Wave Alchemy’s TRIAZ could be all the percussion software you’ll ever need.
Wave Alchemy have made a name for themselves creating sample‑based instruments, focusing on drums and classic synths. Their primary platform is Kontakt (and the free Kontakt Player), although they also have packs for Maschine and Live, as well as pure sample libraries. I reviewed their Revolution classic drum machine instrument back in 2017, and was hugely impressed by the sounds and the depth of Kontakt programming.
TRIAZ is WA’s new flagship drum instrument, with an all-new sample library, modern design and freshly coded engine. It’s a refreshingly simple instrument on the surface, with 12 channels, a mixer and a sequencer. But it has hidden depths. The name references the standout feature: each drum voice has three layers, with an X/Y pad for quickly perfecting a blend between the three. And it has a built‑in step sequencer with the mod cons for electronic drum production. So could this be your new go‑to virtual drum machine?
TRIAZ is Kontakt powered, so if you don’t already have Kontakt you need to install the free Player. Third‑party instrument installation in Kontakt is now slickly coordinated in Native Access, Native Instruments’ product manager and installer app. You enter your serial number here to activate, and point to the location you’ve stored the library.
It’s also worth installing NI’s Komplete Kontrol, which you’ll have already if you’re using a Komplete Kontrol keyboard. TRIAZ is nicely integrated into the Komplete Kontrol environment, where it takes advantage of tagged kit browsing and auditioning, saving, MIDI macro controls, and — if you have an S‑series controller — the invaluable colour light guides on the keyboard.
Once installed, TRIAZ appears in Kontakt’s libraries tab and directly in the Instruments Browser in Komplete Kontrol. I preferred the latter for most situations, as it hides all sign of Kontakt and makes TRIAZ appear like a standard plug‑in. TRIAZ has a nicely compact, dark‑grey panel with colour used to make waveforms and channel parameters pop out.
The layout is easy enough to figure out. The default Sound view shows the currently selected channel and sample controls, with a mixer below, and the focused sound’s sequencer lane. Next there’s a Sequencer view, which shows the full 12‑lane pattern grid. Lastly there’s an Options view which is mainly devoted to MIDI and output mappings.
The Sound panel is your typical waveform‑plus‑parameters affair, but what’s unique is the ABC tab selector to the left coupled with the X/Y display to the right. The tabs focus each of the three sample layers that make up a drum channel. The layers have independent settings in the Drum, Pitch and Filter sections, or can be linked.
The X/Y display is a three‑way crossfader that blends the three samples. It’s pretty intuitive: place the dot over A and all you’ll hear is A. In the middle you’ll get an equal mix of all three sound layers. I did wonder if the blender should have been triangular instead of stretched into a square, but this shape was probably chosen with a thought for mapping MIDI or automation controls in the future (currently you can’t do this). Anyway, in practice it works well for blending by ear.
There are hundreds of preset kits split into genres, which, to give you a flavour of the sound palette, are: Drum & Bass, Electronica, House, Lofi, Pop & Disco, Rap and Techno. There’s also a series of ‘Drum Module’ kits devoted to particular categories of sound. Then there are Percussion Loops — kits with a sequence that make ready‑to‑go loop layers. In fact all the kits come with one drum sequence to showcase the sounds.
Clicking the sample name in the Sound editor brings up the sample browser in place of the mixer. This uses a two‑level categorisation scheme to sort and display samples. The first is the drum type, with the type of the sample in slot A determining the name and colour for the channel. The second is a descriptive tag. I love that at least one tag pair is always active and that this always filters down to no more than one page of sample choices. Despite the library containing 10,000 samples you can find the sound you want quickly.
The sonic offerings are great both as raw samples and programmed kits. All the classics are present. (In addition to a general Drum Machine category there’s a specific 808 tag, testament to how much these sounds dominate in so many current genres.) There’s also plenty of fresh modern sounds to choose from. As well as the conventional categories there are some interesting quirks. Foley is a collection of everyday percussive sounds. Layers is particularly useful, providing secondary sounds for stacking up with the others. On top of all this, you can add your own samples by simply dragging them onto the waveform area.
One thing I worried about was whether the layering system would lead to phasing or flamming, but WA have clearly edited everything carefully and you get really solid sounding results. You start to think in layers to improve sounds instead of looking for the exact right sample: ‘I love this snappy 808 snare, but if only it had a bit more body... OK let’s add a layer.’
There’s plenty of scope for processing, mixing and sound shaping inside the plug‑in, with both channel, send and master effects modules, as well as the internal mixer. At the sound layer level, you have an amp section with drive, and simplified envelope control: just Attack and Decay married with a start time parameter. In other words everything is a ‘One Shot’ and all notes are triggers with no length. If you need more envelope stages, the ability to edit end points or slices, or looping, TRIAZ is not for you in its current version.
Channels have pitch modulation, via a dedicated envelope and LFO, and velocity. And happily each layer has its own multi‑mode filter, also with envelope, LFO and velocity control, so you can individually tweak the sounds that make up your layers.
Each combined channel has three effects stages. The EQ uses an interesting X/Y interface that sweeps from low shelf, to parametric to high shelf, with fairly subtle results. Then there’s a dynamics module with make‑up gain, and a mix control so you can use it for parallel compression. Finally the Shaper offers creative bit crushing and sample rate control, some nice stereo width effects, and transient shaping with Attack and Sustain knobs. This is particularly welcome: I use the Native Instruments Transient Master plug‑in a lot in my mixes, and Wave Alchemy are taking advantage of the fact that this effect is built into Kontakt, and making it available on every channel.
Master FX has a similar layout to the channels, except there’s finer control of the EQ. The Master Shaper is a different collection of effects. There’s a Limiter, a Tape saturator that can go to extremes, and a more subtle ‘Heat’ tone control. Finally you can introduce various different types of background noise, such as tape hiss and vinyl crackle.
From the mixer view you can send each channel to a shared Delay effect, and a choice of two reverbs (chosen on a channel‑by‑channel basis). One reverb is a fairly straightforwards algorithmic effect, while the other is a convolution processor.
TRIAZ has a 32‑step sequencer, with variable length and playback speed per track. Like previous WA instruments, triggers and velocity share the same lane: you enter velocity directly into the step grid. There’s a number of other views providing Elektron‑style per‑step settings. These include Repeat, where you can dial in those trap ratchets, and Chance for setting the probability of steps triggering. Start time also has a lane, where you can move triggers off the quantised grid. Chance is set up rather differently to how I’d expect; instead of a percentage chance like on an Elektron box, values in this lane set the trigger chance up to 50 percent maximum.
You can only motion sequence/parameter lock the controls that have pre‑defined lanes (unless you use your DAW to do it), and you can’t sequence the sample blenders. Hopefully this is something that can be added in a future release.
Pan, Delay and Reverb have their own lanes, and Pitch allows you to create melodic sequences from samples. This is a great feature, familiar from some other popular grooveboxes and workstations. In fact, chromatic playback is built into the drum machine: each channel has a keyboard button that targets the two octaves of incoming MIDI (from C0) for pitched playing. There’s plenty of 808 bass fodder in the sound library to enjoy with this feature.
You can record directly into the step sequencer from a MIDI input. This includes chromatic playback from the pitched key range, although this doesn’t get captured into the Pitch lane, which appears to be a separate offset. One thing missing is that although there are MIDI notes mapped to Play and Stop, there isn’t one for Record, so you have to reach for the mouse to drop in or out of live recording.
Live recording is always quantised; any micro timing needs to be added with the Start timing parameter. However, there is both Swing and Slop. The latter is a variable amount of randomised timing that you can add globally.
Each TRIAZ patch can store up to 12 different sequencer patterns in its Pattern Bank. Pattern selection is mapped to another octave of MIDI keys further up the keyboard from the sound triggers (colour‑coded on Komplete Kontrol keyboards, and in the Komplete Kontrol or Kontakt virtual keyboards). Pattern switching is always instantaneous, and picks up at the same step within the loop. This is how I prefer a drum machine to work as it’s perfect for performing variations and fills. Others may wish there was an option to queue changes to the next bar, although that’s something you can orchestrate with your DAW...
Which brings us nicely to looking at how TRIAZ can integrate with your production process in your DAW. As we’ve seen, channel triggers, chromatic playback and sequencer operations all have MIDI control. You could therefore ignore the sequencer altogether and use TRIAZ as a drum sound module like Battery. Or, you could record or write MIDI notes into DAW tracks to trigger (and quantise) pattern changes in TRIAZ’s sequencer. Or you could do both: arranging patterns then adding fills and additional hits.
The TRIAZ sequencer page also has drag‑and‑drop MIDI Export for patterns, so you can pull a MIDI sequence out of the plug‑in and into your DAW’s instrument track. As is pretty standard with this kind of feature you need to trigger a render process before dragging out. Once you’ve done this, the export buffer stays the same until you make a change, which might make sense in most cases unless you just wanted to pull all the different pattern slots out. Impressively, exports include any repeats and timing offsets, but sadly melodic notes are lost and become straight triggers, even if they were captured live from the keyboard. Export is not limited to two bars: when there are lanes running at different speeds, the slowest will determine how long the exported sequence is. There’s no audio export option, which is a limitation of what you can do from inside Kontakt.
I found myself mainly recording and editing patterns inside TRIAZ, then sequencing them into an arrangement by recording MIDI notes on the fly into my DAW track. I like this way of working as it feels more organic than arranging by dragging clips around, at least as a first pass. I then used the Commit function in Pro Tools, or Freeze and Flatten in Live to render the track to audio.
If you like to have your drum sounds split out to different tracks to take advantage of your DAW’s mixing environment you can use the multi‑output mode. This is pretty standard for many plug‑ins, but there’s a somewhat fiddly setup process you need to go through with Kontakt to enable this. Luckily you only have to do this once after you’ve installed. You can then simply hit the Multi‑Out switch whether you’re running in Kontakt or Komplete Kontrol.
TRIAZ really is a cracker of a virtual drum machine: finding, shaping and sequencing sounds is all easy and the results sound fantastic.
TRIAZ really is a cracker of a virtual drum machine: finding, shaping and sequencing sounds is all easy and the results sound fantastic. In some ways it’s what I’ve always wished NI’s Battery could be, bringing in the missing step‑sequencing element while still being a sound module you can play externally. In a couple of areas it would be better if it was a native plug‑in rather than a Kontakt instrument, and Wave Alchemy say this is something they’d love to do. The NI connection and NKS integration is a real bonus, though, if you’re working with Komplete and have one of the NI keyboards with light guides. I can see this becoming one of my standard in‑the‑box drum machines.
TRIAZ offers randomness in several places to grease the wheels of creativity. For kit creation you can randomise sample selections within channels. By default, clicking the dice button will just pick a random sound on that layer and channel, but various keyboard modifiers (listed in the help pop‑up by the button) can extend this to all the layers, the same layer on all channels or the entire kit. You can also use an iterative randomising process, by locking sounds you like and rolling the dice again.
In the sequencer, each track has its own randomisation button, which generates a random sequence in whichever parameter lane is currently being viewed. There are also some subtle forms of randomisation using the Slop controls. In the sequencer, the Slop slider introduces some random timing to step playback. The Sound editor also has a control called Slop that adds subtle variation to start time and filter, and you get a Pan randomiser. This is an underrated trick employed by mixers, as a little movement can help to localise sounds more effectively, especially in Spatial formats.
- Easy and effective drum layering.
- Well spec’ed sequencer.
- Chromatic sample playback.
- NI Komplete Kontrol integration.
- No audio clip export.
TRIAZ is a creative drum instrument that delivers fast results, backed up by a library packed with amazing sounds.