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.