KHORDS is a sample-based virtual instrument powered by Loopmasters and sold exclusively at Pluginboutique. Find out more about the latest Loopmasters plugin in our review below.
Upon hearing that Loopmasters were about to release a plugin called KHORDS, my assumption was that it was going to be a chord generator of some sort. Perhaps something similar to Pluginboutique Scaler but focused on chords. What we got instead was a virtual instrument that is as inspiring and easy to use as Bass Master but with a much broader sonic palette.
Perhaps this wrong assumption is one of the reasons why I loved KHORDS so much when I played it for the first time. I loaded the demo version in Studio One thinking it was a chord generator, ready to spend a boring few minutes figuring out the MIDI routing (never a fun time, really). I played a note on my MIDI controller expecting to hear nothing but silence and BAM – the initial KHORDS preset sent a lovely mellow sounding house chord through my speakers. That’s when it clicked – this thing is a virtual instrument, you fool.
Love At First Sound
I usually begin reviewing plugins by talking about their features. When it comes to KHORDS, the features are only secondary to the instrument’s instant playability. I’m pretty sure I never spent so much time jamming and having a total blast when loading a virtual instrument for the first time. KHORDS is an instant inspiration toolbox. Preset after preset, I was coming up with new musical ideas that could easily become complete tracks. And that’s not to say I’m a musical prodigy by any means. The sound designers who worked on the factory patches for KHORDS simply did an amazing job.
Exploring the KHORDS sound bank, I had the feeling I was browsing through a talented musician’s super secret stash of their finest sampler presets. Almost every patch I bumped into sounded like it could instantly be used as the main building block of a track. Being somewhat of a synthesis geek, I don’t really use samplers for much else but plain old sample playback. The musically rich and evolving sounds included in KHORDS served as a great reminder of how powerful sample-based instruments can be.
Simple But Versatile
KHORDS is a two-layer sample-based instrument, with one layer reserved for chord samples and the other one for single note samples. Each layer features a single sample slot, two ADSR envelopes (one for the volume and one for the filter), a time-stretching module, a multi-mode filter with overdrive, and a filter LFO. The two sound layers use a library of samples provided by Loopmasters as the sound source. These are an essential component of the instrument’s magical ability to sound musically interesting with almost any setting. Loopmasters have supplied a versatile set of chord samples, vocal phrases, and sonic textures that are the perfect material for mangling, re-pitching, time-stretching, and other types of creative processing. Thanks to the quality of the included source sounds, it is almost impossible to make KHORDS sound boring.
The source samples are organized into categories by feel (Major, Minor, Root) and instrument type (Guitar, Keyboard, String, Vocal, etc.). The samples can be pitched up or down by up to 24 semitones, whereas the sample start point can be defined using a slider or mapped to the modulation wheel. Other parameters like sample pitch, filter cutoff, LFO speed, time-stretching amount, and portamento speed can also be mapped to the mod wheel using one of the four available modulation slots. The pitch wheel can only be used to change the pitch within the twelve semitone range. The developers have also included a button for assigning a completely random sample to each sample slot.
The sound coming from the two sound layers passes through the FX section before reaching the output. There are three effects on offer (chorus, delay, and reverb), followed by a 3-band frequency booster. The three main effects can be routed in any order but the frequency booster is always the last effect in the chain.
The interface favors user-friendliness and workflow efficiency over complexity. All the control parameters are contained within a single panel, allowing for quick and easy adjustments while editing a patch. That’s not to say that KHORDS is an instrument that feels limited, though. The flexible sample start point and the time-stretching module can be used to pinpoint different areas of the source sample, drastically changing the tone of the patch in just a few clicks. Likewise, the built-in delay and reverb effects can be used to turn KHORDS into a rather capable drone and texture generator.
The high-quality source samples and the intuitive user interface are what makes KHORDS such a fun virtual instrument. I’ve spent well over an hour playing KHORDS when I loaded the plugin for the first time. It’s hard to make this instrument sound bad and chances are you’ll come up with dozens of interesting new sounds for your tracks simply by fiddling around with the included samples. The 550 included presets are a great starting point, spanning across various music styles from hip-hop and house to ambient and noise.
The plugin could do with a few improvements, though. Most notably, a time-stretch lock feature would make it easier to work with vocal presets that need to maintain a consistent length across the key range. Also, adding a few more modulation sources to the matrix (like the pitch wheel and velocity, for example) would make KHORDS a more performance-oriented instrument. Finally, the amount of included samples (315 in the current version) could be higher, but I’m sure Loopmasters will provide multiple expansion sets in the future.
All things considered, KHORDS is the type of instrument I didn’t even know I needed in my arsenal before giving it a try. Now I’m looking forward to using it as a constant source of inspiration for future projects.
More info: KHORDS ($69 on sale)
Loopmasters KHORDS Review
KHORDS by Loopmasters is an instant inspiration machine. It feels like browsing through a talented producer's super secret stash of sound presets.