Today we will be checking out Density by London-based developer Mammoth Audio. Density is an extensive cinematic sample library for the industry-standard KONTAKT engine that features over 1,500 individual one-shot sounds as well as a variety of multi-sampled instruments and loops. It’s designed as a definitive toolkit for movie trailers, TV, and game composers. In this review, we will have a look and listen to the sounds, functions, and options Density has to offer.
Density is a sample library powered by Native Instruments’ KONTAKT engine. It requires a full version of KONTAKT 5.7.3 and above. In addition to the sampler patches, Density offers all the sounds in audio file format, too – perfect for drag-and-drop operation.
Let’s have a quick overview of what Density is comprised of and the features the sample library brings to the table:
- Almost 8GB sample content
- Over 1,500 one-shot samples from 9 sound categories
- 3 multi-sampled instrument patches (cello, tuba, throat singing)
- Various loops (clock ticks, vocal phrases, string rhythms, brass rhythms)
- Dedicated twin-layer GUI engine powered by KONTAKT
- Comprehensive processing and modulation options
(NO) NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
While Density is the first commercially available sample instrument published by Mammoth Audio, the team behind the brand itself is, in fact, no newcomer to the scene. With their parent company Elephant Music, founded by Vikram Gudi, the composers and sound designers responsible for Density are well-known for successfully producing music for picture for over a decade. Credits include motion picture advertising campaigns for various Hollywood franchises and high-profile video games as well as trailers for all leading streaming platforms including Netflix, Amazon Prime, and AppleTV+.
Knowing this, chances are the team may know which kind of sounds a media composer needs and what quality standards they should meet to be featured in big campaigns.
One of the most noticeable features of Density is the library’s photorealistic user interface. The vacuum tube/glow wire look on a dark-grey surface appears very flashy but is at the same time easy on the eye. The interface itself features quite a good deal of functions you may know from other comparable instruments including volume, pan and pitch controls, envelope shaping, as well as various master FX.
However, a special feature of Density is its twin-layer sample engine design. Accessible through dedicated menus, you can load two layers from any sound category which are then mapped out and color-coded automatically for you on the keyboard. Should you decide that you only need one of the layers, you can simply turn off the other one, which unloads it from your RAM and clears the respective keyboard mapping. The twin-layer engine is not only restricted to one-shot samples, so you can easily load one of the multi-sampled instruments into one and a collection of one-shot effect sounds into the second layer.
Another cool features of Density are the Mangle and Distort controls represented by two large round bulbs in the middle of the GUI’s main window. They act as global effects for both layers and add mild to heavy distortion, saturation, and bit crushing to your sounds. These effects can be used to add some spiciness to soft and quieter sounds and will wreak absolute havoc on the already heavily processed ones.
By clicking on the “Master FX” section, you’re taken to a sub-menu where you can assign effects to either individual layers or to the master output of the patch. These effects are taken from the Kontakt stock effects collection and include everything from filtering, equalization, compression, and transient shaping to tape saturation, distortion, guitar amps, and pedals. The effects are an ideal starting point for shaping the library’s samples into your own unique sounds.
THE SOUND OF DENSITY
As mentioned before, the sample content of Density can be divided into three sections: one-shot effects, playable instruments, and loops. Let’s have a more detailed look into the specific sections.
The one-shot effects claim by far the biggest share of the library content-wise. They can be accessed through the main interface’s sample browser and are structured into the following 9 categories:
- Reverse FX
Each category is usually sectioned again into multiple sub-categories. Taking the “Hits” category, for example, you will find further sub-categories like Organic, Trailer, SciFi, Horror and so on that help you choose the right sounds for your purpose.
Across all the sections, Density’s one-shot FX sound beefy and powerful while at the same time retaining a good sense of their organic and acoustic origin. Although you can hear that most sounds went through generous amounts of processing, for the most part, they don’t get too complex and reside more on the bread-and-butter side of things. The tonal quality, however, is unquestionable and maintains a high standard across all the different categories. Taking into account the multitude of additional processing options, it should be easy to adjust any of the sounds to your liking.
While the one-shot samples take care of the cinematic wide-screen experience, Density’s playable instruments rather occupy a more intimate tonal range. The three multi-sampled instruments, a cello, a tuba, and a throat singer are recorded more upfront and dry, which gives you the impression of being really close to the instrument.
Each instrument comes with various types of articulations you can control by hitting the respective note on the keyboard or by selecting them within the GUI. While you can find a few standard playing techniques like staccatos or sustained notes, the focus here is clearly more on unusual articulations. The playable patches offer overtones, bends, strums, risers, and all kinds of interesting sounds you can use to enhance your compositions. Again, by activating some of the onboard effects, you can create otherworldly sounds that blur the line between acoustic and synthetic. The introduction of a throat singer and his technique is an interesting choice in my opinion and represents a welcome addition to the other sounds.
The Loops section of Density is comprised of various rhythms and phrases performed by solo string and brass instruments. We also meet the throat singer again who we got to know from the playable instruments section. He provides some really cool, primeval sounding vocal percussion lines and so-called “mantras” – non-verbal, rhythmic chants that somehow remind me of native American shaman songs.
A patch dedicated to clock ticking sounds in varying styles and rhythms offers a nice layer of suspense that can be heard in almost every second movie trailer nowadays. The string and brass instruments, more specifically a cello, guitar, trombone, and tuba/sousaphone, each offer both basic repetitions and slightly more complex rhythms. These range from simple quarter, eighth and sixteenth repetitions to instrument-specific grooves. I can imagine these to provide a solid sense of motion to start off a cue from, especially if you process them further by the use of Density’s Master FX.
SMALL BUT AGGRESSIVE
From a sample library designed for the cinematic side of media production, you would probably expect a collection of somewhat larger and roomier sounding playable instruments. However, the selection of instruments made by Mammoth Audio is a smart one, since these dry, upfront sounds go along very well with the large-scale one-shot sounds from the other categories. On top of that, dry sounds put themselves forward for heavy processing, so you can twist and mangle them quite a bit without breaking the sonic quality. Some of the throat singing braams, dug cello strums and tuba marcatos sound really aggressive and could be well-used for an interesting and unusual effect in your next composition.
Density by Mammoth Audio is a comprehensive toolkit of bread-and-butter cinematic sound effects and unusual sound sources. The huge number of one-shot samples sound impactful, large-scale, and rich, while the playable instruments make for an interesting off-the-beaten-path sounding addition. The loops provided with the library can be used both right out of the box for laying rhythmic foundations or be heavily processed for a more ear-catching effect.
The custom-made user interface not only looks awesome but is also easy to grasp and smooth in operation. Although you can tune a whole sound category up or down by twelve semitones, it would have been great if you would be able to play the tonal one-shots chromatically on the keyboard. Maybe this could be implemented in a future update. Also, given the fact that Density is only compatible with the paid, full version of KONTAKT, some composers who currently work with the free version might back off from the combined investment.
Nonetheless, this sample library offers an extensive collection of both great sounding FX and interesting instruments that will provide beginner and intermediate level composers with any sound design elements they need to start scoring Hollywood-grade movie trailers.
Density by Mammoth Audio is available as a digital download for $299 through the company’s own online store. There’s also a premium edition including the sample library alongside a branded merch package for $349.
Due to popular request, I recently added a clear verdict section at the end of my reviews so that you can have a quick and easy glance at the pros and cons of a product.
- Huge selection of cinematic SFX
- Interesting, unusual playable instruments
- Excellent sound quality across the bank
- Clear user interface
- Many additional processing and modulation options
- Not compatible with free version of KONTAKT
- Tonal one-shots not playable chromatically