KENT, Ohio, October 27, 2016 – While more general sound design and atmospheric synth products are not the typical territory we cover in this column, there was still something beguiling about Heavyocity’s recent release, “Gravity” that ultimately compelled us to take a look. We tested this intriguing product both in stand-alone mode and in Logic, listening both on good studio headphones and on a new pair of Yamaha HS8’s. What we discovered in the process was a highly customizable sound source possessing considerable sonic depth and precision.
Heavyocity is not a traditional electronic composition instrument. Rather, it is a dense collection of long and short sounds – mostly of the evolving pad variety – which range from the aggressive to the ethereal to the disturbing to the hauntingly beautiful, with a few retro-sounding treats thrown into the mix. An added plus: frankly, it has of the prettiest interfaces we’ve encountered in a long time, bringing aesthetic pleasure and technical clarity to the sometimes tiring act of tweaking filters.
As Heavyocity enthusiastically notes on its website, its product “covers the gamut of intangible scoring elements: complex Pads, evocative Risers, other-worldly Stings, and earth-shattering Hits.”
The available “hits,” “pads,” “risers” and “stings” present sounds not only for more musical note-by-note treatments but as extended pads and backgrounds as well. Several levels of surface controls such as traditional and key-switched or activated filters conceal a much deeper level of control based around the obvious theme of this instrument: motion.
For instance, when you click to the right of the main view, you can active the standard EQ and Filters, which allow you to apply such filters and effects as equalization, envelopes, and low frequency oscillations (LFOs), (Fig. 1). The envelope setting – a vital control for such a sound collection – is also immediately accessible on the front pane.
In the center of the front pane are three interesting controls: pitch, punish, and twist. While pitch not surprisingly relates to transposition, the punish setting is more than a volume knob as might initially be surmised; it combines saturation and compression to in effect thicken a sound and bring distortion in a practical and usable way. The “twist” setting was a bit more ambiguous, giving some sounds the “twizzler” treatment while others seemed to be hardly affected at all.
The next menu – “TFX” – allows the user to sync various filters to high register keys or simply activate them without the need to depress a key (Fig. 2). Each of these filters has an “advanced” setting, which allows users to add motion to the filter, such as the shape of a comb filter to a distortion effect. This design concept of motion within motion certainly gives “Gravity” a great deal of compositional malleability.
We then come to the “Motion” menu (Fig. 3), where volume, panning, and pitch can be given “motion” via onboard automation by means of individual step sequencers. One of the most effective settings for many of these patches is the application of a comb filter to the patch’s natural volume, giving clear rhythmic drive to otherwise lush pad sounds. Another approach is to apply manual pitch modifications to an existing pad, applying pitch to the pad in question.
In the category of “read the manual or you might miss it,” there is an innocuous looking “browse” setting in the motion menu. Contained within is a plethora of rhythmic and melodic patterns ranging from simple to the complex, each of which can be applied to the settings within the motion filter. Once a pattern is established it can be “revealed” and “de-revealed” to permit partial statements of the pattern in question. With automation engaged in your digital audio workstation (DAW), it’s both a recipe for instant minimalism and a great starting point for further creativity.
As for the sounds themselves, they are just what the demo video promises and demonstrates: a rich a satisfying collection that bears ample complexity without requiring the user to dig around under the hood to achieve immediate success. Yet digging under the hood is what this product is all about. We continue to discover new levels of customizability throughout the instrument.
“Gravity’s” list price of $449.00 may seem like a heavy chunk of change for a collection of atmospheric pads. Yet Heavyocity “Gravity’s” lovely user interface and composer-centric approach to sound design make this a genuine storm in the world of atmospheres, one that provides a scoring tool that film, game, and media composers may wonder how they were ever able to do without.