XO is a very interesting and creative drum sequencer plugin by XLN Audio (the same company that created Addictive Drums 2). We have played around with this plugin for a few weeks and have decided to share our thoughts.
XO’s two main features are the Space Page and the Edit Page (Sequencer, Sample Editing and Effects).
Disclaimer: XLN Audio sent us a free copy of XO in order for us to evaluate it. However, my opinions are my own!
XO’s Space Page organizes one-shot samples based on their similarity. XO already comes with 1000’s of core one-shot samples that sound great, along with the ability to add your own samples (XO already contains between around 2000-8000 core samples depending on what version of XO that you use).
The Edit Page contains sample editing, effects, and a nice 8-track sequencer that allows you to quickly create beats. You can quickly switch between some nice present patterns for each track (e.g. kick, snare, etc.) using the beat combiner, appropriate to the type of sample that you’re working with.
The Sample Combiner allows you to quickly change between 15 similar samples for each track without having to go back to the Space page.
XO also has a great library of presets that you can toggle through. Clicking on one of these will change the sample selection, sequencing, and edit settings. There is quite a large diversity of sounds that you get out of these, from hip-hop (elemental hip-hop preset) to techno (warehouse oscillation preset). You can also create your own user-presets and come back to your sounds later.
Let’s dive into the features of what’s in XLN Audio’s XO.
A spatial view of your samples
The space page is where we have samples arranged in a spatial grid, which is the most exciting part of this plugin. There are 8 different tracks (two kicks, snare, clap, closed hi-hat, open hi-hat, and 2 ‘flex’ tracks for your own needs). You can also mute, solo, adjust the volume and panning of each of the tracks.
You can assign a sample to any of these tracks by selecting a sample from the space panel. Clicking and dragging your mouse anywhere will trigger one-shot samples in a really intuitive and fast manner. Each type of sample is grouped together based on how it sounds. Kicks are grouped together based on their sound characteristics, hi-hats are close to each other, etc.
This is a very impressive way of auditioning samples before using them, and it’s a LOT quicker than browsing between the samples in your DAW.
Edit and sequence the samples
The edit page has a lot of standard sample editing and processing, such as altering the start and end points of your sample. It also enables panning, envelopes, changing pitch, changing tones, filters. These all work very well and you can also change the groove using the swing feature.
A really useful part of the edit page is the sequencer. The edit panel is where this is a sequencer. XO is effectively a sequencer where you can create some really nice drum tracks or other interesting one-shot sequences.
XO will already have a standard drum beat arrange in the sequencer when you go into the edit panel. You can easily change these in any way you want. This is laid out like a standard drum machine sequencer, where you press in where you want the hits based on the sequencer timeline.
If you drag down on each node, it will reduce the velocity of the sample hit. This is great to add some dynamics to your beat. If you click underneath, it will trigger a double hit of the sample. This is a nice effect to use on hi-hats.
Secondly, the beat combiner tool is really useful. They have a bunch of common and interesting patterns, which is appropriate for the style of sample that you’re working with. Patterns on the hi-hat track will have a lot of off-beat style rhythms.
The clap and snare tracks would usually have more sparing beats in the default grooves, as you would usually expect in a drum beat. The kick track also has some common kick beats.
You can very quickly just press in some preset patterns and build up the type of drum track that you want. It’s super useful and can speed up your creativity and workflow.
There is a random button where you can toggle between lots of different preset rhythms within the beat combiner tool. If you’re looking for inspiration, then this is a nice tool to use.
I was initially too interested in the Space and Edit Page of XO that I didn’t even notice the large library of presets right in front of my eyes!
The presets are particularly diverse because once you find one you like, you can toggle between different samples using the same pattern. This means that you might be able to find a great beat that works with your tune without even having to tweak much using the Edit and Space pages.
My favorite preset ‘playlists’ within XO are:
- Abstract Textures – I really like the interesting and experimental textures that you can toggle between here.
- Elemental Hip-Hop – Hip-hop producers are always looking for some great beats, and the ones here are of great quality.
- Building Blocks – These contain some common patterns, such as a 4 on the floor beat, hi-hat patterns, etc. You can use these as a starting point to construct your beats.
- Warehouse Oscillation – If you’re looking for some great techno beats that cover multiple techno sub-genres, these are a fantastic starting point.
Which Version Should You Get?
XO comes in two versions:
- XO Lite – Basic features and functionality
- XO – Enhanced workflow and extras
If you have a little extra to spare, I think it’s worth getting the full version of XO. You get a lot more samples and presets to work off. It also supports extra file formats, has advanced export features, and allows for 8 additional buses.
You can also buy the XO Lite version and upgrade to the full version at a later date.
VST, AU, and AAX versions
XO should run on any DAW that supports VST, AU, and AAX versions. We used in using Ableton Live 10 and it worked very nicely.
That’s our run-down of XLN audio’s XO. This is a really exciting plugin to add creativity and efficiency to your workflow. Once you get your hands on this, it could be your go-to plugin for drum sounds and creative one-shot samples. I recommend checking this one out.
XO is a very creative and interesting way to be able to quickly and effectively make beats using your one-shot sample collection.