uBEAT Review by Alex Arsov, Soundbytes Magazine
When I found out about Kontakt beat libraries from Umlaut I was a bit skeptical about paying $99 USD for 45 drum kits and 90 MIDI drum loops. That was my first impression, without having listened to the sounds and without reading any further info. After all, there are so many different virtual drum machines offering more kits and bits for just 40 bucks more. But then I got some details about the bundle and it made me at least read into it. For $199 USD we can get 135 drum kits and 270 different MIDI files and over 960 drum hits – OK, at least something we can talk about. So, I went through the info and audio examples and, long story short, I installed all three packs and became the happy owner of the uBeat Drum Bundle. I have an impressive collection of drum machines, drum workstations and an even bigger collection of drum loops. This bundle didn’t hook me because of its interface – but don’t get me wrong, the interface is just fine. It hooked me in with its polished, pre-produced hip and ultra modern sound. All three packs – Electro, Hip Hop and Hybrid kits – and MIDI loops sound very trendy, pushing your production right up to the present time.
I chose one Hip Hop kit, dragged two MIDI files that came with it from the uBeat interface directly to the track, adding a Substance bass line along with few chords, drawing a few additional notes in a uBeat MIDI file, making those significant Trap rolls, and a short Trap tune was done in a few minutes.
Actually, if you are looking for a good, ultra hip drum source with a flexible interface that allows you additional tuning of kit elements, then even the asking price for the separate libraries looks more than fair and reasonable.
Every kit in every library shares the same interface. We get eight colored pads in the lower part of main graphical interface with eight drum elements placed from kick through snare and various hats and other kit elements. No, you will not find classic toms or any other ordinary drum kit elements, and even if there are some toms, they are quite non standard, effected and adapted to the general vibe of present kit.
Actually, all MIDI clips work well with any kit, as obviously elements are arranged in quite a common arrangement where effected elements are always connected to the same pad, same for kicks, snares and hats. The upper left corner is reserved for a small kit browser and rank of basic controllers; Volume, Tune, Attack and similar stuff, all accessible through rows of knobs. At first I thought this main window was a bit crowded, but as soon as I started using uBeat I found it to be quite easy to operate, allowing you to find a proper combination between a kit and a MIDI clip quite easily.
Through a small menu at the top we can reach a Mixer and Effects sections. In the Mixer section you get knobs for Tune and Pan along with a volume slider and an option to select one of eight available effect chains for every pad from the drop down menu below the volume slider. Browsing through kits I found that plenty of kits use those effect chains. Thankfully, all those effects are used wisely, so the kit elements still sound playable, not being over- effected, and work perfectly with all MIDI clips, even on those busy ones (as we all know that some effected hits can sound impressive at their own but are totally useless in a beat).
The first one is Transient Master, where we can tame attack and sustain along with input/output volume, followed by a four-band equalizer with gain frequency knob for every band. Bus compressor with all appropriate controllers, Lo Fi with crush, noise, color and reduce knobs, Distortion, then Filter with a nice number of filter types, Tape Saturator and two delays and two reverbs. At first I didn’t notice that information about the tweaked value being displayed in the upper row of main graphical interface – nice one, as you don’t need to do all things just by ear. Actually, the Umlaut fellows deserve a Nobel price for economical space usage in the Graphic design category. So many things in such a tight place, and still being simple enough to navigate.
At least for me, choosing the right kit is a breeze, as there are no bad kits inside, and then you just need to export your desired set of MIDI clips, further manipulating them directly in your DAW’s MIDI editor. The sound quality and clever kit programming makes this collection far more than just another Drum bundle. uBeat bundle is a top collection of a good sounding trendy hits, kits and MIDI clips that could serve any modern genre. There are a lot of competitors around, but with a great quantity of the other drum kits you need a touch of imagination to make them sound similar to all those beats from the charts. With uBeat bundle, the Umlaut fellows did this job for you.
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