Digital Juice seems to be an extremely successful web portal for picture editors and graphic designers looking for stock graphics, animations and templates. I was, until recently, only peripherally aware of the company's existence, not thinking they offered anything to pique the particular interests of a sound editor. Then I stumbled across their SoundFX series. These collections are offered at amazingly low prices and contain a massive amount of sound effects in each release. 'Inexpensive' certainly catches my attention but to be a worthwhile investment of money and time, any new sounds need to live up to a quality standard. No use cluttering up one's FX database with junky sounds.
My first impression, judging by they way they are organized, is that these collections seem to be aimed more at picture editors than sound editors. The file names are a gobbledygook of numbers like 14536_SFX.wav or 40667_SFX.wav. Doesn't really tell you what you're going to hear, does it? The reason the files have these types of names is that Digital Juice offers a proprietary media search program named “Juicer”. Once the files are loaded into the software database, Juicer uses its own secret decoder ring to re-link the filename with the descriptive information you need. All of Digital Juice's products use Juicer, so it is assumed that a picture editor would already be using Juicer for stock animations and graphics searches. It makes sense that they would make the SoundFX product conform to the same workflow.
So at first glance these collections seem like a waste of time for sound editors. What a drag it would be to first search for a sound in your go-to program (SoundMiner in my case) and then do a separate search in Juicer as well. Luckily, I discovered the simple and effective work-around that brings the SoundFX file descriptions into SoundMiner. Using the Soundminer function called “Import Encrypted Text” you can import a text file and automatically apply the text to the appropriate metadata fields in corresponding sound files. Turning a database that looks empty and useless like this:
...into a full and useful database that looks like this:
The filename metadata field maintains the coded numeric file name, but all other fields are filled with descriptive searchable information. You can find the encrypted text files for the first three collections here. For some strange reason the fourth SoundFX collection’s encrypted text file is not posted on the Digital Juice site. I was able to find it somewhere else when I first purchased the library, but I can't find it online anywhere currently. If you need to get your hands on it, leave a message in the comments below, and I will send the correct encrypted text file to you.
So with a quick file management work-around the SoundFX collection becomes very useable to a sound editor. But now, back to the important question of quality! Are these sounds even worth the effort? The short answer is: yes. All the sounds are delivered at 96k and 24bit, so they are ready for heavy plug-in manipulation. The individual files are edited cleanly and cover a wide range of content. One way in which these collections differ from the more mainstream collections of Sound Ideas, Hollywood Edge or Blastwave is the way they were mastered: in general they peak at a much lower volume. This is both good and bad in my opinion. I find that ambiences are regularly mastered at unnecessarily loud levels. In order to make a Sound Ideas windy ambience sit in a reasonable pocket in a mix the fader normally has to sit pretty low. This is not the case with these Digital Juice libraries, making the ambience effects fit into mixes a little more easily. On the other hand, the hard effects in this collection are sometimes a little too quiet. In both cases the sounds are mastered at perfectly acceptable levels in terms of usability, they are just different from what I'm used to hearing from other libraries.
In addition to ambiences and hard effects these collections feature a large quantity of “Design Elements”. These are highly effected and sound-designed files, ready to use with Digital Juice’s vast line of Motion Graphics. These can be very useful sounds when you need to build sci-fi or other un-worldly sounds.
The sounds are spread over a vast range of categories. For a general library of SFX, most things are covered off fairly well. One way the SoundFX collection comes up a little short is in variations. There is only one take of most sounds included. So if you need to cover a long series of repetitive elements you would have to start recycling the same sounds pretty fast.
There are 4 collections in all, named SoundFX I - IV. All 4 contain 55 gigabytes of sound files varying from 10,500 sounds in SoundFX III to 15,700 in SoundFX II. In total the 4 libraries take up 220GB and contain 49,506 files. It's easy to order the products directly from the Digital Juice website, paying with a credit card (paypal does not appear to be an option). The collections come in stylish glossy cardboard boxes that contain fabric binders holding the DVDs. Each library is delivered with about a dozen DVDs that you then have to load onto your local hard drive. A tedious process that feels very old-fashioned. It would be nice if Digital Juice offered a hard drive version of the full set. It basically took me a full day to load all 44 DVDs onto my system, including putting all the descriptors into the SoundMiner database. So the collection is not exactly plug-and-play, as it needs some attention to get it up to speed (...but that's what interns are for, right?)
The sounds come with a fairly standard end users license, so you are free to use the sounds in the same manner you would with any other vendor's royalty-free effects. One unique difference that caught my eye was a specific condition barring the SoundFX collections from being used “in or in conjunction with pornographic material”. I had a good laugh at that one; I have never seen that listed in any one else's EULA.
Now the really good news: each of these collections is priced at $499... but that is a bit of a red herring, because they are always on sale. The Digital Juice website consistently has them listed for $99.95 each. So that would be $399.80 for almost 50,000 sound files. A quick consultation with my calculator tells me that this works out to a little less than a tenth of a penny per sound effect. That price is out of this world, without compare, and super-duper inexpensive. My standard for pricing in the sound effects world is Sound Ideas General HD which works out to 16 cents per effect. Or 160 times more expensive than the Digital Juice SoundFX I - IV.
In the final reckoning, are the SoundFX collections as high-quality as the flagship products from Sound Ideas or Blastwave? No they are not. But they are not very far off. They do make an excellent companion piece to those collections. So in my estimation, at the price at which they are being offered, the SoundFX line of libraries from Digital Juice are pretty much a no brainer. Well worth the investment.
This article is part of Azimuth's Blog’s ongoing feature of SFX library reviews. Take a moment to read the Ground Rules if you have not had a chance to do so yet, to get an idea of what I use the libraries for and what my criteria are.
Previous SFX Library Reviews Include:
Chuck Russom FX's Rock Sound Library (No longer available)