Sounds: April 2009

SONY: DRUM ’N’ BASS AND BEYOND (DJ SAWKA)A lot of really good sound libraries come across my desk, but this one is definitely a cut above. Few DnB libraries have done the genre justice (BiPolar being a notable exception), but Drum ’n’ Bass and Beyond truly captures the grit, power, and oddly angular beauty of hardcore drum ’n’ bass.
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Files include plenty of beats and bass (both offer loops and one-shots)—they take up over half the CDROM. The beats also include some righteous fills and breaks, and the drum one-shots are very handy when you want to throw in a few off-beats or accents. Folders of FX, Pads, Strings, Swells, and Synths/Melodies round out the rest of the collection; they’re the perfect foil to the other loops.

I connected with the first loop I auditioned, then was delighted to find that the rest of them were all at the same level. However, if you want something malleable, this isn’t it: Everything is infused with character that is anything but neutral, and there’s gobs of processing. You’re taken in a direction—but it’s a direction well worth taking.

Best of all, Drum ’n’ Bass and Beyond is as good as it gets when it comes to throwing just about any loops together and having them work. There’s zero filler—everything is useable, and the “mix and match” factor is off the charts (the superb Acidization helps here too). The verdict: thumbs way up.

Contact: Sony Creative Software, www.sonycreative
Format: CD-ROMs with 640MB of mostly Acidized WAV loops, but also including some one-shots; 16-bit/44.1kHz
List price: $59.95


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I keep being impressed with Nine Volt Audio libraries, and despite the difficulties of translating a rock guitar vibe into samples, they’ve done a highly credible job (although having Michael Wagener dial in the amp sounds surely didn’t hurt).

There are 16 folders, each a sort of “construction kit” with multiple variations on progressions, riffs, chords, ends, breaks, etc. Helpfully, mono Strat and Les Paul files, as well as stereo loops, have identifying letters in the filenames. There are also some “remix” loops that are derived from the stereo loops, but are heavily processed to add more flavors to the collection.

As each folder typically has 40–50 files (and often more), that’s a lot of variations and you can put together convincing guitar parts with ease. There are also two general-purpose “Toolbox” folders with “chugga-chugga” 8th- and 16th-note muted chords that work very well in the background to drive a song. (However, as with any guitar samples, don’t stray too far from the original key—that’s a limitation of the sampling process, not this library.)

Acidization, Apple Loop, and REX editing is excellent (I don’t get to say that very often!), and the guitar sounds have the appropriate amount of snarl and swagger. If you can’t hire a “real”guitarist, use these loops—few, if any, will notice the difference.

Contact: Nine Volt Audio,
Format: DVD-ROM with 925 loops (1.33GB original WAV content) for each format: REX2/Stylus RMX, Acidized WAV, Apple Loops; 24-bit/44.1kHz
List price: $99.99


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Figuring I’m on a roll this month with sample libraries, I thought I’d throw another challenge at my DAW: Can hot jazz translate to loops?

Latin Jazz uses the standard Big Fish format: construction kits (40 total), typically with around 20 files each, along with a mixed file of the individual loops (bass, bongos, congas, piano, trumpet, sax, timbales, guitar, percussion, etc.). The recording quality stands out, and all the instruments have above-average clarity and definition. This isn’t surprising: The producer is Peter Michael Escovedo.

Stylistically, Latin Jazz is a diverse collection, from hotter- than-red-chile salsa to tunes that border on smooth jazz, with some almost straight-ahead jazz—albeit with a strong Latino accent. While it might seem this would push you toward staying within individual construction kits, that’s not the case; I was surprised how effortlessly the percussion slides into dance music, and some of the brass solos make great punctuation for anything from house to funk. Sure, if you’re scoring “Night Life in South Beach,” you’re covered. But the loops are more universally applicable than the title might imply.

REX and Apple Loop editing is decent, but I suggest you stick close to the original tempos anyway; that’s where the music really grooves. This sample library makes me want a mojito—now!

Contact: Big Fish Audio,
Format: DVD-ROM with about 1.03GB of unique 24- bit/44.1kHz WAV content, duplicated for Apple Loops, REX files (where possible), and Stylus RMX
List price: $99.95