Native Instruments Battery 2

I was expecting Battery 2 to be a beatbox on steroids, but actually, it’s da beatz without da box…in other wordz, it’s a drum sampler.

Native Instruments Battery 2 reviewed in The Technofile by MC Rebbe The Rapping Rabbi

At its heart is a drum/sample matrix selectably viewable as either 12 or 9 columns by 6 rows, giving a total of 72 or 54 cells reeeespectively. Right click on one of these cells, choose ‘add sample’ and a browser window opens, allowing you to audition samples before loading them. The list of files supported is extensive and includes Kontakt, Battery, wav, aiff, HALion, Samplecell, LM4, Gigasampler, REX/REX2 & Akai S1000/3000…amongst others…and you can load a total of 128 (which don’t necessarily have to be drum/rrrhythmic samples)…into each cell!

Once you’ve loaded your samples you can edit each cell’s parameters using the edit pane beneath the sample matrix area. The edit pane is divided into four main sections. The envelope section displays the sample waveform, simultaneously superimposing on it the pitch and one of two selectable amplitude envelopes, which can be individually adjusted or switched off completely. The modify section provides controls for ‘tuning’, ‘saturation’ (which can be set to a negative as well as a positive value), ‘bits’ (surely that should be bitz?) which allows you to adjust the bit rate from 16 down to 6 and ‘hertz’ which allows you to reduce the sample rate all the way down to 1KHz, making for great low-fi FX. The output section is simply that, offering just master volume, pan and routing controls and the edit pane is completed with a window containing six tabs labelled ‘cell’, ‘map’, ‘mod’, ‘filter’, ‘comp’ and ‘loop’.

‘Cell’ handles the housekeeping, allowing you to name/rename the cell, set the midi channel(s) and key range that will trigger it (or use the learn function which, sensibly, allows setting of key range direct from your controller) and set up voice groups (which, amongst other things, allow you to more accurately simulate the way a drummer plays a kit by preventing an open and a closed high hat from sounding together). It also offers a sample reverse button and a ‘Round Robin’ function that allows you to select a set of similar but not identical sounding samples, which are automatically cycled through each time the controller to which they have been assigned is triggered, effectively allowing you to humanise’ your drum programming…which is all very well, but I’d prefer a way to humanise drummers…

‘Map’ provides simple intuitive graphical editing of the velocity range of each sample in the cell and of velocity crossfades between them. ‘Mod’ offers a comprehensive LFO section (that can be synced to the host sequencer if Battery 2 is running as a plug in as opposed to stand alone) with up to 8 modulation paths, whose sources can include real time external controllers. ‘Filter’ allows you to choose from 15 different types of filter including low pass, high pass, band pass, band EQ, phaser and two different vowel filters, edit them graphically or choose from a bunch of handy presets that includes old chestnuts like ‘Bottom Enhancer’ and ‘Old Radio’. ‘Comp’ is a basic compressor with a handful of presets and ‘Loop’ allows you to…loop, up to four different sections of your sample, which, when used cleverly, in conjunction with Battery’s envelopes, allows sounds to repeat indefinitely as they evolves over time, making the big B much more than just a ‘one shot’ sample playback device.

Battery 2 ships with an integral 3.7GB sample library that includes 82 kits covering everything from acoustic, jazz and GM, to Afro Caribbean, orchestral, human beatboxes, electronica and speciality kits. Sample quality is excellent. The Timpani kits in particular are spectacular and the ‘Best of’ FM7’ and ‘Best of Absynth’ kits sound so good they’ll make you want to buy the respective apps. If that’s not enough, then you can load your own samples and utilise Battery’s powerful and simple to use sound editing facilities to quickly and easily create whole new palettes of sounds which can then be saved as additional kits.

I do have a few niggles…with attitude. For example, there’s no full screen option and instead of bearing initials, the ‘solo’ and ‘mute’ buttons on each cell are colour coded…I’d prefer S & M…

I also have one major complaint. Although you can load up to 127 different samples into each cell (which can make for some incredibly powerful sounds), with the exception of setting their start/end points and velocity mapping/cross fading, there’s no facility to play around with these samples individually, as all other parameters in the edit pane apply globally to everything in the cell. This means that if you want to stack lots of sounds together, whilst retaining editability, you need to either go back and forth between Battery and a separate sampler (which is incredibly time consuming and destroys all the spontaneity of Battery) or assign individual samples to different cells which are then assigned to the same key range (which uses up valuable cells, limiting the size of your kit). Being able to apply everything in the edit pane to individual samples, in addition to the cell in which they reside, would make Battery 2 exponetionally more powerful and flexible (as well as exponentially more demanding upon system resources).

And talking of more powerful and flexible…and demanding… the two other things that I’d love to see added are a pattern sequencer and, far more importantly, a comprehensive FX tab offering multiple (not single) FX such as delays, reverbs, modulation FX, etc., for each cell (not each individual sample), which is something that would make this plug in truly outstanding.

But even without these, the bottom line is that Battery 2 provides an innovative method of quickly easily and intuitively creating a range of drum sounds and kits that run the gamut from subtle realism to extreme noise terrorism, making it extremely useful for sound designers and drum programmers everywhere, as well as excellent value for money at 199 Euros.

Native Instruments Battery 2 awarded 4 bagels in The Technofile by MC Rebbe The Rapping Rabbi

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