Kinetic Toys – Review by Chris Ankin
One of the more popular libraries present within Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate 11 is ‘Kinetic Metals’, this is a well crafted library with reasonably good control knob mapping which lends itself well to both fun audio experimentation and also to a more serious place for cinematic and game sound design.
Last Christmas Native Instruments gave customers a seasonal gift with a free download of ‘Kinetic Treats’ a pre-release teaser of things to come prior to the full launch of ‘Kinetic Toys’.
There is it seems no shortage of ‘toy’ sample libraries on the market, ranging from comprehensive collections of kindergarten classics, to libries of singular toy pianos, people seem to find a home for them whether simply as foley sounds or more creatively within their own music.
The library creator, sound designer Jeremiah Savage has spent more than a year compiling this 3.5Gb collection, and the enjoyment and passion with which he did so is clearly evident both within the product quality and the descriptive detail found inside the manual.
Kinetic Toys finds a unique place in this market by offering an extensive range of 35 source toy sound collections alongside a complementary blend of synthetic and effect based treatments.
Sources of Merriment
I don’t believe my childhood was particularly underprivelidged, however I don’t remember owning a fraction of this extensive toy collection, and with this in mind it must have been an audio ccacophony not to mention a health and safety hazard in the studio whilst sampling this lot…. hold your breath here goes a complete list of the toy sound source instruments,
Automaton, Basement Cowboys, Bells, Bouncing Balls, Bugs, Candy, Carnival, Chemistry Set
Constructor Set, Cuckoo Clock, Dragon Fairytales, Elastic Band, Electric Train Set, Fireworks, Glow Brite, Jack in the Box, Laser Weapons, Magnets, Marble Maze, Melodica, Pin Ball Machine, Record Player, Music Box, Retro Bot, Ribbed Drumbone, Shortwave Synth Toys, Steam Engine Wagon, Toy Percussion, Toy Piano, Train Whistles, Ukulele, Video Arcade, Whistles, Whizzers, Wood Blocks, Xylo Polyphones.
Although the majority of the above list are distinctly samples of actual toys, there are within the library some interesting samples of natural and real world sounds such as insects and fireworks, and these have been cleverly morphed into some interesting presets.
There are 35 standard .NKI files for each of these sound source kits for those that wish to load them within Kontakt in it’s own right, and a very generous 671 snapshots of modified patches to play with divided amongst the 35 instrument kits made up of 250 sample source sounds, which is a lot of sound potential before you even begin tweaking or creating your own presets.
Browsing the Library…
As with my previous reviews, I’ll now walk through the library browser to give you a sense of the categories available,
Vendor and Product occupy the first two control knobs, whilst knob three gives us Banks (there are 35 representing each of the included instruments).
Knob 4 is unassigned, Knob 5 provides access to sound types which are:
Brass, Flute, Mallet instruments, one shots, Percussion, Piano/Keys, Plucked Strings, Reedd, Sound FX, Soundscapes, Synth lead, Synth misc, Synth pad.
Knob 6 is Sub-types which naturally vary dependent upon the instrument selected previously, but here are some of the titles to be found,
Synthetic brass, Whistle, Waveform, Chime, Other mallet, Ambience, Buzz, Glitch, Metal, Noise, SFX, Other percussion, Small metal, Wooden, Harmonica, Melodica, Synthetic reed, Machine, Metal, Nature, Water, Ambivalent, Destructive, Gloomy, Heavenly, Hypnotising, Insanity, Wind & Noise, Dirty lead, Soft lead, FX synth, Percussive synth, Bury pad, Chime pad, Deep pad, Dirty pad, Evolving pad, Layer pad, Other pad.
Knob 7 is for modes which is invariably ‘sample based’
Knob 8 is for Presets and your gateway to some sonic joy.
As you can see all those presets have been sensibly categorised which is essential when browsing a library with a large amound of patches such as this.
I’ve said it before and will say it here again, what an inspirational addition the introduction of the sound preview feature is within the Komplete Kontrol eco-system, it really makes patch browsing and selection a breeze and saves huge amounts of time.
Sound Designing with Kinetic Toys…
The developer has endeavoured to retain the light hearted fun factor of the library subject matter by extending this to the GUI, I get that this is 100% a graphical driven ideal and is probably fine if not even a little quirky for sighted users, however and this is not a criticism, but I found reading through the manual and attempting to grasp the visual concepts was a little daunting at first.
Dealing with descriptions such as ‘the ballerina on the music box is used to morph between mix settings of the source sounds’ and the robot ‘is used to morph between settings on the effects’ soon led me to abandon my effort in attempting to grasp the visual concepts and concentrate on simply twiddling knobs in the edit section to audibly hear what was achievable proved a better strategy, and at the end of the day is how the majority of us blindies work!
The other important link in the chain to always bear in mind is that as with most libraries, not all elements of the GUI directly transfer to tactile knob assignments on the Komplete Kontrol keyboard, so extensive access to every nuance of the onscreen controls is seldom a reality, which of course is the whole point of these access reviews to inform you what to expect in black and white, well for us mostly black!
Edit Mode Mapping…
There are four pages of parameters mapped to the physical knobs of the keyboard for this library which is slightly disappointing because as we will see later their are some ommissions which would have greatly extended the creative possibilities sadly something I find myself mentioning all too often in these access reviews, but always have to check myself prior to going off on a rant as of course the design is intended for sighted users.
Let’s take a walk through the mapping layout and you can decide for yourself….
Page 1, Dancer X, Dancer Y, Robot X, Robot Y, Toys, Synths, FX, Link on/off
Page 2, Toys x 4 consisting of crossfade and volume for each of the toy sound source layers
Page 3, Synths x 4 consisting of crossfade and volume knobs for each of the four synth sound sources
Page 4, Spacial consisting of an intensity and colour knob, Modulation with an intensity and frequency knob, Spectral with a gain and sweep knob, and finally Distortion consisting of drive and crush knobs
Some explanation is necessary in order to grasp the idea behind the signal flow, essentially the ‘Dancer’ represents the toy sound source, and the x and y controls enable audible morphing between the sound sources included in any given patch. Although there are four sound source slots available these are only reachable through physical mouse clicks, so we are not able to mix and match our own.
The Robot is similar to the dancer, however in this case deals with effects and the x and y knobs control intensity and type/character.
The proceeding knobs on page one are then straightforward volume mix controls with the exception of the last button, simply labelled on/off but this actually turns on or off the link function, which connects the Dancer to the Robot (or sound source to effects) meaning x and y movements are mirrored on each.
The page two and three functions are basically mixer volume controls for each of the sources both toy samples and synths respectively, however each volume assignment has it’s own corresponding crossfade knob, which allows for mixing between two source sounds depending on which ones are present in any given patch.
The final page four is self explanatory with parameter mapping for the various effects with an adjacent intensity or gain control.
As is often the case there are some tantalising elements of Kinetic Toys that are part of the visual GUI, there is for example an inbuilt sequencer enabling the syncing and recording of sound motion and morphing, doubtless we can workaround these things by using our DAW’s inbuilt automation recording so this I feel is something not worth losing too much sleep over. If there were two things I would like to have seen present in the control mapping of Kinetic Toys it would be access to some form of ADSR. There were some patches that I would love to have changed the attack or sustain on but was unable to (this may be an option if the parameters show up in your DAW), similarly adjustment of sample start time would have been desirable, however I’m not sure that this is even present within the GUI as no mention is made within the manual.
I could of course bang on about being able to select, mix and match sound sources and indeed had there not been a myriad of preset snapshots available would certainly have done so, but the volume of presets make this forgivable.
Kinetic Toys is without doubt a fascinating product, anyone that loves playing with sound will have a ball which is what I believe the creator intended. If you need to justify buying the library in productivity terms then it will certainly find a place on the hard drive of film, game, app, sound designers, less so perhaps if you are writing more contemporary music, but that said creativity is very much in the ear of the beholder so anything is possible.
Kinetic Toys is available as a download from Native Instruments, it normally retails for £89.00 at the time of writing (16th November 2017) it is on offer as part of a Thanksgiving sale at 50% off (£44.50).
Kinetic Toys user manual
(c)Chris Ankin 2017
The author accepts no responsibility for subsequent purchase decisions made as a result of this article,or Any inaccuracies found within this review. All opinions or product functions stated are based soly on information perceived whilst using the product or gathered from official factual sources on the web.
About the Author
Chris Ankin has worked previously as a freelance review writer with articles published in Sound On Sound, Home & Studio Recording and ST Format Magazines.