Super Audio Cart Review (@isoundworks) | #GameAudio

A little while ago, Impact Soundworks released a “retro-game sound” instrument named Super Audio Cart. It seemed very interesting for game audio composers and sound designers, with a super fast and intuitive interface and a really good audio quality. So I decided to give it a try and review it for the blog. More than that, I made a song only using it so you can listen how it sounds and judge by yourself.

Super Audio Cart (SAC) is a Kontakt instrument for people that want to use that old 8/16 Bit sounds to compose songs or for sound designing. Better than me explaining, let the creators do it:

Super Audio Cart faithfully reproduces the sound of seven classic video game systems whose cultural legacy and influence has lasted far beyond their commercial lifespans. When the library was conceived, our goal was superb authenticity by deep-samplingsuper_audio_cart_1 every sound chip. But over time, we expanded our vision to shatter the limitations of the original systems and allow for near-infinite sound design possibilities.

The final version of Super Audio Cart is the culmination of 2+ years of intense
research, development, and sound design. With a massive 5,500+ samples meticulously recorded, edited, and looped, we’ve thoroughly captured the raw capabilities of each game system. These sounds are loaded into a custom Kontakt Player engine packed with cutting-edge features, along with 1,000+ factory snapshots to inspire both retro music, chiptunes, and modern genres.

So, you will say (like I did at first) “ok, what’s so special about it? There are other instruments like this, some even free”. Yes, you’re right. But, SAC has some interesting unique features.

First, like I said before, it’s UI is really nice. Although this doesn’t make a difference in the sound quality itself, it helps a lot when you’re tweaking and trying to find “that” sound. The controls are really intuitive, and the options (like FXs, Portamento, Envelope, Arp etc) are many, so you can change the sound as much as you want. More than that, each edit option is available for all 4 layers.

Besides that, SAC’s biggest (and my favourite, for sure) feature is the ability to blend different sounds, from different consoles, to create you own, unique one. So, for example, you can add a Pad Genesis sound in one layer, and a SNES guitar sound in another one, and combine this two with a raw SAC2 copySquare wave from GameBoy. If you think about the number of “original” console sounds, and how you can combine them, the possibilities are huge! Even more if you take into consideration all the transforming options (that I mentioned above), for each layer. Also, that can be done in a easy way, with an X/Y pad (Layer Blend – the four coloured square you can see of the photo). While I was composing/producing the song for this review, this came out super handy, since I didn’t wanna use the “stock” sounds all the time, and wanted more layered, complex tones and shapes.

Sound wise, SAC is what you would expect: the original game samples. Its quality is super good, and if you have played those old consoles enough, you’ll probably recognize a lot of them (I know I did!). And it’s easy to find a specific sound you’re looking for, because Impact Soundworks created a menu of each console, with sub menus for each style (Pads, Guitars, Drums, Leads, etc). Sometimes, my problem with other chiptune instruments is the necessity to tweak them a lot to achieve an specific sound, because they are built more like a synth than an instrument. Not that I don’t like to play around with synths, but there are situations where you just need to find sounds quickly, and SAC made this a very straight forward process.

(song produced using only Super Audio Cart sounds - inspired by the Streets of Rage OST)

Of course it’s not a perfect instrument. There are some small bugs I have encountered while I was using it, nothing really big or annoying. I had a particular hard time using the vibrato option – sometimes it wouldn’t work at all (and I still don’t know why)! Also, with the Layer Blend, sometimes a sound got “stuck” (I would move the cross around the X/Y pad, but one of the four sounds would not change) – just turning the Layer Blend on/off would resolve the issue.

But, most of all, I think the biggest obstacle for some people to buy it would be the price: US$ 149. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, but having other good and cheaper options (even though they don’t have the half the features that SAC has) can make people think twice before investing on it. If you’re someone that makes a lot of chiptunes, or do a lot of “retro” sound design, I think it totally worths the money, since it can make you job much easier and faster. Or even if you’re just a classic game sound enthusiast, and is willing to spend some of your cash on a great, great retro-game sound instrument.

Another thing that annoyed me is that, unfortunately, Impact Soundworks doesn’t have a Demo version of it. I’m the kind of person that always demo any plugin that I’m interested on buying, since I wanna see how I would use it, it’s UI, audio quality, etc etc etc.

Well, hope you enjoyed the review, and if you have anything to add, please, feel free!

Mauricio Ruiz – www.mauricioruiz.me

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