Bad Cat Pack – Review
The Bad Cat Pack is a collection of samples (6 Sample Packs Bundled Together £42 – 33% Discount) put together with loving care and attention to detail by Marcus Huyskens of the Bad Cat Media Group. What makes these instruments of particular interest is that they not only sound great and feel great to play, but are also created with sound design in mind. The interface and controls provided are set up to allow simple and intuitive shaping of the sound with extremely imaginative and pleasing results. They are all beautifully recorded with great mics and preamps, and are set up with plenty of velocity layers and round robin samples. I’ll describe each briefly, and then show you them in action.
The Lucky Harp
The Lucky Harp is a multi sample Celtic harp in Kontakt format. It comes in two versions: diatonic and chromatic. They both feel great to play and sound great. Where it really gets interesting though is when the custom impulse response it ships with is added. The simple verb and decay controls not only place the sound in the perfect space, they also help open up the whole audio “picture” across the stereo spectrum, giving depth and dimension to the instrument. The attack and release controls operate in the optimal ranges necessary to obscure the attack and lengthen the release the perfect amount to morph the sound into a gorgeous pad-like texture.
Good glockenspiel sample sets are harder to create than one might imagine. It is a delicate sounding instrument generally played with a hard mallet. It can be difficult for players to control the volume and tonality produced by the mallets across its full range and at all dynamic levels. There are two challenges when recording them that require care and attention. The first challenge is to get a smooth sample set across the entire range of the instrument at all dynamic levels. The combination of the high range of the instrument combined with the use of hard mallets often lends the sound a sharp and brittle quality. The second challenge is to capture a sound that is not too strident and cutting, yet with enough personality for it to stand out in a mix.
The Indi Glock is perfectly sampled with a Ribbon Mic and heavily driven tube preamp. The combination of this traditionally “dark” sounding signal path with an instrument that can too easily sound harsh results in a perfect tone. Smooth is not generally an adjective used to describe glockenspiel samples, but this is a smooth sounding instrument. It comes in two versions, one recorded with traditional legato mallet strokes, the other with muted mallet strokes. It is difficult for players to control the sustain on this instrument, so the inclusion of a dedicated muted sample set is a real bonus.
As with the Lucky Harp, the onboard impulse response here creates the perfect space for the sound. The inclusion of a dedicated width control that can be toggled on/off separately from the reverb is a really nice touch. It allows for a beautifully wide stereo image, or narrowly focused sound, independent of the actual space it is placed in. The Indi Glock as well has dedicated attack and release controls that help shape the sound not only naturally, but more interestingly, unnaturally. There is a dedicated EXS 24 version as well. It doesn’t have the added impulse response and width controls. But these are easily compensated for with Logic Pro X’s Space Designer and the wide range of impulse responses it has to choose from, and either the Direction Mixer or Stereo Spread plug-ins. The attack and release controls are readily available in the main EXS 24 GUI.
The Performachord is a reed style keyboard instrument that is somewhat of a cross between an accordion and an organ. There are two sample sets included here. The first is strictly for left hand voicings. Playing single notes triggers major or minor chords in different ranges. The other is for right hand single note lines. Combined they capture the character of the instrument beautifully.
Playing this instrument feels great, and it’s got a lot more personality than traditional accordion samples. It’s sampled smoothly across the entire range of the instrument, with multiple velocity layers and round robin samples. The sampled left hand chords really add to the authenticity of the instruments vibe by ensuring stylistically correct voicings. The instrument’s fan noise and key noise can be controlled optionally for added realism. And both left hand and right hand versions include custom impulse responses as well to create the perfect sense of space and dimension for the instrument.
The Bass Pedals
This instruments consists of multi mic’d samples of Hammond organ bass pedals. They have a unique sound with a lot of character that makes them great either on their own or layered with other bass sounds.
There are multiple instruments in this library, each sampled with two mics, a dynamic mic and a ribbon mic. Each instrument is built around various organ settings that shape the sound at source. The Kontakt version has a lot of tone shaping control in the GUI, plus the ability to blend the dynamic and ribbon mic versions.
The EXS 24 ships with two versions of each instrument, one for each of the two mics used. And it is striking to hear the difference in character and colour produced with these two mics. If you don’t think Hammond bass pedals are for you, don’t rule them out so quickly. They work great as a sub low end blended with other sorts of bass sounds, making them suitable in a wide variety of musical styles.
The Music Box
This was the first sample set Bad Cat Media released, and it is their most popular. Here they have sampled 16 different music boxes, along with all the creaks and squeaks and wind up noises. As with their other instruments, this one also blend the needs of musicians with those of sound designers. It feels great to play as a musical instrument. The eight velocity layers blend together perfectly, and the natural noises inherent in the source sounds make them very life like. But it really shines as a sound design vehicle. Playing with the attack and release controls gives it a macabre type of sound that we connote with eerie, scary, horror like soundscapes. Add in some modulation and ambience, and this instrument is over the top with rich, colourful and iconic sounding colours. The Kontakt interface includes impulse response, width, warmth, and release controls. The EXS 24 version provides ample ADSR controls in its interface. Add in some third party effects processing and it yields an equally rich palette of sonic textures.
Marcus Huyskens is a hard working dedicated developer; plus a hell of a nice guy to boot! The attention and detail in each of his instruments is obvious from the first note you play. He confided to me that the PerformaChord is his favourite of the bunch. “Very deeply sampled”, to use his words. They all sound wonderful to me and I think the eclectic nature of the instruments make them a valuable addition to any composer or sound designer’s sound palette. Check out the video below to get a sense of the sound and quality of this fabulous library.
6 Sample Packs Bundled Together £42 – 33% Discount