Sampletank was always one of those tools that I only used for the libraries that were ST only, but didn't own it - until now. ST3 has been touted here and elsewhere as a huge step forward, and I think it is.
The first thing that struck me about it is the size of the library - 33GB, which covers a very wide range of instruments and sounds. The GUI has been improved slightly, and for the most part is user-friendly, relatively intuitive.
As with any sampler, the sound libraries are the most important thing, and IKM has done a pretty good job at providing some high quality samples. The EDM and band side of things is covered quite well, and there's a relatively complete set of orchestral instruments too. Some of the orchestral instruments sound good in part of the range and more obviously sampled in others. For example, the solo strings don't always sound perfect, but I am impressed with the sounds of the ensemble strings; and some of the brass instruments don't sound quite right at the high end of their range, but are good in the lower register.
What is very impressive is the integrated MIDI player - you can select an instrument, then a MIDI pattern on the next tab, and play a particular MIDI pattern by pressing the key it is assigned to - very useful for things like drums and bass lines.
One thing I would like to have seen is slightly better naming conventions for some of the instruments and their parent folders, but overall the organization of instruments is good, and it make it easy to find a sound that you need.
A point to note is that this is now a 64-bit tool (Yay!), but there is no longer a 32-bit version. Not a big deal for most people I think, and personally I have no problems as I've gone completely 64-bit.
In summary, I think this is a damn good upgrade from ST2, and with different versions at different price points available, worth considering.
I've had this just long enough to get a good feel for it, so I thought I'd give my thoughts.
First, this has excellent sounds. They sound natural, not thin, and they fit into a mix well with the softsynths I use (Harmor, Sytrus, Crystal, and most of the NI products). There's an excellent, though imperfect, variety. Though this won't replace most special purpose packages, it will serve as an excellent place holder until you are sure you need them. And, at least in my case, most of the time I expect I won't.
Second, as someone who owns Total Studio 3, and hence lots of sampler-ish synths from IK, I find it quite nice that I'm able to import them all into one interface. In my perfect world I'd be able to categorize every sound sample and I own in a more user-friendly version of something like Massive's interface, and be able to choose from all the sounds of one type from a central resource. This can't do that, but it does move in that direction.
As a final thought on the positive side, the interface of ST3 is incredibly much improved from previous versions. The ST2 XL interface was painfully tiny on my 24" 1080p monitor, and god help anyone who tried to view it on a laptop screen with even higher resolution. ST3 is neat, clean, and quite readable. Enough so I'm betting even on a 17" 2560x1600 resolution laptop it would still be usable.
The MIDI seems clumsy in many ways, and I wish it could be polished. And I wish it supported sf2 and sfz files. That doesn't seem like too much to ask. Or nki files, which *is* too much to ask. ;)
Oh, and it's 64-bit only. I use a 32-bit DAW, so I have to use it bridged. Not the biggest problem in the world, but a minor annoyance.
I got this for $99, and it was a steal at that price. In a world where you can get Komplete for $400, however, I'm pretty skeptical about the fact full retail is $350. But if you can get it as an upgrade, or on sale, definitely go for it.
UPDATE: ok, I have read the KVR forum on this product after still being underwhelmed by it...I get it, I get it: all this thing is is a sample player with limited/marginally useful editing capabilities. It has Band-in-a-Box pre-set/non-user editable or definable pattern playback that I guess provides a bed to play on top of. I dunno...well, actually, I do know: my Korg M1 from the Legacy Digital Edition blows it out of the water. At least with that one can change the samples & do quick and easy MIDI learn assignments (my two major gripes with ST3)...the only thing I find crappy about Korg M1 Legacy is the small font and poor choice of color which creates difficultly to read the graphic elements.
Let me clarify myself for the readers and record:
What part of ST3 DOES get a 10/10 review? that would easily be Peter - IK Multimedia...he's a real trooper: pro-active, tireless, engaged with the community...he's an asset to IK Multimedia.
I am positively impartial to the fact that IK Multimedia is an Italian company too.
...ok, that is where my kudos end...all the things I have wrote below still hold in my opinion and everyone is entitled to one I guess.
I am glad at least 3/11 people to date have found this review useful.
(the previous reviews below have elements omitted as I feel I come across as venomous/harsh towards this product...I truly am NOT)
UPDATE: nothing has changed from what I have wrote below sometime last year (2014)...well, i take that back, things have changed: they added a wonderful little store inside their product so you can spend money on their presets...Bogus.
one more thing to add to this update: Sampletank takes SO long to load a Multi (let's say)...why?
Punchy sounding (thanks to the 5 insert effects slots per part)
-I wish I could drop my own MIDI files into it to trigger the sounds rather than the pre-made stuff.
-I wish I could load my Soundfonts into it.
-I wish I could mute/unmute the 16 parts within a performance scenario...cannot do this as it seems the mutes only respond to whichever MIDI channel I am currently on: if I am on multitimbral part 1 then the mute for that channel can only be controlled via my external control...and so on.
-I wish that the MIDI learn mode would stay on until I determine when I done assigning things...it seems it is only on for one assignment at a time.
well, those are my gripes and I would hope these seemingly simple negatives could be addressed in the next revision.
the sounds are good and sit well when in the mix with my arsenal of killer softsynths (omnisphere, blue, spectral, zeta2...to name a few)...
it is what it is: a rompler and it holds up extremely well for me.
USER INTERFACE: Clear, logical, very easy to use, though graphically it could be improved. In any case all you have to use is there.
SOUND: The sound is good but definitely not professional in my opinion. It can be a useful scratch pad for your compositions, but I would be really surprised if it was used in a professional production. It can import wav and akai formats and many sample format converters include sampletank I and II, but Sampletank remains a rompler, so if you're looking for a sampler, you better search something else.
FEATURES: This is were Sampletank really shines. It is 16 part multitimbral, each part can be assigned 5 insert effects (and the effects are really good), then there are Send effects and master effects; it has three sampler engines, among wich STRETCH and PSTS are the most interesting. PSTS means Pitch Shifting Time Stretching and this means that rhythmic loops can be synchronized to the host tempo. STRETCH gives you independent control over tempo, pitch and harmonics of a sample, giving realistic result and avoiding the chipmunk effect and giving really good sonic possibilities. So it is capable of transposing pitch without changing tempo of a sample, or do whatever you want.
DOCUMENTATION: it ships with a printed manual that explains really well all the features.
PRESETS: as in sound
CUSTOMER SUPPORT: Good and fast. I've sent them emails that were answered within one or two days. Sometimes after a few hours.
VALUE FOR MONEY: This is not its main strength, if you consider that it costs the same or more than other much better competitors.
So, in my opinion, Sampletank is a really powerful weapon charged with mediocre samples. If IK Multimedia will raise the quality of the samples it will be unbeatable.
Many years ago I had given up on the idea of using VST Soft Synths for creating any type of decent sounding music. Back then everything sounded tinny and weak and it just didn't live up to my expectations. I ended up buying and using all hardware based sound modules.
A couple of years back I heard the Yamaha Motif ES and ended up selling all of my hardware sound modules on eBay just to buy that keyboard. That was definitely the best keyboard purchase I have ever made.
Recently I've been working in a gaming studio (as a programmer) and the audio guys turned me onto a lot of the latest software modules - kontact, Reason, a lot of the sample libraries, and tons of VST effects. Boy these software modules have come a long way over the years and I quickly became convinced to beef up my instrument arsenal with a couple of these...
It turns out that I own an older copy of T-RackS so I decided to go with IK Multimedia's crossgrade option to get a current copy of SampleTank 2.5. Boy what a great purchase that was.
I tend to gravitate towards orchestral sounds, with some synths, basic acoustic and electric pianos, and drums etc. On all of the lines, SampleTank does not disappoint. The sounds coming directly out of the module rival the richness and fullness of the stock Motif ES sounds and I am finding myself turning to the SampleTank library more, and more, and more.
It is definitely worth the money. The sound library you get with the product is more than enough to make the purchase worth it. A couple of negative points:
1) The sample Miroslov sounds that come with the unit (they just give you some to tease you) always crash my computer. I don't experience this with any other samples in the library.
2) Now I kind of wish that SampleTank imported a few more file formats, although given the availability of Wav and AIFF samples etc. I don't think I'll really ever run out of available sound libraries.
3) The sheer number of sounds available makes it hard to pick which ones to use. This really isn't a negative. I probably just need to make a list or spreadsheet or something that are my favorites.
Now to the positives:
1) Unbelievably rich sounds with the ability to layer them. Total thumbs up! 2) Great value for the money. 3) Has been performing very well in my sequences (Sonar 6) with the exceptions of a couple of samples (seem to be the Miroslav ones). 4) Excellent array of libraries available to fill your sounds up to your heart's content. 5) The thing just sounds utterly fantastic.
All in all I would really recommend this software to anyone willing to get into a sample player that's rich, full, and easy to work with.
I am amazed there are so few reviews for what is the best example of a company paying attention to their users.
IK Multimedia had a good product with SampleTank XL and XXL 1.0. The samples were of excellent quality and blended in well with other developers who worked within the SampleTank engine.
It did have two downfalls. First, the interface which for some, myself included was impossible to view and second, although the sample data was downright beautiful to useful at worst, ST1 wasn't very programmable.
Well, things have changed, and the changes have been nothing short of fantastic; WAV, AIFF, SDII, AKAI S-1000/3000 and SAMPLECELL are all supported. Name a feature, like the multiple filters, incredible effects, envelopes or all major functions, great filters, and you decide how to use them, although I suspect, many users will be pleased with the sample/patch set right out of the box.
I wanted a synthesis section worthy of the massive number of additional libraries and got my wish. Look at the features and seriously consider what can be done in ST2. How much more do you need? If it's complete control get a modular.
As I view it, SampleTank 2 is a niche product, a rather large niche product, but one, none the less. But as we'll see in this review, there is use for ST2 on virtually any synthesist's setup.
The way you look at ST2 will depend on how you work. Are you a tweaky type? Do you need to design, mangle, get the perfect quality to the sound you are working with and it's just not quite where you want it?
If so, SampleTank 2 has gone to exceptional lengths to help you out. No longer is ST2 a sample playback engine with a few user controls and excellent effects section, which in itself was capable of major changes for any given sound. But all that has changed with ST2.
Besides being a world class instrument, the sample import features are a major boon. SampleTank 2 is the real thing now. It's a sampler with a impressive 8 gig library of smartly thought out samples that are easily categorized with it's database functions. Beyond that, the sample quality is excellent which would be a necessity for a sample playback device, but have a look at the new, wonderfully customizable interface. Can't stand that red motif? Change it to anything you like and take in the clean lines and smashing synthesizer that SampleTank 2 has become.
Yes, it is a sample playback, subtractive synthesizer, but compare it to hardware of the same quality. Actually, strike that; compare ST2 to hardware with similar features. Hmm, scratch that too, there aren't any 8 gig sample synths that offer hundreds of exemplary multi-sampled sounds. Actually, make that closer to 128 mb or so, maybe expandable to 512 mb, assuming you'd even want the expansion libraries that'd cost you about $200 a shot for something between 16 to 64 mb of data and a few patches.
In a comparason like this, well, there isn't a fair one. SampleTank 2 and it's huge library of additional sounds, for example, the mellotron set which, while far from the G-Media virtual mellotron, M-Tron and it's 2 gig library at around $150, or slightly more than the AMG library for ST2, is still miles ahead of traditional libraries although the samples have been cleaned up and looped unlike M-Tron, which keeps to the mellotron tradition, but you get the point.
SampleTank 2 is loaded with wonderfully useful samples of "so-called" real instruments along with wonderful synth and effects sounds. And if 8 gigs of a well balanced, all you could want library doesn't do it for you, and considering that ST2 is now a serious synth with all the power of many other synthesizers and front ends for other libraries, it's hard to figure out why anyone would not like what ST2 has to offer, nor it's efficient 8 gig library. Efficient? An 8 gig library called efficient is like calling Jabba the Hut slim. These sounds which occupy a good deal of space are large, there is no doubt, but they are also filled with expression and to my delight, in areas that might have gotten in the way with other excellent libraries such as Sonik Synth 2 which share some similar "real" sounds, they are like variations on a theme, like comparing a Steinway to a Bosendorfer. Yeah, they're both pianos, but that's as appropriate as saying a Porche and PT Cruiser are automobiles. They are, and while the price/quality function isn't germain here, the idea of any two visions of sample/patch developers ideas of a great piano patch being identical are silly.
I'm a guitarist by trade. If you tell me a Gibson Les Paul is same sounding to a Fender Telecaster, I'll say check your hearing, 'cause the only things in common are they use pickups and are called guitars. Beyond that the sound, and SampleTank 2 has it's own sound as does any fine quality sample library, is one you will find useful again and again. Speaking of again, ST2 is a great companion to Sonik Synth 2, also in ST2 format, plus it's own wonderful GUI.
Overall I am extremely happy with the product. It is dead simple to use and the XL version comes with plenty of usable sounds. The effects, such as amp modeling etc, that come from amplitube are what set it apart. I use it primarilty for real instrument sounds. I am waiting for the new Sonic Synth, which will include alot of vintage sounds in Sampletank format, but for now I use Moog Modular and Spectrasonics stuff for pads, etc. I have imported AKAI, expecially ethnic drum loops an it works like a charm. The real competition for Sampletank is Mach Five. They are about the same price but I decided on Sampletank, because it came with a better set of sounds and had effects. Mach-five uses a third-party import tool (Extreme or Chickensys translator) that is much more diverse and much faster. Sampletank imports Akai very easily, but the other formats I have had problems with. There are a lot of good sounds coming out in Sampeltank format, so if you want a great, turn the machine on and play application Sampletank is it. Sampletank 2 had some stability issues before the 2.06 version, but no problems since.
I have been interested in SampleTank 2 for a while, but I took note of the complaints about instability in Cubase and general bugginess. I figured I would wait I while.
Well, I waited, and I can now say that this is already an indispensible composition tool. DO NOT underestimate how much more productive you will be when you work within the same environment. ST2 loads very fast and is unusually intutitive.
In short, I use it on every project, and it's fast, sounds great and is, well, fun to use!
The CPU usage on my machine is very reasonable, but what is really imporessive is how the sounds blends together.
It's hard to describe, but they have an organic feel. Even some sounds that are merely good sound great when combined with other sounds. Some kinda mojo, but it really does work.
It's also worth adding that the KVR support - in the person of Squids - is superb. He responds to posts very promptly and he is always gracious and generous with his time. Gotta love that.
For what it's worth, my advice is to forget about the early negative things you may have heard. Its running beautifully on my machine and I could not be happier.
After reading a few reviews of Sampletank 2 XL and playing about with the demo, I decided to take the plunge and part with my hard earned cash on this 'Super ROMpler'. I wasn't disappointed!
The XL version comes with about 1500 sounds (plus loops)covering a wide range of (mainly) organic instruments including Brass, Strings, Guitars (electric and acoustic), Vocals / Choir, Woodwinds, Drums (electric and acoustic), Bass (double, synth, fingered fretless), aswell as Lead Synth, Fx, ...The list goes on. With so many sounds there are always going to be some that would not cut it in a commercial project (IMO). However, with the depth of sounds Sampletank has it is perfect for mapping out you ideas and getting the framework in place and there are enough sounds that are highly useable in a professional situation.
Due to the settings available in the module there is scope for manipulating the sounds to get what you are looking for. You can add up to 5 effects including, Reverb, Chorus Flanger (25 or so to choose from)as well alter settings such as pitch fine-tuning and LFO's.
A nice feature of Sampletank is the ability to import AKAI samples and patches directly into the Sampler. This is a painless operation and only takes a few minutes to convert whole cds.
Overall this is a great all in one workstation that has plenty of useable sounds. It is perfect for mapping ideas at the very least and has many sounds that could be used professionally at best. Personally, if i was starting out, this would be my first VSTi purchase as it covers all the bases although the price is quite high for some users(but good value for money all the same).
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