Sonokinetic's classical range of virtual instruments includes everything from symphonic orchestras to individual instruments like the electro mechanical piano. Mallets focuses on melodic percussion, providing multisamples of tubular bells, glockenspiel, marimba and xylophone, formatted so that they can be played from within a custom Kontakt interface.
The interface is stylish but very simple to use. Across the top of the page are the aforementioned instrument sections, all of which are loaded when the instrument is opened. From there, the user can select any of the four by clicking on its section icon, and afterwards return the interface to its starting state by clicking on the Mallets logo. It's as simple as that.
The controls provided are simple too, although there is always the option of using Kontakt's 'Edit Mode' to make deeper alterations. For example, on the left is a simple EQ section providing Low, Mid and High controls, but there is no means of tuning the frequencies or bandwidths from the control panel, so Edit Mode has to be used if the presets are not satisfactory.
Next to the EQ is the convolution reverb's level knob, and then an attack control, and all of the above controls are the same for the four instrument sections. The key difference between them is that the marimba and xylophone have an additional slider, which changes the mallet type with which they are played. In the case of xylophone it is from wood to rubber and for marimba it is from wool to rubber. Interestingly, the slider can also be positioned anywhere in between the two for a hybrid sound.
The tubular bells were also played with two types of mallets, namely leather and plastic, but instead of there being a slider, the two sample sets are kept apart in their own sections on the keyboard. In some situations this configuration is preferable, as it enables a musician to play both at once if they choose. Dampening is assigned for control via a sustain pedal, allowing the bells to go on indefinitely while a key is held down, or fade out after about 10 seconds after release. This also works for glockenspiel.
The quality of the sampling, as with Sonokinetic's other orchestral products, is first rate. Apparently, a semi-close stereo Schoeps microphone configuration was set up in a medium-sized studio with high ceiling, and the convolution reverb's response curve is taken from the same venue that Sonokinetic's Tutti, Vivace and Da Capo orchestral libraries were recorded. The library comprises over 4000 samples, which goes to show what it takes to create realistic-sounding virtual instruments with round-robin variations and multiple velocity layers for every note.
Obviously, Mallets is a useful tool to have for anyone producing a variety of orchestral scores, but it also might be relevant to musical genres like jazz and progressive rock. Frank Zappa, for example, used marimba and xylophone frequently in his music, and cartoon score composers realised very early on that melodic percussion was great for accompanying fast-moving action. Ultimately, this product does exactly what it claims to do in impressive fashion. Tom Flint