Ocean Way Drums a clear winner for audio pros

What would you say if I told you that you could write a song at home and have two of the industry's top engineers mix the drums for you?

That's the idea behind Ocean Way Drums, a new drum virtual instrument by Grammy-winning engineer and producer Allen Sides and Grammy-nominated producer and engineer Steven Miller. Using Native Instruments' Kontakt as its sample library player, Ocean Way Drum is one of the best drum collections I've ever heard ($249 to $1,995 depending on number of kits and samples).

I had the opportunity to speak with Sides and Miller about the process they used to put this package together. Ocean Way Drums was recorded in Studio B at Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood, Calif., one of the most famous recording studios in the world.

Owner Sides has recorded more than 500 albums at Ocean Way with musicians including Green Day, Quincy Jones, Eric Clapton, Beck, Phil Collins, Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin, Foo Fighters, Sheryl Crow, Frank Sinatra, Faith Hill, Frank Zappa, Mary J Blige, and Count Basie.

Unlike some drum packages that aim to provide a specific drum kit sound, Sides said he wanted to put together the best kits, no matter what the brand name. Ocean Way Drums includes 19 full kits in all, but they auditioned a lot of gear in order to get those 19 kits. For example, Sides said he gathered 65 snare drums and tested them all to see which ones would ultimately make the cut and be included in the kits that eventually made up Ocean Way Drums.

"Why put a kit in there if it isn't shocking and great," Sides told Macworld. "I don't want quantity, I want quality in every kit piece."

Ocean Way Drums are loaded into Kontakt with every kit piece having its own customizable slot. That means that you can adjust the parameters on each piece separately to come up with your unique sound, but you don't have to.

The Ocean Way Drums kick drum interface
Sides and Miller included multiple presets where they actually mixed the drums for you. Each kit piece has preset settings from P1 to P6—the increase in presets takes the drum from a dry to a wetter sound. Since you can do so on individual pieces, you can, for example, have a dry-sounding kit with a booming kick, giving you a different sound.

All 19 kits have two presets each: one recorded with a Shure SM-57 mic and the other recorded with an AKG C12A. The presets are also configured in separate snare-on and snare-off folders for each mic. As you can see, the configuration options are almost endless.

Kontakt not only allows you to load the entire drum kit, you also to load individual kit pieces. So, you can load kit 15, but replace the snare with the one from kit 12. Or you can just add more pieces to a kit you really like.

This is something I've been doing with a few of the songs I've been writing lately. I have a couple of kits that I really like, but I wanted to boost the sound of the kick. What I did was load an additional kick into that kit, lower the volume and room mics on that piece, and then blend the sound into kit.

I've done the same thing with the snare and it's worked really well for me. Of course, you can work with the sound of the drum kit with compression and EQ in Kontakt, Logic, or Pro Tools, but I wanted to leave the overall sound of the kit with Allen's presets, but accentuate a few pieces to fit my needs.

Ocean Way Drums uses an advanced I-MAP drum mapping that allows for more unique hits using a keyboard. The I-MAP note mapping was developed by Sonic Reality, the company that is distributing Ocean Way Drums for Sides.

There are also presets for Roland's TD-20 V-Drums electronic drum kit, and new GM MIDI presets. This means that you can use almost any MIDI groove on the market and be able to instantly start making a project.

I picked up several MIDI collections from Groove Monkee that have worked very well with Ocean Way Drums. Groove Monkee includes formats for Toontrack, Groove Agent, I-MAP, Steven Slate Drums, Cakewalk, Abelton, and others, at no extra cost. You certainly get your money's worth is you can use them in all of those formats.

I have used a lot of drum products over the years and I just can't see how you can get anything better than Ocean Way Drums. Having Sides and Miller recording and mixing the drums produces an incredible package that will leave you free to concentrate the rest of your song.

I have the $995 Ocean Way Drums Gold Edition. It comes with all 19 drum kits recorded at 24-bit/48KHz, with a total of 40GB of samples.

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