Umlaut Audio üBeat Bundle by Diogo C
Product: üBeat Bundle
Developer: Umlaut Audio
Formats: Native Instrument Kontakt Library (compatible with free player)
Price: $199 (USD, MSRP)
The scope: Umlaut Audio packs up three of their drums instruments in the üBeat Bundle, which gathers their “Electro”, “Hip-Hop” and “Hybrid” libraries for Native Instruments Kontakt on a discounted package. As the name hints for the first two, these are genre-oriented instruments for electronic music and hip-hop, with “Hybrid” being a more versatile that can be suitable for modern rock and pop music in general. Each of them comes with 30 drum kits with 8 pieces each and 30 core loops with three variations for a total of 90 MIDI grooves per library. All sounds can be freely combined, kits are not fixed so you can load your favourites from each. The three instruments all share the same user interface and overarching concept, so the only differences are really in the content and nothing else. The concept in play here is quite clever: you have eight drum pads, each with its own set of controls (AHD envelope, pitch, pan, velocity, start) and its own mixer channel that goes through one of the eight effect chains. These chains offers compression, EQ/filtering, distortion/saturation, transient-shaping and delay/reverb auxiliary sends (two for each). The individual drum pieces can also go directly to a Kontakt output so you can use your own plug-ins instead of the onboard effects. Now choose the desired playing option, which can be the regular one-shot for triggering individual drum hits or load a loop from the MIDI grooves mentioned above and that’s it, simply write/record your parts or drop the MIDI into your DAW’s arranger and great beats will come quite naturally. Overall these is a very straightforward set of instruments that gets things done in very short time, which can be very enticing for those starting out but also to the experienced users who just wants an easier life when making a good sounding beat.
Sound quality: Both Electro and Hip-Hop instruments are very good sounding, but both will also lean a bit to gritty side of the spectrum, appealing to the more “dirty” facets of these genres. The Hybrid instruments are slightly cleaner, but only slightly. Overall these instruments are powerful and impactful sounding, providing drums that will cut through the busiest of mixes. They do provide some clean samples and if you bypass the effect chains or use them subtly they can deliver some smoother sounding drums, but that’s not really their strength and I’d rather take them for what they are and use them accordingly. Having said that, all three instruments will fit well in most modern production where busy mixes are the rule and where powerful drums are needed most. The MIDI loops are also very good, most times covering basic rhythms for the aforementioned styles but also adding some more uncommon grooves. Since there are three variations on each loop you can mix them up so it doesn’t get boring.
Ease of use: Since all three instruments share the same interface once you learn one you’ve learned them all, which greatly facilitates their use. There’s little in our way here, just choose a kit, decide if you want to play with loops or individual drum hits, then maybe tweak sounds individually through the envelope or have them going through a different processing chain with its own effects and that’s it. It’s mostly a trouble-free process, the only standing issue being the size of the interface and its tiny parameter labels. Kontakt is partially to blame here since it forces developers to a fixed window width, so the way around such limitation is to use more vertical space or organize parameters through tabs, which is basically inevitable. Umlaut has done a good job on spreading the controls between all tabs in a logical way, but I feel like they could have exploited the vertical range a lot more in order to have slightly bigger controls and font sizes. Nevertheless, the bundle is rather intuitive and easy to use, all controls are displayed with commonplace audio terminology, there aren’t any exotic names or cryptic controls, so it should be all very familiar to most. In terms of performance these instruments are rather light in the CPU and not very taxing on RAM, with each instance taking roughly mere 50 mb when all slots are loaded with samples, an extremely low footprint that allows for many üBeats to be loaded simultaneously even on systems with scarce resources. Same can be said about the required disk space, which is quite modest at roughly 1GB unpacked.
Features: I really like the core concept of these instruments, and the feature set that derives from that is pretty cool. It’s nothing revolutionary, just very clever and well-executed ideas that are nicely put together, which is always great to see. I wish there was more onboard control over the slices, the grooves can be dragged to a new MIDI part but there could be some options to reverse a certain hit, or stutter and apply effects to certain steps and so forth. I’d normally complain that raw AIFF/WAV samples are not offered but given the concept of these instruments they wouldn’t make much sense outside them, but I can understand if that’s an issue to some users who would like to use them on other virtual/hardware samplers or load directly into their DAW. On the other hand, there’s great freedom when it comes to the sonics, with great routing flexibility that enables total control over each hit. One limitation that might bother some is that not all parameters can be automated, this affects the sample-manipulation controls and settings within the effect chains. All mixer channels and sends are automatable, which should be alright for most.
Bang for buck: If you’re producing anything related to electronic music or hip-hop the Ubeat bundle provides excellent value - needless to say that such evaluation will vary depending on your current collection of drum samples/virtual instruments, but what the bundle delivers for its asking price is definitely what we can consider to be great bang for not many bucks. Nevertheless, I think the bigger issue here is the fact that hip-hop and electro can often be worlds apart, rarely touching each other in many cases i.e. most producers are identified with one and not the other. On the other hand such boundaries are always moving and nothing is set in stone, so things will inevitably leak to each other and the number of folks doing both genres and anything in between is bound to increase - hence the “hybrid” instrument present here.
Recommended for: Basically any electronic music producer or remixer.
Great routing options
Good set of onboard effects
Limited automation options
PS: Umlaut offers custom-made instruments, so if üBeat doesn't have what you are after head over to their website and apply. Needless to say that it will come at a certain cost!
Click below for full-resolution screenshots.