Krotos Audio Weaponiser Fully Loaded by Diogo C
I think it’s best to start with a full disclosure: I’m reviewing Weaponiser not as a working professional, but as a consumer of cultural goods such as video games and movies where guns (and their corresponding sounds) are often a prominent feature.
Having said, what is the Krotos Audio Weaponiser? Simply put, it’s a virtual instrument for DAWs developed with the goal of delivering gun sounds with a wide set of tools to do it both in realistic and unrealistic ways.
The most important question, however, is why? Why Weaponiser? Turns out that recording guns is quite a challenging task (as pointed by this article), one that requirements many elements to be put together in the real world. For starters, firing a gun safely requires some basic training. Depending on where you are there might be certain obstacles such as regional legislation that may be more or less restrictive, which can make gun availability an issue. Then there’s all the associated costs, such as renting the guns on a shooting-range and hiring someone who knows how to fire them. That’s not to mention the audio hardware required such as a set of very specific microphones, and also the recording skills needed for the task. With all those gun related costs going you’ll probably have a limited number of chances to test mic placements until you find the right ones, without much space for experiments or trial and error. Rinse and repeat for each desired environment - indoors and outdoors - and also for gun type - pistols, shotguns, rifles, machine guns and so on. When I try to imagine myself in this position I can’t really see a bright outcome, at least not without spending a substantial sum of money, and I’m talking a few thousand US dollars here. The costs ramp up rapidly, one might be short of some takes and will probably have to compromise, which would lead to underwhelming results. I think that’s more than enough of an incentive to develop a plug-in to take care of those sounds, so here’s it is. Krotos Audio went through all that gun-recording trouble for us, and they did it in splendid fashion, with a thorough sampling work that captures all possible nuances. It’s worth watching the video below to see how meticulously handled this process was:
Beyond reality: if this realistic angle isn’t enough, there’s the unrealistic/futuristic-sounding side of guns, which are also plentiful in movies and even more so on video games. In this regard, Weaponiser can greatly complement the usual synth zaps to provide the high-impact sounds which are so common nowadays.
So how does it work? Weaponiser is fueled by a big library of sound assets consisting of many types of gun sound recordings, which includes close and distant mic positions, indoors and outdoors ambiances, and of course a range of different guns from pistols and shotguns to machine guns and rifles. Four assets (samples) can be loaded on each of the four parts, which are intuitively named as “onset” (close-mic sound), “body” (mid high to mid low frequencies), “thump” (lows) and “tail” (decay). A total of 16 assets can be loaded for each preset, and its very revealing to go through each bit of them and figure out how they add up to the final sound. Each asset has its own level control “speed” parameter which kind of works like a pitch control, and both “speed” and level can be further tweaked or modulated with a four-stage envelope. These parts are then mixed together, each getting its own set of controls for volume, pan, send to the IR-based reverb and a surprisingly well-featured channel strip with four inserts that can house a 5-band parametric equalizer, compressor, ring modulator, saturation, transient shaper, limiter, flanger or a noise gate. These parts can also be individually nudged in time with an offset of up to six seconds. As guns usually comes in two firing variations - single shot and bursts - Weaponiser has a “burst mode” with variable fire rate and a funnily named control called “drunk” for making the repetitions a little less robotic, because even a machine gun doesn’t always sound the same at all times! Wrapping up, there’s a simple synthesizer module with variable configurations per part that can do FM synthesis, add a sub oscillator and furthers the design options.
In terms of workflow I can see two possible scenarios: one that I’ll call “live method” with real-time sound playing and other that I’ll call “offline method”, where assets are generated with Weaponiser for future use on the desired application. For post-production the “live method” can be very effective, since Weaponiser can be loaded directly on the session, with sounds beings triggered with MIDI notes on the arranger or in real time with a keyboard controller. Each part of the sound can be triggered individually through its MIDI note or all four parts can be triggered together through its corresponding key, so it’s quite “playable” in that regard. For other applications the “offline” scenario comes into play, and for example on video games it should be the way to go since games will use their own development apps and those won’t probably load virtual instruments plug-ins, so samples should be created with Weaponiser on a DAW and then transported to the game engine.
Fully Loaded? Weaponiser comes in two versions: Basic and Fully Loaded, the latter being the subject of this review. Fully Loaded is the big one, with 1596 weapon recordings, 13 weapons, 692 sweeteners, 39 impulse responses and 135 presets. Fully Loaded costs $599 (US Dollars), which is quite a significant investment, but for those on more modest funds Krotos Audio offers a “Basic” version for $399 that includes a smaller library with 595 recordings, 4 weapons, 398 sweeteners, 19 IRs and 90 presets. If you’re working regularly on serious productions I strongly advise to go for the Full Loaded version since it will set you for life on all gun sound matters. By comparison the Basic version seems slightly overpriced, or to put in accordance to our terminology: it’s less bang for the buck, quite literally this time.
Can Weaponiser be useful for music? There’s no definitive answer for this as it depends on which genres of music each one is working on, individual preferences and other subjective factors, but my short answer would be no, Weaponiser doesn’t feel like the most appropriate tool for music-related work. Can it be an interesting percussion or drum hit designer? Absolutely, with its amazing sound library and synthesis modules Weaponiser can do some pretty great sounds and it even includes presets for drums, but ultimately it’s not designed for such purposes - it would be something like a “weird 4-voice drum designer”. Ultimately there’s an enormous amount of software developed with nothing more than musical creation in mind, and they will most likely outperform Weaponiser. With that in mind, it’s a bit of an extravaganza to purchase Weaponiser if you’re working solely with music.
Sound quality: Weaponiser delivers superb results for any gun-related sounds and it sets a very high bar for others to follow. For realistic effects its asset library and presets provides highly convincing sounds and will probably cover all needs unless you’re looking for a very specific and exotic gun, and even then Weaponiser has the tools to emulate a sound that is close enough for most purposes. On the unrealistic side it also does a great job, with a varied set of tools to design and sculpt otherworldly sounds with ease, so game designers and sci-fi movie makers are officially out of justifications for wonky sounding guns - it’s the end of the “pew pew” era!
Ease of use: If not for the small-sized interface Weaponiser is pretty much painless to use, it’s uncomplicated and should be easily understood with a few minutes. The interface hinders the experience to some extent as small controls and tiny click areas are not fun to deal with, but ultimately it’s not a deal breaker - check out the attachments for 1080p screenshots. What really makes our paths a lot easier here is the chunky preset library, which plays a big role on Weaponiser’s ease of use. On the other hand, building sounds that sound as realistic as the presets is quite an ordeal and matching Krotos Audio’s work can be quite challenging. If you’re up for futuristic/unrealistic sounds then life should be a lot easier as Weaponiser offers many ways to come up with interesting guns - if you’re not that much of a designer then don’t worry as there are plenty of presets to cover the sci-fi and futuristic sounds as well. Again, Krotos did an excellent job on the presets, not only on quality but also on delivering wide range of different sounds that should be more than enough cover most common scenarios. Presets also very well organized and intuitively categorized, although I do miss a “bookmark” system to quickly access my favourite sounds or file locations. Performance-wise Weaponiser also does very well, and even modest computers can pull off a big shooting scene with many distinct guns. Since the samples it uses are one-shot it also takes very little RAM, so you’re safe even with mere 8 GB. Just for the sake of perspective, I was able to load 20 instances of Weaponiser on Pro Tools 2018 and it only took 10% out of my aging (i7-3770) processor.
Features: Besides the aforementioned issues with the interface, which could be solved with a scalable GUI and some small rearrangements, there’s not much to complain about Weaponiser. If I could wish for anything else it would be for a “favorites” tab on the browser and a “poly-gun” version where we would be able to load a few different guns and map them across the keyboard. As mentioned on above Weaponiser is very light, so I think it would be totally viable to this multi-gun version.
Bang for buck: As noted before there’s quite a discrepancy between the Basic and Fully Loaded versions in terms of content, which in my opinion makes the Basic deliver considerably less bang for the buck than the Fully Loaded version. Both are relatively expensive nevertheless, which makes it a tool for professionals as most hobbyists may find its admission cost somewhat prohibitive. Lastly, for this price we could go out there on the internet and purchase a number of different gun sound effect libraries but that would only takes us so far in terms of sound manipulation, so it makes a lot of sense to go for Weaponiser since it not only includes great sound recordings but it also puts together a very effective way of using those recordings for outstanding results.
Recommended for sound designers and post-production professionals working with film or video games are clearly Weaponiser’s core audience, and for them it’s a well-worthy investment that should easily pay itself quickly since they’re acquiring a product that should provide a lifetime of benefits. It’s really an endgame tool for all gun sounds.
- Superb sounding for both realistic and futuristic designs
- Vast asset library with masterfully recorded samples
- Comprehensive set of tools for sound manipulation
- Extremely useful presets
- Great bang (pun intended) for buck on the Fully Loaded version
- Interface is a bit small and can not be scaled or customized
- Basic version feels a bit overpriced