Big Fish Audio's Rotation ($99.95) DVD is packed with over 1.5 GB of loops and samples designed for pop and R&B music production. The loops are provided in three popular formats, WAV, REX2, and Apple Loops (AIFF files). Folders for each format reside inside two main style folders, Construction Kits and Guitar Loops. Also included are a basic Read Me file and a demo of Ableton Live 4.
The entire collection was produced and compiled by producer Matt Haines and composer Steve Sechi, both of whom have impressive resumes. The guitar loops were played by two of Los Angeles' top Pop/R&B session guitarists, Shea Welsh and Les July. The majority of the Construction Kits WAV files are stereo and recorded at 24-bit/44.1 kHz resolution. A few, however, are mono (electric basses, for example) and others are 16-bit WAV and SD2 files.
The Guitar Loops are a mixture of 16- and 24-bit mono files. The REX2 files are formatted like the WAV files and include appropriate slice points, while the AIFF files are predominantly 16-bit files in both mono and stereo. The sampling rate of all files is 44.1 kHz.
Scanning the folders for suitable loops is a breeze, due to a smart directory and file-naming scheme. Folders are numbered for easy recall, and the folders' names display the loops' beats per minute, key, and (in the guitar loops) whether they are acoustic or electric. Using Ableton Live and Propellerhead Reason, I scanned the contents of each folder, previewing each loop and freely composing from scratch.
The Construction Kits are aptly named. Each of the 25 folders contains between one and three slightly different multi-instrumental 8-bar clips, followed by a loop of each instrumental component. Individual drum hits are also provided as stand-alone samples. Instruments run the gamut from acoustic and electric basses, guitars and strings to electric pianos, clavinets, flutes, brass, and a wide variety of synth tones. The styles range from sexy and hip-hop flavored to mellow jazzy numbers and from little ditties reminiscent of Prince, Rockwell, or Morris Day, to grooves tinged with Middle-Eastern accents. Original tempos range from 75 to 130 beats per minute. The collection offers a nice variety of styles; however, all drums are electronic, even if a few sound more acoustic than others.
The sound quality of the Construction Kits is excellent; experienced engineers apparently recorded all of the loops and samples with quality equipment. The complete loops with instruments are pre-mixed with nice stereo separation and excellent balance. The creators were wise enough to include all components as raw files, however, allowing users to create their own mixes. The only exception is the drums, because individual drums are not provided in loop form, only as sampled hits. The program material is appropriate for the intended genre, and all files are neatly arranged to make it simple for even the most novice producer to crank out a tune within minutes. Yet most of the material can work across different genres.
The Guitar Loops cover a variety of acoustic and electric guitars, from tight lead snippets, to minimal chord strums, to the requisite wah-wah funk rhythms, to distorted electric rock licks. The playing is tight and the loops are spot-on; however, I found the sound quality of the Guitar Loops not quite as pleasing as that of the Construction Kits. While this may be an unfair comparison since the Construction Kits are composed of mostly, if not all, electronic instruments, some of the Guitar Loops nonetheless sounded just a tad harsh in my monitors, and a large majority of them contain a fairly heavy vibrato effect. This doesn't render them less useful, but it does mean there's less tonal variety by comparison.
Also, there are some gaps in matching keys between the two folders. For example, of the fourteen Guitar Loops folders, four are in D Minor, while only one folder of the Construction Kits uses that key. The Guitar Loops sport two folders in D Flat, although there is no D Flat material represented in the Construction Kits. Some matching keys are present, yet in order to get the most use out of this collection it would be helpful to supplement it with other source material.
Taken individually, however, the two folders contain an excellent variety of tight, well-recorded, and conveniently named modern-sounding groove material that is ready for instant, top-40 pop construction. And the included individual drums samples and REX files provide the goods with which to manually rearrange and spice up the provided loops or build new drum maps for your favorite sampler.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4.5
Big Fish Audio