I'm always on the lookout for good-sounding, expressive percussion samples; when I received a copy of Wizoo's Platinum24 Latin Percussion sample collection, I was eager to put it through its paces. The sample collection is available as a set of three CD-ROMs in Akai S1000 format for $149, with native versions for Halion, Giga, and EXS-24 on the way. I reviewed the Akai set using an E-mu E6400 Ultra sampler and a Roland S-760 sampler.
The sample collection includes outstanding single-hit samples from four general categories of percussion: drum samples, shakers, wooden percussion, and metallic percussion (my categories, not Wizoo's). Drum samples include two banks each of Congas, Bongos, and Timbales, along with one bank each for Pandiero and Tambourim. Shakers consist of cabasas, maracas, caxixis, and an eponymous Shakers bank. Claves, guiros, castanets, vibraslaps, and, of course, wood blocks make up the wooden percussion. Metallic percussion includes cowbells, agogos, triangles, cymbals, tambourine, wind chimes, and, finally, a catchall Metal sample bank. Almost all instruments are recorded at multiple Velocities and with multiple performance styles, offering a high degree of expressive potential.
This basic set of samples is presented in three ways; each is intended for different playing and sequencing approaches. The Percussion sample sets offer a single keyboard layout containing all of the instruments used in a particular musical genre, with a few variations each for Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and Latin Pop (as well as a few General MIDI kits). Each set is made up of several distinct patches so that you can swap out various elements. For instance, you can easily use the congas from the Brazilian bank with the sounds from the Afro-Cuban bank.
The Instrument banks are my favorites. These samples go into greater depth for each instrument, typically with multilevel Velocity-switched dynamics and a wide array of different performance styles. For example, all of the Conga, Tumba, and Quinto banks offer open, mute, slap, slap mute, heel, tip, open flam, and muted flam variations for each drum — each with four levels of Velocity! The keyboard layouts are well thought out, making it fairly simple to sort through the large number of samples. For instance, all of the Conga, Tumba, and Quinto banks place the open samples on C, the mute samples on C#, and so on.
Finally, the drums (excluding the other percussion instruments) are also available as Chromatic sets. These banks assign each sample to its own key, so you can change dynamics using MIDI note numbers instead of Velocity.
Hit or Miss
I experienced a few strange compatibility problems. On the E-mu E6400, three individual samples were marred by strange, loud beeps. The Roland S-760 normally does quite well with Akai disks, but in this case, I found some curious confusions with the sample start and loop points, requiring trial-and-error editing before I could hear the sounds at all. Wizoo notes that all samples play correctly on the S1000.
Platinum24 Latin Percussion is superb. The samples themselves are clear and punchy, but even more important, the multiple articulations and Velocities make for satisfying playing and extremely expressive programming. At this price, the set is a must-have for anyone who's serious about percussion programming.