Audio, Reviews

SampleTank 4 is a true musician’s playground

IK Multimedia’s sound and groove workstation has been upgraded to SampleTank 4. The MAX edition comes with a huge library of samples and it has a new sound engine that is much more efficient than the previous version. Furthermore, the interface design is gorgeous and can be resized.

SampleTank has become a modern looking sampling powerhouse. It has a completely new scalable interface, a huge sample library and a new sound engine that is more efficient. I love SampleTank 4 MAX for the incredible number of samples and the many LFO, Filter and other controls, and for its virtual effects equipment rack.

SampleTank 4 has new editing options and a new modulation matrix. A new arpeggiator, strummer, and pattern and loop players are available too.

I first downloaded the whole SampleTank MAX sound library. It took me the better part of two whole days to get the over 260 GB and 8,000 instrument presets on my local hard disk. I think IK Multimedia could successfully charge a little extra for a pre-loaded hard disk drive or an SSD containing all those samples; in my opinion, people would gladly pay a small premium for not having to spend hours and hours downloading this much data. Ed.: IK Multimedia informed me they do have a drive with all the sounds preloaded, which, apparently, I overlooked on their website. It costs an extra 30 Euros, which is worth the money in my opinion.

IK Multimedia says that: “SampleTank 4’s new library is the product of dozens of carefully conducted recording sessions in multiple cities across Europe and the United States as well as in our new, custom-built recording facility in Modena, Italy.” I went through every sub-library in SampleTank 4’s hugely improved sound browser and found that about half of the sounds have been available from SampleTank 3. The other half seems to have been recorded on later dates.

Far from sounding inferior, those older samples do sometimes seem less efficient CPU-wise with the new ones seemingly having been recorded specifically with processing optimisation in mind.

The redesigned sound browser has an advantage over the older one: it not only allows you to select samples based on sub-library – SampleTank 4 only, SampleTank 3, Syntronik… etc – but also to filter them by timbre, style, genre, mood, and more. And detailed descriptions of each sound, effects and macro provide all the information you need at a glance.

In one word: SampleTank’s sound browser is extremely efficient and a joy to work with.

SampleTank’s layering and mixing capabilities are further made more efficient by a new Parts interface, which offers visual indications of each loaded sample, and easy access to volume, pan, mute, and solo controls.

While I never got around to mixing with SampleTank 3, because the interface looked confounding, I must say SampleTank 4’s mixer is an example of how a good interface can make a difference. It lets you access all the available effects, and you can mix an entire track in one window, keeping you focused on the music.

SampleTank 4 adds 13 new effects – for a total of 70 – which have all been derived from the company’s AmpliTube and T-RackS software. I tried all of them, and they’re all great for modern style music genres and soundtracks. Included are realistic tube saturation and analogue pedal effects, professional studio processors and more. There’s also a new effects modulation matrix, giving you more ways to modulate and shape your sound.

The app’s full MIDI control now seamlessly integrates with IK’s iRig Keys I/O controllers. These allow you to browse and load sounds from the DATA knob, control any of the eight macros instantly from the touch-sensitive encoders, control the transport and even trigger loops or browse drum samples, or launch live-set ups directly from the integrated pad controllers.

SampleTank 4 has indeed become a true musician’s “playground”.