Sweet Sounds, Mediocre Midi
Toontrack's "Latin Percussion" EZX delivers superb percussion samples, but with some limitations. First, I’ll explain what I feel are its shortcomings.
The library has 13 close miced mixer channels, one for each percussion element, and an ambience channel to capture the ensemble as a whole. The only real sound issue with this library stems from the volume balance between its close miced and room channels; basically, the ambience channel provides most of the overall volume and realism of sound for the library. The individual drum channels are weak and slightly unnatural sounding. This means that, while the default mixer settings sound very good, it’s hard to adjust individual channels to help certain parts cut through the mix, or to cut volume to a loud instrument dominating your arrangement without wrecking the overall sound. This problem also limits processing options, especially reverb and eq settings, due to the global effect on the library as a whole. Routing each mixer channel to its own track inside your DAW helps, but in my experience will not completely resolve the volume and processing issues.
I often purchase Toontrack products as much for the included midi libraries as for the sounds themselves; unfortunately, the midi included with “Latin Percussion” was a disappointment. I was hoping for more dynamic timbale fills and grooves, but the timbale material included focuses on “sidestick” articulations and as such, is nearly inaudible in a mix. Many of the stock fills and grooves included for other instruments are also bland and unexciting. While “Groove Monkee” has produced a midi expansion library (Fusion midi drum loops) partially for use with “Latin Percussion”, Toontrack itself offers no such additional midi material. This means that, unless you’re an ace drum programmer, you have a very limited amount of material to work with.
The strength of this library is its variety of instruments and articulations. The Cajon, for instance, offers 16 articulations. These articulations greatly expand the options for expressive beats and fills to someone who truly understands these instruments. For an expert in Latin percussion, the options for programming would be nearly endless with this tool.
To summarize, “Latin Percussion” is an excellent tool for experienced programmers and engineers, but not an all-in-one solution for novices.