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.