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Review: Vital Series: Sticks and Mallets by Vir2

Vir2 has a couple of unique Kontakt-based percussion instruments worth having a look at as part of their Vital Series. Since they are both part of the same series you would expect the interfaces to be similar in functionality, but that is not the case. Each offers a completely different approach as well as distinct libraries.

Vital Series: Sticks

Vital Series: Sticks combines a unique collection of different stick styles played on various found objects. For instance, there are settings such as Steel brush on Cardboard Box, Drumstick on Sheet Metal, Hand on Wood Bench or Metal Brush on Glass Dish to name a few of the 80 possibilities included. The samples are crisp and sound exactly as you might imagine from the description.

There are four playback modules that each contain an independent 32 step sequencer which can control velocity, pan and/or pitch simultaneously. In addition, there are 10 scenes, which are independent settings that can be called up with pre-configured key triggers. There are also AR settings, pan and level controls for each playback engine. With these four sequencers, I found it incredibly fast and easy to create complex polyrhythms played by unique object and stick combinations. Noticeably missing are randomizing features or preset patterns for the sequencers, but then again, their absence all but guarantees unique results based on the user.

Global controls on the bottom of the interface include standard effects and a Swing parameter.

Vital Series: Mallets

Vital Series: Mallets offers a unique way to layer up to eight orchestral mallet instruments with several mallet types based on the instrument. Included are Marimba, Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Tubular Bells, Glass Marimba, Song Bells, Vibraphone and Crotales. The instrument utilizes four velocity layers, five round robins and allows simultaneous access to all eight instruments, if desired, for infinite tonal possibilities.

The instrument is insanely simple when compared to the Vital Series: Sticks. In addition to mallet type, each playback unit includes basic level, pan, mute/solo, stereo width and range parameters. An ADSR is also available, and I found the attack parameter surprisingly useful for bringing more sustained sounds into the texture in a gradual way.

There is no on-board sequencing, but that is not really what this instrument is about. It is designed to create colored textures through the layering of percussive elements. There are, however, some global controls and effects that can be applied to the overall sound including a low-pass filter and other standard effects. There is a nice Roll control with tempo-synced Speed and Humanize parameters that can mimic an actual human quite convincingly. In addition, four simple LFOs can be set to modulate volume, pan, cutoff frequency and pitch.

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Both of the Vital Series instruments have intuitive designs and anyone with some basic knowledge of samplers and synthesis should have no problem creating great sounds right off the bat without the manual. These samplers are about getting unique results fast, without superfluous animations, needlessly complex effect processing or multiple page interfaces. That is not to say I don’t appreciate a well-conceived visualization, but sometimes you just want to get a good sound fast and the Vital Series delivers on that idea. The instruments are available for $199 each at Big Fish Audio here and here.

Sounds and video available at the links below:

Vital Series: Sticks

Vital Series: Mallets

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Check out my other articles, reviews, interviews and my video tutorial series, Synthesis 101 available exclusively on The Pro Audio Files.

Twitter: @PMantione
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Philip Mantione

Philip Mantione

Philip Mantione is a composer, synthesist, guitarist, educator and sound artist active in the LA experimental music scene. His music has been presented in festivals, museums and galleries worldwide. His current project is TriAngular Bent, an electroacoustic trio featuring Don Preston (founding member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention) and circuit bending virtuoso, Jeff Boynton. Details at philipmantione.com

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