Sonic Reality Infinite Player

Wednesday, May 27, 2009| by Will Chen

Sonic Reality Infinite Player

By Will Chen


In my humble opinion, nothing reveals the amateur quality of a recording quicker than a bad sounding drum track. In fact, I find myself so finicky about drum sounds that I often think I may have been a drummer in a previous life. Over the years at my small home project studio, I’ve been on a quest to find a great drum library on a limited budget and have been through many affordable libraries. With the release of Sonic Reality’s Infinite player, I think I can finally end my journey. Infinite Player is a virtual instrument built on Native Instruments’ Kontakt 2 engine with a host of professional features such as 24 bit fidelity, disc streaming, and key switching. The application functions both in standalone mode as well as a VST for use with your digital audio workstation of choice.

What does this have to do with drums? Glad you asked…

While Infinite Player isn’t uniquely a drum/percussion instrument, Sonic Reality has ported the previously released Studio ProFiles Drum Masters sample library to the new format as a virtual instrument and also has broken up the series to offer ala carte offerings of all the kits. Almost all the ala carte kits (and some collections) are priced at $59, many are as low as $39. Most of the kits feature A-list players such as John Blackwell, Bill Bruford, Jerry Marrota, Steve Gadd, and Nick D Virgilio and are offered in three packages: stereo, multi-track, and loops.

The multitrack kits load as a multi instrument with each drum as its own instrument, offering a high level of control to tune each drum to your tastes. This flexible approach allows you to mix and match pieces of a kit. Need a snare with more thwack? Sub it out. Very cool. Additionally, individual mic levels can be balanced (along with several room mics) using an output mixer interface. A nice collection of effects can also be applied here including multiple types of compression, filters (EQ), modulation, and delay.

when I saw [the John Blackwell Multitrack Sonar Drum Kit] I was more than a little excited. As I expected, the kit sounds phenomenal with dynamic response from whisper quiet to boom represented across the board very well.

One caveat, currently the instruments always default to the Sonic Reality’s proprietary iMAP format. While the flexibility of the more horizontal approach of the iMAP layout has its strengths, mapping multiple velocity samples across the keyboard rather than simply tied to key strike velocity, those like me who have been using general midi layout forever or want to load third party GM formatted MIDI loops will need to change the setting for each drum within a kit each time it is loaded. Per Sonic Reality, this issue will be addressed in a future update, allowing us GM users to save the setting within a session. The Infinite Player also sports a full complement of high quality effects to process sounds exactly as you need them. Across the board, sample quality is extremely high and contains enough alternate samples of hits to create extremely dynamic and realistic performances, which are hard to distinguish from the real thing. While the ala carte option may be pricey for those seeking to build a large library of different kits, Sonic Reality also offers three different bundles at a significant discount.

Here’s a closer look at several of the libraries currently offered covering a huge amount of stylistic ground:

John Blackwell Multitrack Sonar Drum Kit

John Blackwell is most well known for laying down the funk behind Prince and when I saw this title I was more than a little excited. As I expected, the kit sounds phenomenal with dynamic response from whisper quiet to boom represented across the board very well. The fat snare mates perfectly with the high hats, which have great presence and air, perfect for funky syncopation. A very cool addition to the set is a sub-bass mic, making the kit extremely versatile with a level of boom that usually requires significant multiband compression to achieve. While Blackwell is known for his funky R&B style, the kit is extremely versatile and could easily be dropped into a hard rock track successfully.

Nick D Virgilio Multitrack Gretsch Drum Kit

While not a household name, Nick D Virgilio is likely best known to fans of progressive rock band Spock’s Breard but also filled in for Phil Collins on Genesis’ Calling All Stations. This kit has an excellent pop rock/country feel with a great vintage vibe, the snare has great cut and with a nice ring without clouding too much lower midrange space; just fantastic with a bit of compression while the bass drum sounds very natural with excellent beater clarity. However, those who really like to feel the thump will need to add some compression and eq as this set doesn’t include the sub bass of the John Blackwell Sonar Kit.

Bonzo Beats Multitrack Drumkit

As the name implies, the kit is aimed at capturing the more ambient (ex recorded in a castle) and big sound of Led Zepplin drummer John Bonham. As you might imagine, the kit is really kind of a one trick pony but I must admit it does conjure memories of the great one very effectively. The ambience is up front without being overbearing and the kit is miced in a more traditional fashion consistent with the originally methods used to track all those classic tracks. This could easily be a go to set for those sequencing strait a head hard rock.

Motown Grooves Vol 1

This style pack contains a wide variety of classic R & B and Motown grooves covering a wide range of feels with many beats including percussion. The instrument is arranged with related grooves as multis which can be loaded and triggered from a given key range allowing extremely intuitive “one finger” arrangement. These are all REX grooves so they are tempo synch-able to your host DAW. Overall, the set has a nice warm sound if a bit more high-fi than some might like for the genre. However, set the track to mono and patch you favorite “tube warmth” emulator VST and you’ll nail the classic sounds with ease.

Jerry Marrota Stereo Kit Brush

After being spoiled by the multitrack kits, I felt just a bit constrained by the Jerry Marrota Stereo Kit Brush. Don’t get me wrong, the sounds are fantastic with the same dynamic feel and high quality samples of the other libraries. Also generally, I prefer the sound of brush kits more “real” with plenty of ambience versus the surreal close micing techniques employed in recording studios. That being said I found myself saying more than one “if I could only tweak this just a little…”. Fortunately, this set is also offered in a multi-track format allowing deep customization.

Price: Infinite Player $99 (bundled w/ John Blackwell Multitrack Sonar Drum Kit) with kits starting at $39
Pros: Excellent high quality samples and flexible interface.
Cons: Instruments always default to proprietary iMap key mapping

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