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Some of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from users of software samplers is that they’re very fiddly to use and set-up, and that it can be awkward to quickly browse and load samples. Also, the quality of the factory samples provided is often questionable. At last, someone has come up with a VST plug-in that addresses these issues.
IK Multimedia’s SampleTank offers 32-bit quality playback with up to 128-note polyphony (depending on the CPU). The sample library in the XL version comes on four CDs, and includes more than 450 sounds – encompassing loops for house and techno, a good selection of electronic and acoustic drums, percussion, ethnic instruments, synths, guitars, basses, strings, brass, woodwinds and keyboards; just about everything you might need to put music together. And if this isn’t enough, you can import Akai S1000/3000 sound banks, and convert them using the separate SampleTank Converter application.
SampleTank also features up to four effects that can be inserted on each sound, and all the effects parameters are MIDI-controllable. There are 20 effects provided, including: Compressor, Equalizer, Reverb, Ambience, Reverb Delay, Delay, Filter, Wah-Wah, Chorus, AM and FM Modulation, Flanger, Autopan, Tremolo, Rotary Speaker, Lo-Fi, Distortion, Phonograph and Slicer.
The interface is very basic, which helps with the speed of use. In Cubase VST, instruments can be routed via four separate stereo outputs, although in Logic Audio only stereo outputs are supported. I checked SampleTank using both of these, and was stunned at how fast the sounds load – just double-click on any sample and there it is, ready for you to play instantly.
The TR808 samples are the best I’ve heard – and I have a real TR808 to compare them with! The three acoustic drum kits all have long-decaying cymbals, full-sounding toms and very usable sounding bass and snare drums. The Studio kit does sound exactly like a kit played in a small, dead studio. The DX piano sounds just perfect, and the acoustic grand piano is very usable. The Pop Violins sounds just like the cheap string synthesizer that I used in the 1970s and the B3 organ sounds very much like a B3 – again, I have a real Hammond to compare with. There is a great percussion selection as well, with ethnic instruments such as the Darbuka and Dumbeck, triangle, tambourine, shakers – and great congas. The best thing about these is that you get several different types of slaps and hits, unlike most samples, which provide just two or three main sounds. In short, the sound library is excellent.
SampleTank is extremely easy to use, the samples sound great, and a wide range of useful effects is provided. This is one plug-in that I can unreservedly recommend.