This text and video series is designed to raise awareness for NKS, via products that have NKS support, thus are accessible to the blind and visually impaired.
Due to the ever-increasing complexity of Kontakt instruments, labeling a library as having NKS support is not enough, since it is up to the manufacturers to decide what parameters are mapped to a Komplete Kontrol keyboard's knobs. As an end user, this means that the user experience varies, which can be quite frustrating. This is especially true when buying an expensive library, only to realize that important parameters are unavailable.
By providing a textual and a video review of the mapped parameters of the reviewed library, I would like to minimize this frustration, so that one could be aware of both the positive and negative aspects of a library before purchasing.
In this first episode, we're reviewing Zero-G's Ethera Gold, which is currently the latest in the Ethera series.
While the library, strictly speaking, is not NKS compatible, it does have NKSN snapshots, and its Core Synth engine is mapped.
I would like to thank Zero-G for their support, and for making this review possible.
About the Library
From the developer's website:
Ethera Gold is an amazing all-new, powerful set of instruments. The perfect new tool for creating soundtracks, cinematic music, epic music trailers and any music requiring fantastic solo vocals and powerful, inspirational, hybrid wavetable synth sounds. All the samples included in this library are completely new and unique to this instrument. The vocal instruments included with Ethera Gold use the magnificent vocals of Clara Sorace. Clara has sung with many of the greatest soundtrack and video games composers. Her voice is a thrilling blend of soul, cinematic, epic and emotionality with the charm of latin flair. For the two Hybrid Synths we have sampled many hundreds of organic sources, acoustic instruments, and hardware synths.
The library can be moved to any location, especially if used via Kontakt, but since we wish to load it via Komplete, I recommend putting it in the User Content directory.
After a Komplete rescan, the library should be picked up and becomes visible. Due to the nature of NKSN snapshots, however, Content Missing dialogs will pop up when attempting to load a snapshot, asking for the container .NKI file. This is because the location of mentioned NKI files are stored in the snapshots, and they will not be modified to a system's configuration even after a batch resave.
Rather than loading and saving the 760 or so separate snapshots, saving the init patch for each category, e.g. Action Synth, Core Synth, etc, and loading it before anything else in that category should fix this issue. Subsequent snapshot loads should work as expected afterwards.
Another issue is that due to the way user Kontakt libraries are presented on the user side of the Komplete browser, due to the naming of these snapshots, they are not grouped. I recommend putting an identifier in front of the snapshot names, e.g. EGCS before each CoreSynth patch, EGAS before Action Synth, etc. This way, the various engine categories will be presented together in the list. To do this, any batch-rename-capable utility should work, such as BRename via the command line, Total Commander, or under MacOS, Name Mangler.
Using the library
Most of the vocal features do not need mappings, however, having a mapped legato speed control, as well as a knob to control the reverb would have been a nice touch. Having said that, the default reverb is subtle enough to have an added second reverb, which can really give the already exceptional vocals more presence. As such, the true legato patch works as advertised, although sometimes, I felt that the middle velocity layer's range was perhaps a bit too narrow. This can be overcome with a bit of experience, however.
I did not find a way to change the key of the vocal phrases, this might be a missing feature, or just my inability to find the appropriate key switches.
The addition of a short and long note variant via the builder snapshots and the sustain NKI file is excellent, I particularly liked the epic, sustained notes. The shorts are crisp and are definitely good to have.
The library also shines when it comes to the synths, and this is the area where the developer's, Stefano Maccarelli's experience really shows. They are wavetable synthesizers, containing up to three layers. Action Synth is loop-based, and it is great for building apps, or pulses, while the Core Synth is a wavetable-based synth, great for anything organic or synth-based that is essential for a composition.
The synth samples are instantly recognizable as they give what is expected in the epic and trailer genres, yet, they are unique and customizable enough to make a composer or musician feel home. I especially liked the guitar phrases that become more complex towards higher octaves. Being tempo-synced, and provided in multiple keys is just what you need to bring down a building when going over the ceiling is simply not enough for you.
I feel that mappings would have been also great for the Action Synth, this can be a great timesaver when designing your rhythmic pulse with the ever-present bass lines when composing your next hybrid track. Currently, they are a bit limited, but are usable nonetheless.
The Core Synth engine is where the patches can be truly customized. The mappings are as follows:
- Tune 1
- Tune 2
- Tune 3
- Bus 1
- Bus 2
- Bus 3
- Pan 1
- Pan 2
- Pan 3
Even with the negatives, I feel that Ethera Gold is a great addition to any blind composer's toolkit, especially for the epic, trailer or hybrid genres. It has one of the best vocal engines available on the market today.
I've written a small demo track to illustrate the use of this library with other, third-party libraries, in particular, ones that you might have purchased as part of the Komplete bundle. It also shows how Ethera Gold fits in with other libraries.
Here you can hear the library in action.