Is Terminus the final destination in your search for hits, slams, risers and falls?
Musical punctuation in the form of hits, risers and falls has become a essential part of modern music production and film/TV composition — staple sound design elements to add emphasis to musical transitions, endings or hitpoints. Terminus, from 8Dio, is a Kontakt-based sample library that comes with more hits (and risers, falls and other forms of ear candy) than a room full of Ed Sheerans. So, if you need to up your musical impact, is Terminus the place to stop looking?
Terminus is built upon a 4.5GB sample library of hits, slams, sub-hits, falls and risers. The original sounds are derived from orchestral, drum and synth sources, with a 'hybrid' group that I assume involve some sound design work combining these other sources. All the sounds are then accessed via a rather smart Kontakt front-end and, while you are not short of some excellent presets to explore, once you dig in a little, the Terminus UI has plenty of sound design options for those that wish to take the presets and make them their own.
The core of the presets are presented in four separate .nki files, one each for the orchestral, drum, synth and hybrid sound categories. In fact, two versions of each .nki are included with the 'TM Pro' versions, which also offer some interesting sample stretching possibilities (albeit, I suspect, with a somewhat higher CPU load). There is also a set of Bonus Presets where 8Dio's sound designers have gone to town a little with the sound-shaping options provided by the UI. These are well worth exploring and do a good job of demonstrating some of the additional creative possibilities available.
As a nice additional touch, 8Dio also make a tutorial package available to purchasers. This explores the production of an example track ('The Captain') built from a number of 8DIO libraries including Terminus. This includes a video tutorial, MIDI data and some audio stems and is a good complement to the standard Terminus PDF manual. Oh, and it is worth mentioning that you also get access to the raw WAV files so, if required, you can drop the samples directly into your DAW or use them with other playback/processing options.
All the .nki presets share the same, two-screen, UI. The Main page provides a browser tab that allows you to select from various sound groups; Hits, Slams, Sub Hits, Short Falls, Long Falls, Short Risers and Long Risers. The Synth .nki adds some additional Ear Candy and Strums types to this list. In each case, selecting a category loads a selection of different samples mapped across the MIDI keyboard. As shown in the screenshots, the upper end of the MIDI note range includes some pink keyswitch notes and these can be used to pitch-shift the individual samples over a one-octave range.
The Stack option allows you to layer more than one category so, for example, you can easily combine Hits with Sub Hits or Slams with Short Falls or any other combination you fancy. Things can get 'big' pretty quickly! The Gate option provides a nice tremolo-style effect and offers both Length and Rate controls.
Flipping to the Sequencer tab gives you access to a simple, but effective, step sequencer. At first glance, a sequencer/arpeggiator might not be the most obvious candidate for an instrument designed with impacts and transitions in mind but it actually means Terminus is much more than a one-trick pony; you can create some really cool rhythms based on the sample content. Sequence length can be varied up to 16 steps and you can adjust the octave range, number of note repeats, step rate, the amount of swing and how held notes are arpeggiated.
There is a further trick to be found in the controls beneath the Browser/Sequencer panel. Here you have global controls to adjust the attack and release, add some pitch envelope and to offset the starting point of sample playback. The latter control also offers a Random control so you can add some subtle (or not so subtle) variation to each hit if required. If you have chosen one of the 'TMPro' presets, then the Speed control is active. This can adjust the sample playback speed while leaving the pitch intact. This is useful for adjusting the lengths of the risers/falls to suit your needs.
And that further trick I mentioned? That comes from the rather clever Stretch button. Hit this and the most recently triggered sample gets pitch-mapped across the whole keyboard creating a playable instrument. Again, this might not seem like an obvious thing to do with impact/transition samples, but it is surprisingly effective. There are some cool examples amongst the bonus presets that show this off to good effect including a couple of very playable piano-like patches and some techie arps where the sequencer is also put to good use.
I'm not entirely sure exactly what the Chaos button is doing behind the scenes but, when engaged, it applies some modulation to various parameters in the sound engine. This is perhaps most obvious on the Effects page that features a rack with Phaser/Flanger, EQ, Degrader, Delay, Transform and Reverb effects. There is plenty to get your sound design teeth into here but, in addition, effects parameters are automatically modulated when the Chaos button is active. Some of the effects offer additional controls to influence just how chaotic things can get. The bottom line, however, if that the effects sound great and can transform the underlying sounds in all sorts of interesting ways.
I don't expect composers will ever stop looking for fresh options when it comes to impact/transition content, but you could certainly spend a long time stopped at the Terminus without running out of sonic inspiration.
So much for the sound design options, what about the included sounds themselves? Well, this is easy; they are excellent. Sonically, across the four core preset types, they cover a lot of ground and easily span the fairly conventional drum-based hits (particularly in the Drum and Orchestral presets) through to mega-Transformer impacts (in all the presets but especially the Hybrid and Synth-based options).
In terms of the risers and falls, there is plenty here to take you from conventional electronic music production all the way to urban/sci-fi/horror dystopia sound design. In short, there is plenty for pop producers, but perhaps even more for media composers, whether it's that musical punctuation that's now intrinsic to all drama/tension/action cues or for building sound design into your next epic music/trailer cue. Across the board, the sounds are instantly usable and would happily grace even the most high-profile of projects. And, of course, given the options provided by the UI, there are plenty of additional ways to make the sounds your own and extend the life of the underlying content.
That consistent high quality, flexibility and versatility are impressive. Perhaps the one obvious fly in the Terminus ointment is that this quality doesn't come cheap. Indeed, the price probably puts Terminus firmly into the 'established professionals only' category. That said, if budgets are tight, it's worth signing up to 8Dio's mailing list as they do run the occasional blowout sale where you could grab a bargain.
There are alternative products that are both broadly in the same sonic ballpark and less expensive than Terminus. Examples might include NI's Rise & Hit or the various Gothic Instrument's Sculptor modules. These all have something to offer and their own set of unique sounds and features. However, I suspect the more well-heeled, busy, media composers will still lap up Terminus simply to expand their arsenal of impacts and transitions. Terminus certainly does that in a whole-hearted fashion.
It might come with a heavyweight price tag but, equally, it delivers a heavyweight performance. I don't expect composers will ever stop looking for fresh options when it comes to impact/transition content, but you could certainly spend a long time stopped at the Terminus without running out of sonic inspiration. This is top-notch stuff.
- Massive range of high-quality content for hits and transitions.
- Flexible sound design options.
- Sequencer and Stretch features make playable instruments and rhythmic patterns possible.
- Price will put it out of reach for some.
As a resource for creating impacts and transition elements, Terminus is hugely impressive, but it is also more than a one-trick pony. It's priced for the professional user, but that will undoubtedly find plenty of takers.