Weaponiser's main source material is a collection of over 1500 recordings of guns being fired, cocked and reloaded. It's worth pointing out that accurately recording gun shots is no easy task and the library is most certainly high fidelity. It's a daunting list in terms of both size and content, though a tag system allows you to filter by the type of sound (Foley, Sweeteners, Single Shot), weapon (Pistol, Shotguns, Assault Rifles) or recording (Indoor, Outdoor, Stereo).
You deposit these samples in the centre of the plug-in. Four engines, labelled Onset, Body, Thump and Tail, define the main components of the overall sound. Somewhat analogous to a synthesiser's ADSR envelope, the engines have fairly specific roles, though it's possible to work around this. Within each engine are four sample banks, which can cycle through up to five samples in a round-robin fashion, meaning that through your choice of samples, it's possible to create either subtly changing variations or wild, jumbled loops of sound. Playback speed and level is adjustable for each bank by either a knob or an envelope, depending on whether you're after a fixed value or one that modulates over time.
The most interesting part sits at the bottom of the engine. Onset, Body and Thump each contain FM synths built specifically for their intended use. The Onset and Body synths are almost identical, although the Onset version is polyphonic and has additional control over the pitch and level of its four voices. This allows you to offset them from the synth's main settings, spreading out the sound in much the same way as you would with a Unison control. Five-point envelopes for pitch, amplitude and FM amount allow you to dial in modulation, while a number of waveforms are available for both the carrier and modulator. The Thump's synth is simpler and designed for shorter, weightier, low-end sounds. Basically, it does a pretty good job at making kicks. I was able to get a serviceable 808-type sound in a few seconds by dropping the base frequency, dialling in a small amount of pitch envelope and tweaking the amp envelopes for a short attack, decay and sustain, and a long release. I did notice some zero-crossing clicks when retriggering this kind of sound before it had the chance to fully decay, so it's probably best to bounce to audio rather than playing it with MIDI.
Instead of a synth, the Tail section contains a convolution reverb, allowing you to use any sample you like as an impulse response. Audio is sent to the reverb using the send knob under each engine's mixer faders, while Dry/Wet, Decay and Pre-Delay controls shape the overall tone. In practice, I didn't find it very useful as I preferred to work with each sample's natural reverb rather than slapping another one on top.
In the top right corner you'll find the Burst and Fire Rate controls. These retrigger all four engines at the rate set by the Fire Rate knob. Designed to turn any single-shot weapon "fully automatic," it doesn't have much use beyond that. Syncing to a DAW's BPM would've been nice, for instance. Next to this lies the so-called Drunk parameter, which adds randomness to each engine for more natural sounding variations. In all honesty, conflating drunkenness with firing automatic weapons made me uncomfortable. Calling it Randomness would've done just fine.
Below a mixer section lie four FX inserts, with eight effects to choose from. The effects themselves are pretty raw, which tended to suit the subject matter. I found the Saturation and Compressor effects the most useful, while the Ring Modulator tended to be fairly unusable at anything but it's most modest settings. The EQ also proved disappointing. The five bands only operate in peak filter mode with no shelving or high-/band-/low-pass options to speak of. It was possible to approximate them by dragging a band to one of the EQ's far corners and fiddling with the Q settings, but it does seem like a bit of an oversight, considering how essential filtering is to effective sample layering.
While the quality of the weapon recordings is pretty undeniable, the other sounds leave a lot to be desired. The fact that they don't have their own tags says a lot.The drums tend to be overly harsh and resonant, while the more sci-fi sounds can come across as tacky. With some work, I'm sure these could be turned into something solid. Of course, any sounds you do find promising can be augmented with your own samples by dragging and dropping them into the interface from your personal collection.
Overall I was confused by the Weaponiser, but it's clearly created for an area of the audio production world that I'm not a part of. Still, given electronic music's voracious and well-known appetite for hoovering up influences and resources from anywhere and everywhere, it seemed like it was worth a shot. While the UI looks like a ten-year-old piece of freeware and the drums are an afterthought, going wild with the synthesis engines and effects can lead to some interesting results. But these are just as achievable without having to drop $399 on a single plug-in. I'm fully aware that what you're really paying for with Weaponiser is the time and effort that's gone into making all those recordings, but their subtlety and comprehensiveness may be lost in a pure dance music context.
Ease of use: 4