Company: Boom Library
Our Rating: 4.8/5
Boom Library gets sound designer's engines fired up with it's dynamic engine recreator Turbine.
Pop The Hood
We were very excited for this product to come into 344 Audio HQ. The concept of real time audio simulation / advanced synthesis is becoming more commonplace in today's world of hexacore processors and affordable computing. Krotos Audio are another developer in this space with their Dehumaniser / Reformer products and it seems that Boom Library want to bring their tasteful sonic finesse to this ambitious niche market.
Turbine is an engine simulation plugin, which uses synthesis to generate complex tonal and noise based signals, which replicate those generated by most aircrafts. No audio samples are needed here, bringing the total hard drive space required down to 145MB. It runs on most DAW systems and includes AAX, VST and AU options. We will be conducting our review on a Windows 7 system with Pro Tools 12.
Installing the software is extremely simple, options for a full installation and a custom installation are offered. An iLok is required for activation. You will also notice that the plugin is provided in both Stereo and Quad formats, to help provide flexibility for Film and Game Sound Designers.
A very useful user manual is included, detailing some of the more cryptic parameters available. The tips and tricks section is a must read for all new users, as a basic understanding of how turbines works vs. how the software emulates this will assist in achieving a usable result. Boom have also created some very useful videos on their product page, which explain the interface and functionality.
To best evaluate the software from an unbiased perspective, we started tweaking parameters without reading the manual. The interface is just gorgeous. Like Boom's other products, the way it looks is as good as the way it sounds, if not better. The engine mockup moves according to the parameter settings adjusted by the user, for instant visual feedback. There are also multiple presets which emulate the sound of popular aircraft models.
The first instinct of any user will be to move the 'Thrust' slider from minimum to maximum and then become frustrated that it sounds unrealistic, but wait. The documentation explains how aircraft engines work and how thrust can be used to replicate them effectively. The perceived size of an engine comes from a gradual increase in thrust, which can take as long as 60 seconds or more. Once the thrust is slowly adjusted with automation over extended period, magic starts to happen.
You also have control over multiple parameters along the bottom of the screen, the first being 'SIM ON/OFF'. With the SIM OFF you have an instantly useable interior aircraft sound. With SIM ON the engine sound that you have created is placed into a virtual space, adding distance perception and movement, which we will get onto later.
To the right of that we have some sound shaping tools which are really well implemented and sound great (download the trial and get tweaking!). The 'Burn' parameter simulates the amount of fuel being sent to the engine's combustion chamber, and adds a pleasing kind of distortion to the overall sound. Extreme settings can be used for an engine which has caught fire! The 'Angle' parameter simulates the perspective of the engine from front to back, allowing you to mix between noise and tonal portions of the sound. Boom have took a combination of basic sound design concepts here and packaged them to create something really special.
The Simulation window has some more... cryptic parameters, which will require further reading of the manual to understand. It also includes a nifty radar interface, which more than makes up for any confusion. After enabling automation on the X, Y, and Z position of the aircraft, users can drag it around the interface to create interesting fly-bys and moves, this is a sound designer's dream combination of psycho-acoustics and cool audio tomfoolery.
The speed of the aircraft is displayed as 'Velocity', which acts as both a useful reference to match the speed of the simulation to the vehicles in your footage and to match the maximum speed of the vehicle you are simulating. Velocity is also a parameter that must be used modestly. There are four early reflection points marked A, B, C and D which can create virtual obstacles for the engine sound to reflect off of, offering a more realistic distance perception as the vehicle moves. There is also a 'Wind' parameter which helps control the amount of wind modulation that the listener will hear as the vehicle passes by.
The most important consideration here, is how the engines sound. To our ears, the simulation is astounding, but don't expect to get usable results without automation and some time spent learning the plugin. Further processing and layering with audio samples of real vehicles will really help sell the effect, especially on pass-bys. As well as creating engine simulations, you can build convincing noise based sound design for servos, EDM effects, and futuristic vehicles to name a few.
We're Going Down!
Turbine is exciting not just for its applications now, but for how the system could be built upon for future products from Boom. The question on most people's lips now will be, when is the land vehicle version coming? The same concept applied to cars could revolutionise the way we do post production sound, even if it has to include audio samples.
Real time audio simulation software carries the powerful advantage of being portable. A library which could reach the detail of Turbine would surely be at least 3GB in size, and drastically more time consuming to adjust if the desired recordings are not present. It sounds great when used correctly. It's wonderful to see technology catching up to the needs of sound designers everywhere.
Here are a couple of areas that could be improved in Turbine for future updates:
1. The velocity on the Simulation screen and the Thrust parameter could have a flip switch which enables a much more limited depth of movement, allowing users to stay within the ranges of realism when controlling the software with a mouse. Currently, the velocity must be carefully monitored while focusing on your mouse movements.
2. A Standalone version of the software with a built in recorder (similar to Reaktor) would allow Sound Designers (ironically travelling on aeroplanes) to start tweaking with their laptop on the go without starting a DAW session.
3. The parameters located on the lower portion of the screen would also benefit from a flip switch which allows the user to push the encoders further in either direction for advanced sound design.
The Bottom Line
An amazing user interface combined with unparalleled sonic quality allows experienced sound designers to build their own aircraft sounds for video game and film projects. The price is very reasonable considering sound effects libraries in this space can be quite expensive.