AIR Instrument Expansion Pack Review (Winnner Announced)


Last April, AIR Music Technology, known for developing factory instruments and effects for Avid’s industry standard Pro Tools software, updated their Instrument Expansion Pack (AIEP) while making their instruments available to non-Pro Tools users for the first time, and also giving their flagship workhorse synth Hybrid – which I’ve also reviewed here – an impressive facelift in its third and most powerful incarnation to date.

2014 was a big year for the AIR team, once known as Wizoo, an ambitious sound design label acquired by Avid Technology back in their Digidesign days. But now that AIR has exploded onto the music software scene with third-party versions of highly evolved instruments in development for nearly a decade, fans of competing software now reconsider what was once an easy choice.

The Review

All of AIR’s products are now available as fully functional 15-day trial versions stockpiled with over seventy gigabytes of factory content. That’s more than two weeks of unlimited access to an ocean of high-definition samples and thousands of presets for cutting edge, state-of-the-art instruments like Loom: a powerful additive synthesizer that employs subtractive synthesis principles and techniques, unlocking a world of unlimited sound design potential.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that Loom is so inspiring that it deserves a review all its own, but the same could easily be said for the remaining six plugins including Vacuum Pro, a virtual analogue monster with a classic interface and a wealth of features, including several filters, envelopes and effects for producing huge, warm pads, analog bass and wicked lead sounds.

Of course, no virtual instrument collection would be complete without a general purpose sampler, although there’s nothing “general” about Structure’s overwhelming cache of factory content – all forty gigabytes of it – or a deep interface offering a ridiculous amount of control over each sample, a wide variety of effects from flangers, phasers, stereo convolution reverbs and dynamics processing with multiple midi input and audio output ports all over the place!

Structure by AIR Music Technology.

Structure is delivered with a 37+ GB premium sample sound library.

I was actually shocked by how computationally economic sample playback is within Structure, which is often dressed to the hilt with round robins and velocity layers loaded with dozens of high quality sounds mapped across the keyboard. Amazingly enough, the CPU meter somehow manages to idle within twelve percent playing complex chords with orchestral string ensembles.

And then there’s Strike 2, which already has an outstanding reputation (for obvious reasons) as, some might say, the most powerful virtual drummer instrument on the planet… period. In a lot of cases, I would be skeptical, but believe the hype because Strike earns every last bit of praise it receives, not just from electronic artists, but professional drummers with real world experience who know what a polished drum groove sounds and feels like.

Under the hood, Strike is overflowing with approximately twenty gigabytes of premium studio recordings of top-of-the-line drum kits and percussive instruments from around the world, providing a startling amount of attention to detail when it comes to creating quality rhythm parts.

Speaking of rhythm, I was utterly blown away with Transfuser 2, which is arguably the most epic groove station within the scope of existence. Okay, perhaps I built it up too much, but I have my reasons. Armed to the teeth with hundreds of instantly usable drum patterns spanning a wide range of categories to all kinds of musical phrases skillfully groomed to perfection, Transfuser 2 just might be the most advanced third-party MIDI sequencing platform ever developed, with unparalleled creative potential and a revolutionary new technology called M.A.R.I.O (short for Musically Advanced Random Intelligence Operations).

M.A.R.I.O. watches your every move – but in a totally non-creepy way – using a highly intelligent randomization algorithm that allows you to quickly and easily generate surprisingly sophisticated variations of arpeggios and drum sequences on the fly with just a few simple controls including a drop-down menu for assigning randomization targets, a depth knob and two nifty little arrows enabling you to browse through M.A.R.I.O’s event history.

Last but not least, for all you keyboardists out there chewing at the bit to get your hands on the hottest virtual electric piano instrument available, look no further because Velvet is just that: a combination of five classic electric pianos all rolled up into one tight little package, with silky smooth Rhodes and Wurlitzer presets spilling out of a simple yet stylish interface.

Vacuum Pro AIR Music Technology.

Vacuum Pro excels at emulating classic analogue sounds.

I never really cared all that much about the whole virtual electric piano scene before I used Velvet, which gave me a much-needed attitude adjustment. I was pleasantly and unexpectedly surprised by its alarmingly realistic emulations of Fender’s legendary MKI & MKII Rhodes and inspired Wurlitzer models, all of which employ modal synthesis and various sampling techniques in order to nail down the dynamic characteristics of Velvet’s electromechanical counterparts.

AIEP 2.0.4 Update

In recent history, some recipients of AIR’s software that came bundled with midi hardware have expressed problems with old PACE drivers locking horns with old license managers. I just want to assure anyone with old software installing old drivers that your old license is as good as new.

The long-awaited 2.0.4 update is finally here, introducing the new PACE Eden protection system with a refurbished iLok License Manager that resolves earlier conflicts with Interlok and provides three separate licenses per code for additional systems, so you can look forward to using your updated software on new computers later on down the road.

Also featured in the new update is streamlined support for Cubase 8, Logic Pro X and obviously Pro Tools 11, with a good number of enhancements improving overall stability and performance.

The Verdict

I usually don’t bring up pricing within the context of my reviews; I just include a score I think is fair in the ratings section below. But in this special case, I feel very comfortable saying that AIR could distribute their Instrument Expansion Pack for almost twice the retail value they’re asking for. It’s not just fair, it’s downright generous.

I feel like a snake oil salesman who’s snake oil actually does cure blindness and disease. I really, honestly cannot think of a single thing I would change, and I know that sounds horribly condescending, but you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that this is by far and large the best affordable virtual instrument bundle available. But don’t let its affordability convince you that it’s somehow second rate. Just trust me. You’ll be flying first class all the way.

Product page: AIR Instrument Expansion Pack ($299.99)

The Giveaway

AIR Music Technology has been awesome enough to provide a free copy of the fantastic AIR Instrument Expansion Pack product bundle (worth $299.99) to one lucky BPB reader! To enter the giveaway, simply answer the following question in the comments section below:

How many virtual instruments do you keep installed on your computer?

Please don’t leave multiple comments (only one entry per person is allowed) and don’t reply to other comments. The giveaway ends on March 4th and the winner will be announced on this page.

Good luck everyone and thanks to AIR Music Technology for the amazing prize!

Our lucky winner this time around is Mark (comment #65). Congratulations! :)

Thanks everyone for joining in and stay tuned for our next giveaway!

AIR Instrument Expansion Pack Review

9.0 Brilliant

I feel very comfortable saying that AIR could distribute their Instrument Expansion Pack for almost twice the retail value they’re asking for. It’s not just fair, it’s downright generous.

  • Features 9
  • Workflow 8
  • Stability 8
  • Design 10
  • Pricing 10
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About Author

Bryan Lake is a sound designer and a musician. He publishes sound design tutorials and sound libraries on his website Sound Author.


  1. I usually check the synths BPB recommends. Right now, I have Sforzando by Plogue , U-he free ones and the drum by Manda software. Thank you

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