Battery, by Native Instruments "breathes life into your drum samples"...
At least that's the way Native Instruments begins to describe it's hot new product. Battery is a software sampler designed for drum sounds, but is also good for pitched sounds.
April 7, 2001
So, what is Battery really all about? Battery is first and foremost a VST Instrument (or as other plug in format) that works as a software sampler enabling extreme control over samples. It could be compared to Steinberg's LM4, but with additional features and far more flexibility. It can be used as a stand alone program, but it's primary effectiveness is when used as a VST INSTRUMENT in Cubase or any other program that supports VST plug ins (other formats like MAS also supported).
Now lets get this out of the way right off the bat... Battery is NOT a loop or groove generator. It is not pattern or grid based and does not generate grooves (however samples can be looped within the program as well as modulation capabilities with looping). Battery is primarily an INSTRUMENT that needs midi input or otherwise to trigger the samples. It has a host of features that makes creating and tweaking drum tracks a pleasure. But you still need to give it something to work with! It's easy and fun to use for all skill levels.
At $199. Battery is a remarkable value. Not only do you get a great interface that helps you tweak and mangle your existing library of samples to your delight, but it also comes stuffed with 20 high quality soundsets. The soundsets alone are worth buying this package for. But the real icing on the cake for us is that Battery can read samples in the formats Akai, SF2, LM4, AIFF, WAV and MAP (Reaktor format)! WOW! We immediately discovered that Battery is a great tool to get all those Akai sample CD-ROMS data into our computers! Fabulous! More on that later.
So now that you know that we like Battery, lets tell you about our experiences working with it on both PC and Mac.
Although we do our primary composing on the Mac, we decided to first load it onto our PC, a Micron 450 Pentium II with 192 MB RAM and just the stock Maestro sound card, but cranked into a mighty set of Altec Lansing computer speakers with subwoofer. Installation couldn't have been easier! We inserted the cd and followed the excellent installation instructions. We chose CUSTOM INSTALL and installed both the stand alone version + VST Plug IN. In minutes we were opening the program and entering the serial number. Set up the soundcard, set the midi in and out and then we copied the soundsets from the 2nd CD onto our drive. Keep in mind this is a big transfer and took close to 10 minutes to get all the kits from the cd (576 MB in all including kits and examples + midi files). Another option is to just insert the cd-rom when you need to get kits. We like to have our sounds ready, so we opted to put them on the hard drive for immediate access.
We adjusted the the controls for better latency ("play ahead") as guided by the manual (by the way it is PRINTED!) and whoila! We were all done and ready to play.
We confirmed that the stand alone version worked and played some notes with our midi controller. Sounded good. Loaded a few kits and were amazed by the soundsets. Then opened Fruity Loops 3 Full and opened up Battery as a VST Instrument. Easy as can be!
All we can say is WOW, Battery combined with Fruity Loops is a killer combo to generate an endless variety of loops! We experimented with some of the Battery sound sets and were LOST in all the possibilities. The included kits are first rate! Be prepared to spend a lot of time exploring the sounds they provide with the program. Drum N Bass, Rock, Jazz, Dance... you name it. The 20 kits cover everything form real sounding to totally bizarre.
We played with the sound shaping controls and modified some of the samples. Great fun! You can mutilate each cell and it's sample in so many ways and save your new kits to use later. The exact state and all settings are saved, even as a VST instrument.
We then moved on to loading in some of our Akai sample cd-roms. I must admit I was anticipating some trouble, but Battery works like a charm with Akai CD-ROMS. Just pop the CD into your drive, select FILE in Battery and LOAD AKAI. A dialog box comes up listing the AKAI partitions and each of the programs. You can even audition the individual samples before you load them. You can load individual samples, entire programs or even multiple programs by shift selecting all the names right there in the dialog box. The great thing is that Battery will continue loading as many samples as it can fit in the available cells (54 total). If there are still available cells you can go back and ADD more samples till you fill them up! That's great! This means that you can load multiple programs resulting in a stuffed to the gill instrument! Hooray! Now here is the real kicker - after you load up the Akai samples, Battery keeps them all safe and secure in an IMPORTED samples file folder right within the main Battery folder! Yep! That means you can now use the imported WAV files in any program you desire, not just Battery! This alone makes the program INVALUABLE. No more restrictive file requirements like other soft samplers. Battery will open up a whole new world to you. Just think of all the Akai sample CD-ROMS there are out there! And sound fonts too!
Now, a quick note on the Bitheadz Unity DS-1 software sampler, which also does read Akai samples. Theres a catch with that program. The samples must be on your hard drive in order for Unity DS-1 to read the files. Battery takes it a step further and opens up the world of CD-ROMS to you. In order to read samples in Unity DS-1, we had to use the EVALUATION version of Bitheadz OSMOSIS to convert the samples off our Akai CD-ROMS, which it did, but that program is expensive (as much as Battery!) and the Osmosis demo is feature restricted. Battery does it all very happily within the Battery program, and even keeps the Akai samples in the WAV format on your drive for use by so many other programs (like ACID, Reaktor and Fruity Loops for example). Hats off to you Native Instruments for getting this one right!
So... we played for a full day on the PC with Battery and decided it was time to get serious and install it on our Mac to use with Cubase VST 24. Mac used: G3 beige desktop with 450 upgrade and 256 MB RAM, using MOTU 24i Audio interface with ASIO.
Mac installation was not quite as painless. Small glitch. For some reason after opening the stand alone Battery program and entering the serial number the computer froze and crashed. Native Instruments offers a fix.
After a reboot we just moved on to using the Battery VST instrument in Cubase VST 24. It again requested the Serial Number. No prob. Entered it and boom - Battery worked like a charm with Cubase as a VST instrument. Fun fun fun! We also did some Akai CD-ROM imports and all worked well.
So how does Battery sound? Excellent! From clean real sounding drums to the most extreme oddball sounds, Battery delivers an impressive array of sound possibilities. You can take even the tamest of samples and mangle them to some new incredible sounds. Battery works like a champ and sounds like a million bucks. No latency problems at all on the Mac (minimal on PC) and it is so very easy to use as a VST instrument. In no time we were cranking out killer grooves in Cubase. Best of all is that in Cubase you have all the other options available such as processing with VST Effects, and all the quantize and groove options. The mangling and mutilation possibilities with Battery and Cubase are endless!
Battery is very friendly on CPUs and as a VST Instrument we were able to load up multiple instances of the plug in with multiple kits open. It is quick and responsive (unlike LM4 which is a hog and slow loading to boot!). Only problem we had was that with the "reggae kit" Battery in Cubase was not able to load the full kit of samples (error dialog saying run out of space?). We restarted Cubase after allocating a little more RAM to it, but still couldn't get the full kit to load. Oddly enough on the PC it loaded no problem.
So... all in all working with Battery has been a great experience. A must have in any midi composers toolkit. The sound sparkles, the kits provided are excellent and the fact it reads Akai CD-ROMS and more sample formats is a huge plus.
What would we like to see implemented in future versions of the program? Well... hate to be picky, but we do believe that Battery should have some form of step entry or grid patterns to generate loops with, aside from manually entering via the midi keyboard. We know it is not intended to replace a sequencer or program like Fruity Loops, but it'd be nice to generate some rhythmic stuff within Battery, especially in stand alone mode. Also another great feature would be some sort of "cell shuffling" capabilities. For example it'd be nice to MIX UP the cells to see what drum patterns come up. Also some sort of RANDOMIZATION of parameters, perhaps like the excellent PLUGGO plug ins have. Maybe an EVOLVE or RANDOMIZE function that shifts parameters in small increments or completely random. That would be a cool plus that would really make BATTERY even more fun to use!
So, if you like creating grooves and making music on your computer, Battery is an essential addition for your toolbox. Whether replacing or adding to a hardware or software sampler, Battery will get the job done and keep you occupied for endless hours!
Addendum: 7-10-04 Just wanted to make a note that I still use Battery like crazy and love it as much as ever! It still is one of my favorite VST instruments!
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