It’s an interesting time we live in: Early 20th-century predictions of a future where there are commercially available electronic instruments to fit every way of working have come to pass. Moreover, many of the products—DAWs, in particular—attempt to offer as many creative options as possible, often taking artists from the initial creative spark through the arrangement, performance, recording and, occasionally, the distribution phase of a project.
This month’s examination of three major standalone software-samplers came about after a series of discussions I’ve had with composers about what differentiates one deep-featured sampler from another. Considering price, alone, Falcon, Kontakt 5 and HALion 6 are a magnitude more powerful than any hardware model of previous generations, and each of them is packed with functionality that allows you to make and play instruments of great complexity. Yet, each one has a personality, you might say, which can be traced to decisions made by the developer, usually the result of specific choices based on aesthetic biases, intended markets, cost vs. return on investment, and so forth. Ultimately, this personality will influence how you work and, therefore, must be considered.
In other words, despite what a developer’s marketing materials may say, none of the products available today can do everything, although it may seem like it when you first open them up. But the developer’s design choices can make it feel like there is an infinite number of options. That’s an important distinction and one we not only address in the roundup but what we strive to clarify with all of our gear-related articles. Because sometimes we might think we want the ability to do everything when, in reality, the sense of limitlessness of a software package can actually have the effect of limiting our creativity with its top heaviness.