the full product description at Big Fish Audio.

Facts

The product includes both WAV and KLI 3.0 versions, broken into 3 parts each. The download size for each portion of the wav files go: WAV Part 1: 607.6 GB, WAV Part 2: 2.41 GB and WAV Part 3: 1.59 GB, for a total of 5.33 GB. The KLI version is broken up this way: KLI 3.0 Part 1: 652.6 MB, KLI 3.0 Part 2: 2.41 GB and KLI 3.0 Part 3: 1.57 GB. There are 1,270 loops including 635 regular and 635 reversed versions.

The KLI 3.version includes 113 patches all together and weighs in at 5.43 GB. The patches are broken into several instruments broken up into 3 folders containing 3 instruments. Part one contains the lion’s share of the patches, including processed and unprocessed loops including 103 Ambient loops, 4 rhythm loop patches, 3 processed loop patches. You will need the full version of Kontakt 5.6.8 to use this product.

Stratus Ambient Loops sells for $99 from Big Fish Audio

 

Demos of Stratus Ambient Loops

Videos of Stratus Ambient Loops