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Review: The Silver Screen Toolkit by Instant Sonics

Today we’re going to explore a brand new sound design library for Kontakt, The Silver Screen Toolkit by Instant Sonics. This is a brand new library, the first one released by Instant Sonics, so it’s fairly unknown at the time of this write-up. Instant Sonics reached out to me in order to get an in-depth and honest review of their brand new product, and provided a copy, free of charge, for me to test and critique. There is very little information out there about this product and the company behind it, so I will share what resources there are so far, and try to go beyond that and provide a very detailed and in depth look at this library!

First off, here’s a demo track made ONLY with sounds included in the Silver Screen Toolkit and a third party reverb- and be sure to check the detailed walkthrough/demo video at the bottom of the page!

This library retails for $150.00 here at the official site. The official thread here at VI-Control can provide more details about the specifics, and there is also more info and it’s available for purchase here at Kontakt Hub. It’s primarily a sound design library, aimed at modern cinematic music, and provides a very large variety of sounds. I’d say it’s very much focused on providing electronic, modern, cutting edge sounds and effects for hybrid and trailer music, though I could see it covering underscore, ambient, even straight up EDM. The nature of the sounds is very electronic as opposed to orchestral. The library provides 3.6 gb of content.

The Interface

Silver Screen Drums 3.png

The interface of this product is very basic and not flashy at all, unlike similar libraries such as Collision FX by Soundyeti and some of the libraries from Sampletraxx. However, this doesn’t bother me, as it is clear and very easy to use. With an unknown library such as this, I’m much more concerned with the quality of sounds and ease of use than having a flashy and cutting edge interface. Upon installing (quick and easy extract from the .rar file into your libraries folder) I was initially a bit shocked to see that this library contains a whopping 44 .nki files! However, they are all labelled appropriately and easy to navigate (unlike the aforementioned Collision FX). Each .nki file is very focused and specific, for instance, providing a separate .nki file for every “Complex Kit” drum patch, instead of loading up one .nki and cycling thru the kits in the interface itself. Some may find this a bit overwhelming at first glance, but I really don’t mind it, as they all have names that are very easy to identify.

The GUI has three sections: “Waveform”, which displays the visual waveform of the sample being played, and contains a slider for the sample start time. Keep in mind, this is a global settings, and not only does it change the sample start point for the current sample, but for every other sample contained in the .nki file as well, which could easily be an annoyance for some.

Beneath that, we have controls for Attack, Release, Speed (which controls the speed of the long samples like risers and swells), and a Gate. The speed knob is nice, in case you place a riser in the MIDI sequencer that doesn’t quite sync perfectly with the timing of your track, you can adjust how quickly it will play with this knob, although there is no numerical value associated with the setting here. Alternatively you can adjust the placement of the actual note in the sequencer. If you set the speed knob to the slowest setting possible, the sample becomes very strained and stretched. Either way, it is nice to have it there, just in case you wish to tweak these sounds further.

The gate is one of my favorite features, as it simply applies a “trance-gate” type effect to the samples, which can be set for various note intervals, and adjusting this slider controls the tightness of the gate effect. Use this to instantly add stutter effects and movement to any of the samples.

The effects rack includes Filters, Damage (distortion/overdrive/bitcrusher), Reverb, Delay, and Post Filters. I really liked having a low pass filter built in to the GUI, and the Damage section can really add a lot of character and punishment to the sounds.

Content and sound

As you can see below, the library contains a MASSIVE amount of .nki files, and is separated into four major categories, Drums, Effects, Instruments, and Pulses.

That’s a lot of patches….

That’s a lot of patches….

DRUMS

The “Drums” category contains 10 separate kits, each labeled as “Complex Kit” and numbered 1 through 10. They provide highly processed drum samples, some mangled and distorted, some more traditional, yet all very electronic. These are mapped across the keys like so:

Green keys play the various   bass drum     type samples, yellow plays   snare   sounds, and the red keys play   hi-hat   type sounds and assorted auxiliary percussion.

Green keys play the various bass drum type samples, yellow plays snare sounds, and the red keys play hi-hat type sounds and assorted auxiliary percussion.

Some of these sound very glitchy and crushed, somewhat similar to some of the kits from Heavyocity’s Damage, others are more clean and remind me more of a radio friendly hip hop or trap beat. Either way you have a fairly wide variety of sounds here, although some of the kits sound overly similar, they all provided quality sounds.

Effects

Next up is “Effects”, which is the largest category here, and where my favorite sounds this library produces are contained. They contain sounds such as Alarms, Booms, Bends, Braams, Drops, Hits, Risers, Swells, Transitions, and Whooshes. Most of the sounds are self explanatory, and there is a lot to enjoy here. Some of the samples do sound a bit similar, just thrown through different processing techniques, with the further ability to add your own distortion, delay, reverb, and filters with the built in effects rack. Tonal effects such as “Braams” have pitch control mapped to the lower keys of your MIDI keyboard.

The standouts here are Bends, Drops, Risers, Swells, Swell Drops, Timbres (basically atmospheric textures), Tonal Reverses, and the Whoosh Hits. Each of these patches contains a nice variety of sounds, and many of them are instantly usable in any kind of trailer or hybrid track. My favorite sounds produced by the Silver Screen Toolkit are those that are saturated and heavy, and there’s definitely a nice amount of them included. The risers are modern and intense, the swells are massive and brooding, the Drops are earth shaking and provide incredible sub-bass, as well as the Swell Drops. The Timbres really add atmosphere and textures to your tracks, and are more subtle, but still can be aggressive and moody. The Whoosh Hits are short on the riser and very punchy on the hit, and are perfect for transitions and endings. The Tonal Reverses have a very long attack and build up to a short, but thick and aggressive, swell.

instruments

Long Instruments patch and the variety of sound banks included.

Long Instruments patch and the variety of sound banks included.

Next we have the “Instruments” section, which contains Long (synth leads, bass pads, etc) amd Short (plucks, etc). There is a variety of sound banks here, and while it may not seem like a lot, they can be stacked in any combination, resulting in some fun experimentation and many possibilities. They cover a variety of tones, from soft and airy to harsh and gritty, but some seem to lack the thickness of some VST synths, especially in the bass spectrum. I find these to work best for leads, though they can also easily provide pad sounds as well, and they work exceptionally well while playing with the low pass filter. Having melodic synth-like instruments here is a very nice addition and they work very well, especially with the “Glide” setting which enables portamento. The Short Instruments patch contains less sound banks, and generally covers pluck sounds. Just these two instruments alone, and the effects included, are easily capable of producing slick and modern EDM sounds, and truly surprised me with how well they performed, as some Kontakt based “synths” leave a lot to be desired. The variety of sounds isn’t anywhere near what a standalone VST synth can offer, and don’t expect anything like a massive and thick supersaw, but they are very capable of holding their own in any hybrid track.

pulses

SST pulses.png

The last section is Pulses, which come in High and Low variations. These also have pitch control mapped to the lower keys. I think these could have been better labeled as well. For instance, some contain melodic arpeggios and others are just one pitch 16th notes. Some are also light and airy and very clean, while others are overdriven and harsh. There are some great sounds here, though not much customization (no step sequencer, no multi note arps, etc). I preferred the high melodic pulses, as they are really nice and modern. For the most part, the Low Pulses were just the same 16th note pattern, with each sample simply having different levels of distortion and other processing applied. While there is still some good content, overall I found them to be lacking, and in need of some more customization options, such as a step sequencer or an arpeggiator.

Small Critiques

While this library provides an amazing variety of sounds and many of them are top notch, not every single sample is a winner, and some seem a bit too harshly processed. The “Assorted” patches were strange, as they contained some good sounds but were scattered across the keyboard seemingly at random, never knowing what you’re going to get, and once you do find a good sound, it’s very easy to simply forget where it was mapped. I think the “assorted” patches could be better labeled, such as “assorted percs”, “assorted tonal”, “assorted atonal”, “assorted texture”, etc, as this patch contains everything from a short metallic hi-hat to a distorted dub-step type wobble. The alarms category is pretty underwhelming, and overall provides content you can make with a VST Synth and bending the pitch (certain sounds in general didn’t seem to be anything groundbreaking, just synth based with some basic processing, and I feel I could make these sounds on my own). For the most part, the “Booms” were lacking in the sub-bass spectrum. The Braams are also lacking the intensity and character provided in other libraries, such as Keepforest’s Evolution Atlantica, and this library seems to be lacking in the bass area, which would otherwise make this an almost perfectly rounded package. There’s plenty of sub bass drops and what not, but as far as a Bass Instrument, it seems to be lacking in this area.

The Verdict

8.5/10

Other than the critiques mentioned above, the sheer variety and quality of sounds included is very nice, and you could easily make an entire track simply with this one library, as it provides drum kits, trailer effects, melodic synths, and pulses, all in one 3.6 gb Kontakt Library. Many of the categories included here could easily be sold as one single Kontakt Library, and they have included all of them in one, and none of them feel truly tacked on, with the exception of some of the pulses. I think this would be a great library for the beginner trailer composer, as it includes everything you could need in one place. To those more advanced who own more dedicated libraries, there may not be a lot here that’s new to you. I personally own many more specialized products, however you also have to consider the price paid for what you get, and I do believe this is a good and well rounded package. I can almost guarantee you I will be using the effects provided, as they are easy to use and offer nice options for tweaking the samples, and while some of the sounds lack the character of more expensive libraries, they also serve as a great starting point to apply some of your own sound design techniques and take them to the next level.

Pros+

+Impressive variety of content.

+Many top notch and instantly usable sounds.

+Easy to use interface and nice assortment of effects and customization options.

Cons-

-Some sounds lack the polish and character of more expensive libraries.

-Pulses could benefit from extra features (step sequencer, etc)

-Some of the sounds could be better categorized/labelled.