Sonik Capsules: Guitar 3-Pack
Contact: Sonic Reality, distributed by IK Multimedia, www.sonikcapsules.com
Format: 2 CD-ROMs (Sonik Capsule and SampleTank 2 LE)
Price: $249, individual Capsules $99
The "sample library meets playback instrument" concept isn't new, but the Sonik Capsules series (for Windows ME/2K/XP or Mac OS X 10.2.8) adds serious universality. When installing the samples, the UFO (Universal Format Outputter) utility program regenerates the basic AIF samples into any one or all of several formats: SampleTank 2.0.7, SampleTank 2 LE 2.0.7 (included with the package), Reason NN-XT, Kontakt 1.5.1, HALion 2, Battery 1.3, and EXS24 Mk II.
Interestingly, as the UFO is a fairly small file, a downloadable rev could be created with additional translation capabilities, then used to translate an older Sonik Capsule sound library into another format. (Although the company has not made any official announcements, MachFive support is expected soon.)
However, while UFO can map samples, convert filtering, and replicate envelopes, it can't translate effects. For example, the SampleTank 2 programs take good advantage of ST2's effects, but the patches don't sound the same on other samplers. This is true even with Kontakt, which has a full complement of effects.
The Guitar 3-Pack includes 477MB of Acoustic Guitars, Electric Guitars (453MB), and Bass Guitars (310MB). Each is also available individually. Acoustic Guitars includes a variety of samples - fingered, picked, harmonics, and "Performance" programs that include elements like scrapes, knocks, harmonics, slides, etc. The sampling avoids over-consistency. For example, a high-velocity sample on one note might "snap" more than a sample on an adjacent note - just like a real guitar.
The Electric Guitars are mostly clean or slightly gritty, so they work well through overall distortion. Again, there's good variety. The Bass Guitars meet the same high standards.
So the bottom line is faithfully recorded samples, good value for money, a "cream of the crop" approach rather than gigabytes of samples, and compatibility with multiple samplers in their native formats. It's a cool concept, and it works.
Contact: Loopmasters, U.S. dist. by Big Fish Audio, www.bigfishaudio.com
Format: 1 CD (WAV, REX2, Reason NN-XT sampler patches)
Lounge/Chillout promises to be your 1-stop shop for loops, 1-shots, and multisampled patches in the style of Morcheeba, Zero-7, Aim, and Kruder &Dorfmeister. For the uninitiated, we're talking about down- and mid-tempo "lounge" music that incorporates live playing and sampled riffs. Indeed, this title is packed with lots of tightly recorded and expertly played percussion and drum loops ranging from 70-120 bpm.
There's no shortage of style-appropriate synth pads and arpeggios complete with filter sweeps and bpm-synced delays, '60s-sounding electric guitar, phased Rhodes riffs, and ambient effects - all REX'd and ready to be looped. The synth material is mostly "static" (i.e., stays on one harmonic center), so I was able to rework many of these loops in a number of ways. But I found many of the keyboard licks and effects too generic and derivative to be of much use; others may disagree.
This library is larger (566+MB) than most Reason-oriented collections, and offers the material in both REX2 and WAV formats. This is a good thing because it opens up Lounge/Chillout to non-Reason users.
I found a lot of "holes" in the lineup, however, and rather than duplicating the same material in multiple formats, I wish the producers would have used their disc space more wisely. In the electric bass category, for example, there are typically only six loops at a given tempo, and all of them have a "samey" quality (melodically and tonally speaking). There are only ten drum kits, none of which seem to adhere to any sort of concept. One kit might have a kick and ride cymbal combined as one hit, but not isolated, a few other kits have no cymbals whatsoever, and some have crashes. You may or may not find toms, depending on what you load. What's more, none of the sampler patches are looped. In short, it all feels like it could have been better planned.