Cakewalk E-mu Proteus Pack Quick Pick Review

Cakewalk E-mu Proteus Pack Sample Library reviewed by EM writer Marty Cutler in EM April 2009 issue
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Cakewalk''s E-mu Proteus Pack for Dimension Pro re-creates the presets of six Proteus sound modules.

Despite other synths in its price range that had more-robust synthesis capabilities, the rackmount E-mu Systems Proteus was a tremendous success. Its popularity hinged on its crisp, clean sound and a generous ROM, which was packed with well-chosen instruments and waveforms from E-mu's acclaimed sample library. Response to the trailblazing module led to a bumper crop of genre-specific modules specializing in orchestral, dance, ethnic, hip-hop, Latin, and more. The later modules boasted larger ROMs and more-sophisticated filters and modulation capabilities. For years, you could scarcely find a MIDI studio that didn't have at least a couple of Proteus units.

Although those classic E-mu instruments are no longer in production, Cake-walk and Digital Sound Factory (the original developer of the sounds) have resurrected them by introducing E-mu Proteus Pack for the software synthesizers Dimension Pro and LE. The sound libraries derive from samples of the source instruments rather than the Proteus modules. You can purchase the entire collection ($379 disc, $279 download) or sound sets for individual instruments ($99 disc, $79 download). For convenience and instant gratification, I chose to download the collection, which Cakewalk delivers as a Zip archive that's roughly 530 MB when unzipped.

PROTEAN SHAKE

The Zip file supplies individual installers for six E-mu modules: Mo' Phatt, Planet Earth, Proteus 2000, PX-7, Virtuoso 2000, and Xtreme Lead 1. Although installation required additional steps because I put the data on a different directory than the default, it didn't take long to get things up and running.

In many instances, sounds are layered and Velocity-switched, combining tonal variation with playing dynamics. Much of the programming relies on SoundFont settings rather than Dimension's architecture. Instead of using multiple oscillators or Elements in Dimension, the SoundFonts often contain layers of multisamples. But some presets, particularly in the Xtreme Lead collection, do rely on Dimension's filter, LFO, and envelope-generator settings for timbral and rhythmic motion.

My favorite sounds were almost uniformly in the processed and synthetic categories. Mo' Phatt's spiky, gritty sounds and Xtreme Lead's unabashedly synthetic content are my picks of the litter. They're creatively programmed, and their samples are excellent starting points for your creations.

REALITY SHOW

The realism of many bowed- and plucked-string patches in the Planet Earth set is compromised by short loops or insufficient multisampling, which is entirely the result of the original module's limited resources. I like the banjo as a springboard for new sounds; as a banjo, however, it reveals the sonic strains inherent in a reduced sample map. I found similar problems with many of the acoustic and electric guitars in Proteus 2000. Short samples are all that's needed to capture the life cycle of a kalimba, and the samples used in Planet Earth's kalimba presets are realistic and tangy. Multisampling is much less of a problem in the Virtuoso 2000 module, and the Hall Velocity Legato strings patch is exceptional, with an expressive, Velocity-sensitive bloom that responds beautifully to stronger dynamics (see Web Clip 1).

I can never get enough drum and percussion sounds, and the PX-7 drums are a welcome addition to my collection. You'll find plenty of contemporary-sounding kits with bright, spicy snares and punchy, deep kicks (see Web Clip 2), as well as lots of gritty hip-hop and drum 'n' bass kits, buzzy synth-bass patches with woofer-bending subharmonics, and a generous assortment of Latin and African percussion — a nice array of tools for almost any sort of rhythm section.

The Proteus patches invite inevitable comparisons to Dimension Pro's factory sounds, which were developed without the memory constraints of older hardware instruments and reflect the soft synth's more-elaborate modulation routing. However, Digital Sound Factory did a fine job of reproducing the original synths, in which clever programming trumped memory capacities. Some documentation (at least a list of patches and waveforms) would be welcome, particularly in the case of Virtuoso 2000, which has loads of useful orchestral instruments but little information about how to make them speak appropriately.

PACKING THEM IN

If you thumb through back issues of EM, you can easily find state-of-the-art sound libraries that are rife with complex loops, one-finger grooves, and more envelope stages than there are notes in the average song. Cakewalk's E-mu Proteus Pack, however, is not one of them. Instead, it dishes out solid, useful patches that bear the unique stamp of E-mu's heralded sound-design team. Unique, ear-catching sounds for almost every musical application passed in review as I auditioned each sound set. E-mu Proteus Pack represents a valuable and versatile roster of sounds for Cakewalk Dimension owners.

Value (1 through 5): 3

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