Review of eDNA Earth – A synthesiser made of orchestras – a virtual instrument for Kontakt (full version or player) by Spitfire Audio

Review of eDNA Earth – A synthesiser made of orchestras – a virtual instrument for Kontakt (full version or player) by Spitfire Audio

Introduction

Spitfire Audio is proudly reintroducing eDNA EARTH — enriching its epic collection of synthesised orchestral sounds created from ten years’ worth of widely-used, wide-ranging organic orchestral live recordings with which it has made its notable name as a British music technology company that specialises in sounds, this time warped or morphed into different textures and amazing state-of-the-art electronic soundscapes, served up via an easy-to-use, ultra-controllable GUI giving access to all areas of new sonic experimentation, enhanced with support for Native Instruments’ NKS (Native Kontrol Standard®) extended plug-in format for all virtual instrument developers (delivering seamless software connection to the German giant’s cutting-edge KOMPLETE KONTROL S-Series keyboards and MASCHINE hardware for intuitive interaction).

eDNA EARTH can be purchased and digitally downloaded typically priced at £149.00 GBP (inc. VAT)/$149.00 USD/€149.00 EUR (inc. VAT) — from Spitfire Audio

For more in-depth information, including some superb-sounding audio demos, please visit the dedicated eDNA EARTH webpage

Watch Spitfire Audio Director Paul Thomson’s ‘traditional’ video walkthrough of eDNA EARTH

Watch fellow Spitfire Audio Directors Christian Henson and Paul Thomson telling the story behind eDNA EARTH

eDNA EARTH needs Native Instruments’ free KONTAKT PLAYER (5.6.8 or higher) — included in the purchase — to run as a fully NKS (NATIVE KONTROL STANDARD®) supporting plug-in instrument for Mac (OS X 10.10 or later) or Windows (7, 8, or 10 — latest Service Pack, 32/64-bit), while Spitfire Audio’s free Download Manager application allows anyone to buy now and download anytime.

Background

eDNA EARTH is based around a collection of 1,900-plus basic instruments, mangled into over 1,000 custom presets professionally programmed by the talented team at Spitfire Audio during several months. The proprietary eDNA Engine — a sample-synthesiser powerhouse that can combine two sounds and modulate between them with envelopes, filters, and wobbles per sound, as well as a gate sequencer and a selection of go-to effects — driving those hard-won results is, itself, effectively user-driven by a GUI that’s as easy on the eye as it is easy to use, ultimately allowing for a wide range of genres and cinematic settings. Simply select by sound type — Atmos, Bass, Drones and Scapes, Drums and Percussion, FX, Keys, Leads, Pads and Strings, Sequences and Plucks, or Synthetic Orchestra — and play. Put it this way: with such depth of content — from beautifully refined dynamic crossfades to turbo-charged tempo synced, gated, and phased wonders — readily accessible, anyone playing each carefully crafted sound for only 30 seconds would need 15 hours to listen to each and every instrument and patch available! And that’s before tweaking to make more of their own.

On top of that, the eDNA Engine itself is made up of seven so-called ‘cartridges’ — each curated by a different composer or engineer, each focusing on a distinct sonic style; perfectly positioned presets abound — all arranged by sound type, but users can also browse by cartridge, both from within the eDNA EARTH GUI or directly from Native Instruments’ cutting-edge KOMPLETE KONTROL S-Series keyboards and MASCHINE hardware, thanks to that newly-implemented NKS support… no mouse or trackpads (necessarily) needed!

eDNA EARTH cartridges currently comprise: ANALOGUE (digital verses analogue synth battles, made using Spitfire Audio co-founder Christian Henson’s hallowed vintage synthesiser collection of Junos, Jupiters, Moogs, and MS20s, creating a whole new world of sonic opportunities); BROKEN (pseudo-organic atmospheres, crossfades, drones, effects, and pads curated by Harnek Mudhar, a Spitfire Audio engineer with his finger firmly on the pulse, successfully spanning the hinterland between organic orchestral material and raw synth sounds — almost like earthly instruments, but slightly warped); CINEMATIC (modern hybrid synths for the big screen, curated by multi-award-winning composer Christian Henson); DARK (series of chaotic, frenzied, dystopian sounds — from searing leads to super-fat basses and atmospheric, eerie pads, suitable for the grittier end of dance music while also adding edge to hybrid blockbuster and trailer work); RETRO (mainstream zeitgeist synths and patterns by resident Spitfire Audio sonic wizard Stanley Gabriel, adding an extra dimension to pop and dance music); TRANCE (EDM classics and next-generation dance, rhythmic synths, and epic drops, taking users on a journey from quirky 8-bit vintage game console sounds through to ambient techno and minimal house); and WARPED (ever-changing soundscapes — hold down a sound and move the modulation wheel very slowly, since such sounds are programmed to morph beyond all recognition via vibrant shimmering paths).

As an evidently elated Christian Henson himself says: “So we’ve updated eDNA; the sounds are a lot easier to browse, it’s now NKS-compatible, and I’m actually working on a new cartridge at the moment, which I’m quite excited about — always a joy to work with EARTH!”

Working with the enriched encyclopaedia of cinematic synth sounds that is eDNA EARTH is, indeed, a joyful and musically-enthralling experience, one which benefits from fellow Spitfire Audio co-founder Paul Thomson’s thoughtful consideration as to why, exactly, content that is organic at origin yet sounds synthetic mixes better with live or orchestral elements: “It’s about having depth in the sound, as opposed to a slightly two-dimensional sound. Even though you can get a synth sound that appears to have a depth in the soundstage, there’s something about a sound that’s recorded in a space that has a kind of spacial depth. When Quincy Jones worked on Michael Jackson’s albums, a lot of the synths were played out into the room and then re-amped, basically, in order to get a kind of sonic depth to the sound. So I think that what we’ve done — by starting with a sound that was recorded in a 3D space and then kind of imposing synthetic texture on to it — is retain that depth within the sound.”

Wise words there from a sound musical mind. Musically, then, eDNA EARTH has been created with film, TV, and games music in mind, offering endless inspiration to the next generation of media composers, whether wishing to go ‘off world’ — following in the bold footsteps of Greek genius Vangelis, whose inspirational futuristic fusion characterised the timeless score to visionary director Ridley Scott’s 1982 neo-noir science fiction film classic Bladerunner, which, in Christian Henson’s equally wise words, “…was synthetic but approached from an orchestral arrangement POV…” — or keeping their musical feet firmly planted here on earth! Either way, eDNA EARTH should also appeal to dance and pop producers wanting to add cutting-edge, cinematic electronic textures to their music — made even easier by Spitfire Audio coming back to (eDNA) EARTH with an enriched encyclopaedia of cinematic synth sounds!

Conclusions

eDNA Earth uses Spitfire Audio’s heritage to create an incredible sounding instrument that is equally at home producing cinematic synths, soundscapes and drones, cutting edge EDM sounds and so much more.

Don’t be fooled or put off that this is a sample based synthesiser, Spitfire Audio samples are always superb quality and they have used about 1,900 samples to create more than 1,000 presets. The range of sounds is staggering, it is incredibly versatile. The presets are ready to use straightaway and sound excellent, you’ll easily find hundreds that you like – whatever style of music you create. The sheer number of presets is probably more than you’d ever need, you’d get brilliant results just using these. That said, you’ll be missing out because Earth offers extensive tweaking and modulation options for you to fine-tune and/or add your own touch to the sounds.

I’ve used it exclusively on the track embedded at the top of this review that I created for a recent NaviarHaiku challenge. The song was scoped out using Scaler and sounds are processed with a range of Eventide effects.

Using eDNA Earth

The interface is really well designed, it has a modern look and feel.

It’s not like some of the other Spitfire Audio interfaces, it is much more like a synthesiser. Each preset comprises of two samples, A and B that have typical synthesiser controls such as filter, envelope, tune, pan as well as volume, pitch and filter wobble controls. There is scope to sculpt each of these sounds individually and adjust the mix between them. You can set a static mix level or adjust with the mod wheel or LFO for movement.

The optional gate sequencer is an excellent addition.

The ‘easy effects’ can be seen at the bottom of the main screen in the FX dash section. That said, there is a separate page for fx and motor accessed by clicking at the bottom of the screen. This page shows the complexity of the effects section, there are separate insert effects for A and B, a shared set of send fx called AUX fx, motor fx and master fx. The motor fx are really interesting. The motors are two LFOs with two sub_LFO sub-motors. The LFO motor can be a mix of waveforms and used to modulate one or more parameters of one of the FX modules in the Motor FX set. The sub-motor can modulate the frequency and/or the strength of the corresponding primary motor.

You can access each of these effect layers by clicking on the appropriate text. The effects do vary by layer with controls for the selected effect displayed underneath. There’s an excellent selection of effects including a convolution reverb with a number of impulses and the option to use your own.