One of the secrets to great drum and percussion sounds across many genres of music is layering. Why use just one boring kick drum when you can use the body of one, the tail of another, add some sub and squash it altogether into the perfect hybrid kick for your track? You’ll be hard pressed to find a producer isn’t doing something like this. Now you can too, easily.
Mad Stacks, Yo!
Stacker from Sample Magic is a tool designed to help you do this effectively and efficiently. Yes… you too can make mad stacks like Jesse. And without selling a single gram of crystal meth. Okay… maybe not those kind of stacks but who knows. If you make some fire beats that blow up…
Anyway, back to the plugin. At it’s core, Stacker consists of three sample channels, a synth channel, a delay send and a reverb send. You can simply drag and drop samples into the first three tracks for editing, so it’s easy to get started. Once a sample is loaded (and there’s a fair few that come with the plugin) you can access an edit window for tweaking the start/end, pan and pitch along with stereo widening options and frequency filters. You can also flip to the FX panel which includes bitcrushing, analog style filtering, flanging, ring modulation and EQ to really fine tune the sound of each sample.
To Each His Tone
In addition to mixing samples you can synthesise some tone to underpin it all. This fourth channel offers a saw, sine or square wave generator with various parameters to tweak such as drive, click and pitch as well as a noise generator with it own controls. The synth channel and all the sample channels have their own optional amp and pitch envelopes which let you totally sculpt the sound of each element.
Another very nice touch is the scatter panel where you can set each channel to trigger at different times simply by sliding some coloured blocks. This is great for adding that extra, natural dimension to snares and percussion that you will recognise when you hear it. All the channels can also be routed to one or both of the effect sends, which consist of a delay and impulse response reverb (you can load your own IRs into this too!). There’s also a global panel for tweaking all channels at once, as well as a few other parameters.
Stack of All Trades
As if that wasn’t enough… you can go even deeper into controlling your sounds by using the modulation matrix. This is where it does start to get rather complex as you can route one of four different modulators to any parameter you like, or set up your own macro dials to control any combination of parameters. It’s really more than we can cover in detail here but let’s just say you can go full geek with this and make some very unique and dynamic sounds.
This is a plugin we reach for time and time again when we need to create some fresh new hits, stabs, kicks, snares, claps or percussion of any kind…
All these options and variables add up to a very powerful sample layering tool that can go beyond just kicks and snares to all kinds of wonderful sounds. Out of curiosity we tried dragging in a full eight minute song instead of your usual short drum hit and it loaded up no problem, allowing us to use different parts of the song in our stack. This opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities when you start playing with the mod matrix and controlling sample start times and pitches and so on… now we’re looking at a serious sound design tool and not just something for making fat-ass hip-hop kits (which it’s also great at).
The only real negative thing we can say about it is that it has no audio export function. If you want to build a kit the you have record a hit being played and then trim that sample, save it and load it into a drum-pad VST or literally have multiple instances of Stacker running at once, which isn’t ideal. It would be good if it could export or even have it’s own built in drum-pad to manage multiple samples.
That said, we’re not complaining and this is a plugin we reach for time and time again when we need to create some fresh new hits, stabs, kicks, snares, claps or percussion of any kind…