Sounds: December 2008

SONY: PHD—PROGRESSIVE HOUSE DYNAMICSPHD, from Bunker 8, has 21 construction kits, each with between 9 and 15 loops. Some drum elements (e.g., kick loop) are also broken out separately from a mixed drum loop. And, extra credit for the text document that lists file attributes— tempo (mostly in the 130BPM zone), number of measures, key, etc.
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As you’d expect from house, the drums are appropriately fat and lumbering, the synths arpeggiated, the basses either round or percussive, and of course, you’ll find various percussion and funky guitar riffs. Also, note that the one-shots aren’t just drum hits, but bass, keys, guitar, FX, and other notes—for a good time, stretch them across your sampler plug-in.

So, what makes this “progressive”? The vibe isn’t as loose as “classic” house; there’s a tougher sonic edge, along with a rhythmic precision that leans more toward electro/techno— swing is used sparingly, if at all. The end result is a more muscular, contemporary sound.

The construction kits may seem like they could use more files, but the exemplary Acidization allows easy mixing and matching between kits. Think of the kits more as “guidelines” of loops that work well together rather than a limited set of choices; it’s worth digging around in the other kits, and importing elements that multiply your options. PHD is a satisfying, consistent, well-produced set.

Contact: Sony Creative Software, www.sonycreative
Format: CD-ROM with 523MB/249 files of loops; 24MB/226 files of one-shots; 16-bit/44.1kHz
List price: $59.95


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I fondly remember my father occasionally playing “Gonna Ride that Glory Train,” from Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Choir, at top volume. It wasn’t the religious message that got him, but the musical one: It was exciting, vital, raw, and truly uplifting . . . then again, that’s what good Gospel music is all about.

Urban Contemporary Gospel has 34 construction kits, each with loops, drum hits, and mixed drum loops also broken out as individual loops (e.g., kick, snare, overhead). The sound quality is conservative—sometimes a bit muffled (a little EQ solves that) and not “hot” (so drag out your maximizer). But overall, there’s a fine selection of bass, guitar, drums, keys, organ, and some pretty delicious gospel vocals. In fact, most of the loops (save the vocals) would fit well into a lot of contemporary R&B and hip-hop. Furthermore, the Acidization is far superior to older Big Fish releases—and this is not always easy material to Acidize.

The tunes don’t have the rip-your-head-off excitement of hardcore, old school gospel; as the title suggests, they indeed have more of an urban sound—some of the loops would even fit well in smooth jazz. Still, there’s a good balance of uptempo and slower tunes, making the set quite comprehensive. In a world of me-too sample libraries, this one stands out as unique and, well, uplifting.

Contact: Big Fish Audio,
Format: DVD-ROM with about 1.3GB of unique 24-bit/44.1kHz WAV/Acidized content, duplicated as Apple Loops (and REX files where possible); also has Stylus RMX installer
List price: $99.95


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These rock/pop/funk drums are totally “unhyped”: There’s no processing on the dry files, and while also duplicated as files with reverb, even that adds just a subtle ambience—no John Bonham thundering drums here. While you’ll have to do some work to customize the drums to your needs, this purist approach (all files are recorded with the same drum setup too) makes them applicable to more contexts than if they were already “pre-produced.”

Tempos range from 75 to 135BPM. The Fills folder contains fills at different tempos, but the Loops folders emphasize different groove styles—tom grooves, hi-hat grooves, etc. Timing is tight, even though played by a human; the Acidization is less so, and you’ll need to edit the Acidization markers if you want to stretch much past the original tempo.

However, what may be this sample CD’s “secret weapon” is the collection of individual drum hits, with multiple velocity levels. This allows creating your own kit that can fit right in with the sounds of the loops and fills, offering an even greater degree of customization than just altering the existing loops.

Bottom line is that while this collection provides the sounds and playing, it’s up to you to impart the gloss and excitement. But ultimately, it will sound the way you want it to sound—not like everyone else using the same collection.

Contact: Real Live Loops,
Format: CD-ROM with 16-bit/44.1kHz WAV loops, fills, and single hits, duplicated as dry and wet versions (698MB total)
List price: Approximately $30 for digital download, $40 for CD-ROM (including shipping from the UK)