I am a total percussion enthusiast. From gongs to taikos to snares to glockenspiels, I like them all. Classical, ethnic, and “epic” percussion; they all are in my template and get used in pretty much every project. So, when Thunder X3M came out, I was quite interested to see how it compared to all of my other various percussion libraries. First off, let’s get something straight: X3M is not a classical percussion library, and doesn’t have much of a chance compared to standard orchestral percussion such as Berlin Percussion. However, this is definitely the best library I have for any types of raw, organic, down-to-earth, DRUM sounds. (I have included a demo at the bottom of this article, but if you’re curious to hear what I mean and don’t want to scroll down yet, you can also find it here.)
Unlike other libraries marketed for a “big” sound, X3M doesn’t focus on over-processed samples. Instead, George Strezov and his team have recorded tons (78, to be exact) of different percussion ensemble combinations together, allowing for a true ensemble sound. This is a lot different from recording the percussion individually and layering it, because the players and sounds feed off of each other’s energy and match perfectly together. All of these ensembles are at your fingertips with fully tweakable sound, thanks to the custom “Thunder X3M Engine” for Kontakt (full version, not Player). Everything was recorded with 3 mic positions in a relatively dry studio, which works great for more up-close and personal things; however add a little bit of reverb (my go-to for X3M is “Valhalla Room” from Valhalla DSP) and all of a sudden you get a HUGE sound. You can also edit transients, add a bit of post-processing in the signal chain, and pitch shift, so you can truly get the sound you want.
Video Walkthrough of Thunder X3M
This is a full walkthrough on X3M:
-Organic percussion library that works fine for just about anything, minus traditional orchestral parts
-Bundled version of the now-discontinued Thunder Series, plus loads of new content
-78 different ensembles and instruments in seven categories – Low Ensembles, High Ensembles, Ethnic Percussion, Solo Percussion, Epic Metals, Sound Design Percussion, and Distorted Percussion – with up to 10 dynamic layers and 27 round robins each
-3 mic positions plus 2 vintage analogue hardware chains
-Custom Thunder X3M engine that (among other things) allows you to create your own patches
-$329 from Strezov Sampling
-Sounds fantastic, both dry and with added reverb
-Tons of different unique drum ensembles all recorded together (instead of layering recordings of solo drums and packaging it)
-Special sound design and distorted patches created from the organic recordings
-Custom Thunder X3M engine that allows you to create and play giant percussion ensembles set-up specifically to your taste
-3 mic positions is nice, but I wouldn’t mind having more mic options and a main mix as well
-Not every ensemble has a roll patch
One of the highlights of X3M is the custom “Thunder X3M Engine”, which allows you to create your own patches. As you can see from the blank patch above, you have your basic mic positions – along with your two analogue signal chains – that you can unload to save RAM, solo, or mute, and a whole bunch of Zones. You also have NEW to clear all zones, LOAD to load in a preset, SAVE to save a preset, HELP to display little notes over the interface explaining everything, and RR to reset the round robins. Underneath each Zone, you can adjust the pitch for each (cool tip: if you pitch shift an ensemble down an octave, keep another one as-is, and play them together, you get really full sound), as well as the transients. The keyboard is color-coded and corresponds to each Zone. If you click a Zone, you get to the second part of the interface.
This second interface is where you can create your custom zones. You have a total of 12 zones, and each fit in a percussion patch. I currently have Zone 2 selected, and the corresponding part of the keyboard has turned white to show me where it’s located. Inside Zone 2, I have loaded the Ethnic Percussion patch “Cajon High”. I can now continue editing each zone; as well as the pitch and transient from the first page, I can also do a basic high, mids, and low EQ as well as individually mix the mics for that patch. Something very cool is that the X3M engine automatically loads selected samples and purges unused samples, to fully optimize your RAM. So, you can create fully-customized percussion patches playable throughout the keyboard. There is also an identical set-up for drum rolls, though not every ensemble includes them.
Yet again, Strezov Sampling has created a new standard that is sure to be found in many arsenals. Thunder X3M is just great; and the amount of variety and customization is pretty amazing. Small ethnic rhythms, full pounding trailer drums, and pretty much anything in-between, X3M can handle with ease. Like I mentioned earlier, I have a LOT of percussion libraries. That being said, all 78 X3M instruments have been permanently added to my template, and are now my go-to for that sheer drum sound.
The Beast – A Demo
I only used Thunder X3M with no external processing to create this raw track.