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Review of Altered States
 by Zero-G


The horror.  You wake up in the middle of the night because someone is knocking on the door.  "Who in the world could that be?"  Should you open the door?  You pause.  Maybe you don't want to know who it is!  Is it the police?  Neighbors?  Uh Oh. B-but Maybe! IS it is a long lost lover who has finally come running back, now convinced YOU were the right one all along?!  "Who ARE YOU!" you shout through the door.  You hear some muffled sound like someone pleading with you to open the door. 

In one quick motion you unlatch the door and swing it open and stare into the eyes of the interloper.  Gasp.  You discover the person at the YOU!

That was the creepy feeling I had when I spun through the presets of Altered States, a sample collection by Zero G.  For one the sounds are definitely on the strange side, many quite horrorful, many exotic, many spacey, many dreamy, twisted and tortured sounds for your composing pleasure.  For two, the author's style is so TweakHeadz-like, it was like looking into a mirror.  Its much like where I was at, sonically, when I did Celestial Windowpane.  Freaked me out!  We apparently followed a similar muse, especially on the space motif, So I immediately felt a kinship with the author.



The basics  

Altered states is a virtual sound module that comes in Intakt format with its own special version of the Intakt sampler.  You don't need the full version Intakt to run it, and it works great in Kontakt 2 if you are building a big library.  You can't load other sounds into this special version of Intakt, but you can alter the presets and save your own.  In Kontakt 2 and the full version of Intakt you can access the sample level of the instruments and really go to town creating new textures, FX, and Kits.

The sounds (quantity).

 The collection is a little over 4GB.  The box says it has 3,499 instrument patches.  Well, sort of.  Some of these instruments are just single samples spread over the keyboard.  A typical directory usually starts with a huge preset comprising lots of samples like "All Aqueous Atmospheres", then breaks down to its singles that make up that preset like "Acid Pool", "Bubble Bath" "Death Wave" etc.  The good thing about this approach is you can play the single samples anywhere on the keyboard and get a different pitch.  Nothing wrong with this approach.  Just don't think there are 3,499 multi-sampled instruments. 

But there is a lot of material here.  I am in awe of the sheer depth of the library (and of how much work obviously went into it).  There's no way i can talk about all of it, so i will speak in generalities. The library appears to be a compilation of 10 different Zero-G libraries and some new material. The original sample CDs were in audio format and also a variety of sampler formats and are still available, some for $99 each, so this Intakt collection is quite a value.  You can check out for more info.

The main categories of sounds are 1. Atmospheres, 2. FX, 3. Loops, 4. Pads, 5. Percussion  Lots of music beds you can put right into a film soundtrack.  Lots of drones and soundscapes in stereo, fully baked with FX and ready to go.  These are well-crafted and there is a wide variation.   The FX section alone contains Bits and Bobs, Feedback, Industrial, Machinery, Sci-Fi, and Surreal, Guitar and Bass, Plucked and bowed, Wind and Brass, Animals, Birds, Insects, Nature, Arpeggios, Communications, Computers and Robots, Analog Echoes, Oscillations, Radiophonic, Synth alarms, Synth bells, synth FX, Wind and Waves, Laughter, Phrases, Scary, Screams and Shouts, and Warped.  That's just the FX section and those are directories I just listed.

That gives you a taste.  There's tons of loops at every BPM.  Intakt will automatically stretch all of them to your project tempo so they all work.  Again, an incredible variety of useful things.  Plenty of stuff to keep you busy for a long, long time. 

Sound Quality

I checked through many directories in Kontakt at the sample level and every instance I saw was 16 bit 44.1.  They definitely sound 16bit.  Many samples are ambient, drenched in reverb and are of a dark and lo-fi quality.  The entire set has a dark, sometimes murky shadowy vibe, living up to its name of altered states. Among the percussion, there are clean brilliant samples, and these samples are clean enough to stand up in front of a mix.  If you want full treated FX oriented sounds ready to drop its here, here, here.   I made a few multis already in Kontakt 2 and was amazed at how easy it was to make custom, evocative pads and sound FX that were very thick.

Who should go for altered states? 

Film composers building their library cannot pass this up.  You can make a full soundtracks with this library alone.  The stranger and more macabre your theme, the more you will find Altered States a gift from heaven, or hell, if you prefer.  All the elements of horror and suspense are here, along with the worldly and otherworldly and eerie.  Music composers in the ambient traditions will love it as well.

Transcendentalists, beat-mappers, hip hoppers looking for unusual samples for their beats will find a treasure chest of jewels.  Heck anyone doing electronica (which to me encompasses all the genres of trance, DnB, house, trip hop, etc) is going to be OK with the library.  Strict classical composers won't want it, people doing pop will find it too dark and shadowy, Country composers won't like it (except for the horse samples).  Pad makers will be righteously blown away, analog synth blip heads will love the variety, Percussion, conventional drum and world drum enthusiasts will be able to make some great kits. 

To get the most of the creative potential of this huge library of samples I recommend using them in Kontakt2 or the full version of Intakt that will let you access the sample level and build your own presets.  You'll love what you can do.   The Intakt-based libraries are very compatible, the CPU hit is generally low to moderate.  I found the supplied version worked fine in both Logic7 and GarageBand3.


Tweak's Articles on Software

Software Synths and Samplers INDEX
Understanding the Virtual Studio
What is a Software Sampler?
What is a Soft Synth?
What are Software Processors?
Spectrasonics Omnisphere
Spectrasonic's Trillian
Superior Drummer
My Favorite Vintage Soft Synhts
Stylus RMX
Battery by Native Instruments
Albino 3
Guru Review
StormDrum Review
Korg Legacy MS20
Garritan Personal Orchestra
Altered States
FM7 and FM8
NI's Komplete Bundle
MOTU's Ethno
Are Hardware Samplers Obsolete?
Antares Filter
Logic's EXS24 Sampler
Kore 2 Review
Kontakt 3
Waves Gold and Platinum
Software Plugins Price List



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