Friday, February 20th, 2004 | 9:56 am and filed in Reviews.
This is a solicited review requested by Loopmasters. I purchased these libraries through the Big Fish Audio website and they were delivered in a few days. After realizing that my sample library seemed to be lacking in certain areas, I specifically chose the Jazz/World, and Lounge/Chillout collections based on the product descriptions. I’m constantly on the lookout for acoustic instrument and raw percussion samples as well as acoustic drum and percussion loops and samples, and I’m happy to say that I have found these two libraries to be quite a refreshing change from the same old programmed sample libraries.
The Loopmaster libraries are delivered on CD-ROM, and typically provide about 450 to 500 megabytes of sample data in Microsoft WAV and ReCycle RX2 format. Both the audio and ReCycle files are 16bit /44.1 kHz files. About 70 megabytes are occupied with promotional demo loops in WAV format showcasing the other Loopmaster titles. The basic file formats make these libraries accessible to MacOS 9/X, Windows, and other operating systems. I had no problems copying the data over to my hard drive, and simply accessing the samples directly from the file browser—this is probably the best way to manage the library.
The WAV format is ideally suited for users of applications like ACID, Live, Logic, etc. the producers of these libraries have included Reason patch files for the multisamples and Redrum kits, making them especially useful for Reason users. While these patch files are useful for Reason users, hardware and other software sampler users will have to go through the trouble of mapping these manually.
Several things impressed me about the Jazz/World and Lounge/Chillout Libraries. The audio recordings are top quality matched with equally stunning performances from very talented live musicians. The audio samples have just the right amount of outboard processing to make them usable as elements in a track without standing out from the rest of a track. The production quality is the credited to the engineering skills of Harvey Summers and Simon Southgate, who recorded these performances at Swine Studios in the UK.
The overall feel of these Libraries is a produced tracking session. By this I mean that the samples are extracted from the individual tracks of a song. The loops are very tight and have that energy as if they were played and tracked live with each player in iso booths. The loops complement each other fairly well, and there’s very little need for timing correction to match a drum groove with the bass. Either it was tracked live, or someone is a madman with the editor! Each Library is like a specific production kit which can help you achieve cool results in a very short amount of time.
The samples are categorized by instruments, with subdirectories listed by tempo. As long as you stick to loops in the same tempo category, you can build up a very lush sounding production in a few minutes. I even noticed that these two different seem to complement each other well, so loops from 100BPM J/W library match those in the 100BPM L/C library.
The Drum Loops and individual hits are stereophonic with the elements balanced in the stereo field. Layering up several drum loops is a bit overkill since each individual loop is already quite rich. The producers were quite meticulous with the ReCycle editing, and there’s no need to adjust slice points. Decreasing the tempo on the RX2 files seems to work well down to 20% before the groove loses integrity. This amount varies since some loops still sounded great with a 50% tempo decrease.
I really must applaud the musicianship on most of these samples. The drummer is really tight and has some fantastic original grooves that provide solid foundations for a variety of styles. The bass performances are also top notch with some catchy hooks usable for commercial projects. There are plenty of usable percussion loops with intricate patterns which can be used as templates for groove quantization. The Solo sax samples have a great sound and with some creative manipulation, you can create some great lead riffs.
The loops are solid for the most part, and the editing quality matches the stunning audio. For those using audio loops, you should have no problems implementing the loops in your software or hardware samplers. For those who use ReCycle files in Cubase, Logic, Reason, or even Reason Adapted, the RX2 can be imported and synchronized to the song tempo. In most cases, for every WAV loop there is a matching RX2 file, so the producers have done all of the work. There are few cases where there are more WAV files than RX2 loops for some of the instrumental parts.
Content Overview Jazz/World Library
|Double Bass||Nice usable bass loops and multisample upright bass|
|Drums||Stunning drum and percussion loops and individual hits|
|Flute||Great Flute Riffs. I wish there were more of these|
|Guitar||Several different styles played on different instruments|
|Piano||Ok phrases, but not so usable|
|Sax Section||lush sound of sax section hits. Perhaps a bit too much of the same|
|Saxophone||There are some nice sax riffs from a great sounding instrument|
One problem with the J/W library is that there are four distinct styles, African, Cuban, Latin, and Jazz, and there isn’t always a clear indication of which loops complement. The matching samples are there, but you need to explore the different files before you can come up with a solid match. Because the samples are spread across different styles, the number of usable combinations is limited. It takes a bit of work and groove averaging to make loops from different tempos fit together, but obviously this was not the original intent of the library.
There are 57 loops of acoustic piano riffs that don’t seem to complement the J/W library. This is a purely subjective opinion, but the performance on the piano does not meet the standards set by the other musicians. The timing is very tight on these loops, so these loops seemed to be performed by someone who is classically trained, or a drummer who is chopping out chords with precision timing. With jazz or Cuban styles, I would expect something with a little more syncopation. There are a couple of ragtime loops that sound really out of place. Also, the individual slices of several loops contain artifacts when a slice occurs in the middle of a sustained note, which limits their use in Dr.REX players.
The multisample bass patch functions perfectly in Reason, however the mapping is rather intricate, so without these patch files, it would be difficult to recreate the patch in other software or hardware samplers.
Content Overview Lounge/Chillout Library
Content Overview Lounge/Chillout Library
|Bass Loops||Some really groovy fretless bass loops|
|Double Bass Multi||Same samples as J/W Multi - Patches Improperly Mapped.|
|Drum Kits||10 different kits with ReDrum Patches|
|Drum Loops||Solid groovy drum loops and Rex files|
|FX & Atmospheres||Single samples of layered sound textures|
|Pads||Highly produced texture multisamples with NN-XT patches|
|Percussion||Clean and very usable one shot samples|
|Sequences||Miscellaneous sequenced sound loops. My favorites are the talkbox guitar loops|
The Upright Bass multisample NN-XT patches on L/C library are improperly mapped. The root key information is not adjusted for the individual samples, so mapping features on any sampler will not automatically set the zones.
Upon a closer inspecting, these are the identical upright bass samples included in both the J/W and L/C libraries. It seems that the producers attempted the old shortcut of copying the directory and renaming the samples without reconciling the file paths in the NN-XT patch. Because the files were renamed, Reason will not automatically replace the samples. I’ve fixed the patches, and users should make a copy of the “Double Bass Multi” folder on a local hard drive, then place these SXT files in the directory.
The Multisample pad samples do not contain root key or zone information so these must also be manually mapped in samplers other than the NN-XT. The file name contains the root key name, so this task is not quite as difficult since 4 to 7 zones are typically mapped.
There are number of one-shot percussion samples. It would be useful if ReDrum (.DRP) patches were provided for these sets, or even velocity sensitive NN-XT patches. Of course, these can be easily customized in any sampler.
After shipping and taxes, each CD costs a little over $80 US if you order through Big Fish Audio. This is not exactly a small investment for what totals to about 30 minutes of unique sounds. However if you’re a UK consumer, the £39.95 price seems like a bargain. I’m not going to say that everyone needs either of these libraries, but if you need some unique acoustic instrument loops in the REX format, then you will not be disappointed with the Loopmaster Libraries. If you’re the type who looks for a good bargain with every possible bit squeezed out of the CD, then these are probably not for you. If you’re looking for really solid drum loops and fills with uncompromising audio quality, then the Jazz/World and Lounge/Chillout Libraries are definitely worthwhile investments.