Technology

Mixosaurus Kit A DAW Drums Review

STANDOUT VIRTUAL KIT SOUNDS LIKE THE REAL THING 9/01/2009 8:00 AM Eastern

Kit A comes with Kontakt Player 2, which provides a sample library browser, instrument rack, onboard processing, rudimentary mixer and virtual keyboard.

Mixosaurus Kit A is a 122GB drum sample library powered by Native Instruments' Kontakt. (Kontakt Player 2 is included with the kit.) The behemoth library and virtual instrument ship on a FireWire 800 or eSata drive.

In addition to the supplied Kontakt Player 2, Kit A Multis can also be played in Native Instruments Kontakt 3 or 3.5, or the newly released Kontakt Player. The latter three will support 64-bit RAM addressing, allowing far-greater RAM access in stand-alone mode or with a 64-bit-capable DAW (assuming your computer's operating system is also 64-bit).

Kit A includes more than 80,000 stereo 24-bit samples of a 14-piece drum kit played with sticks. Kit pieces include a 22-inch kick (with a selection of four different beaters), 14×6.5-inch brass snare (including three different levels of muffling), four toms (measuring 14, 12, 10 and eight inches), 14-inch hi-hat, two ride cymbals (20 inches/light and 21 inches/heavy), three crash cymbals (18, 17 and 15 inches), 17-inch china cymbal and 8-inch splash cymbals. You also get stick clicks. All instruments except for stick clicks include multiple articulations. For example, the 18 snare articulations include stick-tip hits, rim shots and side sticks. The MIDI mapping for all 108 articulations spans a nine-octave keyboard layout. Kit A also includes a large library of outstanding MIDI grooves.

Up to seven alternating samples are available in every velocity layer of every articulation, greatly enhancing realism. The all-important hi-hat can be modulated with a MIDI continuous controller to change foot pressure in nine stages (from completely closed to open).

Close-mic setups for the drum kit include mics inside and outside the kick drum, above and below the snare, and both near and distant to the hi-hat. Samples derived from three different stereo overhead-mic setups, ambient stereo PZM mics and stereo acoustic reverb-chamber returns (dubbed “room”) reproduce all the bleeds for traps and hat. These ambient tracks are also the only outputs for all the cymbals (except hi-hat), which don't have close mics.

Every mic is routed to a different output in Kontakt Player for a total of 16 outputs, or all can be routed to a stereo Kontakt output. For each kit piece in Kontakt, you can adjust the level balance between its close mics (if any) and the volumes of its bleeds into the overhead, PZM and room mics. You can also tweak each instrument's MIDI dynamics, MIDI delay (turning eighth-note hi-hat patterns into 16th-note ones, for example), sample envelope, and filter and distortion processing.

Big Bang

I tested the Kit A AU plug-in in Digital Performer (DP) Version 5.13 using an 8-core, 2.8GHz Mac Pro fitted with 6 GB of RAM and running Mac OS 10.5.4. A kit that uses many alternating samples and plays complex patterns can quickly surpass a 32-bit system's roughly 3GB real-world RAM limit for applications and cause disk-streaming dropouts. Kit A mitigates these issues by providing alternative Multis with fewer articulations or mics (or both), Kontakt scripting with fewer processing options, and sample-purging and offline-bouncing facilities.

Kit A sounds absolutely stunning in its fidelity, depth, nuance and realism. Playing a well-programmed MIDI groove, it sounded every bit as real as a live drummer (for an audio sample, visit mixonline.com/Online_Extras_Main_Page). Kit A supports all major MIDI drum formats. I used DP and Toontrack EZplayer pro to play and arrange Kit A and third-party MIDI grooves alike. However, you can only transpose incoming MIDI notes for one instrument patch at a time when translating from third-party MIDI-drum formats; no global command exists. You must also re-enter your MIDI settings if you switch to a patch that uses more or fewer alternating samples.

Product Summary

I could set DP's buffer size as low as 128 samples when using Kit A in real time. Unfortunately, I couldn't load more than 1.6 GB of Kit A samples into RAM without crashing Kontakt Player 2 and DP. The full-featured Kontakt V. 3.02 easily loaded and played Kit A Multis and provided access to slightly more RAM. Using a beta version of Kontakt 3.5, I could load a 2.17GB kit without a hiccup.

Dead-On

Kit A's learning curve is steep, but the many video tutorials included are a great help. This package is one of the very best-sounding virtual drummers I've heard to date. Prepare to be totally blown away.


Mix contributing editor Michael Cooper is the owner of Michael Cooper Recording in Sisters, Ore. Visit him at www.myspace.com/michaelcooperrecording.

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