I admit it: I always look forward to reviewing a new Spectrasonics CD-ROM. The company always seems to deliver well-considered, great-sounding, impeccably organized, and easy-to-use products. The latest in Spectrasonics' distinguished line of loop libraries, Metamorphosis: 21st Century Grooves (CD-ROM, $199; audio CD, $99), doesn't disappoint.
This massive collection ships on four CD-ROMs available in Akai/E-mu, Roland, and Giga formats. I reviewed it using an E-mu e6400 Ultra sampler. Spectrasonics provides each of the 300 loops in four different forms. The first disc includes WAV versions of each loop for use in audio programs — a great convenience. The remaining three discs offer standard loop, Groove Menu, and Groove Control versions of every loop in the native format of the selected sampler.
Slice and Dice
Groove Control and Groove Menu formats provide contrasting methods of freeing the user from tempo-matching concerns. Groove Control has become a standard feature of Ilio and Spectrasonics loop libraries. With Groove Control, loops are sliced up so that each hit is a distinct sample. The hits are matched with a custom-designed MIDI sequence (available in all major sequencer formats) so that playing the sequence re-creates the sound and feel of the original loop.
Groove Control offers wonderful possibilities: it's dead simple to change the tempo of a loop without changing its pitch, switch from straight to swing feel or vice versa, match loops to custom quantization grids, and so on. That also makes it much easier to layer different loops together. Finally, it also opens the loops up to manipulation, such as removing an extraneous snare accent and swapping sounds — very cool.
Groove Menus are a bit more traditional but no less useful. Each CD (except the WAV-format disc) has a set of these menus, which include all of the disc's loops set to identical tempos and laid out across the keyboard. That makes it easy to experiment with layering, including beat-offsets between loops — just grab a handful of notes and go. Each Groove Menu is available in tempos ranging from 50 to 180 bpm.
Enough about formats; let's talk about the sounds. Two words that come to mind are interesting and useful. The collection makes extensive use of creative hardware and software signal processing, yet most of the loops are ear catching without being overly complex or frequency rich. That makes them suitable for layering because they'll enrich a mix without overwhelming it.
You get a good amount of stylistic variation, from the smooth, tabla-driven groove of Indiatek to the edgy, urban Collisions and from the ominous, Nine Inch Nails — inspired, delay-driven, four-on-the-floor Gummo to the light, swirling Clodhoppr. Fans of Liquid Grooves, a previous Spectrasonics outing, will find echoes of its lush, ambient textures on tracks such as Paulo, Roton, and Angelhair. There's a quirky sense of humor, as well, in the bleeps of Buzzer and the oddly biological-sounding jaw harp of Thump.
As always with Spectrasonics, the documentation is attractive and well organized. In addition to clear track listings, it includes notes on format compatibility and tips on getting the most out of the Groove Control and Groove Menu features. All in all, Metamorphosis is yet another spectacular collection from Spectrasonics, with intriguing timbres, solid grooves, and unassailable ease of use. What more could you ask for?