Heavyocity is known for top-shelf sample collections that combine production-ready cinematic sounds wrapped up in cleverly designed interfaces that take advantage of the custom scripting options in Native Instruments Kontakt player. Aeon Collection continues this trend, combining two sound libraries that previously were available separately. Both are aimed squarely at sound designers and composers looking for textures, impacts, instruments, and loops that go beyond traditional orchestral fare.
PROS: Creative, expertly produced sounds that manage to bring something fresh to the increasingly crowded market of “cinematic soundware.” Impressive sound-shaping controls available from the custom user interface.
CONS: Can’t create new presets by combining individual sample layers within a single instrument instance.
Bottom Line: Aeon Melodic and Rhythmic are chock-full of evocative, expressive, and ultimately usable sounds that will give an immediate injection of inspiration to your sonic palette. If you produce sound design or compose music for media, check it out.
Aeon Collection: $399 street | Aeon Melodic: $299 street | Aeon Rhythmic: $199 street | heavyocity.com
Aeon Collection comprises two separate libraries, Melodic and Rhythmic, each of which is laser-focused on contemporary, cutting-edge sounds that would be right at home in any music-for-media production (e.g., TV, film, video games, etc.). Billing Melodic and Rhythmic as “libraries,” however, isn’t giving full credit to the level of programmability that’s available through their custom interfaces, which put a great deal of realtime tweaking at your fingertips, making these collections more like true virtual instruments in their own right.
Melodic and Rhythmic feature essentially the same interface, which is divided into three pages: Main, Trigger FX, and EQ/Filter. From the Main page you can adjust the four master effects: reverb, delay, distortion and the generically named “modulation” effect, which combines chorus and phaser. Many of the presets benefit from multiple master effects, which give the sounds a more polished and finished quality.
Trigger FX are a set of five insert effects — distortion, lo-fi, filter, panner, and pitch modulation — that can be applied instantly during a performance by holding down (i.e., “triggering”) specific keys toward the extreme upper register of the keyboard. Heavyocity’s Damage (reviewed Dec. ’12) also features Trigger FX, but Aeon’s are more advanced with a set of 32-step sequencers that can modulate a variety of effect parameters. I found the Trigger FX to be a great way to improvise with a particular sound over the course of a cue, adding subtle and dramatic changes to the mix.
Similarly, you can rhythmically gate the audio output in quarter-, eighth-, and sixteenth-note subdivisions to create stutter- and dubstep-like effects. Collectively the Trigger FX and gating options make it possible to tweak and sculpt the sounds in creative ways that take the sample content well beyond its original character.
You can push Aeon even further by cranking the Punish and Twist knobs (available in the main page’s center section), which introduce compression, saturation, and an “animated, tone-altering effect that twists the audio,” respectively. In practice, it’s fun stuff for adding extra grit and edginess.
As for the sample content itself, Melodic is organized into five sound categories: Hits, Organic, Organic (Arp), Synth, Synth (Arp), and Hybrid. Hits are single impacts and sonic trails that are perfect fodder for stings and transitions. These sounds have been skillfully layered and processed, making it difficult to identify just exactly what the original sources are. Many are low, distorted textures that have a vaguely acoustic quality (e.g., low brass, acoustic piano). Think of the Inception soundtrack or just about any sci-fi action movie trailer from the last year and you’ll have a good idea what these hits sound like.
Organic instruments are divided into eight subcategories such as brass, bells, eclectic ensembles, ethnic instruments, and more, and are the most dynamically sampled instruments in the bunch, featuring multiple velocities and round-robin samples. There aren’t a lot of Organic presets to choose from relative to the other categories, but what this category lacks in numbers it makes up for in quality. These are some truly evocative, moody textures perfect for jump-starting your creative juices. Many presets combine two or three acoustic sources in unexpected ways, such as the “Cellos-Bowed Cowbell-Piano” and “Glock-B3-Bowed Crotales,” to name two.
The Synths category offers the most presets, many of which have been programmed with an ear toward edgy sound design. You won’t find any polite pads here, and I mean this as a compliment.
As you might guess, the two Arp categories serve up the Organic and Synths presets with rhythmic and melodic variations created via the built-in 128-step multitrack arpeggiator. (“Arp” refers to that, not ARP synthesizers.) The Arp presets do a respectable job of showing off what’s possible, though you might want to program more “conservative” patterns if you’re writing music that’s not supposed to distract from a scene.
The Rhythmic library is arranged in three main categories: Menu Suites, Single Loops, and Three-Loop Combos. I should point out that there are no multisampled kits, nor are the loops of the bombastic percussion variety (for that you’ll want to check out Heavyocity’s Damage). The loops are tonal and primarily synthetic in character, with plenty of brooding pulses, heart-pounding bass lines, and simmering distorted grooves perfect for heightening the dramatic impact of a cue.
Menu Suites map individual loops across the keyboard, allowing you to quickly assemble a rhythmic bed by playing different combinations of keys, while the Single Loop presets present a complete loop mapped across the lower octave of the keyboard for easy transposition, and individual slices mapped chromatically, REX-style, starting the octave above. I especially like this format, as it makes it easy to create variations or entirely new loops by triggering slices in a different order. There’s also a MIDI-to-Host function that allows you to drag and drop loops as MIDI performances into your sequencer a la Stylus RMX.
Aeon Melodic and Rhythmic are impressive collections stocked with well-produced and musically useful sounds that offer something out of the ordinary. Aesthetically, the focus is definitely on cinematic soundtrack and sound design work, although I could imagine some presets working nicely in the context of certain electronic styles.
Heavyocity has gained a reputation for producing premium soundware, and Aeon definitely lives up to this expectation. If either of the two instruments piques your interest, take my advice and buy the entire collection. You’ll save a hundred bucks and you definitely won’t be disappointed.