If you’re a Pro Tools user that can never have enough virtual instruments to compose with (as I am), the Avid Pro Tools Instrument Expansion Pack is worth a close examination.
Another RTAS release from Avid’s AIR development team, it includes the latest updated versions of Velvet 1.3, Strike 1.5, Structure 1.1, Hybrid 1.6, and Transfuser 1.3.
Delivered on 5 DVDs, it weighs in at a hefty 55 GB of data, which is actually compressed into 33 GB of space using their “proprietary lossless compression,” which decompresses in real time as needed. You’ll need to register the software on Avid’s site and then download the authorizations to your iLok.
For those who have used some of these instruments before, there’s over 16 GB of new content and a few new twists within each offering. For example, Strike now has an electronic drum pad in the GUI with a fresh set of sounds, and there are also two kits of acoustic drums recorded at Nashville’s Blackbird Studios.
Backing up for a moment, the five instruments break out as follows. The above-mentioned Strike is a virtual drummer that uses real drum performances and offers adjustable control for such things as complexity, timing, dynamics, intensity, and groove. You also can also now add your own WAV or AIFF samples to the kits, and the Style editor was enhanced for more realistic performances.
Velvet offers a collection of Rhodes and Wurlitzer vintage ’60s, ’70s and ’80s electric pianos. The updated version now includes 4 GB of sounds (nine new tine sounds — the “glassy” sound of the 1980s from synths such as the Yamaha DX7); a reverb effects module with Ambience, Spring and Room; and nine new FM tines.
Structure is a sampler workstation with a sound engine that can handle up to 128 parts with 32 separate audio outputs. It has 5 GB of new orchestral sound, a custom Grand Piano and those Nashville drum kits. It can now handle Kontakt 3, Giga Sampler, and ESX format support and features a new database browser and the ability to drag and drop directly from your Pro Tools Edit window.
Transfuser is a unique groove creation tool that’s actually hard to put into words. It provides the ability to manipulate and affect loops and sequences both for live and studio applications. You can import loops, directly use it on Pro Tools tracks, or even plug a mic into it live.
Hybrid is a three-oscillator, high-definition synthesizer with a huge selection of presets including 256 new ones, new waveforms with the noise oscillator and the ability to run two simultaneous parts with independent effects.
I’ve used some of these instruments before, especially Velvet and Hybrid. So I know they are good, as they are staples in my TV composing rig. However, I really got into Strike with this install. There are few other drum style plug-ins that offer this amount of expression and useful performance sounds. I fired off a few cues for a History Channel show with Strike drums, Hybrid bass synths, Velvet melodies, and my Tele in no time flat. It’s also a great tool for practicing your guitar and/or bass guitar chops.
I appreciated being able to call up some of Structure’s East West orchestral samples on my laptop LE rig. But Transfuser was the unknown to me. One of the best ways is to start with the presets, and also on the bottom left there’s a text window that explains each GUI function as you roll over it. It’s actually fun to make music with a plug-in that’s not immediately intuitive — especially using the Slicer. After sitting with it for a while, I found it to be a highly creative tool for dance/house/groove work, once you learn how to use it within the Pro Tools environment. But wow, would this be cool to use through a club PA system!
For anyone composing music for TV, film, the studio, or even live applications, the Pro Tools Instrument Expansion pack packs a lot of punch into a tight little bundle. It’s a nice value for what it offers. Without a doubt, Avid’s AIR division offers quality products that sound great and are easy to use. You can’t go wrong having all this power in your arsenal.
Rich Tozzoli is a composer, engineer/mixer, and the software editor for PAR.