Elastik Player is a free, cross-platform audio loop player from Ueberschall (ueberschall.com). It comes in Audio Units, VST, RTAS and stand-alone formats, so you can use it in a DAW or by itself. There is no provision for rendering sessions in the stand-alone version, but you can bounce individual loops to WAV files. Elastik plays loops in its proprietary format, but the free 250MB demo library contains plenty of useful material from a cross-section of Elastik Series libraries (see Web Clip 1). The full libraries, which typically cost $99.95, are available from Big Fish Audio (bigfishaudio.com).
Elastik's unusual loop display and setup tools make it extremely easy to mix and match loops from even seemingly disparate collections, and it is designed to let you zero in on sections of a loop either on the fly using a MIDI controller or by assigning those sections to individual MIDI notes. You start by selecting a construction kit from Elastik's Soundbanks menu. The samples from the kit are automatically assigned to consecutive keys on the lower of two 32-note keyboards at the bottom of the GUI; those keys are mapped to MIDI notes C1 through G3. You mix and match kits by dragging samples from the lower keyboard to the upper keyboard, which responds to notes C4 through G6. Construction kits initially load at their natural tempo and key, but you can sync all samples to host tempo with a single click of a button, or you can change their tempo, key and other parameters individually or in groups.
The circular waveform display is the heart of Elastik. That's where you graphically set a loop's start and end points. Convenient shortcuts let you automatically map individual slices or chromatically transpose a loop across the upper keyboard. Each key has its own loop settings, including volume, pan, direction, looping or one-shot, envelope, filter and output. (Eight stereo outputs are provided.)
Despite its rich feature set, Elastik is so easy to use you'll be creating credible tracks in no time, and should you decide to explore further, the large selection of Elastik Series libraries are of uniformly high quality. Check out the tutorial videos on the Ueberschall Website.