Although many companies make loop libraries, most are sold by only a handful of distributors—Big Fish Audio and EastWest are two of the biggest. Sony is also a huge force in loop libraries, specifically those that complement Sony’s Acid DAW.
Sony offers only Acidized WAV files (no REX2 files or Apple Loops), but their Acidization editing is superb— loops stretch over an unusually wide range. Their roster of loops is impressive, particularly because they recently resurrected several older titles as downloadable files.
Many of Sony’s titles are loop collections— individual loops designed for general-purpose use. However, lately they’ve been doing more “construction kit”-type libraries. These “deconstruct” the files that make up a piece of music, so the various files work well together and it’s easy to put together “needledrop”- type music. Don’t think that construction kits are more limiting, though; careful Acidization means that it’s pretty easy to mix and match files from different construction kits. In fact, that’s often the ticket to novel effects.
Big Fish creates their own sample libraries as well as distributes those of other companies. They’re heavily into construction kits, and also, multi-format products that include WAV, Apple Loops, REX files, Stylus RMX, and sometimes even patches for popular samplers like the EXS-24 and Kontakt. Their Acidization has been shaky in the past—with nowhere near the “stretchability” of Sony’s libraries—and the REX editing hasn’t always been great either. But there seems to be an ongoing effort to improve this, and many recent releases have had very good stretching.
Big Fish’s range of offerings is staggering— listen to the audio examples on their site to get an idea of a library’s sound. Of particular note: Ueberschall’s libraries, which include excellent production values and a player “shell” for playing back their loops (the result is sort of a cross between a virtual instrument and loop library).
EastWest is probably best known for the outstanding libraries they produce, particularly those using their Play engine (Fab Four, Voices of Passion, etc.) and the “industry-standard” Quantum Leap series of orchestral samples. However, they also distribute libraries from solid companies like Zero-G and ProSamples.
One up-and-coming company to watch is Nine Volt Audio. They know the right way to stretch, and all libraries they’ve sent to EQ for review have been well-recorded and musically useful. Also check out PureMagnetik, a company that specializes in a subscription- based model.
But there are too many companies to cover in a roundup, let alone an entire issue. Keep your eye on future reviews in our Sounds section, as we cull the best of what we get and review those.