Orchestral Tools Drones review

Sample library developers Orchestral Tools have released their latest sample collection — Drones by Alexander Hacke. Designed by Sascha Knorr and Timo Loosli, Drones explores the titular musical effect through a series of instruments chosen specifically for their atmospheric and evocative qualities, providing lengthy (some over a minute) sonic textures ideal for sound design, avant-garde composition, and film and game scoring. Drones is available for SINE Player at a regular price of EUR 189.

Drones was recorded not only at the Teldex Scoring Stage in Berlin but also at Silent Green, a former mausoleum chosen for its dark and mysterious acoustic qualities. The library consists of a series of drones assembled from an array of instruments, including acoustic and electric 6-string and bass guitars, celli and basses, trombones, choir recordings, tanpura, hurdy gurdy, didgeridoo, and synthesisers. All have been captured chromatically and the raw component tones are also available to create custom drones.

The drones have been recorded in multiple dynamic layers and their intensity is fully controllable by the mod wheel (or dynamics) for maximum intuitive and expressive playability. The sonic signatures of the drones traverse the entire frequency range, from sub-aural lows to shrill-sounding highs.

I decided to try out Drones and wasn’t disappointed, but for those who think it’s going to be easier creating an ambient or equivalent piece, disappointment will soon follow. These Drones are nowhere near simple pieces of sound you can quickly put together like a jigsaw. For starters, as with many — if not most — of Orchestral Tools’ sets, a lot of the drones in the set do not cover the whole range of 88 or even 61 notes on your keyboard. That’s due to the limitations of the acoustic instruments used.

I have toyed with Drones for a couple of days now and found they’re very usable. I still have the urge to grab a synthesiser and make my own drones from scratch, but the Drones collection has a richer sound overall, which was to be expected when you start using acoustic instruments instead of digital synthesisers. Perhaps some analogue synths could make for equally interesting sounds, but they are far more expensive than the Drones collection.

Having said that, I have created some rich drone patches with the free digital synth plug-in Surge XT. The biggest appeal of doing that, however, is limited to you having full control over filters and parameters to slightly alter the sound over time. That is impossible with the Orchestral Tools Drones set, except for the basic adjustments using the mod wheel.

But even if you own a Buchla or another synth capable of complex sounds and even if you can’t adjust more than some basic tonal quality, the Drones collection still is a valuable addition to your toolkit, if only because it gives you access to the analogue instruments used in the ready-made drones. Those include a hurdy-gurdy, a number of electric guitars, trombones and more. They allow you to create your own drones from scratch, or even use them for other, more traditional music projects.

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