IK Multimedia has announced the arrival of SampleTank 4. They’ve massively increased the sound library, revitalised the sound engine and made the GUI scalable.
SampleTank is probably is probably the least exciting software synthesizer – but that’s exactly why it’s been around for so long and finds itself useful. Where many other monster sound libraries fill themselves with bells and whistles, complexity and possibility SampleTank is all about being a workhorse of useful sounds. And it does that simply and easily, no fuss, no mess, here’s your sound, yep that works. I’ve always seen it as the software equivalent of those old hardware synth workstations like the Roland JV1080 or Yamaha Motif (it’s been around that long!).
This new version now comes with 250GB of sound library filling the needs of 8,000 presets. I think that’s 5 times the size of the previous version. You’ll probably need to buy a new hard disk just for this. The new content comes from record sessions in cities across the world and also in their new custom-built studio in Italy. Acoustic instruments have been captured with multiple articulations and round-robins for as authentic a performance as they can manage. There’s a huge acoustic piano, a range of electric pianos, a massive collection of synthesizer sounds, new brass and string sections and drum kits galore. There’s an awful lot of sounds in here and I hope IK has beefed up the browser and filter options to make navigating this vast list comprehensible.
The sound editing was never the focus of SampleTank but there’s a decent amount there if you want to tweak your sounds. The GUI is now resizable which is great because the controls and parameters have often been a bit tiny. Inside you have control over envelopes, oscillators, portamento, polyphony and chose from 16 modelled filters. A modulation matrix lets you get into some serious parameter manipulation. You can also edit articulations within the sounds which is very cool.
You can layer up to 16 sounds setting up split points and global parameters and then mix between them. A very welcome new mixer window gives volume, pan, mute/solo and routing for all 16 channels. There are 4 effects sends and a master bus with 5 inserts. It comes complete with vintage styled and modelled channel strips. There are 70 effects within this beast.
SampleTank has been famous for its beats but version 4 takes that further. It comes with 4 “groove players” that are ready to animate your sounds. There’s an Arpeggiator, Strummer, Phraser and Loop Manager. The Arp does its thing, the Strummer uses chords to intelligently construct accompaniment, Phraser maps in a choice of over 4,000 MIDI patterns and the Loop Manager has you browsing through 7,500 loops to find the perfect one.
SampleTank sometimes gets overlooked because it’s been around forever and doesn’t have the style or coolness of Kontakt based libraries or other sample libraries. But version 4 is a phenomenal sound source that will always have something useful to offer in any situation. The animation and modulation possibilities are immense and so building up your own bank of sounds could become an occupation in of itself. Is it too big, is there a chance that you’d never know where to begin? Maybe. In which case start with SampleTank 4 SE – that’s a sensible 30GB of sounds and 2,000 presets for €149 or €99 if you preorder. The regular version comes with 100GB and 6,000 sounds for €299 (preorder €199). Or go for the “Max” version for €499 or €299 if you preorder.