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Boom Assault Weapons Sound Effect Pack Review
Review by George Spanos
Recording guns is hard. Trust me, I've done it multiple times and it is definitely a task that you don't get right without a lot of practice. It is also very expensive. You need a bare minimum of 8 microphones and enough recording channels for each. Usually recording guns requires you to go to remote locations without power so many recordists will use portable field recorders daisy-chained together to get a suitable track count. Then there is the cost of renting the weapons, buying the ammo, renting out a range and a gun handler, and all of the other miscellaneous items (not to mention a ton of microphone cables!) and you can easily see that the cost and complexity adds up. For most sound designers buying pre-made sound effects packs is the way to go for weapons.
The Boom sound effects libraries have a longstanding history of being well-recorded. Their latest release is the Assault Weapons pack which I was eager to get my hands (and ears!) on for a review. The folks at Boom were gracious enough to give me early access to the full library, but rest assured that what follows is my unbiased and honest review of the pack.
What Do You Get?
The Assault Weapons pack contains 25 different weapons recorded at 96kHz, 24bit resolution. Some people might argue that these days we should be recording source material at 192kHz but for weapons I think that 96kHz is probably more than adequate enough and it also saves on download size and hard drive space... though the latter isn't really an issue anymore.
The pack includes an assortment of sniper rifles, submachine and machine guns, assault rifles, anti-material rifles and last but not least a grenade launcher. Included weapons are the AK 47 and AK 74, the HK 53, the M16A2, MG 42, M14, Remington 700, UZI 9mm, and the M203 Grenade Launcher, among others.
One of the unique selling points of the Boom libraries is that they generally give you access to fully-designed sounds as well as the raw recordings. A lot of the independent sound effects producers are providing pre-built sounds included in packs these days and I think that's a good thing for people who are really crunched for time or for the more casual user such as film editors and independent filmmakers. As a professional sound designer I prefer to construct my own gun sounds from individual elements because I find that I get a more custom and unique sound that way. But it's nice to have the option.
Each of the files also contains extensive metadata which is fantastic for users of Soundminer. This is necessary when doing searches and for finding out the description of each file easily.
It is worth mentioning that I own the Boom Guns library and while it is a decent collection of firearms, a lot of the tails on the weapons are really low in level. The weapon handling files in the Guns Library seem to also suffer with the low recording level problem. This can make it tricky to get good, clean weapon designs because of the need to apply a lot of gain to the files which increases the noise floor. It's not a dealbreaker for that other library, just something to be aware of. Happily though, the Assault Weapons pack does not suffer from this problem at all.
Boom Library also included a bunch of bullet impacts, ricochets, mechanics, and metal sweeteners to the pack. These can really add flavour to your designs by focusing more on the mechanics of the weapon if you want, for example.
The Designed Sounds
Let's start off by taking a tour through the designed section of the pack. Each of the weapons feature separate close and distant designs and they do sound quite good. The files are full of meaty low-end, biting midrange and plenty of "dirt" from the mechanics of the weapon. To be honest, the designed sounds would be a great starting point even for those who wish to build a weapon sound from the ground-up. The single shot files are great when spotting to muzzle flash on-screen for film and television productions. The burst files can be blended together quite nicely for creating ambient gunfire beds or for distant battle scenes.
Including the impulse responses for each of the weapons is a fantastic bonus to the pack. You can load these into your convolution reverb and get an accurate sounding set of reflections for each of the weapons. Say for example you want to place your firing sounds inside a cave or outdoors. Easy enough to accomplish by simply loading the IR's into your favorite convolution reverb. I thought this was a great idea and would like to see other sound pack manufacturers start doing this. Bonus points for the included impulse responses.
The Construction Kit
As I mentioned above, many professional sound designers prefer to construct their own unique and distinct gun sounds from the ground up. This requires a sound library to include many different recording perspectives from which to build each shot and reload sound.
Each weapon set contains 12 individual files which consist of a number of close, medium, distant and attached microphone setups. There are also single shot sets and burst sets.
I must say that I was really impressed with the tracks. There is a ton of potential when combining each of the microphone setups and applying EQ and compression. Just dragging each of the 12 microphone setups into my DAW and playing them together yielded excellent results... without even needing to apply any eq or compression. The close mics feature detailed snap and top end as well as punchy midrange. The medium mic setups provide interesting character that compliment the close mics really well. The distant mic recordings are interesting in that they do not have a lot of tail in them, instead the tail is handled in a separate file. This gives the setups a lot of flexibility in choosing the character you want each of your weapon designs to take.
What Would Have Sweetened The Deal?
I really wish Boom had included pictures of all the weapons that were recorded in the download. While this is not a comment on the sound quality it would have been a very nice touch to be able to see the weapons and even the different microphone setups that were used to record the pack. I guess I'm just a bit of a gun geek that way.
If you head on over to the Boom website however, there are a number of tutorial videos and even a pretty cool diagram outlining the microphone setup used. You can also find a .pdf datasheet outlining each weapon used for those who do not have access to Soundminer. I do feel that all of this info should have been included in the download, for ease of use... but again, it's definitely not a deal breaker.
The folks at Boom have put together an interesting making-of video as well as a couple of tutorial videos on how to get the most from the library. Check them out:
If you are in the market for a collection of machine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and a rocket launcher then this is definitely a pack worth considering. To be honest, some of the weapons in this pack are the best recordings I have yet to hear of them! The pack excels in many ways: a multitude of excellent choices for the do-it-yourself sound designer, great sounding drag and drop designed weapons for those with little time, included impulse responses, and a bunch of handy add-ons. Highly recommended addition to any sound library.
-Recording fidelity: 9.5/10
-Variety of sounds: 9/10