Sonic Reality Ocean Way Drum Samples Review

Brandon Drury —  May 3, 2010

For those of you who don’t subscribe to Recording Nerd Monthly and Bury Your Head In The Sand And Mix (what a terrible magazine title!) Ocean Way is a robo studio. Okay, that’s not accurate. They are turbo robo studios. There are two studios (one in Nashville and one in Hollywood). If Ocean Way were a defense contractor they’d definitely have nukes in their facility. If Ocean Way were a car manufacturer they’d tell you that Lambos are trash and Ferraris have no balls. Assuming you still buy music, it’s safe to say that you own quite a bit of noise made in one of the Ocean Way facilities.

So, knowing just how damn desirable the room sounds are in Ocean Way, I was PUMPED when they asked me to review a copy. (I have more damn drum samples than a sane person would ever need. Good thing I don’t meet that criteria!) I can say that, without a doubt, the are a welcome addition.

The Simple Approach

Ocean Way Drums has taken the old school sample approach. When you trigger the snare, it comes up on one fader. The kick is on another fader. If you want to turn the hihat down, you simply grab the hi-hat fader and pull it down. There is no bleed. There are no overheads. There are no room mics. There is no further complication at all. The samples are already processed. All you need to do is send MIDI to them. Quick to the point. Easy!

The good news is this is excellent for people who have 14 minutes to get busy with the noise and don’t want to spend it scratching their head about snare sounds. Even I get into creative modes and the last thing I want to do is even consider the engineering side. If I have a guitar in my hand, I DO NOT want to be touching compressors. I already have my hands full. I want to make music and I want to make it now. Ocean Way Drums definitely caters to that.

Ocean Way Drums uses an included Kontakt engine. The Native Instruments guys have been good to me and they delivered an extreme reliable sample player. I never had a single technical problem with the Ocean Way Drums !

The Sounds

Because of their simple approach to drum samples, they’ve taken a drum kit, recorded it in 3 different rooms, and said, “Here!”. As a guy that gets sick of hearing myself on my 6 string noise maker, I do like to tinker with compressors and room mics some times. Unfortunately, doesn’t allow me such fun. The ambiance is what it is….for better or worse.

When I first started out, I grabbed one of the 2 drum kits they allowed me to play with. Being the kind of guy I am, I grabbed the ultra live, ultra ambient kit right away. I loved it!! It fit my style of techno rock perfectly. That part is subjective, but if you liked the sounds on their website you’ll definitely like ‘em on your productions.

I did run into a little snag. The default snare is pretty damn loud in these things (could have something to do with the crushing velocities I was using). It’s easy to fall in love with that sound until you realize that your mix isn’t loud enough in RMS jive because the snare is blasting through with peak level. Tossing on the brickwall limiter and knocking the snare peak down brought up some corny sounding ambiance. It went from being badass and modern to reminding me of a sillier time in music production.

However, the problem was solved by simply pulling the snare channel down. This reduced the crushing attack I had fallen in love with too, but it solved the ambience problem and ended up sounding great. I just didn’t have the luxury of getting the snare as ridiculously in my face as it was previously. This isn’t exactly a flaw in the . It’s a byproduct of having already processed samples. Not a big deal. Easily solved although it did scare me for a minute.

I decided to try out the other extreme. I went with the ultra dry drums. I can’t remember a single instance in my life where I’ve ever wanted to throw up. Just a hair lower on my list of things I have no interest in is dry drums. I know that quite a few of you out there hate my Mr. Mister drum sound. (Seriously, it gets no better the Kyrie for powerhouse drums…EVER!) So, I figured I’d play along and see what I could do with dry drums. While these were samples were top notch, pro, and had just the right amount of chunk, I personally felt that I was watching TV with the power out. (Not that a TV with electricity is any better.)

For those of you who got into the Slipknot drum sound or anything super duper dry, you will be very happy.

I did quite a bit of tinkering with the super live and super dry drums. In fact, I had forgotten that there was even a medium version. Oh buddy! I found the sound I’ve been looking for!

I’m a big fan of several of the drum samples I own. (The entire Superior 2.0 line is outstanding and Steven Slate drums are flat out brutal.) However, I’ve been looking for this one particular flavor. It’s the kind of sound that has ambiance, but doesn’t mush up when I crush it with a drum bus compressor. I want to hear the drums pumping yet still hear this hi-fi/pretty sounding hihat. I want this particularly for full blown dance music type of stuff with metal guitars in it. (One of my favorite poisons.)

The medium setting is outstanding! I LOVE IT! Other than the optional slammage from the drum bus compressor, it needs no processing. It’s exactly perfect for what I’m up to. I don’t miss room mics or bleed. I don’t miss any of the fancy features found in other samplers. I just turn it on and kick butt without having to think about engineering. The medium room drums are HIGHLY recommended if this sounds like your cup of tea!

Different Drum Kits

It was very cool how they included different drum kits. I’m not the kind of guy that gets too wound up about different kits too often. I’m used to recording real drums and before we start a given project I usually don’t have the option of selecting the drums I want to use. (Some day!) We just use what the drummer has and make it work. So, I don’t get overly wound up about having a billion drums to choose from. I tend to tweak tones on the engineer side. That “maple shell” this and “brass shell” that is reserved for zoned out head nodding when drummers flap their jaw.

However, I did find the variety from kit to kit extremely useful. So if you are more wound up about that sort of thing than I am, make sure to take a hard look at the options.

The Room

I do want to point out that the Ocean Way room sounds are EXACTLY what you’d expect. Even when I’m not going for the Mr. Mister drum sound (even I wuss out sometimes) I LOVE that 3D, alive sound that a great room can do for drums. The simply do not disappoint! Very nice!

Different Pricing Structures

I first saw the in Musican’s Friend. It was an enormous package that cost well over $1,000. For those so inclined, that’s not a bad way to go. However, there are dramatically less expensive versions out there via the download. For $200 you can download 5 different kits in their full blown glory (dry, medium, and ambient). I personally think this is a great way to go. The Ocean Way sound is a nice compliment to my stock pile of drum samples and I get what I need with just a few kits.


I was going to say that the is a very nice, super simple sample drum sample library with rooms that stand out. Then I discovered how freakin’ great the medium sounds were. When I filled that void I’ve been missing in my drum samples, I flipped! I couldn’t be more excited. Now not everyone is going to want that exact sound. Hell, I don’t want it all the time. However, when you can find your dream sound for X little niche, you have to jump on it! Excellent product!


Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.