uBeat Bundle is tailored towards studio beat making but also live performances. It combines a traditional MIDI file library with an 8 pads drum machine instrument, giving endless possibilities in an intuitive format.
Like the previous Pads library which I reviewed here, the uBeat Bundle is adapted for Kontakt Player, the free version of Native Instruments’ flagship sampler software.
uBeat Bundle is a set of three beat making instruments: one for hip hop and one for electronic beats, plus a “Hybrid” with a mix of acoustic and electronic sounds. These instruments are also available for purchase individually, but if you opt for the bundle of three, you save nearly $100.
The main feature of uBeat is that you can freely choose your working direction: use the pre-made loops as a kick-start in your tracks, or start from scratch with your own ideas. uBEAT comes pre-loaded with a set of 45 preset kits with 90 MIDI loops per instrument. You can drag and drop the MIDI loops into piano roll of FL Studio and rework or make your adjustments, or hit the record button and play your own drum beats using a MIDI keyboard. Each of the 8 pads is fully customisable, it can be loaded with any sample from the kits, and the combinations can be saved as user kits. Speaking of saved items, you can also come up with your own MIDI loops (there is a special folder for that) to load them instantly into uBeat.
uBeat doesn’t resume only to those above. Further, you have individual sample controls allowing to sculpt the samples, and a range of effect chains per individual sample to process and achieve the desired sound. Also, the mixer allow tweaking the drum kits during the mixdown stage.
The installation process goes through Continuata Connect downloader which will download, unpack, and organize all the files in the location you choose. Then, the activation is handled by Native Instruments Service Center (via Kontakt), where you will use the same provided download/serial code to activate the instrument. Keep in mind that you must have at least 1GB free space on the HDD or SSD where you install the instrument library.
I would characterize uBeat as having a modern interface, bold and colorful. It is very well designed, and it doesn’t put you in difficulty in the first minutes of use. The interface consists of three pages/views in the following order: main view, mixer view and effects view.
Main view is where we find the pads, sample controls and the file browser. Pads are the main attraction of uBeat. There are 8 of them, all being color coded (16 available colors + auto category color loader). Each pad has basic controls such as reverse, solo/mute, and round-robin with up to six variations. To assign a sound to a pad, simply select the category, then browse through the available sounds in that category. Sounds are mapped chromatically between C3 and G3 across the keyboard.
A white ring around the pad indicates that is selected for editing, and any changes you make in sample controls will be applied to its sound source. You can adjust 8 parameters, including volume, pan, tune, attack, hold, decay, start point of sample and velocity sensitivity.
The file browser is the place where you can browse through the available MIDI files. Its display indicates the name of the currently loaded MIDI file. Next to it, you will notice a “cross” symbol; drag that area and drop the MIDI file into FL Studio piano roll for further editing. The MIDI files are organised as all in one folder, but also sorted by kits. You can load your own MIDI files into uBeat, but first you must paste them at this location …\uBEAT Bundle\MIDI Files\Elektro\User (example given for Elektro instrument). uBeat uses 8-bar long MIDI’s, so make sure your MIDI files are at this length.
Now, in the mixer view we have each of the 8 sounds split on mixer tracks. You can tweak the relative volumes, panning and tuning of each sound; these controls are duplicated from the main page, for those who prefer mixing the drums in a traditional way.
At the bottom of each mixer track you will notice an output selector with a list of possible outputs, such as the FX chain (selected by default for each pad with its corresponding FX chain, but you can make any combination of pad & FX chain), master FX, or pointed to the DAW (or audio interface, in standalone Kontakt).
The effects view consists of 8 FX chains, a global FX chain and send effects. An FX chain permits up to seven effect processors like solid eq, distortion, lo-fi, transient master, bus compressor, filter and tape saturator. Each of the seven FX processors can be swapped to take any position in the chain, or turned on/off. Also, multiple sounds can be routed to the same FX chain (mixer tracks are not locked to a specific FX chain, as you probably figured out the above).
FX chains can be further extended by sending their output to your DAW, so you can make best use of both uBEAT’s internal FX as well your own favorite effect plugins.
There are also available two delay and two reverb sends; the output volume of each send effect is set with the Return knobs. Both delay sends are identical in their features, same with the reverbs, and can be edited independently.
uBeat Bundle is in my opinion, one of the most modern drum loop library and finger drumming instrument (to date). Its main advantages are the high quality sounds, paired with the intuitive interface. Add the simple and efficient mixer, the various effect processors, and you will get a complete instrument. There are many ways it can be used during the production process: for example you can edit the factory MIDI’s directly on your DAW (thanks to the drag & drop feature), or you can record your own beats with a MIDI controller. Another plus is that you can add your own MIDI files and build a cool library. I must say that you can’t add your own samples, but given that you get sound samples for almost any music genre, that would not be a real problem. On the contrary, this “limitation” is beneficial to the creation process, we all know that too much sometimes is not good.
uBeat Bundle is suitable for a wide range of genres, including hip hop, electro, house, techno, future bass, minimal, electronica etc. I highly recommend it for all the producers looking for an up-to-date drum instrument solution. At the moment, uBeat Bundle costs $199, which I think is the right price for what it offers: a world of beats at your fingertips!
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