Azimuth Blog Twitter Feed: @azimuthaudio

Entries in Independent SFX Libraries (10)


SFX Library Review: Digital Juice SoundFX I-IV


Digital Juice seems to be an extremely successful web portal for picture editors and graphic designers looking for stock graphics, animations and templates.  I was, until recently, only peripherally aware of the company's existence, not thinking they offered anything to pique the particular interests of a sound editor.  Then I stumbled across their SoundFX series.  These collections are offered at amazingly low prices and contain a massive amount of sound effects in each release.  'Inexpensive' certainly catches my attention but to be a worthwhile investment of money and time, any new sounds need to live up to a quality standard. No use cluttering up one's FX database with junky sounds.

My first impression, judging by they way they are organized, is that these collections seem to be aimed more at picture editors than sound editors.  The file names are a gobbledygook of numbers like  14536_SFX.wav or 40667_SFX.wav.  Doesn't really tell you what you're going to hear, does it?  The reason the files have these types of names is that Digital Juice offers a proprietary media search program named “Juicer”.  Once the files are loaded into the software database, Juicer uses its own secret decoder ring to re-link the filename with the descriptive information you need. All of Digital Juice's products use Juicer, so it is assumed that a picture editor would already be using Juicer for stock animations and graphics searches.  It makes sense that they would make the SoundFX product conform to the same workflow.  

So at first glance these collections seem like a waste of time for sound editors.  What a drag it would be to first search for a sound in your go-to program (SoundMiner in my case) and then do a separate search in Juicer as well.  Luckily, I discovered the simple and effective work-around that brings the SoundFX file descriptions into SoundMiner.  Using the Soundminer function called “Import Encrypted Text” you can import a text file and automatically apply the text to the appropriate metadata fields in corresponding sound files.  Turning a database that looks empty and useless like this:

...into a full and useful database that looks like this:

The filename metadata field maintains the coded numeric file name, but all other fields are filled with descriptive searchable information. You can find the encrypted text files for the first three collections here.  For some strange reason the fourth SoundFX collection’s encrypted text file is not posted on the Digital Juice site.  I was able to find it somewhere else when I first purchased the library, but I can't find it online anywhere currently.  If you need to get your hands on it, leave a message in the comments below, and I will send the correct encrypted text file to you.  

So with a quick file management work-around the SoundFX collection becomes very useable to a sound editor.  But now, back to the important question of quality!  Are these sounds even worth the effort?  The short answer is: yes.  All the sounds are delivered at 96k and 24bit, so they are ready for heavy plug-in manipulation.  The individual files are edited cleanly and cover a wide range of content.  One way in which these collections differ from the more mainstream collections of Sound Ideas, Hollywood Edge or Blastwave is the way they were mastered: in general they peak at a much lower volume.  This is both good and bad in my opinion.  I find that ambiences are regularly mastered at unnecessarily loud levels.  In order to make a Sound Ideas windy ambience sit in a reasonable pocket in a mix the fader normally has to sit pretty low.  This is not the case with these Digital Juice libraries, making the ambience effects fit into mixes a little more easily.  On the other hand, the hard effects in this collection are sometimes a little too quiet.  In both cases the sounds are mastered at perfectly acceptable levels in terms of usability, they are just different from what I'm used to hearing from other libraries.

In addition to ambiences and hard effects these collections feature a large quantity of “Design Elements”.  These are highly effected and sound-designed files, ready to use with Digital Juice’s vast line of Motion Graphics.  These can be very useful sounds when you need to build sci-fi or other un-worldly sounds.  

The sounds are spread over a vast range of categories.  For a general library of SFX, most things are covered off fairly well.  One way the SoundFX collection comes up a little short is in variations.  There is only one take of most sounds included.  So if you need to cover a long series of repetitive elements you would have to start recycling the same sounds pretty fast.

There are 4 collections in all, named SoundFX I - IV.  All 4 contain 55 gigabytes of sound files varying from 10,500 sounds in SoundFX III to 15,700 in SoundFX II.  In total the 4 libraries take up 220GB and contain 49,506 files.  It's easy to order the products directly from the Digital Juice website, paying with a credit card (paypal does not appear to be an option).  The collections come in stylish glossy cardboard boxes that contain fabric binders holding the DVDs.  Each library is delivered with about a dozen DVDs that you then have to load onto your local hard drive. A tedious process that feels very old-fashioned. It would be nice if Digital Juice offered a hard drive version of the full set.  It basically took me a full day to load all 44 DVDs onto my system, including putting all the descriptors into the SoundMiner database.  So the collection is not exactly plug-and-play, as it needs some attention to get it up to speed (...but that's what interns are for, right?)

The sounds come with a fairly standard end users license, so you are free to use the sounds in the same manner you would with any other vendor's royalty-free effects.  One unique difference that caught my eye was a specific condition barring the SoundFX collections from being used “in or in conjunction with pornographic material”.  I had a good laugh at that one; I have never seen that listed in any one else's EULA. 

Now the really good news: each of these collections is priced at $499... but that is a bit of a red herring, because they are always on sale. The Digital Juice website consistently has them listed for $99.95 each.  So that would be $399.80 for almost 50,000 sound files.  A quick consultation with my calculator tells me that this works out to a little less than a tenth of a penny per sound effect.  That price is out of this world, without compare, and super-duper inexpensive.  My standard for pricing in the sound effects world is Sound Ideas General HD which works out to 16 cents per effect.  Or 160 times more expensive than the Digital Juice SoundFX I - IV.  

In the final reckoning, are the SoundFX collections as high-quality as the flagship products from Sound Ideas or Blastwave?  No they are not.  But they are not very far off.  They do make an excellent companion piece to those collections.  So in my estimation, at the price at which they are being offered, the SoundFX line of libraries from Digital Juice are pretty much a no brainer.  Well worth the investment.


This article is part of Azimuth's Blog’s ongoing feature of SFX library reviews. Take a moment to read the Ground Rules if you have not had a chance to do so yet, to get an idea of what I use the libraries for and what my criteria are.


Previous SFX Library Reviews Include:


Rabbit Ears Audio's Rockets

Arrowhead Audio's Swishes

Blastwave FX's Free Updates for Life - Update 07

Tonsturm's Electricity

Chuck Russom FX's Rock Sound Library (No longer available)

Boom Library's Creatures Construction Kit

The Recordist's Ultimate Mud


SFX Library Review: SoundSnap

This instalment of the Azimuth Blog Indie SFX Library Review will be a little different, as I will be writing about a website/SFX service instead of the kinds of standard packaged libraries I've looked at in the past.  The usual guidelines still apply though; you can read about the basic standards and criteria I use in my reviews in this previous blog post. is a website that hosts “140,000 sound effects and loops”.  I can't find an exact breakdown of how many loops they have vs SFX, but it appears they have about 30,000 music loops or samples... so simple math suggests they have in the ballpark of 110,000 sound effects on the site.  That is a fairly large library, one that SoundSnap boasts as being collected in part from Hollywood sound designers with big credits to their names.

The site was started by Tasos Frantzolas, a professional sound designer working out of Athens, Greece.  When launched, it was the amalgamated library of a community of 20 sound designers, encompassing 30,000 SFX.  It has grown from there with a focus on professional-quality SFX.  Big-name contributors include Coll Anderson (5904 downloadable SFX), Chuck Russom (400 downloadable SFX), Blastwave (32105 downloadable SFX), SFX Source (3150 downloadable SFX), Frank Serafine (1358 downloadable SFX), Paul Virostek/Airbourne Sound (13800 downloadable SFX) and many more.

There are other websites that offer downloadable SFX files but SoundSnap is special because of two features: its 'Royalty Free' license and its annual subscription.  A similar site is While offers its SFX for free, there is a catch.  Most of the sounds have an “Attribution” creative commons license.  This means you have to give credit for each sound you use from the site.  In 99% of the projects I work on this is not possible.  The credits on some of the series I work on are so compact that there are many occasions that I don’t even get a screen credit as sound editor.  If I went to the producer and told them they had to add 200  credits for each sound I grabbed from a website I would get laughed out of the room.  It's simply not an option.  SoundSnap's standard 'Royalty Free' license does not require attribution so this is not an issue with their sounds.

While obviously has the advantage of being free, SoundSnap has an interesting pricing structure.  When buying in small amounts it's not particularly cheap.  SoundSnap sells its sounds in packs, with the smallest pack being 5 sounds.  A 5-sound pack lets you pick any five sounds hosted on the site for $9, or $1.80 per sound (all prices listed in US dollars).  That is still cheaper than most sounds on, but if you intend to pull down a lot of sounds it will start to add up quickly.  But SoundSnap has a pricing structure that encourages bulk purchasing. If you purchase a pack of 100 sounds the price drops almost by half, to 99 cents per sound.  Still not super-cheap but getting more reasonable.  Yet here is the feature that really sets SoundSnap apart from the competition: the annual subscription.  This lets you download an unlimited number of sounds over the course of a year for $249.  On this plan, you are looking at a hypothetical price of 0.002 cents per sound.  When looked at from that perspective, you might say SoundSnap’s annual subscription is actually almost free. (Well... don't think about that too hard...)

Now, in order to hit that 0.002 cent price point, you'd have to download the entire library in one year - an undertaking that would require a level of discipline and patience that I don’t possess.   Downloading sounds from the site is rather easy but there is a protection mechanism in place to stop someone from setting up an automated download routine to grab all the sounds.

In order to download sounds you first have to sign up with a user name and password and then pick a download pack. Payment is easy and handled either through Paypal or credit card.  If you get the annual subscription, all you have to do for the rest of the year is log into the site and you are set to pull down all the sounds you need, never having to worry about paying again until your year is up.  Auditioning is straightforward, and the site responds to searches very quickly. You can search using a global search function or you can browse by categories.

I have a few criticisms of the site.  One complaint is that the site only loads 10 sounds per page.  So for example, if you search the word “monkey” you get 75 hits but they are spread out over 8 pages.  So auditioning them all involves a lot of browser navigation from page to page. It's nowhere near as quick as using Soundminer to find sounds (Not sure if that is a fair comparison though since one is online and the other is local).  Another drawback is a lack of consistent metadata for the downloaded sounds.  When I download a batch of sounds and load them into Soundminer for future use I find some sounds have a fully detailed set of metadata while others have just the file name and hard attributes (file length, bit rate, number of channels, etc.)  It would be fantastic if SoundSnap had a metadata policy that required everyone to include more detailed metadata for the sounds.

All these files were downloaded from SoundSnap. You can see the varying amounts of Metadata.

In terms of the quality of the actual sounds - I have found them to be really great.  Obviously I have not listened to every sound on the site but with very few exceptions the sounds have all been up to quite high standards.  This makes sense since since the contributors all seem to be professional sound editors and have their own high standards to meet.

This is what the auditioning pages look like.

I've also found this site to be a life-saver on occasions when I'm freelancing or at a mix without my personal SFX library handy.  You can simply log onto SoundSnap wherever you are and hopefully find what you are looking for, without having to carry a hard drive, laptop and Soundminer key with you every where you go.  

I would not recommend anyone attempt to treat an annual subscription to SoundSnap like a fully-functional stand-alone SFX library. I have found that SoundSnap can be an excellent emergency backup option though.  In cases when you have exhausted your own library and you are at a loss to find that perfect sound a quick search on SoundSnap can offer a great find or a new perspective on what you are trying to find.  I've never used it as a first resort, but SoundSnap got me out of more then a few jams when my primary library searches came up empty.  

All in all, SoundSnap - with or without the annual subscription - is a great tool to have in your back pocket as a compliment to an on-site well-rounded professional SFX library.



SFX Library Review: Rabbit Ears Audio ROCKETS

Rabbit Ears Audio is an indie SFX Library run by Michael Raphael out of New York.  Rabbit Ears has released a total of nine highly specific libraries in the last two years. In this edition of the Azimuth SFX Library Review, I'm going to review the one I have got the most use out of so far - REA001 Rockets.  If you have not had a chance to do so yet, please read this post to get an idea of what I use the libraries for and what my criteria are.


REA001 Rockets is a library made up of launch sounds recorded from model rockets, but don't let that description mislead you. I know when I think of model rockets my mind conjures up images of middle-school kids setting off 12" toy missiles with cherry bombs stuffed into them.  That could not be farther from what has been recorded here.  These are large and powerful rockets that are technical wonders.  This collection features rockets rated up to M class, only two steps under the highest rating there is among amateur rocketeers: O class.  According to Wikipedia, these rockets "customarily use composite propellants made of ammonium perchlorate, potassium nitrate, aluminium powder, and a rubbery binder substance contained in a hard plastic case. This type of propellant is similar to that used in the solid rocket boosters of the space shuttle."  Clearly these are big-boy toys, adult supervision required!

Finding out that this whole realm of hobbyists exists is fascinating, but the real question for this exercise is: do these rockets SOUND good?!  The answer is: yes! They sound amazing. This library has some great, powerful-sounding launches.  I have used them for sci-fi vehicles, weapons, and pass-bys many times.  They also impress when being manipulated into fantastic ripping whooshes and even cartoon-style ricochets.  One of my favorite things about the library is that I get to type “Rabbit Rocket” into my search software to find these sounds.  There is something about the idea of a rabbit rocket that always gives me a little chuckle when I am loopy from too many hours cutting away in my dark little edit room.

The sounds are all recorded and delivered at 96kHz and 24 bit, so they have a lot of data to withstand heavy manipulation with plug-ins.  The set comes with 113 files, with each file containing a single launch sequence for one rocket.  Each filename includes the rocket's class, ranging from G to M, with the rocket motors getting bigger as you get further into the alphabet.  The rockets do sound more powerful as you move up in class, with the G class rockets sounding much thinner than the K class.  There are also a couple misfires included that have a nice unique character to them as well.

You get multiple perspectives of each launch, in mono and stereo, as recorded by different microphones.  A Schoeps MK 4/8 pair and a DPA 4060 pair provide the stereo perspectives, and a Sennheiser MKH-60 and a Sanken CUB-01 give the collection mono takes.  Personally, I'm partial to the the DPA recordings, but they all have something to offer.  

Every file comes with complete metadata that makes sense and is fairly easy to navigate.  Files are all named with rocket type (Class G to M), propellant type (composite or nitrous), microphone model, and recording location (California or New York).  

In terms of the actual sounds you are getting, I've found them to be really useful.  A  warning though; these rockets have a great crisp initial launch sound but they die off quickly and abruptly.  Since I had no knowledge of how these rockets work I contacted the man who recorded the rockets, Michael Raphael, to find out why the decays are so short - and here is his response:

"The rockets have a certain amount of dry propellant in them, and the ignitor burns through that propellant within seconds. What you are hearing is the ignition and then a very quick burn. A missile has fuel that continues to burn while it flies, but the rockets have a fixed amount of propellant that burns off rather quickly. The force generated from that ignition and burn is what propels them up."

So it makes sense that the sound cuts off as soon as the propellant has been used up, but there are times when you really want these great air-ripping launch sequences to last a lot longer.  Luckily with some work in editing, and by adding some 'verb you can make these sounds stretch out, but they are not going to work as well when a long, sustained sound is needed.

Another plus for this library is that Rabbit Ears Audio has great customer service. The owner of the company responded to my email right away with a straightforward answer to my question and was very helpful in general.  I recommend following Michael Raphael on Twitter (@sepulchra) because he often posts discounts on new releases.  Thanks to these sales, I've purchased quite a few of the Rabbit Ears libraries at discounted rates of up to 20%.

This collection works out to be on the more expensive end of the scale for SFX libraries at around 44 cents per sound effect. (For comparison, Sound Ideas' flagship products average out to 15 cents per file.) In this case though, it seems like the higher price is merited.  These rockets are not something that can be easily recorded.  Planning and travel were needed to get these sounds, as they were recorded on both coasts of the US, in California and New York state.  I personally don't mind paying a bit more for something I really have no hope of ever capturing myself, especially when the quality of the recordings is so high.   

Take a listen to the demo for the Rockets library.

Rabbit Ears has also just released a brand new collection called REA009 Antique Engines that looks like it will be a great addition to any SFX editor's library.

REA_009 Antique Engines from Michael Raphael on Vimeo.



Check Previous posts in the SFX Library Review Series:

Arrowhead Audio's Swishes

Blastwave FX's Free Updates for Life - Update 07

Tonsturm's Electricity

Chuck Russom FX's Rock Sound Library (No longer available)

Boom Library's Creatures Construction Kit

The Recordist's Ultimate Mud



SFX Library Review: Arrowhead Audio Swishes

This is part of Azimuth's Blog’s ongoing feature of SFX library reviews. Take a moment to read the Ground Rules if you have not had a chance to do so yet, to get an idea of what I use the libraries for and what my criteria are.

Recently a new category has emerged in the world of boutique independent SFX libraries. I'm not sure if anyone else has come up with a name for it yet but I've been referring to these as Budget Indie Libraries.  These are libraries that are putting out quality sounds but doing so at extremely low prices for the end user, including pay-what-you-can.  They tend to focus on sounds generated with collections of props, recorded in a studio environment - so they would be effects you could create on your own with a little time and energy.  But at the low prices at which these are offered, it might be worth your while to save the effort and just buy the library.   This article will explore one of these Budget Indie libraries: Arrowhead Audio's Swishes.

Along with Affordable Audio for EveryoneArrowhead Audio seems to be at the forefront of the Budget SFX trend.  Based out of England and run by a fellow named Fred Pearson, Arrowhead has released five libraries so far.  The libraries are sold in three levels: Lite (£2 or approx. US$4) Full (£4 or approx. US$7) and Max (£6 or approx. US$10.)  As the price point goes up, both the number of files and the technical quality increase, with Max versions offering 24bit/96k resolution.

I purchased the Max version of the Swishes collection which came to US$9.72.  It's a simple download from the Arrowhead website after paying through Paypal.  The Max version comes with 332 files, each containing a single sound event; multiple takes are included of every prop but each take has been broken down into individual files.  The quality is very high, with zero BG noise, so the whooshes are pristine.  Sixteen different props are used to make the whooshes, ranging from the usual whooshy suspects (bamboo, broom handles) to more obscure objects (rubber toys, baking trays.)  Some props have insane coverage with up to ninety takes while others have as little as two takes, depending on the amount of character a prop has to offer.  Single, double, and multiple swish takes are offered for most props.  

Each file is also offered as both a mono and stereo file so the download actually consists of just over 660 files.  The metadata is not as full as other libraries but is filled out enough to be easily navigated.  When I purchased the collection I ended up going into the "Admin" function in Soundminer to globally fill in some of the columns that were blank (for ex: Short ID, Source, Category.)  The description field is simply a copy of the filename, causing a doubling up of information, but understandably, since there just aren't that many descriptive words for the 14th take of a wooden spoon swish.  So, wisely, each file is named first by prop, then the number of events (single/double/multiple), followed by speed (fast/slow) and a descriptor (Short/flutter/Hard/Soft/Long etc.)  Rounding out each file name is channel layout (MONO/STEREO) and the take number.  So a typical file name would look like: SWISH_WOODEN_SPOON_SINGLE_FAST_SHORT_MONO_011.

There have been a lot of Swish/Swoosh libraries released in the last couple of years, including Hiss and a Roar's Swishes, Tonsturm's The Whoosh, and to a certain extent Boom Libraries' Cinematic Trailers.  Arrowhead's offering is not the best of all of these (Tonsturm might have that distinction) but I don't think that's what Arrowhead is aiming for, as it has priced its collection at about an eighth of the cost of the competition.  At those prices it does not have to be the best to be a worthwhile addition to your SFX database.  It's a solid collection, and at roughly three cents per file it's a bargain, keeping in mind that Sound Ideas' flagship products average out to fifteen cents per file... so this really is a great deal.  

These sounds are useful to have in your library as they can fill out fight sequences, sporting event movements, graphic motion effects... and anything else you can think of.  

You can download ten files from the collection as MP3s to get a sample of what you can expect should you decide to purchase the collection from here.  Another good way into the Arrowhead Audio world would be to grab the free library called Balloon Squeaks and Creaks.  It features 172 files, again for free, so you really can't beat the price!

Here is the demo of the Arrowhead Audio Swishes Collection:


Arrowhead Audio has also just released a brand new library called Rivers.


SFX Library Review: Blastwave Free Updates For Life

Last spring I started an ongoing series on this blog reviewing independently released SFX libraries.  You can read this post to get an idea of the criteria I use for the reviews.  I also invite you to look back over some of this year's posts on the Azimuth blog to read about some the other libraries I've taken a look at. You may notice there haven't been many reviews recently! This summer went by fast and work got in the way of keeping the series up to date but here, finally, is the newest installment.  

This post will cover a more mainstream company, Blastwave FX.  Although their operation seems much larger than the companies behind the previous libraries I have reviewed, Blastwave FX seems to be the work of just one team, based out of the Detroit Chop Shop run by Ric Viers.  Blastwave offers a ton of libraries, from huge 40,000 file packages that cost thousands of dollars all the way down to $25 download packs in specific categories. I'm not going to review one of their commercially available libraries though; instead I'm going to tell you about one of their offers about which there is not a lot of info out there.

Blastwave offers a few large libraries that come with what the company calls "Comprehensive Lifetime Sound Design Solutions".  One of the main selling points for these is the 'Free Updates For Life' feature.  Doesn't  this sound like an incredible deal? - Buy a library now and every three months for the rest of your life you will be offered more SFX to integrate into your library. Is this for real? A few questions crossed my mind:

- How many sound effects do you get in an update?  

- What kind of sounds are they?  

- Are they recorded well?  

- How useful are the sounds?

- Does Blastwave actually follow through on this promise, or is there a catch?

I decided to give it a shot and purchased one of Blastwave's flagship products "Sonopedia"over a year ago. Now to answer some of these nagging questions, today's edition of the SFX review will put to the test the latest delivery of Blastwave's 'Free Updates for Life'  - Update 07.

In order to get the updates you have to register your purchase with Blastwave FX, which basically gets you on a mailing list that informs you of new updates via email.  When I bought Sonopedia it came with all the previously released updates in separate folders on the drive, so you get access to all the legacy updates with your new purchase.  Each update contains 100 audio files and, for the most part, each file contains a single sound effect.  The effects range from raw/natural sounds to highly designed effects and processed production elements.  Each update seems to be split into two categories: Production Elements and Sound Effects, split evenly with 50 new sounds in each category per update.  

In Update 7 the 50 Production Elements include whooshes, glitches, LFE impacts, a couple of UI sounds and even some full-out designed robot transform sequences.  They are all of high quality and are all 'finished product' type of sounds ready to use right away.   They would be great in fast turn-around situations where you need to quickly cover something in the timeline and move on.  I can't however see myself using sounds this specifically designed and produced as building blocks in a larger or longer sequence.

The 50 files in the Sound Effects category run the gamut from a great B-17 bomber pass-by that would obviously be really hard to record yourself, to simpler sounds such as mud hits or rubber glove stretches.  This update must have been planned during wintertime as there are a lot of sounds involving snow and ice.  Footsteps, auto wheel spins, body falls, snowmobiles, and more are included among the snow-based effects.

As for audio quality, the sounds are all pristine.  Everything sounds like it was captured in a sound-proof studio, so either it was or there's been some clean-up involved in post.  All the sounds are delivered as high-res 96k/24bit files.  The metadata included is comprehensive and well organized.  One minor problem I've had is that Soundminer displayed faulty waveforms when I scanned Update 07.  Everything sounds fine but the waveforms are incorrect for the back end of all the files (see image below for an example). 

One thing I find a little disappointing about these updates is that each file only has one take.  For many sounds this makes sense, but for others I don't see a reason why they don't have variations included.  For instance there is a file called "Foley, Whip, Whoosh, Rope, Heavy" that is a great thick sounding whoosh; I'm guessing that if they took the time to set up the mic and whip a rope around in front of it that they did it more then once.  So why not include a few variations in the file?  If I am cutting a fight or scene with movement I need a lot of different takes to make a scene work. Giving us only one take just feels to me like like Blastwave is messing with us a bit.

Another area that could use improvement is that you have no idea what you're going to get in a new update. Sometimes I've gotten lucky and the sounds are just what I'm looking for; the rest of time I just scan them into my database and hope they come in handy one day.  It would be better if there was some kind of dialogue between the customer base and Blastwave so requests could be made for future updates.  Maybe that's too much to ask, but in a perfect world it would be great to be a part of the process a little more.

Other than that, "Free Updates For Life" is a pretty good little offering, especially the 'free' part.  It's certainly a great feature if you consider that all of the other companies offering similar collections to Sonopedia give you exactly jack squat after your initial purchase.  Yet if you don't have a need for any of the qualifying Blastwave libraries, the updates alone are not worth the investment.  I would say if you are considering buying one of the products that includes the free updates, think of them as a great bonus.