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.
Check Previous posts in the SFX Library Review Series:
Chuck Russom FX's Rock Sound Library (No longer available)