Native Instruments Battery: An In-depth Review For Your Music Business 2022

Manufacturer: Native Instruments
Price: zZsounds

The Battery’s Heart Battery is described as a “unparalleled programming and playback environment for drum samples” in the instructions. I say modest description because, while Battery was built from the bottom up for percussion, its creative sound playback and modification capabilities extend far beyond drums. The fact that all sample playback and processing is done from a single desktop window is one of the Battery’s most impressive features. This window is divided into three sections:

The Cell area, also known as the Sample-Matrix, is the largest, consisting of a bank of up to 54 Cells, each having a maximum of 128 Velocity Layers. This may appear to be a lot of data to be displayed in just one window. It became natural for me to think of a library’s Dewey Decimal card catalogue. Imagine a row of 54 drawers (Cells) in front of you, 6 drawers down by 9 across. Each drawer has a main label (Sample), and 128 cards (Velocity Layers) within each drawer provide information on the location and subject of the unique sample each card represents. When viewed in this light, it is clear that Battery is a powerful programme despite its modest interface. To NI’s credit, instant access to nearly every parameter is offered in a clean, easy-to-navigate interface.

The complete sample manipulation tools section for Battery is just beneath the sample-matrix holding the Cells. Processing and envelope capabilities, stacking choices, MIDI controller features, and loop functions are all available. All of these settings apply to the currently chosen Cell(s) and their related samples, and the current sample also appears as a graphic waveform display that reflects any sample processing (i.e. if you press the Reverse Sample button you will immediately see the results in the Graphic Waveform window as a reversed sound). The Output Section runs down the right side of Battery’s window. You can load whole drum kits, individual samples, panning information, and audio output destinations in this section. Depending on your sequencer software and hardware, Battery can produce up to 16 mono tracks and eight stereo tracks.

Battery’s Features

My first goal was to simply start Battery in standalone mode and play around with some of the noises. I could hear the sample by simply clicking on a Cell (which displays the sample name as well as user defined information about the sample — usually the MIDI key from which the sample is triggered). Snares, bass drums, and various toms, as well as cymbals and other strange percussion sounds, were all around me. Battery includes a wide range of samples, from smoky jazz kits to noise-drenched industrial sounds, all of which sound excellent. It even includes a percussion sound kit made with NI’s flagship software, Reaktor. Battery also works with Akai sample CDs and Steinberg’s LM4 sample format (which is utilised by the VST 2.0 LM4 drum plug-in). Companies like Wizoo sell 24bit LM4 sound sets, which are said to have excellent sound quality.

I spent some time listening to the 20 kits included with Battery and was blown away. Many of the kits span popular genres such as drum and bass, jazz, rock, reggae, house, and electro from the 1980s. These samples appear to have taken time and effort to create. There were no early cut-offs on the bass drums and toms, and the decays on cymbals and snares sounded absolutely genuine. Battery is one of my favourite games since it can sound realistic when you want it to. Furthermore, the complete dance-oriented gear sounded like it could push any techno/dance tune straight into the late hours. Some kits, however, have little to do with traditional percussion sounds. All of the sounds in the Vinyl kit feel like they were sampled from an LP, complete with all of the crackles and pops you’d expect from vinyl, as well as an open, airy sound. The Hip-Hop kit includes some fantastic samples that sound like they came straight from an Akai MPC. Argon and Wicked, for example, have some of the craziest noise-induced percussion noises I’ve ever heard. They also demonstrate how to use Battery’s sound manipulation features.

My next goal was to fire up my audio sequencer and see if I could record and handle Battery’s audio output in Digital Performer, as well as sequence the playback of Battery using MIDI. Fortunately, the comprehensive documentation describes the many audio engine options and how to install and activate them for direct routing into a specific digital audio sequencer. Setting the latency for your audio card appropriately is a crucial factor to avoid audio gremlins and inappropriate playback via your hardware; this is something that would be handled and configured by your audio device and its instructions.

It was thrilling to be able to monitor the playback via DP and my audio hardware, record my performance (audio or MIDI), and process the drum sounds using DP’s plugins, all without using a single physical plug or patch.

I started making my own kits by scrounging through hundreds of unique samples, mapping different snares, bass drums, and toms to my keyboard and recording MIDI patterns. Snare drums were played on keys C1 to G1, bass drums on keys C2 to F2, and so on. I had different beats in minutes and could switch between snare sounds by adjusting the MIDI note value in my sequencer during playback. I also swapped sounds in Battery by clicking and dragging between the cells. The parameters of what information (modulation, envelope, root key, and so on) is exchanged between the cells may be defined by the user, which is a very useful feature. With its properly set out documentation and basic, straightforward software options, Battery functioned brilliantly and was easy to fully integrate into my studio.

And There Is More

As mentioned above, Battery provides various tools to manipulate samples and display info about the samples being used. Some of these are standard; like Tune, which controls the pitch of the sample, Waveshape, which works like an expander/compressor, and Sample Reverse, which reverses the sample. Yet, Battery provides some functions that separate it from more standard “drum machine” programs for someone needing more control and ability to edit their samples.

One interesting aspect is the Mute function. Of course, mute is a standard option on most drum machine style software. Yet, Battery takes the concept of muting a bit further by allowing the user to Mute Group. In other words, the trigger of one sample will mute another. This is great for instances were you have open and closed hi-hat samples. Simply Mute Group the two hi-hats so that whenever you trigger the closed hi-hat it will automatically mute the open hi-hat, giving more realism to your drum tracks.

Another plus for Battery is that it can identify loops within a sample, so that if you made a looped file in Peak or some other sample editing software, Battery could identify the loop points. This allows you to play the sample like a sampler would — looping the sound within the sample until you release the key and then continuing on into the decay portion of the sample. On top of being able to recognize loops in AIFF and WAV files, Battery provides an FX-Loop section that allows you to loop any sample, giving you parameters for Zero Crossover, Loop Count, and Loop Start points.

On top of its various loop functions Battery also provides a Modulation Section — a little mini-menu that allows you to designate the various sample manipulating functions in Battery to dedicated MIDI controllers. In other words, you could assign your MIDI keyboard’s pitch wheel to the Tune section so that you could change the pitch of the sample in real time just like on your keyboard. Of course, your pitch wheel could also control Volume and Envelope functions, the Waveshaper, Pan, or any other parameter. Although Battery provides a wealth of choices for MIDI controllers, I wish that the software would emulate the changes. In other words, if I link my keyboards pitch wheel to the Tune knob I would like to see the knob going from left to right as I manipulate my pitch wheel, so that I could see the changes as well as hear them.

Another sound shaping device that I was exited to try was the Bitreduction function that allows you to take a 24 or 16 bit sample and reduce, or truncate, it into a 12, 8, 0, or any bit in between sample. This function has great sonic possibilities. For instance, the original Emu Emax was a 12 bit sampler whose lower bit rate gave a grungy sound that was adopted and loved by many Industrial trailblazers — like Trent Reznor. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the Bitreduction function in Battery to be as musically “grungy” as others I have encountered. It seemed a bit too hissy, and I had to go all the way down to 6 bits in many cases to get a sample that sounded more raw and dirty. Of course, this is being nit-picky.

In Conclusion

All of the above options and abilities push Battery past regular “drum machine” software and into the realm of a simple yet fairly powerful software sampler. Battery is a very elegant piece of software that can really do some powerful sonic drumming. Yet, more importantly in my opinion, is its ability to dive the user right into the world of sampling while at the same time providing great sounds and dedicated features for drum programming. I’m sure we’ll be hearing quite a few Battery “Kits” on the radio waves, yet Battery’s support of various file formats and extensive processing abilities would allow a user to fill his computer with his own personal and unique sounds. I also think Battery is a great piece of software for someone who is looking for an easy, yet powerful software sampler at a great price (less than some sample CD‘s). Simple enough to use, powerful enough not to outgrow in a few months – I found a great Battery to power up all my audio toys.

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