Klip wholeheartedly embraces the concept of the preset. It's made by Sample Magic, who are primarily known as a one-stop-shop for sample packs, MIDI patterns and synth patches. They also make plug-ins. Boost was a relatively straightforward but capable mixing and home mastering utility but Stacker turned the concept of drum layering on its head. Klip lands somewhere in the middle, combining what is essentially a ROMpler in VST form with some tasty effects and sharp sequencing capabilities that lend themselves to a lot of happy accidents.
Installation is handled, as with all Kontakt-based products, by Native Access, Native Instruments' proprietary software installation and management application. If you already use Native Instruments products, you'll know that Native Access can be something of a pain. If not, well, you'll soon find out. Thankfully, Klip doesn't require the fully featured version of Kontakt to function—you'll do just fine with the free Kontakt Player.
Once loaded up, the 150-plus bundled presets are provided in the form of Kontakt snapshots. Sample Magic clearly expects its users to rely heavily on these. It's not possible to load in samples from external sources, and no blank or initialised snapshot exists (admittedly, it's not particularly tricky to make your own). The samples contained within each preset are assigned to one of 16 pads, and any number of pads can be attributed to one of eight mixer channels. When loading preset sets and patterns, these are already logically assigned and named. They can also be renamed and recoloured at your leisure.
Each mixer channel has its own EQ, Compression and Shaper modules. The controls for the first two are as you'd expect, but the Shaper is a more varied option for colouring the sound. Crush and Redux provide downsampling and bit-crush type effects, while Saturation, Warm and Drive all provide different flavours of analogue-style warmth and distortion. Finally, Attack and Sustain gives you surprisingly smooth and useful control over transients, which proves endlessly handy for getting a drum groove sitting nicely in the pocket. Each pad also has its own multi-mode filter, distortion unit, dedicated delay and reverb sends and an output section with pan, autopan and velocity control.
The preset snapshots themselves are split into a number of useful categories. Those designed by Sample Magic's in-house production team are built around genre-specific samples and patterns, and come fully-stocked with routing, effects and sequence data already in place. Simpler templates that gather together more specific types of sounds (House Synth Loops, Electronica Chord Stabs etc) offer a nice palette if you're looking for something in particular, but it's unlikely you'll be picking more than one or two of these sounds from any one group—it makes a lot more sense to start pulling together your own collections of sounds. But this isn't as easy a job as it should be, and that seems to be the main issue with Klip. For a product designed with simplicity in mind, it can make things difficult if you stray from the straight and narrow. A lot of this comes down to the UI. It has the look and feel of a slightly retro iOS app, and with it comes a lot of the clunkiness often associated with those programs.
For instance, there's no way to audition sounds without sequencing the pad in question first. This is by no means the end of the world when working with one-shot samples but it can become tedious with longer loops. The loops also don't update in real time, which means you need to wait for the sequence to reset or trigger the pad manually. Quite a few of the controls are unlabelled, meaning that a bit of messing around is required to figure out what everything does. For example, the inconspicuous horizontal sliders at the bottom of the modules control the dry/wet amount of that particular section, despite having no discernible function at first glance. Another slightly frustrating quirk is that undo/redo doesn't seem to work in the sequencer. This means that, should you stumble on an enjoyable pattern and then accidentally modify or delete it, there's no way to go back to what you had before. Some might be fine with the transient nature of this approach, but it could well drive others crazy.
Where Klip really comes into it's own, however, is effects sequencing. Laid out in the same 16x32 grid as the pattern sequencer, you're given a lane for most of, but not all, the effects parameters at the pad level. You can also modulate sample slice position and sample hold, making it incredibly easy to mangle loops into wild, IDM-style deconstructions. The effects themselves are fairly rough around the edges, which I personally found to be a good thing. The comprehensive distortion, bit-crushing and heavy-on-the-compression vibe of Klip really seems to lend itself to a particularly rugged, Hague-style sound.
The lane presets, of which there are 35 different patterns, really come into their own when used to sequence effects parameters. Whereas in the pattern mode they could come off as derivative, here their aggressive modulation really adds to the chaotic nature of the plug-in. It's also possible to create completely random patterns by alt-clicking on any lane in either sequencer window, with every successive click generating a new pattern. This works great for bringing snare fills and hi-hats to life, as well as imparting a bit of welcome unpredictability to delay and slicer settings in particular. Similarly, alt-clicking a pad will randomly select a new sample.
Despite its wealth of onboard effects, Klip plays very well with other third party plug-ins. A couple instances of Ableton's Saturator device imparts some characterful distortion without turning the resulting signal into a hot mess of squashed transients. The criminally underrated (and free) Guitar Gadgets from Musical Entropy is another natural fit and not just because it also subscribes to the idea of a preset, all-in-one solution to certain elements of music production. Its series of chained pedal emulations do a nice job of twisting Klip's output into weirder, tweakier shapes, whether it's lending a musical quality to hi-hats through the Larsenator feedback effect or talk-box-style flanging and phasing with the Miaow Miaow pedal. While Klip's built-in series of effects options are very good, it's nice to know that it will integrate seamlessly into your existing setup.
It's clear that Klip has flaws. It seems somewhat buggy in it's current version and could certainly benefit from a sharper and clearer UI (a Retina compatible one at that). But for all its issues, it's hard to deny its rough and ready charms. As you'd expect from a company like Sample Magic, the sounds themselves are tight and eminently useable, and while its sequencing and modulation capabilities aren't groundbreaking, the speed and ease with which patterns can be put together and subsequently mangled is undeniably fun. The jury may still be out on the pros and cons of presets in the production process, but Klip makes a compelling case for them.
Ease of use: 3.5