Review: S-LAYER Reaktor Sample Layering Tool by Twisted Tools

S-LAYER Reaktor

For the next part of the Totally Twisted Bundle reviews series, I am looking at S-LAYER. Now before I begin, I want to show you a picture:

Now before I begin, I want to show you a picture:

Studio Stairs

I am currently in the process of building a recording studio. It is solid concrete and reinforced steel and weighs about two and a half tons. Now, what does this have to do with the tool I am reviewing you may ask? Well, the picture is a great metaphor for the S-LAYER.

S-LAYER is about creating powerful samples/loops for your productions through the use of layering, effects, and modulation.

Take the stairs here, on its own, it does nothing, it is a large slab of stone and steel in the shape of stairs, leading to nowhere. But add the modulation of the people installing it, the layering of the materials around the stairs, the effects of the forklift and crane holding the chains supporting it and you have created access to a space full of possibility.

Without the sum of the parts here, the use and function of the stairs can be seen, we all know what stairs does, but its real life functionality is lacking. The same goes for samples. What are once steadfast samples, marooned to their respective place on your hard drive, can be given communal life and movement for use though S-layer.

Twisted Tools S-Layer

S-LAYER is a sample layering sound creation tool for NI Reaktor that allows you to create, edit and play new sound combinations” is how Twisted Tools describe this audio tool.

Sample layering, pitch and pan modulation, filtering etc… are all basic concepts we know inside out, but when it comes to creating your own samples, it can be a tedious process of all of the above, resampling and watching hours disappear from your precious free time you have set aside for production.

Without using dedicated software like S-layer, setting up audio channels, automating panning, pitch, etc, all seems scattered when doing it in a DAW.

The automation lines alone would give someone a headache when layering a large amount of audio with movement.

S-Layer, quarantines all of this into a single, relatively easy to use program. I say relatively as I am still getting to grips with setting up sample maps for S-Layer, but unlike conventional layered sample creation, you can set up maps to contain all the sounds you could possibly need for a project which is then loaded into S-Layer, Ultraloop and other Twisted Tools programs.

Instead of incessantly pressing the up and down arrow keys for days which erodes the creative drive from the onset, the pre-emptive preparation of the maps aids the distillation process of highly productive audio creation.

Once the audio has been decided upon, we move on to the modulation options. Sample choice, Start/Delay, Pitch, Pan and Volume controls, as well as phase and playback speed all can be controlled, sequenced and randomized from the easy to use “main” interface.

The “FX” parameter page contains Grain, Stretch, Cutoff and Resonance, and filter mode, as well as an envelope page with full AHDSR control.

S-LAYER FX Page
S-LAYER FX Page

The modulation controls allows up to 32 possible unique step sequenced patterns, a four pattern choice per scene, which can be assigned to the above-mentioned parameters and can be sequenced in your DAW or controlled via MIDI. This type of control expands this machine’s functionality from creation to performance.

S-Layer Modulation Page
S-Layer Modulation Page

My personal performance skills are akin to watching paint dry, so I feel very underqualified to comment any further, but those of you more adept would be hamstrung if you choose to overlook this. I have been using this program for a good few days now, and the value of this machine is blatantly obvious.

We, as consumers of audio in an age of rapid technological advancement, seem to be gravitating towards an attraction to complex sound design in modern composition. S-layer take your carefully sculpted sounds and give them an extra dimension in the sonic sphere for you to manipulate.

From where I am sitting everything S-Layer does can be done without it in any DAW, but also from where I am sitting, I spent 10+ years of reading articles and watching/reading tutorials during the time I did not have spare.

Conclusion

S-Layer, in my opinion, condenses all the time and effort I spent learning from these sources into a very concise machine that removes all that is superfluous of great sample production.

I am making better one shot samples, creative sound design segments and sound art motifs now with S-Layer than I ever have with everything that has come before for me.

Honestly, I believe that if I had plug-ins like S-Layer (and Ultraloop) when I was a music production neophyte, I would not have spent all those hours watching tutorial videos into the early mornings, or reading those articles when I should be paying attention in lectures, I would have just learned how to use this, and be a better sound designer than I am today.

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