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Tech Review: Rob Papen Punch

Tech Review: Rob Papen Punch

As a long time user of Papen products I initially had mixed feelings when I read that the company had produced what appeared to be a Battery style plugin marketed as drum synth. In fact, Punch offers a level of control previously unseen in this bracket and effortlessly combines the power and range of tools usually found within Papen’s cutting edge soft synths with more traditional sampling functions.

Overview: Once inside Punch, you’re treated to an aesthetically pleasing (if initially daunting) user interface split over five selectable screens including a step sequencer, mixer window, fx browser and a control panel offering access to filters and sample triggering. It does look a bit on the busy side at first glance but the learning curve is brisk and exciting. As well the preloaded sounds there are various grooves, breaks and presets available via an intelligent browser system to help nail down that rhythm you’re looking for quickly, and the easy drum audition function across the 16 pads is a real time saver. Each drum can be edited individually, from simple volume and panning to filters, fx, tuning and envelope adjustments. Within the sequencer window you can even control panning, tuning or the envelope speed of individual hits in the groove or break and humanization controls allow for everything from robotic precision to a more loose live feel. A particularly nice feature is that you can import your own sounds into the generously equipped sampler and play about to your heart’s content morphing everyday or commonly used sounds into something fresh and unique.

As much of my audio work is in soundtrack scoring and designing moody, ambient atmospherics, I’ve found Punch to be a bit of a revelation for creating otherworldly soundscapes, hypnotic rhythms and one off bleeps, hits and squelches, and to drive this home again, the process is about as much fun as you can have with a ‘serious’ plugin while being intuitive and simple enough for anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of audio to achieve pleasing results. The onboard Modulation/FX is well provisioned and includes 2 envelopes, 2 LFOs and 8 modulation slots which again via MIDI latch can be controlled via a number of sources. The FX selection includes 4 FX channels, each featuring 26 varieties of effect including High Q Reverb (a streamlined version of the popular RP Verb) and a range of drives and distortions, modulations, dynamic effects and happily, the Papen filter previously seen in Predator.

Thoughts: Once you get beyond the sheer size of Punch and the wealth of editing and synthesis options at your disposal, you’re presented with a hugely powerful plugin that offers studio quality drum samples with authentic and useful grooves and breaks as standard, as well as the means to achieve massive customization of sounds. In terms of its primary function, Punch lives up to its name with great sound quality and a nice analogue warmth that belies the modest price tag. The included samples are diverse and really do sound great within your compositions, plus the ability to work with your own samples means you can have some real fun and get quite inventive. Sounds can be edited and effected to the point where they are utterly unrecognizable, making this a great tool for sound designers and experimental musicians as well as producers simply looking to create believable percussion parts or beef up their drum tracks. During tesing over a period of about a fortnight I experienced zero problems, glitches or noticeable lag and CPU usage was handled easily.

Closing words: If you‘re looking to give your drum tracks something extra to set them apart from the crowd or if you’re a soft synth/plugin junkie looking for something new and interesting to noodle with, then Rob Papen Punch opens up a world of sonic possibilities and in this price bracket you’d be hard pushed to find better.

For review purposes Punch was used in conjunction with Ableton Suite 8, Edirol PCR-M30 and a Macbook Pro (2.53GHZ, 4GB)

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