Sample sultan Wilf Smarties reports on the latest sample CDs.
Wilf Smarties rounds up another diverse collection of the latest sample CD releases.
This is a double CD of stereo sound effects and textures, from Best Service of Germany (also responsible for last month's Bizarre Planet). Disc One opens with a dodgy pseudo-drama demo. Fortunately, when the atmospheres start proper, recording quality is found to be excellent, and the choice of material good and broad. The third track on side one, however, entitled 'Country noise, birds', has rather too much traffic in the background, an unfortunate feature of many of the outdoor pursuits. Hikers these portable DAT recordists weren't. Still, there's plenty of aural food for thought herein. If you haven't got access to the BBC sound effects library, then this could be a better than cheap and cheerful substitute.
Disc Two opens with the office, and moves into the factory. Music lovers will probably use only short hits here, since the backgrounds are not generally suitable for atmospheres. The sounds of the autobahn are OK, though, and there are some nice klaxons and car starts. The train travelling on track 20 has got something going for it. And so on...
By now you will know if you want this. It represents excellent value for money, does the job it is designed to do well, and no further recommendation from me is required. I shall certainly be referring to it from time to time.
£39.95 inc VAT.
Time & Space, (Contact Details).
Not the most elegantly organised sample CD to come the way of the Onkyo, this. It has its moments, though.
Following a rather snappy demo tune comes a selection of (you'll never guess) mixed drum loops. Most sound as if they're straight off vinyl, though I suspect that many more are programmed than might be supposed from a cursory listen. The loops are grouped into 37 tracks, each containing maybe three or four close cousins. All loops have their bpms listed (even single hits!), but loops frequently go round more than once, causing the samplist extra work truncating in order to recover wasted RAM.
Quality varies from considerably better than average, in stereo, to antique vinyl, and all sound lively. Quite a lot of this stuff is a bit different from that on offer from the major UK sample libraries, and if you get in there quick you might steal a march on the competition. In particular there is a lot of good, clean four-on-the-floor stuff. If all of this CD was up to the quality of the first loop selection it would have gotten four stars. And if all I had to judge were the loops themselves, and not the presentation (which is untidy), five stars might be in order. 'Looping', however, refuses to live up to its promising start.
Next up is a section called Humanize It, in which we find specially recorded studio drum loops. I actually quite like the rather cheap sound, (though most won't) and some loops have clanky percussion thrown in, or the odd effect. There is some stereo width, and the kit was probably recorded in a fairly small room (by the sound of it), so there is no impressive sounding, but absolutely useless, ambience — for which we should be grateful. Tracks 52 through 54 each contain around nine loops or fills played at the same tempo (120bpm), the idea being that by switching between them you can build up a complex live drum track, just as you might do with a similar set of patterns on a drum machine. Track 55 includes vinyl crackles. I must admit, though, the drumming in the above didn't get me reaching for the sampler.
Yet more live loops follow, followed by complementary single hits. 'Rick's' playing here seems a bit crisper, heading towards David Ruffy territory.
A mixed bag of kicks, snares and hi-hats (including hi-hat loops), and an electronic percussion selection complete what is a pretty useful sample selection, and there is a data section for Akai samplers at the end of the collection.
Conclusion? I found some excellent stuff on this CD, and for the budget price of 30 quid it's well worth taking a chance on. The star rating reflects the presentation, rather than the content, of this selection.
£29.95 inc VAT.
Time & Space, (Contact Details).
I liked the no frills packaging of this product. I especially approved of the inclusion of a bar count along with the other essential ingredients of a good looping CD: bpms, enough space between samples to pause the CD player, and that extra beat for looping.
As per usual, this disc starts off with the loops: 70 tracks, each containing five loops. Quality is typical for vinyl — mono is de rigeur, and included in this comprehensive selection are plenty of old friends. If you are looking for the freshest loops in town, pass. However, if you need to catch up with the back catalogue, this is an excellent selection of well chosen classics. There are rave and techno beats and rare grooves a-plenty, and there's plenty of mileage left in these.
After the well stocked loop section come (inevitably) the single hits. We have here 808, 909, HR16 (a much under-rated drum machine) and Korg M1 drums (useful if tacky), followed by miscellaneous kicks, snares and hi-hats. Track 78 contains 100 different percussion hits.
Many are from drum machines, but some are fresh, especially the tambourines towards the end, after which come the sound effects. The latter are fairly uninspired, and have unusually poor fidelity for samples of their type, at least with respect to 'natural' sounds like external atmospheres and motorbikes. The second bank of synth FX is better. The 60 orchestral and other stabs in Track 80 are all very well, but they are rather past their sell-by date.
There is a rather threadbare, though not irrelevant, collection of basses, and after this comes a useful strings selection. Unfortunately, most notes are not allowed to decay into silence! There are also a couple of Simmons-y dance kits, and a 'data stream' for the first 300loops (presumably for Akai samplers, but the packaging doesn't say).
Loop-wise, this is one of the better value sampling CDs, and the loops are presented in the most user-friendly way of any I have reviewed. A good bread and butter product with some jam on it.
£49.95 inc VAT.
Dangerous CD Co., (Contact Details).
Call me moody, but from the first spine-tinglingly good orchestral stikes (both ff and, especially, pp) I was hooked. This is something else. Brilliantly recorded in stereo, you will not have been able to get samples like these from conventional classical CDs. Presentation of the samples is faultless: Tracks contain two or four samples each, with key notes and dynamics (ff, mf) clearly listed.
Multisamples are close packed, and comprise string and tutti groups and solos, again (usually) ff and pp. Have you heard the sounds in the very attractive Proteus 2? This lot are in a different league. Mind you, they offer nothing like the variety to be found in the Emu product. Also, all samples here seem to have been taken in the same (albeit lovely sounding) hall. Not too reverby, but very full. Presumably samples will therefore mix together well in a composition.
Staccato, pizzicato, tremelonde — they're all here, and various dynamics are catered for. I'd say all this begs for some pretty spectacular velocity crossfades to be set up. There are good arpeggios here, and towards track 99 some pretty wild discords have been thrown in for good measure. All samples are evenly spaced and played, and both major and minor hits and runs are catered for.
By the time you have finished sampling everything on this CD you will have created a total of 18 1/3-octave-per-sample note, chord and note cluster sets, with two levels of dynamic pretty much throughout. However, without a healthy (8MB minimum) RAM you will be unable to accommodate both the quality and the width of even one of the monster keygroups. The two largest contain 50 samples apiece, and each will need 16MB before full justice can be done to them. Eight meg samplists will just have to make separate ff and pp instruments, or reduce the width of the keygroups, or split them into two halves, etc. Before you buy this CD, ask yourself two questions. Have I got room for it in my sampler? Can I be bothered with all that multisampling? Hopefully the answer to both questions will be yes.
One minor criticism: DDD it may be, but the tails of some samples did expose a noise floor maybe 5dB above that for CDs. This will not be of concern to you dance enthusiasts, however.
Who would have thought that a boring old orchestral CD would get top billing over a couple of pretty viable loop-infested efforts? Not I, for one, but there it is; this selection deserves its 5-star rating. I'm no classical buff (what samplist is?), and my German is limited strictly to scientific and war comics. Suffice to say that the experienced stereo samplist is going to get one over on the opposition by delving deep into this lot. Of course, you might have the entire Synclavier library on optical already. Still, I bet you've not heard better strings than these. Not a toy.
£65 inc VAT.
AMG, (Contact Details).
This is the name given to the last disc in the trilogy currently up for review from those amusing Germans who trade under the name of Best Service, and was used in the creation of the theme tune for Eurodisney (allegedly). (Has anyone heard it?)
This is more of an ambient composition than a sampling CD. Don't buy it unless you are one of those people who collects absolutely everything, or you are working on the soundtrack for Aliens 4.
£35 inc VAT.
Time & Space, (Contact Details).
Review by Wilf Smarties
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