Review: HZ02: Los Angeles Percussion

Original article: http://filmandgamecomposers.com/blog/products/music-software-review-hz02-los-angeles-percussion-by-spitfire-audio/

HZ02: Los Angeles Percussion

The Second Installment in Spitfire Audio's Hans Zimmer Percussion Range

This time around, Spitfire Audio has created a drum kit library in collaboration with Hans Zimmer for the second part of their HZ Percussion range. HZ01 featured modern and big scoring drums and percussion. HZ03 had some solo percussion action. But for HZ02, it’s something different. This one features an exclusive DW Vistalite drum kit, played by the legendary drummer Jason Bonham whose talents are renowned in rock. It was recorded in 3 different and notorious locations and was produced together with the multi-award winning composer Hans Zimmer – who does not require any introduction.

Simply put, we have a big and powerful sounding drum kit library right here, folks. Let’s get into what it’s about.

Quick Overview

  • 199£

  • 20-120 GB of content (several mixes and mic positions are optional)
  • Kontakt Player compatible
  • Powerful drum kit played by Jason Bonham
  • 3 different and legendary locations;
  • Sony Scoring Stage
  • Newman Scoring Stage
  • Hans Zimmer’s personal huge space “The Cathedral”
  • Recorded and mixed both in Stereo and 5.1 Surround
  • Close and Room mic positions
  • Patches with Stereo mix only to save resources
  • Performance & Kickstarter kits & individual instruments patches for building your own template
  • Massive trailer/cinematic drums sound
  • Mixes by Alan Meyerson, Geoff Foster, and Hans Zimmer… and more

Locations, Engineers and Mixes

HZ02: LA is made up of the following library hierarchy (from left to right):

Artist Elements – This folder contains the bulk of the library. It has the Alan Meyerson, Geoff Foster and Hans Zimmer mixes. Inside these folders are the three different locations/kits, and in the respective folder for each location you will find individual patches for the instruments, and you also find a Performance Kit that is useful for quickly banging out a beat, although I prefer to create my own template from the individual ones.

Bonus Instruments – This folder contains a few cool instruments, namely: Bass Drum, Surdos and Toms – handy small patches.

Kickstarter Kits – This is a later addition to the library (kudos to Spitfire for always updating with new content!).  You can basically create different variations of articulations and kit pieces. It’s a way to personalize your own kit and your own way of setting it up for your MIDI keyboard. There are lots of possibilities here.

These patches aren’t completely fleshed out yet, and I’m sure Spitfire will continue updating them as time goes on, as we’ve become used to from them. So far, there is only an option for Cathedral Drums to use in conjunction with Kickstarter kits. However, I do find that a lot of options are missing still – such as crucial inputs like panning and volume, so I’m sticking to the individual patches from artist elements for now.

Stereo Mix – These are identical to the ones in artist elements, except they are already mixed in Stereo, so it saves you resources. You have the individual patches here for cymbals, kicks and so on, but also the performance kits.

A Useful "Big Drums" Sound

When it comes to getting that “Big Drums” sound – you know, the drums sound you hear in trailer music and in rock-influenced movie scores – there aren’t many libraries that pull it off so well. We have Addictive Drums, EZDrummer, Studio Drummer, and a lot of virtual drums instruments out there. These libraries do a great job with more of a close sound, and you can approximate large venues with a combination of impulse responses, early reflections, and whatever reverberation tricks you have up your sleeve. However, when you need that huge feeling of a drummer in an enormous space just pounding it out for your music, the sound of HZ02 is right there. It’s big – really big.

When I started testing it out in my own trailer music, it made a big difference. HZ02 provided space, “boom”, and just a bad-ass rock feel, while still being cinematic. Just check out the demos below, and you’ll hear what I’m talking about. I love this sound.

As previously mentioned, Jason was recorded in three different locales. The Newman stage (one of the largest and oldest recording studios in the world), the Sony Scoring Stage (which also is huge), and then of course, Hans Zimmer’s private hall, fittingly named The Cathedral. They are all big and dominant spaces, and have been used extensively for decades for many blockbuster feature movies, so it should come as no shock that the drums recorded here sound abso-fricken-lutely awesome. And for every one of these venues, Spitfire asked Alan and Geoff provide their own take on mixing, so there is plenty to choose from!

HZ02 also features a patch of Hans Zimmer’s own percussive synth sounds. They sound good and all, but it wasn’t at all what I thought. There are about 30 sounds here and… well, when you see the name Hans Zimmer on a patch, you expect something intensely awesome. This did not inspire as much awe as I’d have hoped. However, using the pitch, boom, and crack knobs, you can tweak to get some great useful sounds.

General Overview of Functionality

There are quite a few functions in HZ02. The individual patches have different variations of hits, and you can switch between several mallets and sticks. I particularly like how you can tweak the individual patches, and I think Spitfire Audio meant for this library to focus on these individual ones.

In every patch, pitch controls pitch or tuning, boom controls a lo-pass filter, and crack controls a hi-pass filter. These are very useful to tweak and come up with some great patches for both natural sounding drums and for more sound design centric ones.

As per usual with Spitfire Audio libraries, you’re also able to control round robins, dynamics, expression, microphone tweaks, and more. I tend not to play around too much with it inside of Kontakt – I just like to load up something, do a quick tweak, and then work on it externally.

There is also a visual indication of where certain instruments are mapped on the keyboard, right under the patch as such:

Room For Improvement

As I’ve expressed already, and as you’ve heard in demos, HZ02 sounds amazing, but it’s not without its bugs. Some hits are delayed almost 100-200ms, the volume can’t be changed inside the performance kits, and there is a disparity between the volume levels of the hi-hat and the rest of the kit (and the same goes for a few other hits). I’ve also found 3-4 patches so far that have several RR’s missing, and that exhibit some odd behavior with the RRs’ levels, tuning, and timing. This has made some patches unplayable for me. In addition, the dynamic layers of some patches (particularly the toms, such as the Sony Mid Toms) contain some bad transitions between them, making it impossible to create a realistic and smooth performance.

The kickstarter kits have, as far as I’ve found, no way of altering the volume per kit piece. I think this is the most important thing to be able to do in any drum library – same goes for panning.

Due to these shortcomings, I have to give the library a lower grade its wonderful sound deserves. They have recorded and mixed it so well, so I’m not sure why these bugs and this lack of important aspects haven’t been rectified before release. However, Spitfire Audio have a great track record of constantly updating their products with fixes and new content, so we’ll see what the future holds.

Summary

HZ02 sounds fantastic; there isn’t any question about it. It’s great for my trailer music, and I will continue using it as my main big drums library whenever I need that particular sound. It’s priced fairly reasonably, and it contains enough content for me to tweak around with and use within my projects. I’ve even found use for it with more “cute” types of game music, just because of the quick tweak knobs. It’s exquisitely recorded and mixed.

There is quite a lot of functionality in HZ02. We find variations, articulations, stick and mallet choices, and a variety of fantastic venues for finding the sound needed for the project.

The shortcomings I previously mentioned – the bugs and errors, volume issues, timing, missing RRs, and more – are an unfortunate reality. I think that the kits are an important aspect of any drum library, and they should have been stronger. However, the individual patches of each kit piece are great and I will continue using them as it just sounds so good. Overall, it’s an exquisite sounding library, and with some fixing and further editing of its patches, it has the potential to become a fantastic library.


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Walid Feghali

Co-founder of Evenant, Walid is a composer, mechanical engineer, 
concept artist and entrepreneur from Sweden. Travelling and exploring new opportunities, always looking for new things to learn and create.