Wednesday, July 10, 2019

REVIEW: Hauschka Composer Toolkit by Spitfire Audio

Spitfire Audio releases a collaborated release with Oscar-nominated, world-renowned composer and sound-smith Volker Bertelmann, aka Hauschka (Lion, Adrift).

This library is designed for adding depth, tension and texture to your scores.


General Controls Interface

This view allows further in-depth control of the instrument, showing all available signals and feature controllers, as well as the ability to purge techniques from memory to reduce system usage.

The Evo Grid

Based on the EMS VCS3 synth, this extraordinary and unique interface allows for instant gratification and customization. With 1 or 2 clicks, you will be armed with something totally unique and inspiring. Scroll the Evo Grid to discover and activate Evos that are not visible. Pan and tweak each Evo for perfect blending. Punch in or out 3 useful modulators and effects. Mix your mic positions, all from the front panel.

Mercury Synth

The mercury synth is the front end for all Spitfire Audio's steampunked, sound designed and warped section of any library. It is an ingenious user interface that allows you to have instant fun without having to roll up your sleeves and go under the Kontakt hood. All of the controls are assignable to your control surface giving you the immediate ability to make our sounds your own.

 Volker Bertelmann is a one-of-a-kind composer and pianist from Düsseldorf, best known under his stage name, Hauschka. He started playing the piano at the age of nine. In 2017, Hauschka received an Oscar nomination for his and Dustin O'Halloran’s score for the movie Lion, and has also scored for movies such as Adrift, Hotel Mumbai and the TV series Dublin Murders. In February this year, Bertelmann released his latest solo album A Different Forest – a heartfelt, tender record, featuring just the piano.


Volker Bertelmann (aka Hauschka) recorded this library on a Steinway Grand at Berlin’s famous Voxton Studios, however, The Hauschka Composer Toolkit, is far from a typical virtual piano instrument. It's a sound design tool of remarkable potential that primarily fits in an experimental niche.  The unconventional ways of recording this library caught my attention. His use of ping pongs, tea lights, and other objects bouncing off the strings during the recordings gives the piano an original organic fabrication. Combined with an array of Pedal FX and a Modular FX mic, Hauschka brings a pad-like sound to the Steinway. However, there aren't only engaging textures, but a satisfying selection of rhythmic percussive sounds all created from the piano using toy drums, tambourines, wooden pegs, and more.

After installing the toolkit and opening it within Kontakt you will find seven nki presets. There are two folders named Advanced and Artist Presets. However, let's look at the seven patches first. They are lettered A-F and are as follows Plug Hits grid, Plug Rhythms Grid 120BPM, Plug Rhythms 90BPM, Pad Sounds Grid, Pad Hits, Swells Grid, and Drum Kit. One thing I like within the Swells Grid preset is that I could create an ethereal or ominous atmosphere in little time. The other patches are unique and special in many ways. It's a mysterious emotional library complete with otherworldly sounds perfect for that composer or electronic musician searching for something uncommon.

The other sections I need to go over is the Advanced and Artist Presets.Within the Advanced folder, you have Plug Hits and Plug Rhythms. These have patches using Felt wedges, Fingernail plucks, Gaffer tape roll, tealight metal, ping pong balls, wood mutes, necklace, and natural piano. The third section is Pad Sounds that contain Damped Piano Swarm, Necklace Pad, Ping Pong Balls Pad, Scratchy Strings Pad, Tambourine Pad, Tealight Metal Pad, and unprepared Fingertip Pad. The fourth is Pad Hits, which uses Damped Piano Hits, Scratch Hits, and Tambourine Hits. Lastly, there are Swells which have Mallet Swells, Octave Swells, and Single Key Swells. All the presets in the advanced section have a Pure & Warp option. As you can see by the titles, there is a large amount of odd and unorthodox attributes.

One important detail I need to state is that most of the presets are not dressed up with a lot of effects already applied like reverb, decay, sustain, etc. It gives you the ability to hear the sample in a drier state and therefore allowing you to apply what you want within the GUI effects. Once you begin treating the patches with features, including multiple mic positions, ADSR, and the variety of fx, the results really shine.

The Hauschka Composer Toolkit has many features that you may miss out on if you don't spend enough time with it.  I encourage to read over the manual when diving in.  My only request is that Spitfire Audio would increase the size of the Standard GUI, Evo Grid, and Mercury Synth interfaces.
The grid and control dials are smaller than I like when using a laptop. However, this library runs smoothly within Kontakt, loads quickly and is efficient on my CPU.

The Artist Presets are a lot of fun and offer a variety of inspiration. With titles like A Scanner Darkly, Event Horizon, and The Abyss, you can imagine the distinct timbre that sound may hold.
It's a large library weighing in at a 24.5 GB, and it is Kontakt Free Player compatible. 
What more can I say?

Hauschka is an Oscar-nominated composer for the film Lion, and the opportunity to add this to your sound palette is a gift. Spitfire Audio has released an addition to their signature collection of libraries that is evocative, tense, and immersive. It may not be for everyone, but if you put in the time, you'll find its vast possibilities. The Hauschka Composer Toolkit is an experimental piano library with enough edginess and ingenuity to warrant a commendable recommendation.

4.5 OUT OF 5 


Written by Steve Montgomery 
(Composer for Infinite Mindscape & Darkmood)

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