EXTREME MAKEOVER SAMPLETANK EDITION
So let’s go back a few years to 2001. We were at the very beginnings of virtual instrument technology as we were discovering the creative possibilities of creating musical arrangements using only our computers. This was when IK Multimedia introduced the first of its kind Multi-timbrel virtual workstation plugin.
You can see in the image above SampleTank version 2 in all of its glory. To have multiple instruments available to you while only using one plugin was a massive boost to workflow and productivity. It was also increased overall performance as you were only using one instance of the plugin. Here you can see a short video I did taking a firsthand look at SampleTank 2.
It is hard to believe how far we have come since then as IK Multimedia continued to refine subsequent updates with SampleTank 3 and now what I consider the ultimate update with the introduction of SampleTank 4!
THE LARGEST TANK YET!
SampleTank 4 is available in AAX, VST 2, VST 3, and Audio Units plugin formats to ensure compatibility with your audio workstation of choice. There are three versions of SampleTank 4 available: SampleTank 4 SE (Over 30GB of samples and 2000 sounds), Sampletank 4 (over 100 GB of samples and 6,000 sounds)and SampleTank 4 MAX (over 250 GB of Samples and 8,000 sounds). This review will focus on SampleTank 4 MAX.
In order to install SampleTank 4, you need to download the installation program and sound files from your IK Multimedia User Area. Make sure you set aside plenty of time to download and install the content, especially for the larger sound libraries as they are quite substantial.
With over 250 Gb of sound content, SampleTank 4 MAX brings us the largest selection of instruments available in the history of SampleTank. Not only do you have a majority of past SampleTank sound content but gigabytes of freshly sampled instrument content included (which varies depending on the version you select).
Take a look at a quick SampleTank 4 intro video:
ALL DRESSED UP
Right away you will notice the new user interface. Taking suggestions from users over the years, IK Multimedia answers the call with a very detailed view. The interface is also resizable to accommodate various display configurations helping it to fit in perfectly with your current workflow.
On the main screen, you have the preset browser. The browser provides many ways to search and sort through the vast amount of sound content. You are presented with thoughtful categories where you can apply various filters and indicate your favorites for quick access later on. As you can imagine dealing with a sound library of this size these are welcome features allowing you to find the sounds you are looking for very quickly.
The beauty is having so many different sounds available to you in only one instrument plugin and SampleTank 4 provides you with up to 16 instrument slots. You have control of MIDI channel, split points, and layering of sounds as well as the mix and blend of the currently loaded instruments. You can also save these setups for fast recall later on.
THE SOUNDS ARE THE STAR
GIMME A C…7 THAT IS
When listening to some of the new sound content I was impressed right away. One instrument that stands out is the newly sampled Yamaha C7 grand piano. The C7 is an iconic staple of the studio many arrangers and producers go-to for that one of a kind sound.
IK Multimedia has taken their time to sample the C7 in such various ways to give you so much flexibility when using it in your arrangements. Providing various mic positions and even binaural stereo recordings lets you cover practically every situation where a piano is needed from rock, jazz, classical and beyond.
6 STRING HEROS
Along with the beautiful C7 IK Multimedia meticulously sampled many classic acoustic and electric guitars. These have such a presence and warmth that I really appreciate when playing through them. The way they were recorded inspires creativity and exploration. The guitars also sit well in a mixing situation. The acoustic guitar presets to me have heart and the electric guitars just have that extra edge you need to pull your arrangements together.
The new guitar presets feature different mic positions that you can mix and blend using SampleTank’s macro controls to get just the right tone you are looking for. Playing styles feature up and down strokes to provide an extra level of realism.
There is no way we can adequately cover each and every instrument group here but let me just say that with all of the instruments, IK Multimedia went the extra mile to ensure that the sounds would tend to be the ones you go to when arranging and producing.
THE ENGINE BEHIND IT ALL
Deep inside SampleTank 4 is a newly designed playback engine that in my opinion make the sounds really come to life. SampleTank 4 also imports SampleTank libraries you might have previously installed.
While previewing presets the improvements were very evident. I was so impressed with the Miroslav Philharmonik 2 sounds that had been imported. They sounded new again like I was hearing them for the first time. ST4 MAX includes a selection from Miroslav Philharmonik 2 that you definitely want to check out.
EFFECTS, EFFECTS AND MORE EFFECTS
IK Multimedia is a leader in amazing audio effects plugins starting back with their T-Racks mastering suite. SampleTank 4 reaps the benefits of IK’s wealth in the effects department by including 70 audio effects. You have access to various EQs, delays, reverbs, compressors, and more. These effects take what are already great sounding samples into brave new territory as well as allowing you the control to tailor the sounds to fit your specific project you are working on.
I love the tape delays and EQs. There are also some gorgeous sounding reverbs taken directly from T-Racks that emulate some of the most recognized reverbs in the industry. You also have various convolution effects that help simulate real-world spaces and allow you to get some very interesting effects. One interesting effect is the Piano Lid simulator that allows you to adjust the lid position when working with piano patches. Having all of these fun effects gives you endless creative options because who says you have to use piano effects on a piano?
With SampleTank4 you are not just limited to the included presets. You are given powerful editing tools to get under the hood to shape and customize the sounds to your heart’s content and then save the result.
LIKE HAVING AN EXTRA SET OF HANDS
SampleTank 4 includes an ingenious ARPEGIATOR, giving you unprecedented performance possibilities but that’s not all as SampleTank 4 also includes a very innovative STRUMMER/PLAYER module.
As keyboardists, we sometimes forget that other instruments are not played in the same way as our beloved black and white keys. Guitars and similar stringed instruments employ different hand positions and voicings that if not executed properly can make the difference in creating a convincing performance. You also have the ability to create your own player presets.
LIVE OR MEMOREX
SampleTank 4 is not only useful in recording and production but also in LIVE performance. The ability to use only one plugin to access multiple sounds and layers is one of the greatest assets.
SampleTank 4 includes a standalone version so you can load it up on your machine of choice to cover just about every situation.
GETTING BETTER EVERY DAY
Since its release, IK Multimedia has updated SampleTank 4 several times to bring new features, performance enhancements, bug fixes, and new sounds. At the time of this review the current version is 4.05.
If you are looking for a workstation solution in only one plugin then SampleTank 4 is a great choice. It gives you everything you need to start playing and producing right out of the box.
To show you how easy it is to get started I put a little “Jam Session” together using only SampleTank 4. Enjoy!