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Review: “Super Audio Cart” Library by Impact Soundworks

Super Audio Cart Kontakt Library

If you are into chip-tune or retro video games sound then you have probably already heard: The guys at Impact Soundworks (we featured them recently with their interesting “Sonic Forest” library) have released Super Audio Cart, a new virtual instrument for Kontakt that is a tribute to the golden age of video gaming.

They deeply sampled 7 classic video game systems and captured thousands of waveforms, then plugged them into a powerful synth engine to open up endless sound design possibilities.

Needless to say that this is big news for everybody who is involved with game audio, from beginner to pro, from enthusiast to fanatic, this is what we all have been waiting for.

I took this magical tool of old-school awesomeness for a ride. I can already tell you this much, it was hard to stop playing to make this review.

Overview

Super Audio Cart Kontakt Library

Super Audio Cart was produced in collaboration with OverClocked ReMix, a non-profit organization and website founded in 1999 with the goal of preserving and appreciating video game music from all eras. But most likely you already know about OC ReMix, right? Well if you don’t, then it is high time to go check them out.

“Super Audio Cart” features the Atari 2600, the Commodore 64, the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System),the Sega Master System, the Game Boy, the Genisis, and the SNES (Super Nintendo) game systems, recorded in fine detail from the actual hardware. Where most retro plugins use emulations of these sound chips, “Super Audio Cart” features actual output captured with a variety of software and hardware tools, offering the most authentic possible sound. And even where a direct sampling wasn’t possible the recreated something virtually indistinguishable
Within Kontakt as engine, this library grants access to the full set of sound sources in a 4-layer architecture with independent controls, FX racks, and poly-arpeggiator/sequencer for each layer.

Over a dozen filter models are available, along with custom mapping and performance controls, volume/pitch/filter envelopes, and a mighty 64-slot modulation matrix. But you don’t need to be a sound designer to use it – every patch uses the performance XY pad and mod wheel for instant sound variation.

To make use of all these sounds and featured Impact Soundworks created over 1,000 factory snapshots, including authentic presets and modern ones. The latter category ranges from dirty basses, motion pads, risers, and falls, to drum loops, rhythmic sequences, experimental FX, keys and much more.

Super Audio Cart Kontakt Library

The Interface

The interface is simple and easy to understand, yet offers an enormous amount of depth, and some features are easily overlooked if you don’t know they’re there. That being a major pitfall for most big libraries, Impact Soundworks addressed this extremely well, by providing some great tutorials for “Super Audio Cart”, which you can find here.

Having watched those I think that even a complete beginner should be well equipped to start working with this library, given she/he understands the basics of her DAW of preference.

Super Audio Cart’s interface consists of five pages, one being the main page, and the other for dedicated each to one of the four engines.

The main page shows all basic functionalities and some beyond. Up to four sound layers can be turned on and off, and for each one there’s separate controls over emulated sound model, preset, volume, panning, pitch, cut off, MIDI channel, output, mute and solo. Additionally each layer contains an ARP switch, to turn the integrated arpeggiator on and off, a RAW switch, that forces a sound layer into the limitation it had in the original console, and a FX switch, to turn the integrated effects section for each layer on and off.

On the right side covers a control link, which allows to link some or all of the layer controls together. Below that is the switch for the global effects section. Followed by the randomize buttons, one for each layer and one for all layers. These are quite fun to play with and can be assigned to some or all values, and yield very inspiring results, and occasionally and possible noise.

Lastly, there is the very noticeable X/Y pad, which enables us to blend the different layers in a similar fashion as for example cinematic guitars infinity, and those of you having used an X/Y pad before know the magic this holds. Having played with it quite a lot, I’m almost sure other parameters can also be mapped to this. This would easily be my favorite feature of this library if it wasn’t so packed with amazing things.

Like I said before, the other four pages are identical, one for each sound layer, but it does get interesting in those. Each one has two tabs one being the sound tab, and one the arpeggiator tab.

The sound tab is filled with options and offers extremely deep control over the sound. It lets us control tuning, sample offset, velocity sensitivity, pitch range, vibrato wave form, vibrato speed, vibrato depth, mapping range, filter resonance, portamento, portamento time, pitch bend range,and also contains a filter envelopes, a pitch envelope, and a volume envelope. I find it quite hard to think of anything more, I could’ve wished for here.

Super Audio Cart Kontakt Library

And now for the next truly impressive part. The arpeggiator tab. This is it chiptune makers dream. Its capabilities go way beyond your standard arpeggiator. As you can see in the picture above, this gives you control over pitch, volume, length, and wave in arpeggiator form, and also lets you sync to different note increments, control swing, change the note order, control the number of stepss, and it can also be used as a gate. It comes with a bunch of presets and is easy to control, and very intuitive.

The Sound

The sound of this library is phenomenal! The guys at Impact Soundworks together with overclocked remix modeled a huge amount patches, and they did it so well that I can’t tell the difference, even if I plug my old SNES in. There was obviously a lot of material they couldn’t sample for copyright reasons, but they are patches, inspired by the original are as good or better.

Given the type of sounds were talking about here sample quality isn’t the issue, but authenticity and character is. And as far as that goes they totally nailed it. Looking at the sheer amount of patches, and customizability options I can’t help feeling impressed by the sheer amount of hours that must have gone into this, as is clearly reflected in the quality of this instrument.

I have tried quite a few plug-ins with in the chiptune field, and so far nothing has felt this much has the real thing, has been as playable or as fun. I can’t find anything negative to say, so I won’t

Conclusion

After playing around with “Super Audio Cart” for several hours my opinion has only changed for the better. The library is fun and intuitive and easy to get into when you first start out, and still offers tons of depth and things to learn, figure out, and experiment with. If anything will inspire more gamers to become musicians as well, this is it, at least as far as sound goes.

To me it is absolute heaven, it inspires me, and reminds me of all my favorite games from my youth. It also successfully closes the gap between old-school sound, and modern technology. With “Super Audio Cart” you can go as crossover, or as authentic as you want.

It is noticeable in the best possible way, that this library is created together with the world’s biggest classic game audio community. And I can already say that this is one of my favorite library releases for this year. I definitely recommend this library if you are into chiptune and classic game audio. But even if you just like to incorporate elements of those genres you can’t do much wrong with “Super Audio Cart”.

All that is left for me to say is a gigantic “thank you” to Impact Soundworks, and OC remix for creating this outrageously satisfying library. You are my heroes!

Facts:

  • Price: $149 USD
  • Seven legendary video game systems: NES, SNES, GB, 2600, C64, SMS, GEN.
  • Over 5,500 samples, over 600 unique sound sources.
  • Full NKS support.
  • All-new SNES ROM sample bank.
  • Classic GEN game instruments.
  • Meticulous editing to preserve authenticity.
  • Recorded using actual hardware.
  • Four layer architecture with independent controls.
  • Poly-arpeggiator, sequencer and gate.
  • Pitch, mapping, and playback parameters.
  • Over a dozen filter models.
  • Five separate FX racks with 8 modules each.
  • Custom “SNESVERB” module.
  • 64-slot modulation matrix.
  • Free CC/MIDI assignment to any parameter.

Requirements

  • Kontakt OR Kontakt Player version 5.5.2 or higher
  • 4GB disk space
  • 2GB RAM (4GB recommended)
  • CPU from 2008 or later.
  • Your system must also meet the requirements for version 5.5.2 of Kontakt. If you cannot run that version, you will not be able to load this library.

About Author

Merlin Györy – also known as “Cloudjumper” is a Composer, Sound Designer, and public speaker working primarily in the video game and movie industry for over 6 years. He is also head of the game audio project MM4VG. Reach out to him here: www.cloudjumper.de