Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review: MI-7 Sample Library Roundup

In addition to being part of an online musician's community, MI-7 are one of a (relatively) new breed of sample library purveyors who offer most of their wares as downloads. These types of sites are great for a number of reasons. First, because they have no overhead cost in pressing CDs or CD-ROMs, they are generally cheaper. Even better, though, you can have the samples in your hands right away, which is perfect for working musicians on a tight schedule. Today I'll be looking at 3 libraries distributed by MI-7.

Library: PrimeSounds Distoteque
Format: Downloadable WAV and REX2 loops. (Also available as an Audio sampling CD).
Genre: Dark Techno/Dance
Distributed by: MI-7
Price: Individual 'sets' of loops priced anywhere from 1 Euro to 11.60 Euro.
Demo: All loops are previewable on the website

First up, we have Distoteque from PrimeSounds. This library is divided up into 17 smaller downloadable sets arranged by the type of loops contained. The cost of each of these is determined by how many loops are contained in the set. Additionally, you can buy loops individually. MI-7 is one of the only sites I've seen that allows you to do this (it's true of their other libraries as well), so kudos for that. It can save you a lot of money so you don't have to pay for loops you're not going to use. All of samples MI-7 distributes are previewable on the site, so you know what you're getting in advance - another really nice feature.

The loops in Distoteque are not full-on drum loops. Instead, they provide interesting electronic (and heavily processed) rhythmic and percussive elements to add more life and interest to your existing drum tracks. This is a very handy kind of drum library indeed and for working musicians, it can be a huge time-saver when you're up against a deadline. The overall sound of Distoteque could loosely be categorized as 'dark techno', but the loops would work well in pretty much any dance-oriented genre that needs a bit of an edge. Used by themselves, I could see them adapting to soundtrack work quite well, too. The original BPM of all the loops is at 130, but so long as you're using the REX2 versions of the files, this isn't much of a concern. All of the loops transpose within a very flexible range of tempos without any noticable artifacts in your REX player of choice.

The library is divided into sections labeled Distance, HiLife, LoLife, Saturation, Tonals, and Transients to give you a vague idea of what types of loops are contained within. The overall sound of the library is very electronic with processing from every manner of filter, ring modulator, bitcrusher and other sonic manipulator you can imagine. Some of them have a darker sound to them (the Distance and LoLife categories), some are more upfront and present (HiLife and Transients), some are a bit harder and more distorted (Saturation), and some have vague musical or synth elements to them (Tonals). All of the loops sound fantastic and very useable right off the bat. The programming is very skillful throughout and makes it very easy to add a 'techy' element to your tracks. There's really not a bad loop in the bunch. 10/10.

Library: Filibuster Beatbytes
Format: Downloadable WAV and REX2 loops.
Genre: Noise/Experimental
Distributed by: MI-7
Price: Individual 'sets' of loops priced anywhere from 3.92 Euro to 6.72 Euro.
Demo: All loops are previewable on the website.

This library describes itself as: "For those requiring a little grit and grime, digitised and distressed, beats and add-ons in 80 bpm." Talk about understatements. Most of the loops in this collections are distorted into oblivion, oftentimes to the point of being little more than white noise with some sort of rhythmic gate/pulse to it. The loops tend to be more shrill than aggressive, which will restrict their usefulness to a relatively small group of musicians. It's a bit more 'power electronics' sounding than 'power/rhythmic noise' as far as genre classification goes. Even for those experimental types, I question the usefulness of this library since most noise and experimental artists I know prefer to create their own sounds from scratch. Some musicians doing industrial rock or metal might find them useful to use in the intro to a track, but even that seems a bit doubtful given how boring some of the loops themselves are. There's nothing especially spectacular here from a programming perspective. The loops are short, simple, and would seem to be really annoying if used for any length of time in a song (but perhaps that's the point). As before, however, you can buy loops individually, so you can just pick out what you like and leave the rest. 3/10

Library: Prime SFX Impacts
Format: Individual sounds as WAVs (Also available as an Audio sampling CD).
Genre: Industrial/Soundtrack/Foley/Post-production/anything that needs bangs
Distributed by: MI-7
Price: Individual 'sets' of sounds priced anywhere from 2.28 Euro to 15.20 Euro.
Demo: All sounds are previewable on the website

Finally, we have Impacts from Prime SFX, a company specializing in sound effects collections for use in video and audio post-production. While many of their offerings would primarily be of interest to people working in television and film, the Impacts collection would probably appeal to a much wider audience given how well it lends itself to being used as percussion.

Unlike the previous sets reviewed here, this one consists not of loops, but of individual samples, or more accurately, several samples. For whatever reason, Prime SFX just uploaded the tracks from the Audio Sampling CD format for download, so each 'sound' is actually an audio file with (generally) 3 different variations of the same sound one after the other. While it is really useful to have these different strikes (perfect for adding realism in any sampler that offers a 'round robin' cycling mode), I think when most people purchase a downloadable library, they expect the sounds to be edited for them and ready to go right off the bat. I'm sure they figured these would mainly be used by video editors who would edit the sound they needed into place, but I still maintain these should've been edited in advance.

With that one little complaint out of the way, the quality of this library is excellent. Just about every type of loud smash, rattle, bang, and clang is on offer here with sources such as doors, fences, oil drums, springs, glass panels, concrete, plastic, paper, wood, etc. Everything here works well as percussion instruments and the recording quality is very good (there is some limiting on some sounds, presumably to add to the impact, but it isn't the point of being obnoxious). If you're looking for some interesting organic sounds to build rhythm tracks with, you will not be disappointed. And as a former video editor myself, I can say these sounds compare very favorably with other sound effects collections I worked with in the past. I'm giving this one a 9/10, but only because the sounds are not edited. Everything else about the library is a full 10.

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