Soundware is everywhere, from endless catalogs of loops to yet another pack of sampled vintage instruments. But apart from questionable quality as the market grows crowded, the other simple question is, just how should these packs be assembled?

SympleSound is what happens when a sound designer decides to treat the sound pack like an instrument unto itself – not just content, but a set of tools.

If you’re using something other than Ableton Live, you can stop reading here – SympleSound isn’t for you. Everything about this approach is tailored to natively designing the sounds for Ableton as a host, from Push controlled support to the use of clips.

But if you are using Ableton Live, what you get is a combination of really good sound content under the hood with lots of control wrapped round the outside.

It can be a nice set of bass sounds, if that’s what you want. But it can also be a course in synthesizer history and sound design, or a set of instrumental blocks.

Fundamentally, the reason this matters is this: to the extent that a sample library is a recording of an instrument, anyone can get quality right. Get more samples, at longer length, at a higher resolution, through a reasonable neutral signal chain, and you’ll wind up with something that accurately reproduces the instrument. Happily, at the same time laptops’ internal hard drives have shrunk to anemic levels, external drives have gotten bigger and cheaper, so that’s no issue.

And, to be sure, SympleSound’s first analog outing excels at these characteristics. You never touch a sound sample that’s more than a semitone transposed (across an enormous five-octave range), you get an obscene 10-second minimum for sample length for all non-percussive samples, and you get sounds recorded at 44.1kHz/24-bit. There are even some carefully captured subtle oscillator drift and tuning idiosyncrasies included.

instrumentsthree

On some level, though, this is more administration than art. The art comes in what you design around those sounds in the way of control. And that explains why SympleSound has chosen exclusively Ableton Live 9.5 and later as its target – even if that’s maddening if you happen to use something else. This a library tailor-designed so that when you open it, you have access to the brain of the person who captured the instruments as much as the sounds.

The brain in this case is one Francis Prève, the Keyboard magazine veteran who has one of the longest synthesizer sound design and documentation resumes I know in the entire industry – one that reaches from Roland to Ableton, Auxy to Korg. I’ve known Francis for a long time, and few people are as obsessive about synths on Earth as him. He has, frankly, the kind of hyperactive attention to detail required to be crazy enough to undertake something like this. That’s not to say he’s unmoored from the realities of making successful music, either – he’s worked with the likes of Wolfgang Gartner, Gabriel & Dresden, and Aquaviva/Giacomotto, and he knows what to do with a dancefloor. You can read this on his resume, but it matters; this is the weird combination our industry requires – to be equally at home in some sort of compulsive nerd environment as at a club, able to be rational and productive in each.

So, here’s what you get with SympleSounds that you don’t get from other sample libraries. It seems obvious and, as Apple loves to say, “inevitable,” but it’s actually special:

The loops are free. Instead of just making you listen to sound samples (included here), you get 30 royalty-free analog loops for free as the try-before-you-buy business. If you like them, the bet is that you’ll purchase the fully featured packs – and the subtle hint here is that this is a sound library that’s more than just inert loops.

At launch, you get loads of analog staples. Vintage classics: Oberheim SEM, Roland SH-101. More contemporary analog hits: DSI Prophet 08, Doepfer Dark Energy, Moog Little Phatty.

Everything is polyphonic. There; you’ve just transformed decades of monophonic instruments into something you can use polyphonically (without, like, overdubbing some SH-101).

rack

Everything is a rack. The problem with sampled libraries is, all too frequently, they’re fairly inflexible. So they’ll sound good if you stay within a limited range, but you can’t mold them in the way that you would the actual instrument. Building on those aforementioned enormous audio sample libraries, though, SympleSound is different: carefully mapped controls on the Device Rack for each instrument mean you have all the control you might want. Francis has been doing this in Ableton sound designs more or less since the functionality was introduced, so you can bet those mappings will be flawless.

pushmapped

Everything maps to Ableton Push. That Device Rack matters for this reason, too – hands-on control via the Push encoders is always at hand. (SympleSound mostly talk about Push, but this will also be true of other controllers, iPads, whatever.)

envelopes

Clip envelopes will change how you work. Here’s the big one, and it’d be easy to miss. Every single instrument here has associated clips, those clips contain clip envelopes, and those envelopes demonstrate the sonic characteristics of each preset. Now, this is important for two reasons. One, because Ableton Live goes to those clips when auditioning sounds, it means you get a proper preview before you dump a bunch of big files on your local hard drive. Two, you can use these envelopes to discover sonic possibilities of each preset, or even work them gradually into a project. Each sound has an associated musical material attached to it, so it isn’t just a sound.

The upshot of all of this is that you get a library you can rely on to faithfully reproduce all these instruments, but also one you can bend to new musical applications and designs. You can access the sounds you need, but you can also dig deeper and discover what made them work in the first place. It’s, finally, a sample pack for sound designers and producers – a sound pack that might even impress sound pack makers.

And that’s a very good thing. This is just the beginning, Francis tells us – more instruments are coming.

Francis is in his home of Austin, Texas today, talking Link and Push and sampling and this launch at South by Southwest. But we can have a go with these sounds anywhere in the world – and if you like them, grab a sound pack for fifteen bucks each.

http://www.symplesound.com

If you use them, let us know how it works and what you make.

  • Peter

    I hope Ableton takes stuff like this to heart, and makes something like Ubermap an official part of their toolbox, because mapping push with smart layouts is super fun and functional.

  • Huston Singletary

    This Pack of instruments are stunningly accurate and are a blast to work with. Using them with Push 2 offers the obvious tactile rigor. Congratulations on a killer release. This shout out comes from a longtime synth lover and collector. Not just a company guy.

  • LackofRAM

    Very cool. I have all of Francis’ free packs, so I can’t wait to use SympleSound’s versions of these analog beasts. I can appreciate keeping it simple, but for those who need more than 8 macros check out Archetype Ableton bundle by Sonic Faction… I’ve been using it for a year now and I swear by it. Full Push 1 & 2 integration, custom GUIs, Max for Live step sequencers, full featured analog madness.

  • Rocketpilot

    Given this write-up I was expecting a fairly eye-watering price, but … no, that’s not bad at all.

  • Lindon Parker

    OK, so I DONT use Live, so I may be missing the subtle value here, and I’ve not listened to the sounds so again I might not understand the value, but on the list of “different from other sample libraries” I’m struggling to see how these are so different from current and Kontakt based (I’ll grant you) sample libraries:

    1. The loops are free – not so uncommon I think, lots of products provide free loops, and in fact free example sounds too
    2. You get loads of analog staples – this is surely the point here, other libraries offer analog staples, yet others offer something else
    3. Everything is polyphonic – yep been true since day 1 for Kontakt libraries
    4. Everything is a rack – so looking at the example that means I get access to stuff like Envelopes, Filters effects – again nearly every modern commercial Kontakt library offers these – in fact my next library will offer 8 instrument slots and 4 send slots into which you can put any of 20 different effects
    5 Everything maps to Abelton Push – Yes this is different – most Kontakt libs dont map controls to Abelton Push(or any other controller) though its not hard to do. My libs come mapped to Arturia KeyLab(cause its what I mostly use) others come mapped to different controllers.
    6.Clip Envelopes – Well here I’m all at sea – but this looks like some kind of modulation system – and again commercial Kontakt libs seem to offer this too (maybe I’m missing something here…)

    I’m sure this is a lovely set of samples, 10 second sample lengths and semitone spread is very comprehensive, and as other posters have said – very reasonable price – but am I missing the point here?

    • Martin Pagh Ludvigsen

      I get a lot of what you’re saying, but I think you’re missing out on the key differentiator here by not being a Live + Push user; I just purchased two of the packs, and loading them up and seeing everything immediately mapping to my Push 2 is a blessing. Instead of spending time setting up and worrying if your missing out on something, you can start playing and creating immediately through the most intuitive interface for music creation I’ve ever tried.

      For the price this is an absolute no-brainer for any Live + Push user.

      • Lindon Parker

        Of course I’m missing out on that “key differentiator” – so in effect are you saying “you need to get Push + Live for this to be useful”? But the listed features is about stuff this set does that other(non Push+Live) stuff doesnt, and clearly thats not the case.

  • Xebulon

    I’d like to pick up just one of the packs to get a taste for what they offer – for anyone thats used them, whats a good first pick? Which is the most unique/rare or sounds the best?

  • Freeks

    Main problem with this is filter. There is not much point of sample analog synths and then run those trough crappy ableton filters. Thats the problem with most synth sample libraries.

    When Kontakt 6 comes then it might be game changer if it will include new Reaktor filters.

    • Martin Pagh Ludvigsen

      The new filters that came out with 9.5 definitely changed the conversation for me. They’re amazing, so I definitely recommend giving them a second chance.