TRK-01 is a new synth and drum engine – or more precisely a kick and bass synthesis and sequencing plugin from Native Instruments. Though it can be used to produce a variety of non kick and bass sounds, its focus is helping you create, manage and boost the low end of your track.
The kick and bass are the beating heart of electronic music. The challenge is that they occupy similar portions of the audio spectrum and if they don’t sit together well, can send a track down-hill quickly in a river of mud.

TRK-01 from Native Instruments aims to solve that problem, get you started on the right foot and on track, if you don’t mind the pun…

Here’s the video review – more details below:

THE SOUND ENGINES

TRK-01 contains a variety of tools for kick and bass synthesis, modulation and frequency management. The Kick Engine comes with a large database of kick and percussive samples in a broad range of categories, and also lets you synthesize your own sounds from basic waveforms and rumble and noise generators. The Kick Engine lets you create two sound layers, with a dedicated multi mode resonant filter for each, and you can either mix or play the layers separately using the built in sequencer.
The Bass engine is synth only (no samples), and contains a broad range of synthesis methods, from traditional subtractive, through fm and wave-folding (called “West” in the UI) all the way to an easy to use but advanced wave table synth with plenty of built in factory wave tables covering a broad range of textures.
The Bass Engine also includes a controllable ducking envelope which is triggered by the kick sequencer, and lets you set multiple modulation detonations, such as the bass output level of low end EQ, and generates a sidechain.
Both engines have their own effects module, which includes various insert effects, EQ, delay and reverb sends and a compressor.

SEQUENCING
The synth engines though are only half the story. The second half of TRK-01 is its sequencer – this groove-box style sequencer has up to 64 steps per pattern, and supports polymetric patterns. But it takes things further quite a few steps (sorry, the puns again). Similar to the Elektron sequencers if you’re familiar with them, every single step in a sequence can change, or “lock” quite a few of the synth parameters, drastically changing the character of the sound it’s controlling. The parameter locking interface is very simple and straightforward, something that’s very hard to pull off from a user experience perspective.
Rounding off TRK-01’s sound design features is a Master Effects section, with Delay and Reverb controls, as well as Bass and Booster modules that add a dramatic effect to the sound.

PRESETS

TRK-01 comes with 200 presets in various different genres. These presets have up to 8 different kick and bass sounds, with up to 8 patterns for each. Unlike sampled loops, since these patterns and sounds are synthesized, they’re not something you’re stuck with, but rather a starting point for something you can change and build on.
Timing controls let you add swing and groove (a swing variation), sync tempo with you daw in 8th, 16th and triplets, and transpose and tune controls let you align your sequence to a scale and transpose it.

DAW INTEGRATION AND EXTERNAL CONTROL

Most of TRK-01’s parameters are open and accessible to DAWs and it support NKS for simple parameter mapping. If you connect a MIDI keyboard to TRK-01 you can use the keyboard octaves starting from C1 and up to C4 to select different Kick sounds, Kick patterns, Bass sounds and Bass patterns respectively, in realtime. I’m usually hesitant to add “wishlist” features in reviews because features I feel are missing may not be what other people would like to see and vice versa, but missing for me is the ability to play notes and transpose sequences via MIDI – in addition to the current welcome implementation that lets you swap sounds or sequence patterns. These seem like a relatively easy to implement addition so one would hope they’d be included in a future version upgrade.

USER INTERFACE

Once you understand the layout (and you’ll need to check out the video for that), despite its many features, the user interface of TRK-01 is excellent. It’s easy to use and understand, and many of its features are a click or two away.

SUMMARY

TRK-01 is an excellent kick and bass sequencing software plugin for Mac or PC (it runs in Native Instrument’s Reaktor) and can be used with any DAW. It doesn’t require any hardware, though it’s integrated nicely with Maschine and Komplete controllers.
Pros: It sounds great, and is very easy to use despite many options. TRK-01 is designed to help create fantastic kick and bass lines. Plenty of synth engines to cover a broad spectrum of sounds.
Cons: Not all parameters are available for external MIDI control – in particular playing and transposing which can only be done through the software.

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