SampleTank IN THE BEGINNING
In 2001 IK Multimedia introduced the world to the first SampleTank. The concepts of virtual instruments was just catching on. The promise of high quality sounds with the ability to use them in new and innovative ways inside your computer were the dreams of most musicians of the day. Until that time the concept of having a workstation was relegated to hardware instruments. What the Korg M1 did to change the hardware landscape, IK Multimedia accomplished in the virtual instrument arena with the original SampleTank.
SampleTank allowed you to have a virtual workstation of sorts that provided a large instrument library covering numerous musical styles. Included in the library were pianos,acoustic and electric guitars, drum kits, world instruments and special effects. As things progressed SampleTank introduced the ability to play and manipulate audio drum loops and grooves further enhancing the existing performance capabilities.
While IK Multimedia continued to grow as a leader in virtual instruments they also branched out providing ground breaking audio effects and hardware emulations for mixing and mastering. T-Racks led the way as a pioneering mastering tool. Amplitude focused more on creating virtual effects aimed primarily at guitarists. IK Multimedia continued doing its part to keep pace with the fast moving advances in computer music technology.
SampleTank 3 THE RETURN
Fast forward to 2014 and the release of SampleTank 3. The developers behind SampleTank 3 have done an admirable job in creating not just a new instrument but maintaining some of the outstanding qualities the original SampleTank introduced. Let’s take a look at what is inside this new chapter of SampleTank history.
THE SOUNDS THE THING
With any software based instrument the sound library is the first thing you look into, SampleTank 3 does not disappoint. Weighing in at over 33 GB IK Multimedia has attempted to cover every instrument category. If you ordered the digital download version of SampleTank 3 you will need to set aside some time to download and install the content library. The content download is divided into several parts. If you need to install on both your Mac and Windows platform you must download the library specific for that platform.
SampleTank 3 is a 64 bit program so your operating system needs to be 64bit alsong with your DAW host. You have the option of using SampleTank 3 as a standalone or as a VST, Audio Units or AAX plugin.
Once everything is installed and running you are presented with the BROWSER screen. This is where most of us will stay for quite a while as there is so much to explore.
The factory library includes 4,000 new instruments broken up into 21 different categories. Also included are 2500 drum and percussion sounds and loops with an accompanying library of over 2,000 MIDI files to enhance the performance of these dynamic instruments. You also are treated to some of the legacy SampleTank 2 libraries to add to the overall value and functionality.
SampleTank 3 tries to make the job of locating sounds easy for you by breaking up the library into specific logical categories. Grouping guitars together for instance helps you to locate acoustic and electric variations and digging deeper will expand more choices within the main categories. It would be very difficult to try and navigate through the immense library without such a clean and straight forward approach. You also have the option of a search box that helps even further to find exactly the sound you are looking for.
Some of my favorites are the pianos and guitars. One of the highlights of the library is the inclusion of some of the Miroslav Orchestral library. Notably featured in IK Multimedia’s Miroslav Philharmonik virtual instrument these sounds were the benchmark of early orchestral sampling and capture a very unique sound stage and character that many composers rely on.
SampleTank has always been known for providing quality samples without maxing out your computer’s memory unnecessarily. Leveraging your computer’s hardware, CPU and memory are always important and IK Multimedia has not forgotten this important aspect. While some of the larger pianos require a little over a gig of RAM most of the sounds load in and use very conservative amounts of your computer’s memory. They have also went to some lengths to make sure you have as many options as possible to maximize your experience by offering variations on some instruments with different memory requirements large and small.
Pianos for example. You might feature the piano as the main solo or lead instrument so in that case you would load one of the larger pianos to provide the greatest amount of samples and variations. On the other hand when the piano is part of a larger ensemble you might opt for a less memory intensive piano patch. As the piano will sit in the mix with the other instruments it would not be as exposed and allow you to focus on balancing your computer’s memory here it would make the most difference. You could spend countless hours exploring the immense SampleTank 3 library.
HAVE IT YOUR WAY
Having sounds is great but there is so much more. SampleTank 3 allows you to dive deep into the sounds included in the library to shape them and make them fit into the context of your project if you desire. using the extensive EDIT screen you are given a wide range of controls to change the dynamics and some of the performance aspects of the sounds in the library. You are only limited by your creativity.
STRETCHING IT, IN A GOOD WAY
IK Multimedia calls their engine STRETCH. It uses some very powerful technology under the hood that allows SampleTank 3 to manipulate and play samples from the library while maintaining their quality. Samples are basically recordings of individual notes or hits from an instrument and as such as you increase the pitch you also increase the speed the sample is being played back. What the STRETCH engine accomplishes is adjusting the samples characteristics in such a way that you will not hear that dreaded Darth like or Chipmunkesque quality when playing back your instruments. It is advancements like this that make it truly exciting and rewarding for computer based music composers and performers.
No I am not going to type out a huge list of things that might keep you up at night, cause you to break out or any other of the crazy things you hear in some of those pharmaceutical product commercials. What I am going to tell you is that SampleTank 3 includes some very ambitious software based effects.
SampleTank 3 includes 22 effects that range from Eq, compression, acoustic modelling, reverb, delays, and many others. IK Multimedia is well known for developing some of the most well known software based effects starting with their Amplitude and T-Racks product lines. They have brought some of the best from these tried and true resources to pack SampleTank 3 with everything you need to bring the sound library to life.
Some of the highlights are in the modelling category. You have a couple of effects that allow you to emulate the body of a piano or guitar to bring you a very natural acoustic sound that does not sound artificial. This uses some acoustic modelling magic behind the scenes giving you control over some of the characteristics. You also have a of all things a piano lid effect to bring even more realism to what is already a very good sounding piano. It is little things like these that are actually big in the context of bringing as much natural element into the sampled sound library.
Likewise for guitars, electric especially you have some fantastic amplifier models that give you just that right amount of special grunge when you need it or provide that clean pristine tone that will cut through the mix. Having all of these specific effects just continue to add to the overall value of SampleTank 3.
THE CHAIN GANG
Starting with some great sounding effects SampleTank 3 allows you to bring them together in custom arrangements per instrument. You are provided with 5 effects slots that you can mix and match to find just the right combination to satisfy what you were going for. Each factory preset already comes set up with effects loaded in the slots. There you can adjust parameters and such to fine tune things.
YOU SAY MACRO, I SAY MACRO
Another feature that puts SampleTank 3 ahead is the introduction of Macro Controls. There you can select the controls you are most likely to use right away to adjust parameters in your current patch. These might be tone controls, EQ or compression settings, amp controls, acoustic shaping controls (adjusting the piano lid for instance), The macro controls give you a lot of power right away without having to dig down through a lot of menus and other preset and effects setting.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED TODAY?
Continuing to focus on performance and control SampleTank 3 provides a way to tap into controlling it using external MIDI hardware. I love the Korg nanoSERIES. These devices provide hands on knobs, slider, pads, switches, etc. to allow you to control what is going on inside of a software instrument. They are great for live performance.
SampleTank 3 addresses this by including a LEARN button in the interface. The process is pretty straight forward as you select LEARN at the bottom of the SampleTank 3 interface, click on the control you want then grab the physical control on your outboard MIDI device. This is all it takes to connect things and start tweaking to your heart’s content.
GAME, SET, MATCH
As you can already see from this review that IK Multimedia had spent a lot of time building SampleTank 3 with the ability to adapt to just about every situation you would throw at it. Other than the Play and Mix screens you also have a LIVE screen. You can set this up to provide quick and easy access to the sounds you would use most in a live concert situation. You can set up presets to cover each song you think you might perform. This gives you quick access to eliminate the problem of getting stuck trying to search for sounds in the middle of things, they are right there in front of you.
FILL ER’ UP
Well if 33 gigs is not enough for you I am not sure what to think but IK Multimedia was not content in just stopping there. SampleTank 3 allows you to bring your older SampleTank libraries into the new engine. This is great news for previous SampleTank users as their older libraries can take on new life using the new SampleTank 3 engine and effects. I had purchased some of the expansion packs a while back and they loaded fine into SampleTank 3. I also am a previous user of IK Multimedia’s wonderful Miroslav Philharmonik which set the bar at the beginning of orchestral sampling. These wonderful sounds imprted just fine and now allow me to enjoy these beautiful instruments for many more years to come.
IK Multimedia has also left the door open for continued expansion of the sound library by eventually offering a Custom Shop for sounds and possibly new effects. This will be a great way to keep SampleTank 3 full of exciting and new material.
Like many of you I have been waiting for this update for quite some time. While there had been some initial impatience with nailing down a release date. Bringing together a software product this powerful I was glad IK Multimedia took their time
As I said earlier prepare to spend a lot of time initially in downloading and installing SampleTank 3. After that you will be spending lots of time exploring the massive sound library. Grant it not everyone will like every sound and some might sound a little dated as many come from the earlier SampleTank libraries. With that being said having those earlier sounds adds to the charm and usefulness of the overall package as sometimes that is exactly just what you need. Also having the vast amount of choices gives you options. Having large and small pianos for instance allows you to tailor your SampleTank 3 experience to your workflow and system requirement needs.
Once again, great job IK Multimedia and thanks for bringing us into another milestone in the ever changing world of software musical instruments. This tank is not going to be empty any time soon.
For more information and to purchase SampleTank 3 head over to the IK Multimedia website. There you will find special introductory, upgrade and even crossgrade pricing.