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Review: EastWest Quantum Leap Goliath 1.0

September 9, 2008
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FIG. 1: Like other instruments based on Play, Goliath''s Browser menu provides easy visual navigation to its sound libraries through a simple hierarchical menu.

Quantum Leap Goliath combines the entire 32 GB sound set of Quantum Leap Colossus with 8 GB of additional sounds. As with Colossus, all of Goliath''s content derives from past and current EastWest collections. (For comparisons with Colossus, see the online bonus material “Goliath versus Colossus” at emusician.com/bonus_material.) Play, the proprietary playback engine introduced several months ago, powers Goliath''s massive sample library.

Goliath offers standalone, RTAS, and VST versions for Mac OS X and Windows, as well as AU for the Mac and DXi for Windows. Installation is time-consuming, as you''d expect with a 40 GB, 6-DVD package. You''ll need an iLok copy-protection key and account, and once everything is installed, you must register the new software with iLok before Goliath is ready to rock. I tested Goliath 1.0.056 with Ableton Live 7.02, MOTU Digital Performer 5.13, Steinberg Cubase 4.1.2, and Apple Logic Pro 7.1.

Pay for Play
EastWest''s Play software instrument switches between two windows: Browser and Player. The uncomplicated Browser lists available drives on the left and Play sound libraries just below. Clicking on a library opens a hierarchical list of instrument categories in a panel on the right (see Fig. 1). You can also load patches from the Player window''s main menu but the Browser is much easier to navigate.

A control panel located above the virtual keyboard in Goliath''s Player window enables you to set the MIDI channel, transposition, and Velocity sensitivity, as well as minimum and maximum Velocities for each instrument. Play is 16-part multitimbral, and setting up custom Velocity-switched Goliath multis is a breeze. However, you can''t define instrument ranges, so you can''t set up splits such as left-hand bass with right-hand piano.

A drop-down menu lets you select the active MIDI port; this is terrific for me because I can instantly switch between my MIDI guitar and keyboard controller without having to access Play''s Settings menu. Just below the MIDI Port menu is another drop-down menu for choosing mono or stereo audio outputs. Below the instrument settings, the Info panel displays Goliath''s CPU load, the rate of disk streaming, the amount of memory being consumed, and the number of voices played at any given moment.

The Articulations window provides a glimpse into the selected patch''s structure. A complete patch is called a Master Articulation, but an Articulation can also be a supplementary sample group. In general, these additional Articulations add realism to a patch''s performance through the use of release or keyswitch samples. When additional Articulations show up in the window, you can adjust their volume, and you can use radio buttons to render the Articulations inactive and to unload samples in order to free up memory. Although Play accommodates keyswitches, Goliath contains no keyswitch instruments. In fact, other than a few pianos and a harpsichord, the collection offers very few patches that include subordinate Articulations.

Play''s color-coded virtual keyboard differentiates sample-map and keyswitch-trigger zones. Standard black-and-white keys outline the playable notes, whereas blue keys show keyswitch notes. Zones in tan are unmapped. However, this color code is not consistent; for example, I found a completely tan keyboard map for Upright Bass EXP 2, even though all the samples were loaded. The Articulations window doesn''t provide access to the Velocity-switching samples. Some of the acoustic and electric

guitars are quite nice, but I''d like to be able to unload the Velocity-switched guitar-note bends and slides; they''re harder to finesse than using Pitch Bend, and they slide in only one direction—up—and always at the same rate. Likewise, being able to adjust the relative balance of layered and switched elements would be a simple and useful tweak.

FIG. 2: The Player window supplies easy-to-read graphics and big knobs for shaping sounds—a great relief to aging eyeballs that have problems deciphering miniscule parameter displays.

Let''s Effectuate
The Play window''s center section contains controls for the filter, envelope generator, reverb, delay, and Automatic Double Tracking (ADT) parameters (see Fig. 2). The ADT effect provides an extremely rich, analog-chorus-like sound, owing to a slightly randomized pitch-modulation depth, which creates an impression of tape warble. ADT helped to transform one of Goliath''s GM electric-guitar patches into a rippling, warm guitar pad reminiscent of Andy Summers'' sound.

Controls are limited to basic necessities. Even though some sounds are layered, Play provides only a single AHDSR envelope generator and doesn''t allow access to envelope rate- and level-scaling, filter-envelope controls, or dynamic envelope-modulation adjustments. Similarly, the delay has time, level, and feedback but no tempo-sync parameters.

Goliath's terrific-sounding convolution reverb offers 35 impulse responses, most of them derived from the soundstages of EastWest''s studios. You can''t add your own impulse responses. The reverb adds considerably to CPU load but many sounds have enough natural ambience to work without reverb. Some sounds include additional effects. I miss having access to basic effects parameters in the processed versions for quick tweaks during mixes; fortunately in many cases you also get dry versions.

In the top-center area, a group of controls lets you set each instrument''s apparent source and soundstage location. Buttons offer a selection of a stereo, hard-left, or hard–right source signal. From the Channel Source menu, you can choose stereo, summed mono, or mono derived from the left or right signal and can adjust the width of a stereo source. This section is really useful when you''re fine-tuning Goliath''s multitimbral sound stage. A large, round, central window serves as a level meter and reflects the overall pan position of the stereo source. A Pan knob sits to the window''s right.

A Well Stocked Library
Goliath''s library stocks plenty of terrific instruments. The drum kits are detailed and punchy, and the basses stand out, with exceptionally tasty acoustic bass patches (see Web Clip 1). Among the 8 GB of new content, the Bösendorfer pianos are rich and expressive, with release samples and 16 Velocity-switched layers; the wet version adds samples played with the sustain pedal engaged. Most transitions between Velocity layers are smooth and musical, endowing the piano with a convincing dynamic range. However, this is not the case with the new orchestral-trumpet patch, whose timbre changes abruptly at the switching point. In the Ethnic Percussion category, a set of struck and scraped Tibetan bowls are shimmering auditory charmers.

The new Telecaster in the Electric Guitar section is enlivened by finger-vibrato noise, which can also limit its versatility. The absence of programmable pitch-bend range for guitars was baffling. According to EastWest''s Nick Phoenix, adjustable pitch-bend range will be added to the Play engine soon. Although I couldn''t tell the difference between the two new Les Paul Lead patches, they are excellent distorted solo instruments sampled with a lot of timbral motion and a touch of feedback at the tail.

Goliath's appeal lies in scads of lively sounds bundled in an uncluttered user interface. The terrific PMI Bösendorfer 290 piano, the burning Les Paul guitar, and other new instruments certainly sweeten the deal. And at less than $3.50 per instrument, how could you possibly go wrong? I suggest giving Goliath an audition.


Visit Marty Cutler's site at web.mac.com/martycutler for photos of his cats, pictures of bluegrass gigs from the 1970s, and a music and technology blog.

Product Summary
EastWest
Quantum Leap Goliath
sample player/sound library
$625.50

Pros: Diverse range of expressive instruments. Easy to use and easy on the eyes. Terrific convolution reverb. Can limit sample maps to save memory resources.

Cons: No selectable pitch-bend range. Limited access to effects parameters. Incomplete sample range for some instruments. No tempo-sync effects. General MIDI sound set not fully GM-compliant.

Features: 3
Ease of Use: 4
Sound Quality: 4
Value: 4

EastWest
soundsonline.com

Goliath versus Colossus
With box art suggestive of a Cecil B. DeMille epic and an equally large-scale sound library, Quantum Leap Colossus included a flood of terrific-sounding, playable sounds—all powered by Native Instruments Kompakt Instrument (see the February 2006 issue of EM for details). Kompakt offered a decent set of effects and a reasonable degree of programmability.

As its moniker implies, Goliath's new Play engine is intended to encourage playing rather than tweaking. Although its predecessor relied on Kompakt Instrument, Play''s interface is more aptly compared to Kontakt 2 Player, Native Instruments'' more recently developed engine for third-party sample collections. Both players host a variety of sound libraries, each using slightly different graphical themes. Kontakt 2 Player libraries often furnish access to a wider variety of effects and performance features such as built-in step sequencers. By contrast, the Play engine''s new interface design is more streamlined, is a breeze to navigate, and is easier on the eye.

A few problems found in Colossus patches are still evident in Goliath; the General MIDI sound set isn''t totally GM-compliant, and the combo organs remain unlooped. Although the violin patches capture the full range of the instrument, the lowest note for the fiddle stops at B, rather than G. Pitch bend falls flat in Crystal Tower Pad. Even so, the sheer number and variety of terrific-sounding instruments ameliorate some of the programming gaffes.

EastWest has significantly lowered the price of Goliath and Colossus. The 8 GB of additional content (and the PMI Bösendorfer piano in particular) give it an advantage over Colossus that is hard to debate. But Colossus'' Kompakt engine offers more extensive tweaking options than Play. For the moment, Play's native sample files are incompatible with any full-featured sampler hosts—unlike Colossus' NKI format, which you can load into Native Instruments Kontakt. According to EastWest, a 64-bit-compatible Pro version of Play is due for release sometime in the fall of this year; it will be a full-fledged sampler, allowing deep-level editing of native formats.

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