Review: Redmatica Compendium 1.5 (Mac)

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Compendium is a bundle of Redmatica's three tools — ExsManager Pro, AutoSampler, and Keymap — for creating and managing multisampled instruments. Although all three work with sampler instruments in Apple Logic EXS24 mkII format, they are standalone products, and because most software samplers can import EXS-format instruments, they are powerful tools for working with any sampler.

ExsManager Pro manages EXS instrument libraries. It will be most valuable to those with large EXS libraries, but if you use AutoSampler and Keymap with other samplers, ExsManager will help you manage the sampler instruments they create. AutoSampler takes the drudgery out of resampling hardware and software virtual instruments, letting you get that aging synth or drum machine into your Mac before it expires. Keymap, the most versatile of the trio, simplifies and automates many of the tasks in converting a bunch of samples into a playable, multisampled instrument. That includes loop and riff libraries as well as sampled acoustic and synthesized instruments.

Management Crisis

After importing third-party sampler instruments and installing or upgrading content for multiple EXS-compatible hosts like GarageBand and Logic, you're bound to wind up with instruments and their samples spread all over your hard drives. ExsManager Pro helps you make sense of this mess by relinking instruments with their samples, reorganizing instruments and samples without breaking their links, and finding and optionally deleting duplicate samples. It also makes it easy to search through your library, back it up, and consolidate samples into monoliths, which are easier to transport and archive.

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FIG. 1: ExsManager Pro scans your EXS instrument library and reports which samples are used by which instruments. Advanced settings let you fix errors.

ExsManager Pro does not maintain a database of your sampler library; it analyzes the library each time you launch it. Therefore it never gets out of sync. You point the program to the location of your instrument library and, optionally, other places to look for samples, and click on the Analyze button (see Fig. 1). This is not the time to go for coffee — the analysis will probably be finished before you get out of your chair. For my medium-size EXS library of 1,361 instruments, the analysis takes roughly 30 seconds.

As with most samplers, EXS instruments contain references to the samples they use. If you don't include other sample locations, ExsManager will simply report whether the internal references are correct. That's the fastest possible analysis (in my case it takes about 10 seconds), and if no errors are found, it's sufficient to let you know that your library is in working order. Adding other sample-search locations lets you find duplicates and missing samples, change sample references within instruments, and otherwise reorganize your library. That process is considerably more complex and must be used with care — for example, you don't want to delete or move samples used by other applications — but if your hard drive is clogged or your library is in complete disarray, ExsManager Pro offers the tools to fix it.

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FIG. 2: You set the note and Velocity intervals along with MIDI layering conditions that AutoSampler uses to create a multisampled instrument.

One from Column A

AutoSampler automates the process of resampling hardware or software instruments (see Fig. 2). If you have a synth some of whose presets you'd like to convert to multisampled virtual instruments, AutoSampler will save you hours of tedious work.

To do the job manually, you'd have to launch your recording software, route the output of the synth for recording, then play and record many notes at many Velocity levels and, perhaps, with a variety of MIDI controller settings. You could create MIDI clips to partially automate the process, but it would still entail hours of laborious, hands-on work. After capturing the sounds, you'd need to split them into individual hits, trim them as needed, and then arrange them into multisample maps for your sampler.

Alternatively, fire up AutoSampler, point it to your synth's MIDI input and audio output, set up its multisample parameters (note range, notes per octave, Velocity increments, and so on), then let it rip. You have a variety of options beyond simply sampling across note and Velocity ranges. You can layer instruments using multiple audio and MIDI ports and channels. AutoSampler will automatically change synth patches, letting you specify in advance which patch numbers to sample. A process called MultiDimensional Sampling (MDS) will automate two synth parameters and crossfade between multisamples for different parameter settings.

AutoSampler creates multisampled EXS instruments, and some of its more exotic features may not translate to other samplers. I used MDS and layering with two virtual instruments running on my PC, then opened the resulting EXS instrument in EXS24 mkII, Native Instruments Kontakt 3, and Ableton Live Sampler. In EXS and Kontakt, the layering and crossfading worked perfectly, but in Live Sampler, the MDS crossfading was not implemented because Sampler doesn't support grouping. If your target sampler has similar limitations, you might use AutoSampler to create basic multisampled instruments and then set up their layering and crossfading within your sampler. Alternatively, just use Keymap to separate the MDS groups and save them as individual EXS instruments.

multisample management tools$389.99with printed manual$529.99FEATURES 1 2 3 4 5 EASE OF USE 1 2 3 4 5 AUDIO QUALITY 1 2 3 4 5 VALUE 1 2 3 4 5

ultisampling Toolbox

Keymap, winner of an EM 2008 Editors' Choice Award, is the most complex application in the Compendium package, and there's a 360-page manual to prove it. The program contains many idiosyncrasies, but its basic purpose is straightforward: to let you quickly create layered and grouped multisamples, edit their zones individually or in bulk, and set up how the zones relate within an EXS instrument. Keymap's capabilities go beyond anything you can do directly in the EXS editor, and most tasks are easier to perform than in even the most full-featured samplers. If you create your own multisampled instruments on a Mac and your sampler is EXS compatible, Keymap is for you.

You start with a project, which might be empty or might be based on existing EXS instruments (a project can hold many EXS instruments). Instruments within a project have a slightly more complex structure than their EXS counterparts — they have multiple layers, each holding zones and zone groups. Layers are an artifact that makes it easier to manage overlapping zones, and they disappear when an instrument is converted to EXS format. If a project contains several instruments, you can easily combine some or all of them in a single EXS instrument, assigning them separate or overlapping key and Velocity ranges or crossfading between them with a MIDI controller. That's managed in Keymap's Setup window.

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FIG. 3: Zones in each Keymap layer are automatically tiled as they are created. You can set up zone crossfades individually, as shown for the center zone here.

As in most samplers, you build your own multisampled instruments by loading or dragging samples (WAV, AIFF, SDII, MP3, and AAC) to a two-dimensional Zone window with columns representing notes and rows representing Velocities. Alternatively, draw in empty zones and fill them with samples later. A zone's width and height represent its key and Velocity range, and you can stretch zones in any direction.

In Keymap, zones cannot overlap; when you drag or stretch one zone into another, all affected zones are tessellated (tiled), with split zones being created as necessary. That's one reason for having layers — zones in different layers can overlap. You don't need different layers for key and Velocity crossfading, however; you can set up crossfades between zones on the same layer either individually or globally (see Fig. 3).

Resynthesize This

Keymap gives you a variety of sophisticated tools for processing the samples, and most of those tools apply to individual zones or to all selected zones. All of the processing is DSP based and doesn't rely on EXS components such as filters, modulators, and effects. And all of Keymap's DSP is nondestructive; the original samples are never altered. Instead, new samples are created as necessary when instruments are saved in EXS format.

Harmonic Resynthesis is among Keymap's most useful sample-munging features. It lets you manipulate the pitch, time, formants, and amplitude of the sample independently. The pitch, time, and formant operations are designed for monophonic material and work best on single hits rather than, say, bass or vocal loops. However, those operations often produce interesting results on unpitched sounds like speech and percussion. For example, you can pitch-shift speech without affecting formants or time to produce familiar chipmunk or Darth Vader effects without altering the rhythm of the original clips (see Web Clip 1).

The pitch and formant algorithm, which is the most sensitive to the material being transformed, has three modes: with formant adjust, without formant adjust, and standard pitch-shifting (like speeding up or slowing down the clip). With the first two algorithms, you can actually raise the pitch while using the independent time-shifting algorithm to lengthen the clip and vice versa. In addition to time and pitch adjustments, you get dynamics processing, highpass and lowpass resonant filtering, and saturation effects.

When you simply want to start with a sampled note and map it across a range of keys, you have the standard multisampling alternative of widening the key zone, but Keymap gives you another option called Polyphonate. That automates the Harmonic Resynthesis of pitch for a selected zone to create new, adjacent pitch-shifted zones over a range of up to two octaves. That's useful, for instance, when you have a sample with natural vibrato or tremolo and you want to preserve its rate.

Time to Split

Keymap takes a lot of the drudgery out of splitting and looping samples. It will automatically split single audio files at regular intervals or by detecting transients. It will then trim the individual hits based on attack and decay thresholds you set, and automap them to a new layer.

You get two approaches to automatic looping. Select a portion of the sample (a rough loop, for example) and let Keymap refine the boundaries to get the best loop. You can even apply that process simultaneously to multiple zones. The other approach, single-cycle looping, sets a very short loop to produce a specific pitch. Once the loop size is set, you change the loop location and the timbre by moving the start point with an onscreen slider.

Five drag-and-drop areas in the Instrument editor called Magic Pads invoke macros for common multistep processes involving splitting, looping, trimming, and layering groups of samples. I usually found that some hands-on editing was required after using the Magic Pads, but even so, they save a great deal of time.

As much as anything else, saving time is what the three applications in the Compendium bundle are about. You can accomplish most of what these programs do with a DAW and a full-featured sample editor. But Redmatica has painstakingly identified the most tedious tasks involved in creating and managing multisample libraries and has automated them to make things much simpler. In the process, it has added some very clever bells and whistles.

Len Sasso is an associate editor of EM. For an earful, visit his Web site


PROS: Versatile suite of multisampling tools. Automates many tedious tasks. Powerful nondestructive DSP options.

CONS: User interface is crowded. Some processes could be more straightforward.