MOST SAMPLED marimbas and vibraphones suffer from reduced keyboard maps and resemble their sources only superficially. Typically, vibes sampled with tremolo (created by motorized fans moving inside resonator tubes) pose a particular problem because it’s hard to regulate the rate of a sampled vibrato across the range of the keyboard. Additionally, sampled mallet instruments with few Velocity layers come off as cold and hard-edged.
With that in mind, Soniccouture produced Mallets ($89, soniccouture.com), a library pack of sampled marimba and vibraphone for Ableton Live. As a library pack, it installs directly into Ableton Live, which handles all of the authorization details; installation couldn’t be any simpler.
Soniccouture sampled each note of a 5-octave Yamaha 6100 marimba, with 15 Velocity layers, for a total of 880 samples. The vibraphone comprises the full range of a Yamaha YV-3910M Professional Gold 3.5-octave model, using 10 Velocity layers and a novel approach to getting natural-sounding tremolo: An LFO alternates between samples of the fan in vertical and horizontal position. You can alter the speed with one of the macro controls presented in Live; each patch variation has a custom set of eight control macros. (These mapped instantly to my Novation 61 SL MKII, providing on-the-spot tweaking, free of zipper noise.)
The marimba patches are meaty and detailed, with nine variants ranging from realistic roomsound instruments to resonant marimba-andsynth tones, bolstered by Live’s excellent effects. For example, the Tube Drum Delays patch adds a resonator along with delay and reverb for a sweet ambience and vaguely ethnic flavor.
The vibes are sparkling and realistic, with plenty of knock. The Corpus Christi patch, for example, is a beautiful, coruscating vibraphone with sweet tremolo, while Gold Pad’s slower attack settings minimize transients, making it a great backdrop sound with brilliant overtones.
Soniccouture Mallets shines; the developer’s attention to detail is evident in this collection of expressive and lively instruments.