Satellite Free and Satellite Pro offer access to the burgeoning library of Samplebase sounds, with Pro providing more programmability and the ability to create patches from your own samples.
Samplebase places high-quality sampled instruments and loops within reach of those with more-modest budgets. The vehicles for these sounds are Satellite Free (no charge) and Satellite Pro ($149), two convenient, easy-to-use instruments. Both feature 16-part multitimbral capabilities and sample playback.
Copy protection is minimal, transparent, and noninvasive; there are no esoteric authorizations, hardware keys, or secret handshakes. Establish an online account, and you can download the sampler or your purchased SoundBlocks (more on these in a moment) wherever and whenever you need them. The only restriction is that SoundBlocks load only into the purchaser's copies of Satellite.
Samplebase provides downloads of Free and Pro as an AU version for the Mac, as well as VST and standalone versions for the Mac and Windows. An RTAS plug-in is in the works. Installation couldn't be simpler, albeit with one minor nuisance: each plug-in format requires a separate request, email, download, and installation procedure. That can get messy if you rely on multiple formats. According to Samplebase, most of the company's typical users don't use more than one plug-in type. Still, a single installer for all formats would make life easier.
SoundBlocks are self-contained, preprogrammed packages of samples, patches, and Multis intended for use in Satellite — much like ReFills package sounds for use in Propellerhead Reason. Once they're loaded, you can play the Multis or patches provided or tweak and create your own patches or Multis. Samplebase provides a free demo SoundBlock featuring a representative selection of instruments and loops.
Satellite Free offers a surprisingly generous complement of basic control and editing amenities, including knobs for adjusting attack and release times, filter frequency, resonance, and filter type. Every parameter available in the Control and Mix sections can be assigned to Control Change messages, and you can set ranges to scale the response. You can route samples to one of four stereo outputs or two effects buses, and even alter pitch, time, and formant preservation.
For more in-depth programming, you can purchase and download Satellite Pro, a full-fledged sampler with the ability to load AIFF, WAV, REX, REX2, and other file types. With Pro, you can build your own patches and Multis and save them as SoundBlocks. Pro has the same friendly user interface as Satellite Free, with neat and logically arranged access to all programming areas, including those that are not available in the free version. For example, Free's Control section has 8 fixed modulation destinations per patch, whereas clicking on the parameter's name field in Pro opens a pop-up menu of more than 40 possible destinations. Pro provides access to three envelope generators and three LFOs, which are hardwired to pitch, filter, and amplitude. A more flexible modulation scheme would be nice, but I appreciate the additional features such as programmable LFO phases and an extra sustain or decay stage in the envelope generators.
Pro's keymapping section hosts simple but useful sample-editing features with a waveform display and tuning and looping tools. I found the Automap feature most useful for mapping menu-type patches (loops arranged sequentially across the keyboard). Attempts to automap samples from other samplers didn't work for me because there was no root-note assignment data embedded in the sample. But it was easy to reassign them from the list of samples displayed once they were loaded.
Satellite Pro offers undo functions for destructive sample edits, such as truncating and fades. Still, an undo history would be handy for complex multiple edits. That said, it's hard to find even a single undo in most software instruments.
SoundBlocks range in size from 20 to a couple of hundred megabytes, with prices ranging from $19 to $39. At present, the Samplebase library leans toward dance, hip-hop, down-tempo, rap, and electronica. Loops, phrases, and construction kits outweigh sampled instruments, but new titles are added frequently. I found some gems, including a terrific kora (a harplike African instrument) and a siter (a zitherlike Indonesian instrument) culled from Ilio's Origins sound library.
Pulsation Station from MIDIhead is a collection of tempo-synchronized synth loops and phrases with lots of built-in animation and gated rhythmic effects, and Skippy's Magic Pads by John Lemkuhl gathers a nice handful of sweeping, moody pads.
WE HAVE LIFTOFF
It's refreshing to audition a product that combines ease of use with professional features at a ridiculously low price. If your needs are simple, Satellite Free provides no-frills programmability and a perfectly viable playback medium for Samplebase's growing supply of high-quality sounds. The upgrade to the Pro version is reasonably priced and painless to install, and it offers plenty in the way of professional features, making it a worthwhile purchase for beginners or grizzled vets. I was able to understand the operation of the instruments with hardly a glance at the PDF manual. Kudos to Samplebase.
Value (1 through 5): 4