Rating: **** 4/5 Stars
Sonixinema have something of a boutique vibe as a sample library/virtual instrument producer and their latest release within their ‘Experiments’ line, Hang Drum, is almost mainstream by comparison. As an instrument, the Hang Drum is a relatively recent development, but will be familiar to many due to its popularity with busking street musicians. As a type of tuned percussion, its roots in the steel drums of the Caribbean are obvious but, in the right hands, the sound can be both beautiful and hypnotic. However, if you have ever fancied picking one up for yourself, you will know that a good example is not cheap and, while it looks deceptively easy to play, it’s a skill that takes some mastering.
Sonixinema’s virtual Hang Drum may therefore appeal on both price and practicality. It will run in either the full or free version of Kontakt (5.8.1 or above) and contains just shy of 4GB of sample data. The 10 main presets each feature a different performance articulation and a selection of Kontakt Snapshots then customise each sound further using the various effects options built into Hang Drum’s UI. That UI contains a number of elements. The Global section provides some macro‑style sound‑shaping controls, while the Envelope and FX tabs provide further, more detailed, options. The Mix page allows you to blend between four different microphone positions and includes the very neat Proximity macro slider from the Global page as well as options for managing RAM use.
Given how a Hang Drum is often played using hypnotic repeating patterns, perhaps the highlight of the UI is the mini‑sequencer/arpeggiator. This includes a pre‑stocked preset system and a range of tools for creating and editing your own sequencer patterns (including a randomise function). It’s a well‑thought‑out design that manages to be both easy‑to‑use and very creative.
Hang Drum is a breeze to use, is sensibly priced and sounds delightful. Sales of real Hang Drums to busy media composers may just take a nose‑dive.
The main presets span a good range of articulations including single hits, muted hits, flams, harmonics and a range of more specialised options such as tremolo, pitch bends and side and shoulder hits. The sampling appears to be pretty deep with plenty of round robins and velocity/dynamic layers. Technicalities aside, the sounds are excellent and capture the essence of the instrument very effectively. Perhaps my only disappointment is that there isn’t a single, multi‑articulation, preset included with keyswitching between the single, muted, flam and harmonic articulations. It would be great to see that added at some stage and even better if the sequencer could also have an extra lane to switch between these articulations.
That said, Hang Drum is a breeze to use, is sensibly priced and sounds delightful. Sales of real Hang Drums to busy media composers may just take a nose‑dive. Like many of Sonixinema’s products, Hang Drum may be somewhat niche, but it is also very good.