Sound Effects Library
Review by Carlos Garza
At one time, nearly all composers used pencil and paper while sound designers worked with a mic, tape recorder and splicing block. While that approach clearly still works, today you are just as likely to see both at a computer — trading the pencil and razor blade for a MIDI keyboard and mouse.
This review examines three sound libraries designed for postproduction and multimedia effects and three libraries that have roughly equal value for dramatic sound design and contemporary music production.
All of the products reviewed in this article are offered by their respective manufacturers with a one-time purchase fee and no additional usage fees.
The product includes 10 audio CDs with additional 16-bit, 48 kHz WAV file copies on two DVD-ROMs totaling 1932 sounds (around 1150 files) and using approximately 7.7 GB at 48 kHz.
The 10-disc set includes three discs with automobile sounds from sedans, muscle cars, an MG B, SUVs and trucks; four discs of urban ambiences including traffic backgrounds, city backgrounds, construction, train station, retail and services backgrounds; and three discs with footsteps, laughter, child vocals, wind, water, mud, animals, doors, buttons, Foley and medical sounds.
Except for the occasional vintage sound, most of the recordings are clean and accurate. The engine sounds and car doors packed plenty of punch on my Mackie HR824 monitors. I was surprised by the variety and distinction in the auto sounds and the use of stereo. There is a good variety of auto and truck engines in various states or operation – starting, driving and coming to a stop.
The car sounds include tires squealing, horns and highway sounds at various speeds. Also included are hoods closing, power windows, wipers, shifting and dashboard items. Road ambiences were captured in rain, snow, potholes and other road hazards.
The traffic backgrounds tend towards urban settings with several New York scenes in heavy and light traffic. Some traffic backgrounds are listed as London, Paris, an Iranian city and a convincing “early 1900’s street scene.” The settings are well covered but some of the wet road and slush traffic is accompanied by human sounds.
The track listings on the disc sleeves offer simple descriptions, such as “start” whereas the Excel, PDF and text catalogs delivered on the DVD offer details such as, “Engine Problems: automotive starter motor, no start.” At the time of this writing, the CD track descriptions had not been submitted to Gracenote’s CDDB so software CD players, such as iTunes, show nothing more than “track 01” etc.
The construction sounds include a John Deere 750, air compressors, pumps, cement mixer, pneumatic hammers, chainsaws and distant blasting. There are some gems in the squeaky and slurping machine rhythms, which sound like music to me (hint).
The Foley includes footsteps on dirt, gravel, snow, sand and leaves, individuals and groups of two and more people running and lots of laughing. The child sounds are also well represented from younger kids to teens and most are believable, including the screams. However, some of the child dialog tracks are idiosyncratic and less versatile, such as the Spanish counting sequence.
There are a few “vintage” laugh tracks, which appear to be mono and lower fidelity. Most of the newer tracks have big separation and range from small groups to large groups and “slowly getting the joke laughs” to full hysteria. Many useful tracks here.
The wind sounds range from narrow to wide and spooky to peaceful. The water is almost entirely ocean shore-based and ranges from light “lapping on rocks with gulls” to an assault of pounding waves. There are no creeks, rivers or waterfalls but the bubbling lava from Yellowstone would be perfect in a dinosaur film.
The train station backgrounds have the best balance of atmosphere and unobtrusiveness. The school and restaurant backgrounds are even and consistently background (i.e., not too many sounds that would jump out inappropriately in your production).
The animals include seagulls, sea lions, Beluga whales, Galapagos seal calls, dolphins, squirrels, chimps, fruit bats, rats and lions. The Beluga vocals and blowing sounds are excellent for creature design. A few of the samples contain ambience and occasional human sounds. Track notes indicate the recording location (not always in the wild).
The door samples include sliding, revolving, swinging varieties as well as garage doors, prison doors and a very intense large stone door. The same disc has a number of interesting switches, including an excellent set of televisions and radios. The medical effects include dentist office sounds, ICUs, heart monitors and other hospital sounds, such as a gurney and a newborn baby cry.
It’s clear that a lot of time and care went into making this set. The categories provided are covered exhaustively and other parts of the Premiere Edition series presumably complement the categories. If you are looking for the real world, this set is a great place to start.
(c) 2006 Carlos Garza