The EXS24 sampler delivers everything you would expect from a hardware sampler – at much less cost if you already own a suitable computer and audio card. Your computer’s CPU provides the number-crunching, and your audio card handles the audio input and output.
A major advantage is the seamless way in which the sampler integrates into your sequencing software. Instead of editing on the tiny displays found on hardware samplers, you have the advantage of on-screen editing plus waveform editing. The EXS24 can be opened in up to 16 Audio Instrument objects in Logic Audio – if you have enough RAM. I allocated 128MB to Logic Audio, for example. Each instance of the EXS24 offers up to 64 mono or stereo voices. How many you can actually play at once depends on the CPU speed and availability.
The EXS24 also provides high-quality digital playback at up to 24-bit and 96KHz. The audio quality you achieve in practice will depend on the quality of your D/A converters when playing back, and your A/D converters when recording new samples. The user-interface is clear and straightforward – in contrast to many hardware samplers that are far more ‘fiddly’ to use.
The supplied sample library is fine, but does not compete with the many libraries available from third-parties in various formats. Fortunately, the EXS24 can read and convert Akai-format samples using the Akai Convert feature in the Instrument Editor. Support for other formats is promised soon. You can load in samples using the EXS24 Instrument Editor. Here you arrange your samples into Zones (keygroups), and combine these into Groups so you can velocity-switch or layer sounds.
To achieve the best results with the EXS24 you not only need the fastest dual-processor CPU, but also lots – and I mean lots – of RAM. To get the maximum number of voices to play, for example, you need to load samples in 32-bit floating format into RAM – and 24-bit 96kHz samples (if you use these) are going to use up even more memory.
Compared with the cost of buying a hardware sampler with similar capabilities, the EXS24 looks like a bargain. However, don’t forget the cost of the computer, audio card and converters that you need to run the software. You could easily spend £4,000, or more, for the highest-quality kit.