I’ve heard endless praise for Krotos’ sound tools, like Dehumaniser and Reformer. So I was thrilled to get my hands on their Sound Design Bundle 2, which includes Dehumaniser 2, Reformer Pro, Weaponiser Fully Loaded (for creating weapon sounds), and Igniter Full Tank (for creating vehicle sounds), plus a couple sound libraries — Krotos Bundle 1 library for Reformer and Battle Bundle for Weaponiser. Unfortunately, my chance to review all of this came with one caveat: I only had three days to review it and write about it. It was a lot to take in and absolutely addictive to play with once I got through the learning curve for each one. Luckily, there are some excellent how-to videos on the Krotos site. Let’s dive in.
This virtual instrument is one of the upgrades to the first Sound Design Bundle. Igniter is useful for creating custom vehicle sounds that do what you need — accelerate, brake, skid out, pass by, etc. — exactly how you need them to. Sound Design Bundle 2 comes with Igniter Full Tank (the premium, souped-up version of Igniter) so there’s an extra 75 GB of content from top-notch sound recordists, including Watson Wu and George Vlad. You can also drag and drop in your own sounds. Need a quick acceleration with some gravel burn-out followed by a gradual deceleration that ends in a hard-braking skid and a horn honk? No problem! There are so many elements to choose from and layer together that it’s easy to build the perfect engine, or transportation-related scenario, for realistic or sci-fi vehicles.
Igniter’s four main tabs — Granular, Synth, One Shot, and Loop — provide four different ways to add sound layers to your engine. To get started quickly, you can choose a factory preset and tweak the samples and parameters in each tab until you’re content.
Or, you can take the Clean Start approach to go totally custom. In the Granular tab, combine any Engine sample and any Exhaust sample, like an Audi R8 Engine and U650M Tractor Exhaust. Feel free to mix and match vehicle makes and models to get the sound you’re looking for. Or, use the Loop tab to build an engine. Here you can drag and drop up to four samples, including your own recordings, and then adjust their crossfades and even alter their pitch-over-time.
Next, in the One Shot tab, add details like brake squeaks, gravel crunches, horn honks, windshield wipers, turn signals, anything! You can even add a car door open and gravel impact in case you’re designing a scene where a character opens the door while driving and jumps out. Add up to four samples in this tab too.
Building a sci-fi vehicle? Or want to add some ominous tone to an evil car you’re designing? The Synth tab has you covered. Add up to five different tones and tweak each one.
You can also add real-time effects, like Doppler, pitch shifting, and EQ, that adapt automatically to how you ‘play’ the master REVS controller (the little dial you use to trigger your engine).
Weaponiser makes it easy to create multi-layered combat sounds. And Sound Design Bundle 2 comes with Weaponiser’s maxed-out version — Weaponiser Fully Loaded, plus the additional Battle Bundle library. There are incredible sounds in this collection, from sound designers like George Vlad, Bryan Celano, and Jim Stout. There are gunshots from various distances, handling and cocking sounds, shot ring-outs (i.e., tails), zips, sword shings, chainmail impacts, drum beats, and tons of other sounds. The best part: you can drag and drop your own sounds and impulse responses right into Weaponiser.
The Weaponiser interface has four tabs: Onset, Body, Thump, and Tail. In each tab, there are four rows of Banks where you can drop your sounds. Each Bank can hold up to five different sounds. So each time you hit the Fire button, it will trigger the next sound in the bank. This makes it easy to build variation into your shots. You can also add randomized variations of Speed and Level adjustments for each Bank by click + holding on the white circle on the outside of each control ring, and moving your mouse up and down. This creates a light blue ring inside the control ring. The wider the light blue ring is, the greater the range of variation for that parameter. For realistic sounds, a little bit of randomized Speed variation goes a long way.
Another important aspect of this interface is in the far right panel. Up top, to the left of the Fire button, there’s a section with four independent sliders, one for each tab. The sliders are color-coded to match each tab and each one has a corresponding waveform. Initially, all the sliders are stacked on top of each other. But you can move each one separately to adjust when each part of the sound will play. So let’s say you grab the Body slider and move it all the way to the right; now the Body sound will be the last part to play. By looking at the waveforms, you can see exactly where each sound overlaps or plays in relation to the others. Adjusting the Onset, Body, Thump, and Tail sliders will allow you to control exactly when that piece of the sound will play.
Weaponiser isn’t just for ‘weapon’ sound creation. Because you can load in any .wav format sound clip, there is so much potential here. Check out the range of videos from Krotos on ways to use Weaponiser to Create Futuristic Sound Effects, Create a Punch, Create Robot Footsteps, and even how to use it for Music Production.
Reformer Pro turns sound design into performance art. Using your voice as a live input source, you can perform tiger growls and snarls, Foley leather creaks, and so much more. You can also use a MIDI input to perform your sounds. Reformer takes characteristics of the source sound and uses that to trigger a different set of sounds.
It takes a bit of playing around to get Reformer results that are just right, but exploration is part of the fun. For example, let’s say you want to get some crisp, fast-attack, fruit-stabbing sounds. If you select the Fruit and Veg Stabs library, and then trigger it by saying, “Stab!” you’re not going to get a nice, clean stab sound because the “ssss” sound that precedes the transient “t” is going to trigger a slight squish before the stab. You’re better off making random sounds. In this case, saying, “Tttt! Aaaaa,” generated a hard stab with a slight squish at the end — exactly what I was going for.
Sound Design Bundle 2 comes with Krotos Bundle 1, which is a sound library built for Reformer. It includes fruit and vegetable biting, chewing, stabbing and squish sounds, tiger and leopard sounds, sizzles, electronics, and leather and gun Foley. And there are numerous other libraries you can purchase through Krotos meant for Reformer. It’s a good place to start.
But the coolest thing is that you can create your own libraries for Reformer. Make a folder of the specific samples you want to trigger (note: the folder can’t be larger than 1 GB). Drag and drop that folder into the Reformer Analysis Tool. Select the sample rate of your files. Then click Create. Next, close and re-open the Reformer plug-in. Your custom library will now be in the list and ready to use.
You can combine up to four different libraries and adjust how much of each one affects the final sound by moving the yellow dot around on the X/Y pad located in the upper left corner of the Reformer Pro interface.
As you’re performing/triggering your selected libraries, let’s say you decide that not all of the samples are quite fitting in. You can open each library and mute specific sounds, further refining the results to fit your tastes.
The Dehumaniser 2 interface is so easy to understand you won’t need a ‘Walkthrough’ video for this one. When you open the plug-in, you see a main window with a Track Input node and an Output node linked together. The Track Input will use your mic input if your DAW track is Record Armed, or you can add a pre-recorded audio file to the track in your DAW and hit play to trigger the plug-in.
The Track Input node is automatically connected to the Output node. To add processing, simply click on the one you want from the top bar — there’s Ring Modulator, Flanger/Chorus, Pitch Shifting, Delay Pitch Shift, Noise Generator, Scrubbing Convolution, Granular, Spectral Shifting, Sample Trigger, and Vocoder — and drag that down into the window near the Track Input node. There is a triangle on each side of the node; left side is input and right side is output. Click + hold on the output triangle of the Track Input node and draw a line to the input triangle on the processing node you chose. Next, click + hold the output triangle on the processing node and draw a line to the input triangle on the Output node.
Add more processing nodes the same way and change the way the nodes link up to each other. By hitting the + button on a node, you can add more outputs so you can route and re-route the processing signal any way you want. Plus, all the processing is completely tweakable. You can add crazy amounts of processing or just a touch.
Using the Sample Trigger node, you can trigger sound samples, like “pig_squeal_02” or “elephant_trumpeting.” Or you can load your own custom samples by clicking the Browse For Folder button (to load a whole folder) or Select a Sample button (for a single sound) located next to the drop-down library search bar. Trigger the sample normally, or reverse it. You can also pitch it, EQ it, add it to another node for additional processing, and more. To see this in action, check out Krotos’ informative Sample Trigger video.
There are countless ways to make the Dehumaniser 2 processing unique and custom-tailored for your project, whether it’s for a film or for music production. And did I mention how much fun it is to play with? It’s quite addicting!
Sound Design Bundle 2 works with several popular DAWs — Pro Tools (11 or later), Logic Pro X, Nuendo (8.2.10 or later), Cubase (8 or above), Ableton Live 10 (and above), and Reaper (I used v5.973/x64). As with any new piece of gear, there’s definitely a learning curve. Fortunately, Krotos has helpful ‘Walkthrough’ videos for each plug-in in the bundle. I can’t recommend these enough. Actually, all of their videos are super helpful. Also, save yourself some time and read the manual for proper installation instructions. Sixty seconds of reading will save you 20 minutes of downtime on a botched activation process.
At the time of this review, Krotos is selling Sound Design Bundle 2 for $1,999 USD. Is it worth it? Hell yes. First, this collection comes with incredible sounds that you can layer and combine with complex processing in easy-to-navigate and highly tweakable interfaces. Plus, and most importantly, you have the ability to use your own custom sounds, which means limitless possibilities.
Images courtesy of Krotos