Phenex is the latest addition to 8Dio’s massively popular Hybrid Tools series of cinematic sound design products. In contrast to its predecessors though, this new sample library isn’t so much about spectacular sound effects like impacts, risers, drones, and the like, but focuses more on the musical, evocative side of production.
Phenex was created by capturing an elusive collection of vintage analog and hardware synthesizers. Staying true to the analog spirit, these synthesizers were recorded through a strictly analog processing chain to achieve a vivid and grounded tone quality. As the developers put it, Phenex promises to offer “luscious pads to ominous drones, advanced textural synthesis, to ground trembling basses and human/inhuman percussive vocal loops.”
I had the chance to check out 8Dio’s Hybrid Tools Phenex Bundle which combines the two volumes Phenex Modular Analog Basses, Pads & Strings, and Phenex Modular Analog FX & Tools. Let’s have a look!
The almost 22GB-large Hybrid Tools Phenex Bundle features over 4,500 individual samples and comes with a variety of dozens of multi-sampled instruments. Both libraries are designed to work with the full version of KONTAKT 5.8.1 or later. The Phenex bundle is spread across 8 different sound categories whose patches contain various collections of subsets. For example, the Analog Basses patch, once loaded into KONTAKT, allows you to pick and choose from 54 individual Bass sound presets.
These are all the sound categories included in the Phenex bundle:
- Analog Basses (Phenex Modular Analog Basses, Pads & Strings)
- Analog Pads (Phenex Modular Analog Basses, Pads & Strings)
- Analog Strings (Phenex Modular Analog Basses, Pads & Strings)
- Vocals Pads (Phenex Modular Analog Basses, Pads & Strings)
- Vocal Loops (Phenex Modular Analog Basses, Pads & Strings)
- Cybernetic Banks (Phenex Modular Analog FX & Tools)
- Mutation Banks (Phenex Modular Analog FX & Tools)
- Xperiments (Phenex Modular Analog FX & Tools)
While most of these categories are labeled rather self-explanatory, some patches are named a bit more cryptically (especially the ones featured in Phenex Modular Analog FX & Tools). We will find out more about what Cybernetic Banks and Xperiments are a little bit later in this review.
Like all the other Hybrid Tools-series products, Phenex is equipped with 8Dio’s tried-and-tested custom 3D user interface. The photo-realistic GUI provides you with a selection of multiple presets in one single patch. This allows you to have access to many different sounds at once and also provides the opportunity to stack and layer various presets together. This can yield beautifully rich and complex sounds.
The interface isn’t only a sample player though, it also comes with a good deal of manipulation, modulation, and processing options. Besides basic ADSR envelope and pitch controls, Phenex’s user interface offers a fully-fledged step sequencer and FX section for every patch.
This way, you can turn rather static sounds like basses and pads into interesting, rhythmic pulses or process a sound beyond recognition through the elaborate FX menu. The latter is powered by Kontakt’s own, stock effects modules. It provides everything you need from standard processors like EQ, filters, and reverb, to more experimental tools like the convolution-based “Transformer” or a gnarly sounding bitcrusher/degrader.
There’s also 8Dio’s trademark Chaos engine, which allows you to randomize certain or all parameters of a patch, often resulting in crazy and/or unusual results.
ANALOG BASSES, PADS & STRINGS
Let’s dive a bit more into the two editions of Phenex that make up the bundle, starting with the main library “Modular Analog Basses, Pads & Strings”. One thing the product title doesn’t reveal right away is that this volume of Phenex also comes with a few additional vocal pads that really sound amazing – more on that a little later.
One thing worth pointing out right from the get-go is that each and every bass, pad, and string sound is sampled almost across the entire keyboard range. That means you don’t just get a one-shot sample of a hardware synth sound stretched across the keyboard, but a realistic snapshot of the original analog patch. This adds a lot to the organic feel of the library and provides the whole library with a very smooth and natural sound.
Playing through the various patches and presets of Phenex makes it easy to fall in love with the sound of the library. The synth basses feel weighty and round with a crisp edge. The sounds included are reminiscent of classic analog mono synths like the Minimoog or Oberheim SEM – fat, warm and organic. There are also some more digital and harsher sounding presets included which work great when stacked together with the smooth analog ones.
The analog pads and strings have a beautiful shimmer to them and sometimes evolve slowly over time. These presets range from Jupiter– and Juno-esque smoothness to digital clarity and work very well together with orchestral instruments. The synth strings patches add a wonderful depth when paired with live orchestral strings.
Lastly, the vocal pads make for an interesting addition to the library, sonically lingering somewhere between retro-choir samples and synthesized voices. These ethereal pads – deriving from the classic Alesis Andromeda synthesizer – blur the line between organic and synthesized. They sound beautiful and lush have kind of a nostalgic 80s vibe to them.
ANALOG FX & TOOLS
Let’s check out the second part of the Phenex bundle, the Modular Analog FX & Tools. This second volume is definitely the more experimental of the two as it contains some atonal and strangely morphing sounds.
Starting with the “Xperiments” patch, we get a collection of weird, undulating drones and atmospheres. You can hear filters slowly opening and closing, some of the sounds even drift off tonally over time. These are really cool to set a certain mood for a scene (probably a sinister one!).
The Cybernetics patch contains three subsets that are filled with robotic sound effects. Think of Transformers or Pacific Rim. These cyborg-like sounds could not only work very well for sci-fi transitions or accents, they could also make for interesting dubstep-style fills.
The Mutations bank of sounds featured a cool selection of very bizarre, unnerving atmospheres that could come right out of the Alien soundtrack. While some of the sounds have a very clear tonal center, others are way more dissonant and harder to grasp.
Finally, we have another bank of vocal sounds, this time presented in a looped fashion. Vocal Loops provides you with a multitude of rhythmic vocalizations and breath noises that are perfect for introducing some kind of human feel to your production. The loops automatically tempo-sync to your host tempo and can also be further processed using the interface’s tools.
The Phenex Bundle is a great addition to 8Dio’s Hybrid Tools series, not only in that it adds a ton of new sounds. By introducing more melodic and musical content, these two libraries also offer a different pathway to sound design compared to their predecessors.
The included sounds successfully manage to convey an authentic analog vibe that feels lively and warm. The pool of sounds and presets to choose from is huge, although some categories seem to offer quite a few variations on one sound. If it was done to inflate the sample count or to offer more options, I can’t tell. Nonetheless, there’s a lot to choose from and the majority of sounds feels fresh and unique.
Whether you’re searching to infuse your orchestral compositions with some powerful analog synth tone or need some cool FX for your electronic production, 8Dio’s Phenex Bundle will definitely provide you with hours worth of great content.
The Phenex Bundle is available for $248 through 8Dio’s online store. Both volumes can be purchased individually for $198 (Modular Analog Basses, Pads & Strings) and $98 (Modular Analog FX & Tools).