What I first thought to be part of some free perks that come with an iRig product, turned out to be quite a wonderful sound and groove app/plug-in. SampleTank 3 SE has great sounding and real-world audio samples and works both as a stand-alone app and a plug-in to your DAW.
SampleTank SE is IK Multimedia’s app for creating and processing samples. In the SE edition, there are about 400 of them, but if you buy the MAX edition you’ll get about ten times as many. More often than not, the SE, LE and other “Light” editions of software is either crippled or sounds like crap, but much to my surprise my leisurely Sunday download of SampleTank 3 SE was a pleasurable experience, especially in terms of sound quality of the included audio samples.
I am not a fanatic at anything but I do listen to classical (from polyphony times to the early 20th Century) music almost exclusively. You won’t see me jumping up and down when the latest album of “The boss” is released or when I hear Adèle’s voice on a radio, but I won’t try to vehemently force my personal preference for Harnoncourt or Rattle over von Karajan either.
However, by listening to this specific kind of music I like for four decades, I have learned a thing or two about what instruments should sound like. I’ve learned how a cello is meant to sound, the difference between a Steinway and a Yamaha piano, the difference between several baroque and romantic church organs, etc.
When I have to evaluate a digital audio sample or recording, I always tend to go back to that “audible knowledge” in order to make out for myself if it’s any good or downright rubbish. Apple’s Logic Pro has some great samples, but most of them are clearly not based on actual recordings. I understand why: if you take an actual recording of one instrument, you’re instantly ruling out all other instrument timbres, audible quirks different instruments of that type can have, etc. For a musician that might not be what he/she wants.
But in terms of audible characteristics of those samples, I can easily make them sound terrible, because they only sound good within a very limited number of octaves. I expected the same sort of audible “behaviour” from the SampleTank 3 SE samples — after all, Logic Pro is at the top-end of the DAW market and everything below that must sound worse, right?
Wrong, it seems. The Grand piano in the SampleTank 3 SE edition is clearly taken from a real piano. The explanation even tells you the IK Multimedia engineers have recorded it with lid open and closed. Its sound quality is pure and beautiful, and in the full version you’ll even get to choose between the Steinway and the Yamaha. I also listened to the cello. Same lovely experience. The church organ, same thing — although it’s only one organ of the many there are, of course.
As for the SampleTank 3 SE interface and features, they are on par with other equivalent plug-ins, except perhaps that SampleTank SE is multi-track capable and very user-friendly.
Judging from SampleTank SE, I find IK Multimedia’s software offering to be of great value to composers and musicians. The quality of the audio samples surpasses what I’ve heard from high-end DAW samples like Logic Pro and Reason. Pricing is available on IK Multimedia’s site and is competitive. SampleTank SE, however, comes free with iRig devices.