Atsiñ - West African Dancing Drums
Contact: Sonic Implants, www.sonicimplants.com
Format: 1 CD-ROM; GigaStudio, Kontakt, or SoundFont
Seasoned sample developer Sonic Implants has a rich catalog of high-quality multisampled instruments ranging from vintage keyboards to orchestral strings and brass. Their West African drumming collection, Atsiñ, is a welcome and worthy addition to an already impressive lineup.
Sonically, the recordings are punchy and warm, with just a hint of room ambience, but not so much as to limit the use of additional processing. Atsiñ was recorded at Blue Jay Studios (www.bluejaystudio.com), using traditional African and Brazilian instruments performed by Joe Galeota (associate professor, Berklee College percussion department). There's not much they didn't sample - you'll find all manner of floor drums, bells, shakers, bass drums, talking drums, and more.
Roughly half of the library consists of multisamples, many of which provide up to four velocity-switched levels. The drums were played in a variety of ways - muted, open, smacked, tapped, rubbed, etc. I found the instrument patches expressive and instantly playable. Samples are cleverly mapped for easy finger drumming. For example, similar sounding attacks are laid out next to each other, so it's easy to roll or repeat a note without the typical "machine gun" effect.
The remaining material consists of traditional and "pop" loops performed in 4/4 and 6/8 time signatures. These loops were performed at the same tempo, so it's possible to layer low-, mid-, and high-frequency percussion parts simply by holding down a few notes on the keyboard. This proved effective for building up tribal patterns that would be perfect underneath a Survivor challenge or dramatic chase scene. In other words, this is the stuff composers should be able to mine for years.
Shortly before we went to press, Sonic Implants began offering smaller subsets of these sounds for download at a fraction of the cost (prices range from $19.95 to $29.95). Whether you need an isolated instrument or a full palette of authentic Afro-Brazilian percussion for your next production, Atsi˜ has the goods. An undeniable EQ Award winner.
Contact: Sonic Reality, U.S. dist. by M-Audio, www.m-audio.com
Format: 1 CD (Reason refill, WAV)
For rootsy, "unplugged," and slightly countrified flavors, Acoustic Folk could be all the instrumental horsepower you'll ever need. This Reason refill is chock full of highly playable NN-XT sampler patches that run the gamut from dobro, banjo, and mandolin to pump organ, harmonica, a tasty selection of vibe-appropriate drum kits - and of course, acoustic guitar. The closest you'll come to anything resembling a "loop" is a patch of banjo licks mapped across the keyboard.
Far more satisfying (and certainly less gimmicky) are the multisampled guitars and other plectrum offerings, which are presented with finger- and flat-picked variations. These are detailed and musical representations that ooze with character - I found it way too easy to get inspired from playing the shimmering Taylors and Martins. There's a level of realism in the patches that makes them stand above other libraries costing twice as much. In some cases you'll hear finger squeaks at certain velocities, for example. Heck, the programmers even managed to make a pedal-steel patch in which individual notes within a chord can be bent - clever. Kudos to Sonic Reality for taking what is obviously well-recorded source material and skillfully creating patches that can hold their own against hardware synths.
For those who don't use or own Reason, all of the multisample waveforms (over 280MB) are duplicated in WAV format, so you can build your own patches with whatever sampler you choose. Nice.
If you're a songwriter or composer looking for a set of instruments that conjures the sound of an Indigo Girls or East Mountain South record, Acoustic Folk won't disappoint.