I was presented with the chance to review the BIGROOMKIXSYNTH. At first glance I thought “not another kick drum Sampler” until I delved deeper into its architecture through tweaking some of the 121 excellent Presets. First off this is something more than a lot of other kick drum specific VSTi I have tried, with the main feature being, it uses no samples at all, which probably doesn’t mean much to the casual producer of today, but makes all the difference in getting a truly unique custom kick drum. You may have noticed most kicks are audio based and therefore lack the freedom to edit as much as one would wish to to achieve the exact sound your track requires.
The VSTi is split into 4 layers with various different controls for each of the layers character, tone, pitch and so on. It has an easy to use “no frills” Compressor and master Distortion along side a fairly straight forward and intuitive user interface. You can save patches in a .txt format and load them the same way. Unfortunately It’s only windows 32 bit, but theirs plenty of bridging software ( http://jstuff.wordpress.com/
The sub layer is essentially a sine-wave oscillator with 10 pitch envelope Presets to achieve various curves of the pitch envelope, all though this seems at first glance, limited, it is accompanied by the ability to alter the slide length from high frequency to low note frequency and select the frequency in which the kick will start from. Theirs no need to set a low frequency in this layer as the overall control allows for you to type in the note you want your kick to be in e.g A#, C, D3 ect.. you can also use the midi controller to select the key of the kick. All though the pitch envelope Presets are a great idea i would like to see the option to make your own Preset envelopes in the future. I found the EQ function very handy to get the “bass boom” in the sub layer being able to specifically set a frequency, let’s say (55hz), and boost or cut it on a tight Q range. The sub layer also has a Phase Knob which when used with the rest of the layers can make a huge difference in how the bass in the sub layer sounds. additionally theirs a basic Volume, Attack, Decay and Sustain envelope, but no Release.
This layer is pretty much the same as the sub layer, minus the sub, the pitch envelopes from the sub layer are applied to the body layer. The difference is in the distortion options. you have two hard-clip distortions and a fluid wave-shaper distortion, the fluid part means you can change the wave-shape over time using an amount and attack envelope giving the effect of a smooth start to a rough gritty tail. You can also change the body layers oscillator to square, saw or triangle wave types, all though I personally did not find these other waveforms very useful. One down side to this layer is when using the fluid envelopes, notes that over lap seem to change slightly in the beginning part of the sound, I quickly found that having a small gap between each note fixes this issue.
For a layer that produces a very short click sound theirs quite a few controls to change it, theirs about 20 or so waveforms to chose from which morph from one to another for even more variations, a wave-shape distortion and a bit-crusher alongside pitch and phase control, the latter being the most effective way to change the click more dramatically.
This layer produces nice accurate sounding 808 and 909 style open and close hats as well as percussion type noises all through the use of “FM and AM” oscillators. Its very easy to sculpt a decent sounding hat and layer over the rest of your kick for a more polished sound.
As already mentioned the Compressor is very basic but very functional. I found that having all the dials set to around 12 o’ clock was a great starting point for most kicks. The distortion is very basic also, and I would like to see more control over the envelope of this master distortion and more distortion types but this doesn’t detract to much from the VSTi’s general purpose. I think it would also benefit from having some modulation options and a master LP and HP filter, but since its a free Synth this isn’t essential.
The overall feel of the VSTi is good with very fast accurate results being achieved, and lots of future potential to grow into a staple of any producer for kick drums. It comes packed with plenty of patches which are great starting points for making your own unique signature kicks. The user interface could be a little more refined graphically and the fluid distortion needs more attention to details in terms of the re-trigger issue (which can be easily overcome by having the release not overlap the attack of the next note) but ideally I would like to see this fixed in an update. I would highly recommend any Windows user to try it out for themselves.
Developer: Alan Hinton