After the first three successful installments, Gothic Instruments is back with their fourth volume of their exclusive drones & ambience creation engine DRONAR – this time introducing DRONAR Dark Synthesis. DRONAR Dark Synthesis focuses on the realm of gloomy and mysterious retro synth sound design which was recently revived by soundtracks to blockbuster TV shows and movies like Stranger Things, Ghost In The Shell and the upcoming Blade Runner 2049.
We got our hands on a pre-release version of DRONAR Dark Synthesis to find out what this atmospheric sound design tool is capable of and are going to see where its place in a modern media composer’s toolkit might be.
Like its predecessors DRONAR Live Strings, Hybrid Module and Guitarscapes, Dark Synthesis comes as a playable sample library for Native Instruments’ full version of the KONTAKT engine. Within the library’s roughly 7GB large sample pool, you’ll find a diverse collection of tonal colors deriving from twisted recordings of guitars, live strings but first and foremost of all sorts of synthesizers. All of the 156 pre-designed sound patches are geared towards the dark, cinematic and mysterious – a musical trend currently heard a lot in recent TV drama and crime shows like Netflix’s Stranger Things and HBO’s Vikings for example.
Here’s a quick overview of DRONAR Dark Synthesis’ features:
over 200 designed source sounds
156 patches each built from a mix of 8 individual source sounds
7GB of samples
Expert and beginner friendly
6 pages of controls
Rhythm Editor & LFO
Independent arpeggiators for every section
Onboard FX provide further sound design options
Like the other DRONAR editions, Dark Synthesis is laid out in a modular fashion which is easy to grasp for beginners and composers with a tight deadline but also leaves more than enough space for seasoned sound designers to get experimental. The whole library centers around four sound layers, conveniently sectioned into Low, Mid, High and FX. Those four layers can be armed with up to two different sound sources each, making it possible to create elaborate blends consisting of up to eight different sounds. DRONAR’s built-in key analysis feature looks at the notes you hit on the keyboard, recognizes chords and intelligently assigns each note to a layer. This makes it very easy to perform lush, complex chordal ambiences by just playing two- to three-note combinations.
Apart from a large variety of base sounds you can combine freely, Gothic Instruments’ DRONAR engine provides you with a multitude of modulation, processing and rhythmitizing options. Those include a global LFO, multiple effects, a rhythm editor as well as individual arpeggiators for each of the four sound layers. The sum of all those options opens up a wealth of possibilities to customize patches and make generic sounds entirely your own.
However, to start out and get a good glimpse of the tonal spectrum of the library, it’s probably best to start by loading one of the many pre-designed patches or sound banks.
PATCHES & PRESET STRUCTURE OF DARK SYNTHESIS
As with the other volumes of DRONAR, Dark Synthesis comes with an extensive list of elaborate, pre-designed patches made by Gothic Instruments’ team of renowned composers and sound designers. These provide a great starting point to test out the library and to see what it’s all about. Just like the name suggests, it’s best to start with the folder at the top of the instruments’ list labeled “Menus – Start Here”. It contains all of the pre-designed content neatly organized into menus which essentially are collections of certain preset patches that loosely fit together in tone and style. Each of the 13 menus contains 12 presets you can choose from and switch between by hitting one of the keys between F0 and E1. The “Dark Electronics” folder for example provides you with 12 presets that showcase the library’s pool of vintage synth sounds, including various cold, mysterious and slightly distorted drones. Of course, you can always take a preset, go in there and change certain parameters of sound and modulation features. Just make sure you save your freshly made patch under its own name.
If you want to work on a certain preset or start your own preset bank, you can enter one of the category folders and load up any of the presets found on a menu individually. Since this particular preset is copied across all 12 keyswitches, you can create your own variations of a patch pretty easily and switch back and forth between them on the run.
DRONAR DARK SYNTHESIS’ INTERFACE
Dark Synthesis shares most of its controls and functions with its predecessors – after all they’re housed within the same DRONAR engine. The library’s interface is laid out across six control pages, each featuring a different set of controls and degree of customization. The two pages you’ll probably find yourself working on the most are The Main Page and the Expert Page.
While the Main Page provides you with just the bare necessities of controls you need to create evolving drones, the Expert View is where the real business is going on. Here you can choose from all the available source sounds and control individual envelopes, filter cutoffs and LFO modulations. I went into detail on all the functions of DRONAR’s interface in my review for DRONAR Live Strings recently, so feel free to check it out if you’re looking for some more more in-depth info.
THE SOUND OF DARK SYNTHESIS
The use of synthesizers in cinematic music definitely isn’t a new thing, after all they’ve been introduced by synth ambassadors like Vangelis (Blade Runner), John Carpenter (Halloween, The Fog) or Hans Zimmer (do I even need to list credits?) decades ago. However, in recent times, the prominent use of vintage analog and modular synthesizers in cinematic soundtracks became en vogue again when composers like Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein (Stranger Things) or Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Boston, Gone Girl) brought it back to the mainstream.
With it’s nicely curated, twisted sound sources and a wealth of modulation options, Dark Synthesis provides everything you would expect from a library celebrating a synthesized, somewhat retro-style cinematic sound. You get loads of dark, wobbly and slightly detuned pads, cold and glassy atmos and warm, analog basses. On top, you’ll find some really interesting processed live sounds in the collection that can add an alienated type of organic feel to the synth sounds.
DRONAR DARK SYNTHESIS TRAILER
Building upon the exceptional DRONAR engine, Dark Synthesis represents another well-crafted and diverse sounding set of tonal colours in Gothic Instruments catalogue of atmospheric sound creation tools. Focusing on the sound of twisted and retro-style synthesizers, Dark Synthesis really lets you dive into this world of futuristic darkness and mystery. The engine’s intelligent key analysis feature and multifaceted modulation options help to effortlessly create elaborate and evolving underscores. If you’re looking to inject some analog synth retro charm with a contemporary edge to your compositions, DRONAR Dark Synthesis is definitely a tool to have your eyes on.
DRONAR Dark Synthesis costs £59.95 ($75.97) but for two weeks (until 27th June) there will be a 20% introduction discount. In addition to this, anyone who already owns another DRONAR volume gets another 20% discount off Dark Synthesis, adding up to a 40% discount.