Sonoma Wire Works DrumCore 4 Prime Review

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Last updated on July 18th, 2017 at 05:10 pm

DrumCore 4 is an audio and MIDI library of pre-made drum loops aimed at producers and songwriters, developed by Sonoma Wire Works. It is available for Mac and PC, and the Prime version features over 20 GB of content.

The GUI is simple, professional, and attractive looking. The installation process, on the other hand, was quite lengthy and arduous. The installation did not allow me to put the 4.11 GB initial install for DC4 Prime Link onto my external HDD, so I had to install it onto my main drive, which I like to keep free of sample libraries for efficiency and memory management reasons. It is possible after installation of the 4.11 GB to change the location of the content, then download the remaining 15+ GB of DC4 Prime Link content onto the external HDD. An iLok dongle is not necessary to use the plugin, but is recommended in order to more efficiently manage your license.

DrumCore 4 takes the form of a drum loop library which can be searched or filtered in several ways. The Prime library comes with loops and fills from 17 drummers. The drummers featured in the library are a mix of famous and sought after session drummers and professional recording artists.

The loops and fills come as either audio recordings or MIDI patterns. Despite the large size of the download, quite a lot of the loops need to be downloaded manually via the browser, where they show a ‘Cloud Download’ logo. The browser is very clear on the content that you own or do not own, and you can preview other content before purchase.

The plugin has an internal mixer which can feature up to seven sub-mixes. Using Ableton I was able to route the sub mixes out to individual audio channels, so that I could apply my own processing. In my opinion, having only seven individual outputs is rather limiting for mixing drums, and would not allow for full mix processing of an acoustic drum kit.

In addition to the mixer, four effects can be applied internally. These are compression, EQ, delay, and bitcrushing. All of the effects sound fairly musical and can be added to each sub mix with the simple click of an icon. I found it slightly odd that reverb was not included, especially in a dedicated drum program. Note that the audio loops and midi loops behave differently within the plugin. The midi loops will interact with the internal mixer and can be routed out via the submixes. The audio loops are fully intact loops and the individual drums cannot be separated for routing.

Apart from using the provided drum kits, which I have to say have great sounding samples, it is possible to create custom kits within DrumCore 4, simply by assigning different samples to the pads within the kit. There is an editor tab which allows incredibly detailed refinement of the samples, including envelope editing, layered samples, and multi-velocity programming. Kit editing and customization is, perhaps, the most impressive part of DrumCore 4. One thing you can do which is pretty neat, is to begin with a MIDI loop from, for instance, Ben Smith, then change the kit to an Alan White Kit, then change the snare drum to a Terry Bozzio snare drum.

Unfortunately, I have to say that the method by which DrumCore interfaces with the DAW is a bit unwieldy. In essence, you have two main methods with which to use the plugin. In the first i tried, you add the pre-made beats and fills into a timeline, which gives you a rhythm to work with. When you are happy with your rhythm, you have to render it into a WAV file. The rendered file will save into a predetermined folder on your computer, and I presume from there you import this audio file back into your DAW for use in your song. This kind of workflow obviously isn’t the most efficient. Apart from being clumsy, it limits the user if they later want to edit the part, and leaves them confined to using the rendered WAV file for mixing.

Sonoma got back to me by showing me their preferred method, which is to drag and drop the loops into a MIDI or audio track within the DAW. Although this method is far better, it’s not entirely to my taste, as I work on a smaller screen and I found having to keep moving the plugin window out of the way to drag and drop the loops into my DAW. Some laptop users will probably have the same issue. However, this method does allow you to fully utilise the midi loops routed out to individual audio channels.

In addition to the issues explained above, I found DrumCore 4, at least the current version, to be rather buggy. The plugin repeatedly crashed my DAW while I was testing it. The stability issues, although quite disappointing, are something that Sonoma Wire Works can hopefully fix in the future.
The Verdict
Taking all of the above into account, I have to consider who would benefit from using DrumCore 4. I am a drummer and have been playing for many years, so I tend to know what I want from a drum track while I am writing or producing a song. For someone entering the world of writing or producing songs, having pre-made loops such as the high-quality loops in DrumCore will certainly be helpful. It would also be useful for them to see the MIDI scores and learn about how drum parts are programmed on a computer. However, at $249 this is a steep way for a beginner to add drum beats to their music.

The sounds and content within DrumCore 4 are impressive. The way they are implemented is, unfortunately, disappointing. I would hope that Sonoma could rework DrumCore 4 so that it becomes more intuitive, stable, and slightly more powerful from a mixing engineer’s standpoint.

More info: DrumCore 4 Prime ($249)

DrumCore 4 Prime Review

73%
73%
Average

The sounds and content within DrumCore 4 are impressive. The way they are implemented is, unfortunately, disappointing.

  • Features
    7
  • Workflow
    6
  • Performance
    6
  • Design
    9
  • Sound
    10
  • Pricing
    6
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About The Author

Johnny Marsh is guitarist and drummer from Stourbridge, England. He produces electronic-infused progressive metal under the moniker T3TRA, with a particular penchant for blending downtuned guitars with synthesizers. He also drinks far too much coffee.

2 Comments

  1. Michelle Wright on

    Thank you for checking out DrumCore 4.2 and writing a review. A few things in the review need clarification. I included them in order of how they show up in your review. The most important to us is number 5.

    You are using Ableton on Mac.

    1. “the installation did not allow me to put the very large library onto my external HDD,”
    This is not true. While the plug-in itself needs to be on your hard drive (quite small), the library CAN be installed on an external hard drive. This is actually a nice way to work, and why we offer editions on Solid State Drives and Flash Drives. See section 7.2.1 in the User Guide about “Changing the DrumCore Path” or email support with questions if you have any. We are happy to help.

    2. “Also, do note that you will need an iLok account to install this program”

    An iLok account is not required, but it is recommended so you can activate on two machines and manage your licenses without contacting support. You can install and register anonymously without an iLok account and contact support when you need to change computers if you’d like to refrain from having an iLok account.

    3. “The manual states that it is then possible to route these sub-mixes out to separate audio tracks within your DAW, although I could not seem to get this to work with Ableton.”
    After testing this in house today with v4.2, we re-confirmed that it is working in Ableton with DC4.
    https://help.ableton.com/hc/en-us/articles/209773065-How-to-access-additional-audio-outputs-of-a-multi-out-VST-AU-plug-in
    Please email us at [email protected] if you are having trouble with this as we are happy to help.

    4. “Only the MIDI loops seemed to route any audio through the mixer. When I combined the audio and MIDI loops together into a rhythm, the mixer did not interact with the audio loops.”
    Yes, DC4 Kits are MIDI drum kits, not audio. Please see the intro regarding Kits in the User Guide (section 5.1).

    5. “Unfortunately, I have to say that the method by which DrumCore interfaces with the DAW is a bit unwieldy. In essence, you add the pre-made beats and fills into a timeline, which gives you a rhythm to work with. When you are happy with your rhythm, you have to render it into a WAV file…”

    While using the Time Line is an alternate way of working, the way most people use DrumCore 4 is by dragging and dropping audio and MIDI files directly in any supported DAW. Please see:

    User Guide Introduction (page 5)
    Seamless Importing into Your DAW
    “Drag and drop audio and MIDI files directly to your tracks in any supported DAW.”

    User Guide: Section 3.2.3 GrooveSets
    Audio Loops and Fills (page 20)
    5. Click and drag loops and fills to the Timeline to create your desired rhythm from within the plug-in, or click and drag them directly to an audio track directly in your DAW.

    MIDI Loops and Fills (page 21)
    5. Click and drag loops and fills to the Timeline to create your desired rhythm from within the plug-in, or click and drag them directly to an instrument track (or MIDI track) directly in your DAW.

    6. 32-bit is mentioned in the footer, but DC4 is only 64-bit.

    Also, Improved downloading is coming soon in v4.3 along with other improvements.

    Thank you for your time and consideration and for the many nice things you had to say about DC4. We are excited about the positive feedback we are getting from lots of users, and are excited to continue to make improvements.

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