Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: Prime Loops Synth Bass Anthology

Library: Synth Bass Anthology
Downloadable Kontakt, EXS24, Halion, NNXT, WAV, AIFF
Any Electronic Genre
Distributed by:
Prime Loops
Audio demos on the product page.

Synth Bass Anthology is one of the latest offerings from sample developers Prime Loops. As the name suggests, it consists solely of synth bass sounds, although many of the sounds are useful outside that range as well. In total, there are a bit over 80 different multi-sampled synth basses here sourced from a handful of analog classics (Roland Juno-106, Roland MKS-30, Korg MonoPoly, Formanta Polyvox, and the Novation Super Bass Station).

The sounds can be mapped manually, or you can use any of the pre-mapped sample instruments for most of the popular sampler formats. I tested it in Logic's EXS-24. After installing the samples and the instrument files into their respective folders, I fired up Logic and started testing the sounds. Immediately, a small housekeeping problem came up. Several of the raw WAV files had identical names. They're in separate folders, so this doesn't present a problem in that respect, but EXS-24 looks for the source files by file name, and if it comes across two or more samples on your hard drive that have identical file names to the one it is trying to load, it has to ask you to select which one is the correct file. Not a HUGE deal, but pretty annoying (probably at least a third of the instruments use identically-named source files), and a problem that is easily avoidable by giving more distinct files names. Also notable is that the actual instrument settings (filters, envelopes, etc.) in EXS for all of these sounds are totally identical. I found the amp envelope they used with a bit of a release after it sort of inappropriate for a good number of sounds. Again, not an unforgivable sin given how inexpensive this collection is, but you should be aware of what you're getting.

So how about the sounds themselves? Most are really good. There's a pretty broad palette of sounds on offer here. You'll find trembling subs, growling sawtooths, funky/cheesey plucks, biting cross-mod, short and percussive or mellow and sustained. Each synth has a pretty distinctive character and this collection does a pretty decent job of representing that. I found the Polyvoks samples to be the most interesting and most overtly analog-sounding, but you'll find something to like among most of the synths represented here. Most of the sounds are quite simple and the sort of thing that anyone with a decent amount of synth programming experience could wrangle up on their own without too much trouble. I think the value of this collection is more in the individual characters of the synths themselves. Sure, you could program a similar sounding bass, but it's the differences in the oscillators, envelopes, filters, and output stages that really make these instruments sound the way they do.

Now I said that most of these sounds are really good. Unfortunately, there are quite a few sounds in this collection that suffer from noise problems. Obviously, as these are vintage instruments, one expects a little noise, but some of the Juno-106 samples (a notoriously noisy instrument, given) have more than I would consider acceptable from a commercial collection. In some instances, you can hear what sounds like a compressor slowly bringing up the noise floor at the end of the sample. Personally, I think noise and imperfection can be very interesting and are not things to necessarily be shunned, but even in a collection as cheap as this, I think people expect samples they are paying for to be cleanly recorded and produced. Again, just something to take into account.

That said, Prime Loops is currently asking for very little for this collection, so it's perhaps unfair to judge it as stringently as pricier collections. Realistically, I think most people know that not everything in a sample library is going to be usable for them personally. If you're looking for a way to add the character of some classic synths to your tracks, this collection definitely offers a very cheap way to do it. [7.5/10]

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