SampleTank 3 Review
More than 10 years in the making, IK Multimedia’s SampleTank 3 ($299.99) has finally arrived. Building upon the successes of 2003’s SampleTank 2, SampleTank 3 features a massive 33 gigabyte sound library, comprised of over 4,000 instruments in 21 instrument categories, as well as a full suite of 55 integrated effects from IK’s Amplitube and T-Racks plugins and a complete mixer interface.
SampleTank 3 has three pages to its interface: Play, Mix, and Edit. Play is where you’ll find the browser, which is used for loading Multis, Instruments, and Patterns. An Info button can be clicked to view a 3D rendering of any given instrument, along with a description, memory info, macro info, and more. As with previous versions of the program, SampleTank 3 offers sixteen parts for every instance of the plugin. Each part can contain one instrument as well as 128 patterns (assigned to MIDI notes on the keyboard). The Macro panel offers easy access to the eight most important settings for every SampleTank 3 instrument, such as EQ, Reverb, Cutoff, Resonance, etc.
Right from the outset I was pleasantly surprised by SampleTank 3’s interface. Simply click on the drop-down menu for any of the 21 instrument categories (including drums, strings, guitars, ethnic instruments, and just about everything in between), and you’ll be presented with a huge amount of instrument choices and playing styles broken down into individual sub-categories. From here you can either select from the vast assortment of over 2000 MIDI patterns, or hook up your favorite MIDI controller (I used IK’s iRig KEYS PRO), and get down to creating some music.
All of the samples and loops within SampleTank 3 can be manipulated using IK’s proprietary, formant-preserving STRETCH engine, allowing users to combine just about any of the assorted samples and loops to their heart’s content. The key of each pattern can even be individually manipulated, and there’s also a quick global key change function to ensure that all of the respective elements play well together. You can load up to sixteen instruments in just one instance of SampleTank 3, with sixteen MIDI tracks routed into the plugin’s channels.
The instruments feature round-robin and multiple articulations for a more natural sound, and for the most part they are all incredibly convincing. Only the vocals sound a bit artificial, but blended in a composition with strings and other instruments it shouldn’t be as noticeable. Considering the colossal sound library that has been captured in SampleTank 3, this is a minor grievance.
The Mix page of SampleTank 3 offers a familiar mixing interface, with pan pots, volume sliders, five effects slots, and four returns for global send effects (reverbs, delays, etc.). Parameters for effects are shown in the bottom of the interface, on all three main tabs for quick adjustments. IK Multimedia has incuded some of their best effects from their acclaimed T-Racks and Amplitube software, including the Black 76 and White 2A compressors, as well as EQs, chorus, delays, guitar and bass amp modelers, and more. There are a few all-new effects here as well, created specifically for SampleTank 3.
The Edit page offers tweakable parameters for low frequency oscillators, sample pitch, filters, envelopes, and more. The Live tab is for stage use, allowing users to program setlists for fast switching between Multis through MIDI program changes. Over 2,500 loops are included as well. The included loops sound good even when the tempo is drastically altered, without any noticeable artifacts.
Overall, SampleTank 3 is very impressive. With an utterly massive library of over 4,000 instruments, including drums, choirs, ethnic instruments, sound FX, synths, strings, pianos and much more, this is a powerhouse sound workstation that can tackle just about any music genre head-on.
- + Incredibly vast sound library
- + Updated 64-bit software engine
- + Integrated effects from T-Racks and Amplitube