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So... who's got the best timpani?

NYC Composer

Senior Member
Really, are there any bad ones?
I’m sorry, only the finest timpani will do for my mediocre productions.

Regardless of the fact that timpani are generally buried beneath dozens of layers of my other questionable orchestral samples, I intend to spend thousands of dollars to unearth THE Timpani.

;)

(edit-it’s amazing that I get any work done given all the bullshit I spout simply to amuse myself.)
 
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Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
Not surprising that Miroslav Philharmonik is good for Timpani -- I haven't had a chance to review it recently -- as my recent revisiting of that library for Tubular Bells was enlightening. Like Rhapsody from Impact Soundworks, it might not be the top choice for the Chromatic Percussion instruments vs. the harder-to-find stuff, but the quality of those instruments within a catch-all package certainly adds to the appeal for first-time buyers. I tend to go for single-instrument libraries for stuff that is used all the time in my music (which Timpani are).
 

constaneum

Senior Member
Having said that, I was really impressed when I heard Orchestral Tools' timps at a NAMM Show a few years ago.

But there are a lot of good ones. AudioBro LADD, the ancient (but still great) EWQLSO ones, VSL, there's nothing wrong with the Vir2 Elite Orchestral Percussion ones, I remember the old Sonic Implants Giga ones sounding nice...

Really, are there any bad ones?
When i listen to the walkthrough of orchestral tool's timpani. I think it's one of the best sounding timpani libraries i've ever heard.
 

X-Bassist

Senior Member
Does anyone own timpani on fire? Real calfskins do sound like they would punch through the mix better, and I like the layout (keyswitches, left hand, right hand). But it’s been years since the website has been updated and vol 2 was never released (although they claimed years ago it was recorded- at least partially- with vol 1)

http://www.ftsamples.com/products/timpani-on-fire-vol-1

I have Cineperc and a number of others mentioned in this thread, but this one has always been one I’ve looked at, waiting for a sale that has never come. I’m just wondering if my payment will go off into the either and never return. Has anyone ever dealt with these guys? Here is the “walkthrough video”:

 

Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
Yep, even though Rhapsody tops my own list for quite a few things, its timpani are right smack in the middle of my rankings.

I have just confirmed that VSL uses Adams Timpani for their samples. My recollection is that it was their timpani that first put Adams on the map as a serious contender for Orchestral Percussion.

Not sure what Spitfire Percussion or Hans Zimmer uses. Copper being what it is, I suspect the variation between each manufactured drum is greater than that between the brands, of the reputable makers.
 
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markleake

Recovering sale addict
I'm going to add to my original response to NoamL... specifically on NI Symphony Series Percussion. I got this library a little while ago, and so only started using it recently. I'm still exporing it, and haven't used the timpani much yet. (l really love the Spitfire Timpany, there's something I find magical about the tone, so I keep going for that as my first choice). But I used NI timpany in a more bombastic track yesterday for the first time, and it did very well.

I've noticed before that NI's timpani doesn't get to that huge smashing sound at the top dynamic, so I've held off using them. But they did very well yesterday. They have a very clean sound that mixed in very easily with the busy track, so no issues with muddyness. I was worried they would get lost, but they didn't, although in this case I didn't want them to stand out too much. The room they're recorded in sounds fantastic & the mics give a lot of flexibility to the tone (I have the full version). Some of the features like the damping is something I immediately fell in love with, the damping works and sounds great, even exposed.

Playing around with them, they sound very good at lower dynamics too. They have some nice soft sustaining rolls which I want to explore more in the future, similar to HZ percussion. I think if you already have another library you can layer to get the very top dynamics when you need it, then the NI percussion timpany should be on your short list.
 
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constaneum

Senior Member
I'm going to add to my original response to NoamL... specifically on NI Symphony Series Percussion. I got this library a little while ago, and so only started using it recently. I'm still exporing it, and haven't used the timpani much yet. (l really love the Spitfire Timpany, there's something I find magical about the tone, so I keep going for that as my first choice). But I used NI timpany in a more bombastic track yesterday for the first time, and it did very well.

I've noticed before that NI's timpani doesn't get to that huge smashing sound at the top dynamic, so I've held off using them. But they did very well yesterday. They have a very clean sound that mixed in very easily with the busy track, so no issues with muddyness. I was worried they would get lost, but they didn't, although in this case I didn't want them to stand out too much. The room they're recorded in sounds fantastic & the mics give a lot of flexibility to the tone (I have the full version). Some of the features like the damping is something I immediately fell in love with, the damping works and sounds great, even exposed.

Playing around with them, they sound very good at lower dynamics too. They have some nice soft sustaining rolls which I want to explore more in the future, similar to HZ percussion. I think if you already have another library you can layer to get the very top dynamics when you need it, then the NI percussion timpany should be on your short list.
Spitfire Percussion' Timpani sounds great (more suitable for traditional orchestral). True Strike not bad as well (good for both traditional and cinematic style)
 

Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
Thanks to the comment about the Timpani in the original Spitfire Percussion library, I thoroughly reviewed that library for three hours last night for the first time -- I doubt I had even tried it once previously, other than for Timpani, as it was part of a package deal and I just assumed due to its age that it would be shallow and narrow. Quite the opposite; this remains one of the broadest and deepest orchestral percussion libraries on the market, and is at or near the top of my list now for several instruments, including Anvils, and even Timpani (just barely below Hans Zimmer Pro).

Having spent 30 hours on Timpani the past week, with many iterations where I thought I was done (meaning "this is as good as it gets" vs. "this is perfect"), I finally have reached confident conclusions about what's out there and how best to make use of it in a variety of contexts.

After lots of work, and a huge ramp-up curve on finally getting to a high level of proficiency with Vienna Synchron Player, I now prefer it to VI Pro, and also am finding that the libraries are mostly better -- they just take more work initially.

By far my top Timpani choice now, for most contexts, is VSL Synchron Timpani, which uses the Adams Artist Series (20", 23", 26", 29", 32") and is similar in sound to what was recorded for VI Pro (my second choice even still), but of course is more versatile due to all the mic choices etc.

Much to my surprise, I concluded that it is best to go ahead and enable the algorithmic reverb within Synchron Player in certain contexts, when using many mics, as it does help the close mic (and sometimes the mid mic) -- especially when boosted in the mic mix (my preference) -- to sit better with the distance mics (the surround set, and the Decca Tree mics), for a better 3D image.

Also, EQ is sometimes useful within the mic editors. The reason for this philosophy, which goes against how I have worked previously (including with drum products like BFD and Superior), is that we will mostly be recording the mic mix (some of you may route each mic to your DAW; I'm too lazy), meaning that depending solely on down-mix reverb will give weird results due to how many mics are involved. The surround mics of course also need a bit of delay applied to them.

I ended up grafting my personal mic preset atop one of the factory presets, and after comparing way too many combinations to list here, have what I feel is an ideal setup that cuts through the mix at any volume level and keeps things articulate without every muddying up, whether doing fast rolls, octave jumps back and forth, standard single note phrases, or any other playing style.

One thing that surprised me is that we have to set our Dimension Control parameters (CC's and Key Switches) further ahead in time than I would like, or instead double-click all the slots one plans to use so that they all pre-load to memory. The usual 12 ticks or so ahead of notes played, is not enough for the slots to load their needed samples, so you can end up with silent audio until re-tracking. I'm not thrilled about this, and as I prefer to have workflow habits that are universal, I reluctantly decided to set the Dimension Control roughly one bar (depending on tempo) ahead of the relevant notes played.

I'm not sure how this is going to play out for stuff like Synchron Strings, where I'm more likely to need rapid changes of articulations vs. just going back and forth between single notes and rolls. I may end up deciding it's best to force-load the needed slots so they all load when the Synchron preset loads.

I am attaching my mixer preset separately from my instrument-level preset. I mostly changed the balance of the closer mics, and the EXP default (better at 100 than 127, to give you headroom for swells etc.). Although I tweaked a lot more than that originally, I backed out most other changes after finding that my most successful starting point was neither the default flat settings nor one of the closer non-surround setups but rather the surround-to-stereo downmix presets.

I'm calling the presets "Stage" as I think the resulting perspective of my mic blends probably come closest to that location (e.g. the conductor's podium) or maybe the Orchestra section of the audience. This is not a dry mix as I am using this in the context of soundtrack music, but I don't go for the Hollywood sound at all, so it's a bit closer to an old school approach to that.
 

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Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
I just threw a part at Synchron Timpani that has a reverse-dotted rhythm pattern with doubled notes that alternate with other dotted-rhythm doubled notes in an interval. I had to lower the note attacks so that everything was at 90 or below, which took away the energy and the force from the part. Otherwise, the notes are all detuned, almost enough that I might have to transpose up by a half step.

I seem to remember this being why I rejected Synchron Timpani the first time around, when I bought Synchron Percussion, as this is probably the piece that I threw at it first and then I likely gave up on it for a while as I still love the regular VSL Percussion's Timpani.

When someone else brought this up earlier, I mentioned how timpani can be tuned loose or tight, depending on a lot of factors (including temperature), but I notice the original VSL Timpani B isn't as tight as the original VSL Timpani B.

Perhaps the overall playing level range was different this time around, but that wouldn't explain why my part loses its impact when I drop the note attack levels to keep it more in tune.

If I manually play any parts, I get the same result. It doesn't pose a problem on rolls, which are pre-recorded anyway (one of the things I did today was replace all my manual rolls with preset rolls; a big improvement in realism). And also not on octave leaps or other intervals; just repeated notes.

I do not see any settings that might affect this; there is no humanize preset or tuning curve applied, for instance, and nothing wild on the attack envelope.

I'll return to this later and make a decision on whether Synchron Timpani is suitable for such parts. Not a problem if the original VSL percussion proves itself non-redundant in light of Synchron Percussion, but I don't like unsolved mysteries as they can bite you in mysterious ways later on when under a deadline crunch.
 
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Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
For thundering timpani rolls that have a "big room" sound that isn't muddy and retains intelligibility and articulateness, Hans Zimmer Pro rules (and not just for its timpani). Also much easier to dial in (in other words, I might be able to achieve the same results with Synchron Timpani, after hours of work).
 

Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
After another hour of careful listening and comparisons, live playing, feeding recorded MIDI (previously live :)), changing the dynamic range, etc., I think I now know what is going on with Synchron Timpani vs. Vienna Percussion Timpani.

The earlier library is drier, as one would expect, but somewhat unexpectedly, there isn't much "body" to the sound. That is, you hear the strike and the head, but not the copper drum. Nor do you hear the mallet itself, so the strikes sound similar and vary mostly by the head resonance.

Even if I turn off all but the close mic, Synchron Timpani sounds nothing like it, including when leaving the note attacks higher and living with the sharp pitch that results. You hear less of the head, and more of the copper drum and especially the details of the mallet strikes.

They both have their place, and though the older library may sound a bit more dynamic, or from a player's perspective, when soloed, I'm finding that the dynamics of Synchron Timpani blend better, and remain dynamic at lower note attack levels, so I think I'm likely to prefer it at this point to the older library on just about everything (that I don't use Hans Zimmer Pro Percussion for).
 

Daniel James

Senior Member
Timpani on Fire is incredible! I lost my copy when I moved out to LA and can't seem to download it again....but the fact I miss it is a good sign!

-DJ
 

Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
For this particular piece that was so challenging compared to the others (an obscure Human League instrumental B-side done at the time of the Heaven 17 split, switched from synths to orchestra!), I'm back to Vienna Percussion's Timpani as a final decision, for a variety of reasons, but the exercise was enlightening.

Once I re-did the part with the lower attack levels, and with EXP at 100 vs. 127, the original library exhibited more natural dynamics and beater details than before, and as the head has more tonal definition in the older library and this particular piece needs that more than the body, it ended up being the better match in this case.

Having said that, there do seem to be some specific insurmountable flaws in Synchron Timpani, that won't affect every project but should be noted. I have to go to the mono close mic on its own, to avoid pitch issues in the higher register, but this may be the nature of the instrument in terms of what happens to the sound when further away or when throwing even mild reverb on the close mic. Even the stereo mid mics negatively affected the upper register tones of the timpani, which I'm using a lot in this piece.

In many ways, this reminds me of the inconsistency of the otherwise-outstanding Spitfire Percussion Timpani, which is still #4 on my list right after the two VSL libraries and Hans Zimmer Pro.

I think I'm pretty well-covered by these four libraries overall. Some of the ones that keep getting talked about here have piqued my interest, but I doubt I'd buy them just for Timpani as one of my four favourites will do the job on any project so far. I wouldn't expect to have just one go-to library for Timpani anyway, so I'm not really disappointed by any of my discoveries of Achilles' Heels for each product.

Of course, I still haven't thoroughly explored the one from Sonuscore that NI packages as their Symphonic Series Percussion. I played it live for kicks (I mean real-time vs. legacy MIDI tracks for rendering), but haven't thrown a challenge at it yet. I'm still not quite comfortable with the Symphony Series interface overall; it seems a bit limited and also hard to control in detail, along with not seeing a clear overview of settings (kind of like Play in that regard).
 

Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
I remain a bit confused over the surround-to-stereo down-mix in Synchron Percussion, but got home from work too late last night to launch it and try once again with my ears alone to tell whether anything is different starting with that mix basis, for those of us who have the standard edition.

I'd like to resolve this by end of month, to decide whether to upgrade while the sale is on. With Synchron Power Drums, I decided I didn't need the full edition as that's more about blending three simultaneous drum sets at different stage positions (I won't be using it that way). Synchron Strings makes clear that the downmixes are available to standard users, but Synchron percussion doesn't say either way, and as the mixes are available even when the samples aren't (a big change from Vienna Instruments), I have to depend on my ears.

Anyway, what triggered my re-examination of this, is that I remember at end of session the other night, noticing no signal levels on the surround mics, for my mix settings that are based on the surround downmixes, and yet I recall hearing a difference if I muted those mics.
 

Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
I have confirmed that all presets (including Surround presets) load in Synchron Player even though I don't own the full edition; nor is there any warning message. If I turn off the surround mics, I get silence (and no signal on those mics either).

As one can make one's own complex presets with aux routing and all, I don't think there's any "special sauce" in the factory presets that route the surround mics to the mains; nor would that make any sense as the mains are a Decca Tree and one wouldn't want to corrupt that with additional mics.

I guess I was just tired the other night when I thought I detected a difference with the down-mix preset as my basis. So anyone who loads my previously posted presets, bear in mind that I obviously don't know what they sound like when the surround mic samples are actually available and producing signal.

As for Mike's demo with True Strike 1, I don't detect much pitch definition so don't know if that's how that library works, but in the context of that mix where it is serving mostly a rhythmic purpose to add energy and impact to the string phrasing, and overall atmosphere, it sounds really good and has the perfect "sound" combined with spatial placement and dimensional/imaging sense.
 
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X-Bassist

Senior Member
Timpani on Fire is incredible! I lost my copy when I moved out to LA and can't seem to download it again....but the fact I miss it is a good sign!

-DJ
I'm seriously considering buying, even though the website has not changed in half a decade. Just sounds so cool for Timpani!
 

Consona

Senior Member
Aren't Timpani on Fire played with sticks? I think Vol 2 is mallets but will they ever release it?
 

Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
I have been finding that Timpani are far more sensitive to context than most other orchestral Percussion, in terms of mic mix and ambience, so that things cut through but sound like they belong in the same space. This is one of the reasons why the Synchron Timpani eventually ended up bumping others off my projects (even Hans Zimmer, except for a couple of exceptions), but there are still a few articulations where I find the original VSL Timpani a bit easier to work with (so far).
 
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