You may have already seen my interview with XLN Audio from last year, where I spoke with their Product Manager about the company's origins and their popular drum plugin, Addictive Drums. Well, they've just recently put out the sequel, titled Addictive Drums 2, so me and Lars Erlandsson once again had a talk about XLN and their new release.
Has XLN Audio expanded it's operations since the last time we spoke. Any new staff or resources that you guys have accrued?
We have grown and are now 15 people, with new resources in the content, development, web and sales departments. Our team now is really strong, and creating AD2 gave everyone a chance to show their excellence. A true team effort!
As far as upward trajectory goes, are things moving forward for you guys, aside from the new product launches? How are you guys evaluating your success these days?
Overall it's definitely upwards and onwards. Right now we're taking it a bit easy, recharging our batteries after the big launch, which fits perfectly in the calendar as summer is always a bit slower anyway. We have lots of interesting projects in the pipeline though!
When did XLN start working on Addictive Drums 2, and how long did it take for the program to come to fruition?
In a way, we started on it the day after AD1 was released. Over the years we have gotten a lot of great feedback from our users on what they would like to see happen, so we had a pretty good idea of what features would be useful and appreciated. We also discuss a lot internally, as most of us make music ourselves. We officially started the project in September 2013, but by then we had a pretty advanced prototype already. Some of the features, like the Tone Designer, were a result of me doing labs in Reaktor on my summer vacation before the project started. The big challenge was to keep AD intuitive and smooth while introducing lots of new features.
What was it about the new features that were added to AD that made you guys feel like you had to create a new version, instead of a regular update?
The mission from the get-go was to make a proper 'Version 2', adding many of the design paradigms from Addictive Keys such as ExploreMaps and new effects, while building on the AD1 core values (ease of use, speed, power). The whole software is built on a new platform (same as AK) and it incorporates many parts of the AD1 sound engine. The reason we chose to make it a new product that installs alongside AD1 rather than replacing it, was that we have many pro users who would hesitate to upgrade if it meant their existing working software was replaced by something that possibly is not as stable, or doesn't sound exactly 100% the same. We wanted the freedom to make AD2 the best it could be, and said "Top priority is to make it sound awesome. Second priority is to make it backwards compatible." In the end we managed to nail both - if you drag'n'drop an AD1 preset onto AD2 it sounds 99.9% the same. From the feedback we have gotten so far it seems we made the right choice. I hear some competitors are struggling with customers not being able to open old projects and so on.
What was the most challenging part of developing this upgrade for you guys? Were these changes something that could have been made with the original AD, or was the technology not available at the time?
I think the technology per se really hasn't changed that much, but we have matured and grown as a company and as product designers. The tighter integration with the web is natural for new users in 2014, and less so in 2006. If I had to pick one thing, getting the Transient Shaper to sound great was a lot of work, but well worth it in the end!
Can you give me a brief breakdown of the new things about AD2? Why should we be excited about it?
There is a pretty comprehensive list on our website (scroll to bottom). For existing users I would say: Lots of new awesome sounding presets, and new functionality such as Kitpiece doubling/linking, new FX (Transient Shaper, Tone Designer, Response section, Delay etc), drag'n'drop Audio, and better Beats browsing. It's familiar, yet new - it just sounds and feels better!
For new users: apart from the feature set and workflow, you don't have to buy a "full version" anymore - you can start with any ADpak. So there's full freedom to choose. This goes for the bundles too; choose the exact content that works for your music. With the break up of the old "AD full version" and Retro ADpak content into smaller pieces, we now have 16 ADpaks, 27 MIDIpaks and 8 Kitpiece paks on offer, so we really cover a lot of ground.
Does this upgrade mean that we should expect AD2 to be more of a CPU drain?
Yes, it does use more CPU. More things going on, basically. We are always looking into ways of optimizing further, but as a plugin, there unfortunately are things you cannot do (like using multiple cores, etc). We'll see what we can cook up!
What's been the biggest positive feedback that AD2 has received from your users?
I think "it sounds awesome". The new Fairfax ADpak is partly responsible for this, and the free demo version of that is extremely popular. All the older ADpaks have gotten new presets as well, that make good use of the new sound shaping features in AD2, so it all sounds punchier than ever. Or completely natural, if that's your cup of tea! We know new users especially appreciate that they can start with the exact kit(s) and grooves they like, instead of first having to buy one or more pre-determined kits as with AD1 and most competitors.
Has Addictive Drums 2 been used on any commercial music of late that you know of?
I know some testers used the beta version in commercials and so on, so it was used even before it was out. AD1 is on so much stuff, I'm sure AD2 will be too!
In addition to the release of AD2, you guys have pumped out multiple ADPaks and MIDIPaks of late. Lets talk about some of that. ADPaks like Studio Rock, Studio Pop and Studio Prog haven't been hyped on your social media pages that much. I just happened to come across them on XLN's website recently. Do you guys have any campaigns planned for promoting these?
The "Studio" kits are the 3 kits that used to be included in the "full version" of AD1. So they are the most well known and well used kits we have, and with AD2 they are available separately for the first time. For new users they are of course no different from any other ADpak, so we have made sure they are presented in the same light as everything else. We haven't created new promo videos etc for them, but may do so in the future. As mentioned above, with AD2 we have separated all old AD1 products into separate kits and MIDIpaks. As an example, the old 'Retro Adpak' for AD1 has turned into 3 ADpaks + a few MIDIpaks and kitpece paks. Existing owners of course get all these new products when they upgrade. For new users, the AD2 engine is included with your first purchase of any ADpak (and with the free demo of course, if you want to try it out before you buy).
Blue Oyster sounds phenomenal, as it has such lovely transients and presence. Can you tell about the process of making that, and what a few technical considerations were a part of making it so punchy?
Thanks! This was one of the kits in the old Retro ADpak. It was recorded in a large studio, with the goal of getting a thick and thunderous Bonham sound. I think the main components are the sheer sizes of the drums, the particular tuning, and the sound of the room.
XLN has also introduced the concept of Bundles for it's Paks. Do you guys anticipate that this will lead to greater purchases, or was there another mindset behind that?
We have had bundles in the past, but always with the contents pre-determined by us (AD+Retro bundle, Indie Adpak+Indie Rock MIDIpak bundle etc). Now we offer a more flexible way of getting more stuff at a better price, both for new and existing users.
What does the upgrade process look like for someone who wants to move from AD 1 to AD 2?
It's pretty straight forward: You buy the upgrade from our webshop, and this immediately creates AD2 licenses for the AD1 stuff you have. All the new products appear alongside your AD1 stuff in the Online Installer, and AD2 installs as a separate application. This means you can keep using AD1, and load up old projects, without risking that something breaks there. And you can load up AD2 in the same project and start your migration process when and how you want. You can import your AD1 presets by drag- dropping them onto the AD2 interface, so it's easy to replicate your AD1 tracks with AD2.
With all the added features to AD2, are you guys even thinking about what Addictive Drums 3 might look like?
No, not right now! We have some upcoming tweaks and fixes for AD2 though, so it will continue to improve over the coming weeks and months.
Should we be expecting any upgrades to other XLN proudctins this year, like Addictive Keys or Electric Grand?
I can't really comment on upcoming products, sorry! Thanks for this interview, let me take this opportunity to wish you and all your readers a great summer!