LUNARIS is no ordinary collection of pad samples; it is a 4-layer pad instrument that will take your creative abilities to the next level. I've always been a fan of pads, since they work in so many genres, including atmospheric, country and pop songs and even modern music, from Rammstein to Dream Theatre. The demo below includes only a few dozen sound samples, out of the 500+, and they were randomly selected for the composition. The samples fall into different categories, including Sonic Underworld, Dark, Ambient, Sequenced, Original Luftrum Volumes and Drafts & Leftovers. It also requires Kontakt to operate, although the free Player version works just fine. Lunaris also operates as a standalone instrument for live playing, or within a DAW when recording (via the Kontakt platform in either instance).
What makes the sounds in Lunaris so breathtaking is that there are four layers working concurrently, making the sounds huge and complex – absolute ear-candy! Of course, you can isolate and play just one or two layers, if looking for something simple, but Lunaris really blossoms through its density. One of the key features behind Lunaris is the ability to change any of the layers, with 100 different sound sources (and an extra 100 source sources/field recordings/synth transients/synth soundscapes, e.g., ice crackling, ocean waves, bell-like harmonics, etc., for layers C & D). To help with experimentation is a Random button, which randomly selects different sounds for the layers, allowing you to experience and discover 'blindly' and quickly, which is quite fun, as you never know what sound and texture will suddenly appear. That function does not affect other settings, e.g., what envelopes, filters or modulation is assigned. When considering how many combinations can be produced – in the thousands – Lunaris extends far beyond those 500 presets.
There still are several other features. For example, each layer can be customized with the Amp Envelope (ADSR), which controls how a sound is shaped over time, and there's also the Filter tool, to control the cut-off frequency and filter. An accompanying tool is the Filter Split button, which helps keep the mud out of pad creation by intelligently sorting all the active filters in different bands. This keeps the layers from fighting over the same frequencies, and if you don't like the program's recommendations, then clicking on the Reset button brings you back to the original frequency settings. Another feature that impresses is the Time Stop function, which allows you to stretch sound, from 0-100%... to the point of freezing it for some unusual and incredible outcomes. This feature can be applied to any one or all layers concurrently.
Each layer further has a set of controls that can be applied individually or globally, including various effects, e.g., distortion, chorus, delay, reverb, EQ and phaser. Now, be aware that Lunaris is a CPU hog, and once you start combining multiple patches (of four layers each), you can run into sound quality issues (e.g., popping and crackling). This can be rectified, as I did in the demo, by removing all the reverbs from the four layers of a preset, and then applying only one reverb globally, thereby saving on CPU processing. Part 2 of the Lunaris instructional video (see below) covers basic operation of the program, including setting a global command. And still there are a few more features worth mentioning. The Flux Motion tool is a modulation system that controls the filter cut-off, amplitude and panning of the layers – all of which affects sound motion. This works in conjunction with the MOD/SEQ, a step sequencer with two low-frequency oscillators, which allows for modulation of pitch, filter, panning or volume at synced rates.
Overall, even without all the tools to customize and create your own presets, Lunaris is utterly stunning and a fantastic buy at $159 USD (sign up for the Luftrum newsletter and get 20% off). The pads are so breathtaking that they are very much all-consuming – you can't help but want to play and listen to them. Unfortunately, this makes the program a time vampire, due to its addictive nature and the difficulty in pulling yourself away from the piano/synth as you discover new sounds that are nothing short of extraordinary. And maybe that's a fortunate thing.
The sounds in this program are phenomenal. I was looking for quality in a Pad or Cinematic Ambience Creation tool, and after dabbling with it for a number of hours, I know I've made the right choice. There are some other powerhouses out there, including Arpology, that basically offer a different set of tools (and Arpology is much more expensive, but that's another story). But nothing as important as getting just the right vibe for your project, and of the other "blending" Pad vsts, this one caught my attention immediately, partly because I used 2 other Luftrom releases in the past.
On the weaker side, the two hiccups I've had since purchasing this are 1) I had an older version of Kontakt in one of my folders, and my DAW was using that version (after migrating my VST folders to 2 different PCs in the last several years), completely unbeknownst to me. [That was totally my fault, but I blame Native Instruments - at least I would do so if I was less sober right now] 2) I have a disappointment in the way the step sequencer section functions. Nevertheless, since I already own Arpology that's sort of beside the point, and probably will get corrected in a version or two.
The sound designers on this collection, per the manual, include Arksun, Bigtone, Himalaya, Luftrum, Martin Walker, Adam Pietruszko, Twolegs Toneworks, Brandon Clark and Michael Lyon. I now imagine that these designers are experienced professionals, because I have not purchased a collection I've liked better. You can dial in combinations that really sound authentic, personal, and continuously intriguing.
As with some of the other similar products, this is basically a blending product, comprising 4 layers.
The layers are called A, B, C, and D. Each Layer has its own amplitude envelope, resonance, resonance cutoff etc. They can all be pitched up/down up to 36 semitones. There are 6 delicious filter types. All the layers allow the selection of Pad Sources.
But C & D in particular include other sound sources, which, wonderfully, includes synth transients, field recordings, and synth soundscapes.
I think what I was most blown away by was selecting some of the synth transients to combine with my sound. What a fantastic idea to include such a great collection of them here. I can sample them out and use them elsewhere too, which is really a boon.
You know, having this it really feels like owning a real bank of hardware synths and having 24 hours a day to fool with them, compressed into the blink of an eye.
The 3 added effects for the group of pads in the preset include Random (keeping your env, mod, filters, and FX the same but swapping out random selections for A, B, C, & D. The two others include Time Stop, and Filter Split. Time Stop is fairly obvious, it is like placing a hold on a reverb - which can be incredibly useful if you are a soundtrack designer. Filter Split is a unique effect that intelligently sets up filters between the different patches, and can be selected multiple times until the right combination happens.
As afforementioned, I did experience a bit of vertigo when I wasn't able to understand how the step sequencer functions, to make basic semitone moves. But hey, the goal here is more of an unpredictable, more ambient result, so I'll leave that for my Arpology, Kirnu Cream, and Omnisphere Live Mode.
Basically the remainder of the Library is self explanatory. Each of the Layers have a main tab, flux motion tab, envelope tab, and fx tab. Flux motion works well, comprising filter, volume and pan settings. Per the manual, "clicking the 'generate' button will change the underlying low-freq algorithm behind the mod, applying new subtle motion to the parameters..." - Auto-generated at the press of a button. :) The MOD Sequence tab has two sides: The Sequencer/Modulator side allows sequencing of Pitch, Filter, Volume or Pan (But only 1 at a time). The other side is the LFO side, which includes two LFOs (one of them free-running), each with their own destination and type of waveform. Samples&Hold is one of the choices, which is intriguing. At a button press the LFOs can be sync'd to your DAW tempo.
The FX are noticeably exceptionally high quality, including Chorus, Distorion, Phaser, EQ, Delay, and Reverb. The reverbs are IR-based, with some wonderful presets.
But basically its the quality of included sounds in this Kontakt Library that makes it, they surpass, as a group, anything you will likely ever find in one place. I think the package is easily worth 4 times the price, and although I'm not wealthy by any stretch, I can't see how I could better spend that money.