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Soniccouture Waterphone

Kontakt Instrument By Dave Gale
Published March 2024

Soniccouture Waterphone

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5/5 Stars

With its bizarre appearance and endearing‑but‑creepy sound, the acoustic instrument known as a waterphone has become a firm staple of the horror and soundtrack worlds. Soniccouture have embraced the role of sample capture, while introducing some interesting twists to their reinterpretation in Kontakt form.

Acoustic waterphones are circular instruments with a resonant cavity at the base which is usually filled with a small amount of water. Extending from this resonator are a number of metal tines, surrounding a handle in the centre. These tines can be struck, bowed or brushed, using fingers, sticks, mallets or a bow. The resulting acoustic output is a vibrant collection of pure harmonics, the pitch and colour of which are altered as the water sloshes around inside the resonator.

This Kontakt instrument library divides into two components, both at around 3GB in stature. The first section is formed from phrases: a cornucopia of the waterphone’s greatest hits, exploring shifting harmonics and subtle scrapes, with speed variance from slow and lingering to relatively fast and exaggerated. This adopts a phrase‑per‑note make‑up with editable control over each phrase’s playback. You can reverse the sample and alter the start time, while also changing the pitch. Due to its extraordinary sonic purity, it’s possible to push the pitch editing to the extreme without losing integrity, which yields some quite amazing effects.

The second instrumental section is labelled Waterphone Unwrapped. As the instrument is recognised as being rather inharmonic, Soniccouture have attempted to provide patching that is playable, at least in a more conventional way than might usually be associated with the acoustic instrument. This really does work to a sizeable degree, though the nature of the sound does mean that you can quickly find your compositional output becoming overwhelmed by the sustained harmonics. Thankfully, there are plenty of control elements that allow the waterphone to be tamed, ranging from an ADSR envelope to 25 different filter colours, which include low‑, high‑, band‑pass and notch filtering, and vowel settings.

The waterphone’s method of initial attack can also be dictated with a selection of bows, strikes and the very useful Tuned Accent option. The Harmonic control allows adjustment between the fundamental and the harmonic an octave above, while the on‑board LFO can be steered in the direction of the Harmonic control with a separate LFO that controls the rate of the water sloshing!

The Mic page accesses three faders representing the waterphone’s recorded signals. These are, specifically, a close‑miked signal, contact mic and the resonant cavity containing the water. From this point alone, you can considerably vary the timbral qualities of the instrument.

It’s a beautiful‑sounding and impressive Kontakt instrument...

Professional‑grade acoustic waterphones are relatively expensive, which makes the idea of a sample library, created by experts in the field, all the more appealing and cost‑effective. It’s a beautiful‑sounding and impressive Kontakt instrument, in line with the rest of Soniccouture’s catalogue of more obscure and inspiring instruments.