Anyone who has ever watched a movie or television show, played a video game, or even just imagined themselves in the latest blockbuster action flick, you have been influenced by a soundtrack. It’s an exciting field, and one of the areas where sound design comes into play at extreme levels. And let’s face it, without good soundtracks, films and television just wouldn’t be the same.
But as exciting as the field of soundtrack design can be, it can also be difficult to realize the vision inside your head. The sound design involved in creating the most dramatic of soundtracks can be rather daunting. You can HEAR the sound in your head, but just can’t figure out how to create that sound. Enter Evolve, stage left.
Installation And General Info
Evolve is a Kontakt Player-based sample library, so it needs no other player or sampler. Evolve is compatible with Windows XP and higher, as well as OSX 10.4 and later. You will need just short of 6GB of hard drive space, and can run Evolve on up to two computers at a time(same as with any Native Instruments VSTi).
Evolve is a specialty library. You are not going to find a large variety of bread and butter sounds here. There are a few, but even these range from slightly effected to unrecognizable as the instruments they are. Instead, Evolve is full of instruments that are designed to be used in all flavors of soundtrack design and cinematic sequences.
Loading up instruments is very easy, especially if you are used to the Kontakt Player interface. The simple dropdown list on the left will get you to where you want to go. There are four main categories of sounds, each of which I’ll go through in detail here.
Rhythmic Suites are single loop-based patches designed to give you the ability to create complex percussion and rhythm tracks easily. Each patch contains up to around 85 different beat-sliced loops(one for each piano key in some cases) which are designed to go together with the other loops of the patch. Every loop is a different element and you can mix and match to create just the right track.
The rhythmic suites come in different flavors. The first type is the Percussive Suites. These are fun, and hold the most variety of all the suites. There is quite a lot of ground covered here in only seven patches, as literally every key in the percussive suites contains a different loop(well over 600 in all just in this section).
From the cinematic to the grungy to electronic, acoustic, and even the just plain weird, it’s there. One patch can have you creating thunderous orchestral percussion for your latest action movie, while another lets you beat box. The variety is actually quite great, and there is sure to be something in this section for everyone.
There are literally thousands and thousands of combinations that can be created with each individual patch in the percussive suites. Most loops are sufficient enough to be used on their own, but you can use every finger you have and some of your toes to create extremely complex, yet stunningly cohesive, tracks. It’s some of the most fun you will have with some of the least effort while using a VSTi. And believe me when I say this(I tried and it’s true!), people will think you put a lot of effort into tracks created with the percussive suites. They sound THAT good.
Next in the Rhythmic Suites are the Looped Tonals. These are rhythmic loops that DO have a specific pitch throughout, usually consisting of a pattern and not just a single pitch. These use the same interface as the percussive suites shown above.
Unlike the percussive suites, these patches don’t contain dozens of different loops. Instead, each loop variation can take up to two octaves or more on the keyboard. This means that there are around four or five variations/patterns, each with a good range of pitch so they can fit into any key you are writing in. These variations are also designed to work together, just like the percussive suites. Holding down chords that utilize notes from every loop’s section will give you a very rich filling of rhythmic filler.
Also included in the tonal suites are dozens of individual loop patches. These contain single tonal loops mapped over the entire keyboard instead of just a couple of octaves. While only one variation is offered per patch, the large variety of pitch ranges in these loops can give you plenty of different sounds to work with(partially shown to the right).
In addition to the normal patches, Evolve also contains one “menu suite” in the looped tonals category. This patch contains 88 different loops mapped throughout the keyboard.
As with the percussive suites, the looped tonals offer a large variety of sounds. Most looped tonals are synth based, with several organic patches thrown in. They may have a slightly more limited appeal than the percussive suites, but there are enough there to give you options.
Next in the rhythmic suites are the Seq and Arp Percussives. These are non-tonal, percussive patches. Like the tonal loops, these consist of three to five variations or so, mapped to a couple of octaves each. But these are not loops. Instead, these are single hits that are activated using the built in step sequencer. We’ll go into more details of the step sequencer shortly, but in general the step sequencer will allow you to make custom patterns using each individual hit, with control over things like pan, velocity, and filter amount for each step.
Many of these patches do not include full keyboards of splits. Some even take as little as a couple of octaves. But there are over two dozen patches to choose from in this section, and with the sequencer to create your own patterns, it allows some decent variety.
Finally in the rhythmic suites are the Seq and Arp Tonals. These use the same interface as the seq and arp percussives, and are very similar to the seq and arp percussives as well, but with the exception that these patches are created using elements that have a pitch. There are also no variations, but rather one sound mapped over the keyboard. As with the tonal percussives, these are built mostly of synthetic instruments with organic elements and real instruments thrown in.
These last two categories are not as inspiring as the first two, but that’s doesn’t mean they are bad or unusable. Quite the contrary. The first two categories in the rhythmic suites are just VERY inspiring and will probably get used quite a bit as a result. The overall quality of all the suites is top notch, and the variety of sounds you get is much greater than it will look like at first glance.
But there’s more. We have only described one section of the library!
This is where you will turn when you want to have access to drum kits without any loops or pre-built rhythms. Many of these kits are actually used in the suites listed above. But here you can use individual hits from individual themed kits.
Percussive kits are separated into five categories. The first is Drum-Like Kits. This is the closest you will get to a “traditional” drum kit. These range from grungy to weird. My favorite, just for the novelty of it, is the “Brown Air” kit. It is made up of mouth noises, some of which your imagination can probably guess. There is a comedy kit as well in case you need any clown noises(squeaky nose, anyone?). But the other kits are a bit more serious, and although nice to have, they are not the highlight of this section and aren’t too much different than what you probably already have.
Next are the Hits. In this category there are only a few patches, but some very useful ones. These are single “instruments”(if you call a dumpster an instrument, that is) with quite a few variations of hits on that instrument. From an orchestral bass drum to some extremely thunderous cavern hits, this section is very creative despite the small amount of patches.
Next in line we have Metals and Cymbals. This is a fantastic collection of exactly what the name says; metals and cymbals. Crashes, effects, scrapes, clangs, dings, and whatever other sounds you can make by introducing metal to another surface, there are a good variety of very useful sounds in this category. Best usage of pipes, dumpsters, gongs and more that I’ve seen in a library.
The next section is similar to the last; Toolshed and Warehouse. If the guys at Heavyocity could find it lying around their garage, storage area, workshop, or studio, they sampled it. From sweeping brooms to power tools, nails, shovels, sprayers, and probably even the kitchen sink, they sampled it and gave it to you in this category.
I found this category to be quite fun as well. There is enough variety of useful but unusual sounds that these sounds help to make Evolve a unique product. I found myself WANTING to write something just to utilize these sounds. A truly fantastic collection to have, and a change of pace from every other drum library out there.
Finally, you will find a small collection of what is called “Traditional” instruments. Not too much here that got me excited. Instead these were more like filler instruments to me. Things that helped to round out the collection. Triangles, ethnic drums, shakers, and hand-created instrument sounds is all you will find. Nice to have, but nothing to make you jump out of your seat with excitement.
All-in-all, this is a very nice collection of individual hits and kits that will probably get more use once the loops in the first section have worn off. While these aren’t exactly GM mapped drum kits, it’s not too difficult to create some really cool, off the wall beats using these instruments. They are unique, superbly recorded, versatile sounds that WILL get used in your soundtracks, and probably in your “normal” productions as well. One of the highlights of Evolve. But not THE highlight. I will cover that now.
Stings and Transitions
When I first started using Evolve, I ignored this section. First of all, I didn’t really know what a “sting” was, at least by that name. Second, the first two sections really caught my attention so well and had me creating tracks right away. But then I discovered what would soon turn out to be my absolute, bar-none favorite section of Evolve: Stings and Transitions.
These sounds are intended to bring extra emotion to your tracks, and create dynamic transitions between sections of your soundtrack or song. You’ve heard them before in every action movie soundtrack. Sweeping buildups(think reverse cymbal) and impact hits of EVERY kind are here. No exaggeration, the variety is massive.
You will find in this section a very large variety of buildups, called transitions. From the creepy to the thunderous, from acoustic to synthetic, this world to otherworldly. If you need a sound to build you up into a transition, look no further. We have metal being scraped, pianos being mangled, approaching ghosts, and SO much more. Before this collection, I would always try to use reverse cymbals to help me build up into the next section of my song. But Evolve has removed me from that need and given me hundreds of new and exciting creative options to use instead. These patches have different variations on every key, sometimes spanning the entire range of a piano. One patch can contain dozens of transitions. Yes, I’m pleased.
Along with the buildup-type sounds, there are also various hits included to help bring impact to your track, called stings. These aren’t anything like the previous section of drum and percussion hits. These are sound here to bring massive or subtle emphasis whenever you need it. These are GREAT to finish off the transitions from the same section. But the best use of these is for sonic variety and for taking the predictability out of your track. Throw in some random stings throughout your soundtrack to heighten the intensity, freak out your listener, or whatever you want. Ghostly, screechy, sudden, use whatever terms you want. It’s here.
I won’t go into the various categories here because the general idea is the same between each category, but suffice it to say there is a LARGE amount of sounds in this section, both tonal and atonal, acoustic and non-acoustic. But these are USEFUL in so many ways, and to me, are the highlight of Evolve. Nowhere that I’ve seen is there such a great collection of these sounds. Yet, in soundtrack work, these are absolutely essential sounds. For the aspiring soundtrack artist, this section alone could very well be worth the price of the whole package. Consider my face smiling.
Tonality and Effects
As if I even needed to go this far, the final section of Evolve is probably the most “traditional” you will find, while still being quite unique. This is the closest to bread and butter sounds as it gets in Evolve. Now, this is NOT a standard collection of “normal” sounds. You won’t find different pianos, string sections, horns, or anything else of the sorts here. Instead, you will find different takes on more traditional sounds.
The first category here is Bass instruments. Not really much here. A traditional electric bass(not a very detailed one, just single notes) as well as some synthetic options, and you’re done. Some instruments have a couple of variations in sound placed in different octaves. But overall, only a few patches.
Next is Melodic instruments. Guitars, pianos, vocals, synths, and more make this a well rounded category. As I’ve mentioned, these aren’t all traditional instruments outside of a few patches. Nothing you would turn to just because you needed that instrument, but rather effected instruments, hybrid sounds, and sounds created while using the instruments in less conventional ways.
You’ll find swirling guitar pads, frozen pianos, growling synths, and other very creative sounds. These are fully produced, ready to go instruments, and I found them to be rather inspiring. Very nice variations on the same old sounds you’ve come to know and love, and all perfect for soundtrack use.
Finally, you will find a decent collection of Pads and FX. As is the nature with pads, these are very synthetic sounds, with many also being more organic or hybrid sounds. But the collection is a good one. These aren’t just any old synthesizer patches that are sampled. The sounds are detailed and playable, and even if you are a synth-head, you are likely to find something nice here. Most of these sounds can’t be created solely with a traditional synth, and this makes them appealing. And they are the perfect way to round out a library that really has everything for the purpose it’s intended for.
General Thoughts About The Library
As you can see, there is a very large amount of variation in the Evolve library. When you first start looking through the library, it’s really hard to see this variation. But the power in Evolve is in the ability of the included patches to work with each other. It’s quite amazing how most of the patches, even those not related to each other in any way, work well in tandem with each other. This is a sign of a very well, consistently recorded library. Entire soundtracks could be created using just the sounds contained in Evolve. It really is astounding how much is in there.
In addition to the large amount of individual patches available, Evolve also contains a couple dozen multi patches. These consist of several instruments in one patch to help you jump right in and create tracks using all different elements of the library. Of course, you can also compile your own multis as well.
The quality of the sounds in Evolve are superb. It’s blazingly obvious that great care was taken to get just the right sounds for the library, even in those sounds which may not sound anything like what was actually recorded. The sound spectrums are full of life and ready to be launched straight into your creative compositions, much of the time with little to no editing needed. Instead of being USED for sound design, I would argue that these are already sounds DESIGNED. Ready to go.
This is one of those libraries that will have you creating tracks within minutes. You can pick any combination of three or four patches and have a three minute track completed in a half an hour. As a matter of fact, many users have shared compositions THAT quickly in various forums around the web that they created with Evolve.
This approach does have it’s faults. Most of the patches already have some form of environment in the sound itself, including some which have arena-sized reverb from the room the sound was recorded in. This DOES add authenticity to the sound, but it also limits you a little bit in how you can adjust the sound. It’s a forgivable offense for some, and a deal breaker for others. If you are somebody who wants to do the sound design on your own, or you just like to tweak, these sounds may not help you much. Although there IS a large amount of sounds here, and I would bet that any sound designer will find something cool to work with in Evolve. But for the sound itself and it’s intended purpose, it’s a benefit to have Evolve be as well done as it is.
Another downside to a library like this is that all of the immediately “cool” stuff, such as the rhythmic suites, may quickly become overused. But that’s not completely a bad thing, as it takes a good sound for enough people to use it that it becomes “overused”. But the rhythmic suites are so easy to use that it almost makes the rest of the library a chore to use, despite how well it all sounds. But when you delve a bit deeper in the instrument, more inspiration is sure to come, and less “been there, done that” type of stuff.
Heavyocity has included in every single patch some options to change the sound using filters or effects(reverb and delay), as well as ADSR envelope controls on many patches. While there isn’t a LOT of options here, and many of the patches won’t really need any extra effects added, they do offer the user at least SOME ability to be original. But I personally didn’t find myself using these options much, as the sounds really sounded so good on their own.
One other thing worth mentioning is just how low Evolve is on resources. Even with some of the larger patches, Evolve’s patches are smaller than most larger libraries. As a result, the RAM and CPU usage is kept to a minimum. Plus, due to many of the patches already having effects built in to the samples, this also helps to keep the CPU usage quite low.
I want to touch quickly on some of the control options for Evolve. Although there really isn’t much to “control”, there are a few nice little additions and methods used to make Evolve even easier to use(if it wasn’t already easy enough). There aren’t massive amounts of keyswitches or playing techniques to master. You won’t necessarily need to use more than the keys on your keyboard.
Being a Kontakt Player instrument, everything is able to be automated in your host very easily. The Kontakt Player interface lets you drag and drop CC numbers and host paramaters directly to the control you want them to control. Plain and simple. No need to learn what goes where. Just put things wherever you want them.
Evolve also uses the general idea that the higher “pitched” instruments in the non-tonal patches are at the top of the keyboard. For instance, in the percussive patches, you will find cymbals and triangle type loops and hits more near the top of the keyboard range. While the “boomy” hits and lower instruments are near the bottom. It’s a small detail, but makes remembering things a bit easier.
In the Seq and Arp presets, you get a step sequencer that is the best I have seen used in a Kontakt scripted instrument. This gives the sequenced instruments an infinite amount of variation in their rhythms.
The sequencer starts by having the normal, bar-based sequencer strips with each strip representing a step. You can pull these up and down with your left mouse button, but also draw a straight line using the right mouse button if you want to create even intervals over a series of steps.
But there are actually THREE versions of the steps window. One controls the velocity of each step, one controls the panning of each step, and one controls the filter amount of each step. Each is independent of one another, and therefore gives you a HUGE variety in the sounds you can make. Very nice.
On top of the sequencer window, you also have control over the sustain time of the steps so you can have a little bit of overlap between steps. You can set the tempo of the sequencer based on musical values, as well as the ability to quantize incoming MIDI data to the nearest musical beat of your choosing. Very nice if you want to make sure your patterns start in time with each other, even if your playing isn’t as precise.
Finally, the sequencer has a randomizer function. Pressing the button gives every step a random value, giving you instant variety. This randomizer applies only to the current step window. So you can randomize velocities, panning, and filtering, all separately if you wish. On top of the randomizer, there are also several presets you can apply, and the ability to save your own or copy presets.
All-in-all, a very well thought out sequencer. Lots of options, and worthy of a mention.
Bringing Things To A Close
I had a great time with Evolve. I own and have tried literally dozens and dozens of sample libraries and instruments over the years. Some are more inspiring than others, and some more unique than others. Evolve is both unique and inspiring at the same time, without losing every day usefulness. For a soundtrack designer, this is an essential collection of top rate, production ready instruments. Though Evolve is not without it’s faults, there is no denying that this library SHOULD find it’s way onto the shelves of sound designers and soundtrack creators everywhere. Though the price may seem a little high for a 6GB library, it probably won’t seem like a bad price once you see the quality and variation included in Evolve.
Heavyocity is run by top notch sound designers with plenty of experience in the field of soundtrack design, and it shows in Evolve. You can hear the great care that was taken in bringing the library to life. It will not be for everyone, that’s for sure. But if soundtrack work interests you, or you just want something to breath new life into your dull, lifeless tracks, Evolve will be a great addition to your library. And if what they say is true, more instruments and presets are to come. You just can’t have too much of a good thing.