Best Service: Ethno World 5
Marcel Barsotti continues to enlarge his Ethno World library of exotic instruments, adding 10GB of content to the EW4 library–there are 240 instruments and (new to V5) 25 solo voices; the voices alone add more than 3,800 samples and phrases.
The audio engine, Native Instruments’ Kontakt 4 Player, gets stronger with each release. The Player’s effects are outstanding (love that convolution reverb), as is the flexible routing. You only realize the Player has limitations if you use the full version of K4–with which EW5 is compatible. Also, EW5 skillfully uses K4’s scripting and articulation to provide serious expressiveness, and many files exploit the Beat and Time Machine options.
Instrument categories include bell, bowed, gongs, keyboard, metallic, stringed instruments, woodwind and bass, world drums/percussion, and even construction kits for China and the Mideast. Voices come from literally from all over the world, and the recording quality can’t be faulted.
$480 may seem like a lot, but do the math: That’s $24 per GB of expertly-crafted, well-organized, classy content–and probably all the ethnic sounds you’ll ever need (well, at least until EW6 appears). Outstanding.
Ueberschall: Pop Charts
This two-in-one library has 1.49GB of construction kits (10 total, also with drum hits) and 1.84GB of individual instrument loops (cymbals, piano, electric bass, acoustic drums, guitar, synth bass, and synths). Unlike construction kits designed for building up a complete song, Pop Charts is more of an “idea-starter” that’s the audio equivalent of a booster rocket–it overcomes creative gravity, and gets you off the ground. You’ll find some excellent grooves, ready for overdubs.
“Pop” doesn’t mean shiny, “walking-on-sunshine” pop; instead, think Kylie Minogue in her slinkier moments, doing that vaguely decadent, more deliberate Euro-style pop. (Check out the online example.)
The loops are powered by Ueberschall’s arguably under-appreciated Elastik audio engine. It does excellent stretching, provides useful filtering options, and maps loops across a keyboard to allow for a combination of improvisation and programming. You can bounce the loops easily if you prefer dealing with audio instead of a virtual instrument, and because the engine doesn’t take much CPU, you can open multiple instances. Ueberschall does excellent work; Pop Charts is no exception.
Contact: Ueberschall, www.ueberschall.com
Format: One DVD-ROM with 3.18GB of content; 10 construction kits and a variety of general-purpose loops; 1,836 loops and samples total
List price: $114
Sony: Backpacker Beats
This isn’t a typical construction kit, with folders of loops for different songs; instead, you get tons of compatible loops, organized by instrument. You can throw just about anything together and make it stick: Almost all loops are in C, and thanks to Sony’s excellent Acidization, you can stretch and transpose with ease if needed.
Twelve folders hold 578 loops with the usual suspects–drums (well-represented with 147 loops), percussion (79 loops), and bass (60 loops). You’ll also find guitars, keys, FX, bells, horns, strings, synth arps, synths, and vocals. Tempos generally hover in the sub-100bpm range–but jack it up to 120+, and you’ll transition from “urban” to more of a Crystal Method vibe.
The “same key” strategy simplifies assembling full pieces, so this is an audio-for-video natural when deadlines are tight (or, start with one of the included 12 Acid projects); the recording quality is neutral, so you can put your own stamp on the sound–like extra-crunchy old school, or future shock electronic.
Granted, hip-hop lends itself to loops, but I’ve seen few libraries in any genre that are this versatile and easy to use.
Contact: Sony Creative Software, www.sonycreativesoftware.com
Format: CD-ROM with 640MB of Acidized WAV files; 16-bit, 44.1kHz
List price: $39.95
Check out Craig Anderton's custom audio examples HERE.
Check out exports of license-free ACID projects HERE.