8Dio Shepard Tones – Review

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A while ago 8Dio released Shepard Tones, a sample library for Native Instruments KONTAKT focusing on the Shepard Effect. Thanks to 8Dio we received a copy of the library to give it a test run.

"8Dio Shepard Tones is a sample library dedicated to the highly popular Shepard Tones. The library contains over 10GB of block-buster grade Shepards – designed by 8Dio’s masterful sound designers and Academy, T.E.C and G.A.N.G Award Winning Producer, Troels Folmann."

Overview

Before we dive into the library it's worth mentioning what a Shepard Tone or the Shepard Effect is. In the year 1964 it was Roger Shepard who "invented" or lets say discovered an interesting psycho acoustic effect of an never ending rising or falling tone or tone scale. Shepard is achieving this by a sound which is payed in several octaves where the lowes frequency starts at zero or unhearble and smoothly gets louder over time. The highest frequency or pitch starts at its maximum volume and constantly fades out. Therfore the illusion of a tone that continually ascends or descends in it's pitch gets created. A very nice explanation of this effect is shown in the video below:
In the last couple of years the Shepard Effect was used in several movie soundtracks game soundtracks and also in music and became more and more popular in the recent time with modern movie scores like Dunkirk or Mountains. A very good video explaining this trend is from Vox:

The 8Dio people adopted the Shepard Tone concept and created a brandnew librara for Native Instruments KONTAKT which features all possible Shepard Tones and combinations.

The core features of Shepard Tones:

  • Kontakt VST / AU / AAX 11.5GB (uncompressed)
  • 100’s of Organic and Synthetic Shepards
  • 100’s of Slow, Medium and Fast Shepards
  • 100’s of Dry and Wet Shepards
  • 10 Scoring Presets
  • 16 Kontakt .nki files
  • Sample resolution: 44.1Khz / 24Bit stereo .wav, .ncw format
  • Instant REVERSE, RANDOM, STACK and CHAOS features
  • Product only available as Direct Download
  • Full Retail version of Kontakt 5.6+ required / Not compatible with free Kontakt Player
  • Kontakt 5.6 is 32 and 64-bit compatible on both PC and MAC platforms 8 GB of RAM or more is highly recommended
  • Price: $138

The Setup

As many modern high class Sample Library producers, 8Dio provides their own download tool called 8DioDownloader. 8DioDownloader is a simple but quite effective download tool for Windows or Mac. Once you are connected, logged in, the serial number is entered and the download location is chosen the 8DioDownloader will download the complete library.

What’s inside Shepard Tones

The KONTAKT instrument is categorized into 3 sections: Shepard Tones, Shepard Risers and Shepard Risers II. Shepard Tones are split into the following subcategories: Organic, Synthetic, Slow, Medium and Fast with more then 30 individual sounds for each subcategory which is more then 150 sounds in total. Shepard Risers and Shepard Risers II are split into Slow, Medium and Fast.

All the 3 main Patches are available as DFD (Contains CPU lite sounds which do not have time altering capabilities) and TMPro (Contains sounds which are able compress/expand in order to alter the speed). There are also 10 different patches in the Presets folder that contain Arpeggiated, Gated, Filtered and other combinations. The main screen displays several options to tweak the loaded sound. On the top is a browser where one can select the differen 3 or 5 subcategories and a 16 step sequencer.

The sequencer allows to select the number of steps, has a swing know and several alternating playback options. Below is a simple contol section with an attach and release knob, a speed control, a pitch envelope knob, glide and an offset knob. A RANDOM button randomizes the sample starts to the point of the offset control. The REVERSE button will reverse the Shepard Effect and the direction of the sound will go down. The CHAOS function randomizes the selected preset(s) and the currently active effects. STRETCH will chromatically stretch the sample across the keyboard.

8Dio Shepard Tones Sequencer Window
The second main window is dedicated to the Effects section where one can find 6 different effect slots with Filter, EQ, Degrader (Bit Crusher), Delay, Transform (Alternative Convolution Reverb) and Reverb (Convolution Reverb). Each effect and be enabled and has several individual parameters.

How does Shepard Tones sound?

Every individual Shepard Tone has it's own unique sound and character. In general the library sounds synthetic and dark, but in a positive way. The illusion of and infinite uprising or falling pitch is just fascinating and super effective if it comes to drastic and dramatic effects. The sounddesign is done very well and there are even some really funny sounds like a cartoonish, eiernder sine tone. Some sounds remind instantly on a science fiction movie and others will fit perfectly into a horror movie or an EDM dance track.

Especially worth mentioning is the possibility to switch the note or key during playback. The fact that one can play a baseline or melody with the infinite rising or even falling sound leads to very interesting results that can increase tension like no other effect.

8Dio Shepard Tones Sequencer Window

If I can ask for one feature, then it would be the possibility to do the above mentioned trick for the arpeggios as well. Currently each note that is triggered by the sequencer will start the sample from its starting position and not remember it's last playing position. Maybe 8Dio will add this as an update...

Apart from that the only thing I did miss is some real orchestral sounds. For example some infinite uprising strings or brass would be mindblowing, I think. But thats probably not easy to sample and would overextend/overblow the aim of this library. And who knows, maybe 8Dio is already working on a 2nd library which is exactly aimed for this.

This library adds a secret weapon to every trailer, film composer and sound designers arsenal. You can spend hours of creating your own Shepard Tone whithour knowing the final result or you can just use 8Dios fantastic Shepard Tones library. It's super simple to add tension to any composition within seconds. A must have tool.

8Dio Shepard Tones can be purchased and digitally downloaded from 8Dio for $138 USD from here: https://8dio.com/instrument/shepard-tones

Review summary
  • Overall Sound Quality
  • Features
  • Stability
  • Workflow
  • Pricing

Summary

This library adds a secret weapon to every trailer, film composer and sound designers arsenal. You can spend hours of creating your own Shepard Tone whithour knowing the final result or you can just use 8Dios fantastic Shepard Tones library. It's super simple to add tension to any composition within seconds. A must have tool.

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