THIS THING RULES: Sonic Zest String Theory

Welcome to another edition of This Thing Rules! This time we’re revisiting Sonic Zest, a company I’ve covered three times before. This time I’m taking a look at String Theory. While the name might not immediately tip you off, this Kontakt instrument is all about a palm-muted Telecaster guitar. It’s made up of 323MB of samples and 4 patches: Tele Pad, Muted Telecaster, Muted Bass and Bass Arp.

The Demo song “Through The Trees” used the first three and a couple sounds from elsewhere (just the percussion and the keyboard). Lets take a listen.

THIS THING RULES: Sonic Zest Cinematic Percussion Engine

Welcome to another edition of This Thing Rules! As soon as I finished my recent review of Sonic Zest’s excellent Ambient Cinematic Guitar 3, I was asked if I’d like to check out their brand new instrument, Cinematic Percussion Engine. Only a half hour into playing with it, I can tell you right away that they’ve got another winner on their hands with this one. Check out my demo “In The Fire.”

THIS THING RULES: Sonic Zest Ambient Cinematic Guitar 3

Welcome to another installment of This Thing Rules. Today I’m going to be checking back with Sonic Zest. You may remember I reviewed their entire collection of instruments (which I won in a contest) in a previous This Thing Rules. I’ve always really liked their sounds, especially Ambient Cinematic Guitar 1 &2, so when I saw that Volume 3 was coming out, I had to get in touch. Before I dive into the review, take a minute to listen to my demo, “Sacrifice” which was made roughly 80% with just Ambient Cinematic Guitar 3.

THIS THING RULES: DayTone Audio Tortured Keys

It’s been a whirlwind of an end of the year and an amazing start of the new year, but I’m finally back on track to start bringing you new installments of This Thing Rules. Here’s one that probably should have come out in time for Halloween, but hey, what better time than now, right?

Tortured Keys is a beautiful new Kontakt-based package from DayTone Audio that features all kinds of crazy, dark samples of a 1937 Gulbransen Grand Piano being, well… tortured.  The sounds were created, according to the website, “with the help of metal files, mallets and wrenches.” That poor piano… Lets listen to my demo (which has more instruments from other sources than my normal This Thing Rules reviews because this is more of an effects package than a full on set of instruments).

This Thing Rules: Particular Sound Aphelion

Welcome to another edition of This Thing Rules! I’m trying my best to bring them to you more often now… At least 2 a month, and I actually have 4 lined up at the moment. So that should keep me busy (along with everything else keeping me busy lately)!

This time I’m going to be talking about Particular Sound’s Aphelion Cinematic Tool Kit Version 1.5. For those that don’t know, a Cinematic Tool Kit is technically meant for sound design and to add extra sounds to films and things like that. But keeping with the theme of This Thing Rules, I wanted to try to stick to using just Aphelion as much as possible to make my demo track, “Approaching Horizon.” I did use some instruments from other software to nicely build it out into a full song, but I’d say at least 80% of what you’re hearing came from this package.

So what exactly is included in Aphelion? You’re getting a load of sounds for your Kontakt library (468 Presents, 94 Multis, 334 Loops and everything is also available in WAV format, if that’s how you like doing things). 3.71GB in total. It’s a lot. You’re also getting a great little custom made GUI that helps in applying effects and tweaking the sequences created by the loops (which are of course all host tempo-synced).

What did I use in the demo up above? Well aside from some extra stuff like the pianos and bells which came from other sources, I used around a dozen patches. I started the track off with the gloriously dark (although fairly generically named) Multi called “Atmos 004.” This is a menacing sounding cloud of darkness that undulates underneath the entire composition. I then used “Rhythmic Loop 108A” as a main backing beat. A lot of the rhythmic loops included have a killer industrial vibe to them. Loop 108 A and the secondary loop that bring in towards the end of the piece called “Rhythmic Loop 113A” both fit that industrial style. Then comes the true sound design stuff. Again, we’ve got some really basic naming going on here, which is probably my only negative with Aphelion, but without naming names (since they’re so simple anyway), I used quite a lot of one shot hits that are included in the collection. There’s a collection of short, medium and long hits, and I used sounds from each to add to the background of the track, as well as help augment the overall beat. I also used some whooshes, (the ones included are also divided into short, medium and long) and some drone sounds.

Since I’m created a song here for my demo and not scoring and/or adding sound design to a film or existing piece, I didn’t want to use too many sounds, or else it would get kind of cluttered.  That’s to be expected with this kind of package though, since we’re not talking about pianos and basses and strings and stuff like that. Other categories included in Aphelion that I played around with but didn’t include for the demo, are Brams, downrisers and uprisers, and pulses. All of it sounds excellent, but again, it’s all a matter of really hunting around for what you’re looking for, since the categorization leaves a little to be desired.

Along with everything sounding great, you’ve also got the aforementioned GUI. The standout here is the Sequence controller. It’s an extremely quick and easy way to take the sounds you load and turn them into little sequences. The results are all over the place, but can really lead to some amazing stuff. To me, this is the most fun part of Aphelion.

Particular Sound is offering an intro price on Aphelion 1.5 right now for $89. There are plenty of other great demos on their site that you should check out if your’e interested, but act fast, before the price goes up to $119.

David Rosen is an award-winning music composer. He composes original music for films, commercials, jingles, video-games and all other kinds of media projects. He has a vast music library of original tracks available for licensing and is also available for custom compositions. Contact him on the ABOUT page for pricing and availability for your next project.


THIS THING RULES: CL-Projects Hypernova

Welcome to another edition of This Thing Rules!

In this entry, I’ll be looking at Hypernova, a new polyphonic synthesizer for Kontakt from CL-Projects. This is a little different for me, since it’s straight up synth… Modeled after classics such as the Minimoog, Jupiter 8, Juno 106 and ARP 2600. So expect things to get really synthy when you listen to “Lost In Spaces,” my demo:

Pretty sweet sounds right?! Yea, this thing is pretty wild. The sounds it can get are perfect for all kinds of music from Ambient to House, New Age or even Cinematic stuff. Whatever kind of music you’re making, the instruments fit right in and are sharp, full and beautiful.

Jumping right into the controls page (the top image), you’ll see tons of options for getting the sounds you want. Having all those knobs staring at you right in the beginning could be a little intimidating for a synth novice, so luckily this package comes with 360 total patches (236 are straight insturments and 124 multis). There’s also a great expansion pack called Pulsar Project from SubsonicArtz (whose Omnisphere expansion pack GAIA I’ll be reviewing in a future This Thing Rules segment) which adds 100 more FREE patches… I could be wrong, but I think this could be the first time I’ve seen an expansion pack for a Kontakt instrument… Anything that gets me more inspiring starting points though is awesome in my book.

There are also plenty of effects included in Hypernova. The effects page features pretty much all the options you could want from Reverb & Delay to Distortion and Phaser. Having little preset buttons laid out really lets you quickly try some settings out, before really twisting the knobs up and getting crazy. It’s also got some great ARP settings, which you know I always enjoy.


So on to the included sounds! Some of what you’re hearing in “Lost In Spaces” are sounds I either created or edited using various patches at starting points. I also used a bunch of the included patches as is to great effect. The arp that kicks in with the beat is a multi called “Black Eagle,” and speaking of the beat, that huge kick drum comes from a patch called “Devil’s Drums.” A fitting name for such a menacing drum kit (something I really didn’t expect to be included at all since this is mainly a synth instrument, but having a few drum kits added in is a nice touch). The big beautiful reverb heavy keys are actually a multi from the Pulsar Project called “3 Stars System.” Another great patch is the awesomely Depeche Mode style bass/key combo of the “Electric Dream” multi. If it seems like I used a lot of multis, that’s because I did. While these sounds all sound great on their own and are hugely customizable, stacking multis really makes Hypernova shine.

Back to creating sounds, there are a ton of options, but as you know, I don’t really dig too heavy into the details of the power-user stuff with these This Thing Rules reviews… These are meant to be more of a basic overview, along with the original track to make sure you get an idea of what you’re getting. But with that said, there is plenty to keep even the most hard-core synth nerd busy. I do wish that this would have been an officially licensed Kontakt instrument so you don’t have to browse through files to get to it, but that’s more of an issue with my own laziness than the software itself (haha).

Hypernova is available now at CL-Projects store for $49.99. That’s a fraction of the cost of some of the “top of the line” competing synth VSTs, and definitely worth a look.

David Rosen is an award-winning music composer. He composes original music for films, commercials, jingles, video-games and all other kinds of media projects. He has a vast music library of original tracks available for licensing and is also available for custom compositions. Contact him on the ABOUT page for pricing and availability for your next project.

THIS THING RULES: Sonic Zest Collection

Welcome to another edition of THIS THING RULES. You may remember from my “The Past & The Future” Blog Post that I placed 8th in a composing contest sponsored by music software news site My prize was the entire collection of Sonic Zest Instruments for Native Instruments’ Kontakt. I’ve spent the last couple weeks playing with some of the instruments, and so far, I am extremely happy with my prize.

This collection features 22 instruments that are all beautifully sampled. The kinds of sounds that will easily find their way into my music. First of all, the list of included instruments:

  • Acoustic Autumn
  • Cinematic Soundscape
  • Ambient Cinematic Guitar 2
  • Chinese Dragon Bells
  • Glass Hand Drums
  • Indonesian Thunder Drum
  • Vietnamese Lithophone
  • African Tube Percussion
  • Himalayan Water Bowl
  • Tenor Recorder
  • The Glass Absolute Quintet
  • eBow Mandolin
  • Acoustic eBow
  • Maple Mandolin
  • Percussive Guitar
  • Apricot Duduk
  • Moroccan Drums
  • Typewriter of Prince George
  • Bronze Percussion
  • Paper Percussion
  • Lighter Percussion

My reviews here aren’t meant to always be an entirely comprehensive look at all the features and sounds included in any given product, so I didn’t fully explore all of these sounds, In the piece of music I made above, I used Acoustic E-Bow, Acoustic Autumn, Moroccan Drums, Ambient Cinematic Guitar 1, Ambient Cinematic Guitar 2, The Typewriter of Prince George and Cinematic Soundscape. As you can hear, the music is full and lush and of a top shelf quality. When considering that most of these go for $16 right now (or the complete collection at an amazing $125), the sound quality is actually kind of surprising. Everything is also wonderfully playable and natural.

The Moroccan Drums are the first thing that will probably grab your attention in this track. They’re so easy to play and come up with a rhythmic background. The Acoustic eBow creates a gorgeous bed for the various guitar melodies that I then brought in. I obviously really love the guitars that Sonic Zest has sampled here, and use almost all of them in this one piece.  To bring up the rhythm at the end, I used the Typewriter of Prince George which has some great clacking key type sounds that work great when mixed in with the traditional percussion sounds.

Sonic Zest has created a great collection of instruments here. At $125, it’s a ridiculous steal. Get it. You won’t be sorry.

UPDATE: I’m glad I posted this in time for Black Friday, because this collection is available THIS WEEK ONLY for the insanely low price of $89. Seriously. If you make music and use Kontakt (which if you do make music, you probably have Kontakt), get this. You’ll love it.


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