Sunday, January 22, 2012

Samplitude and You part I

So, I'm one of those guys who says "Samplitude is better than any other editing/mixing program out there." Exactly, one of those guys. Yeah, I've been a Pro Tools editor. And I've worked with strange systems (Pyramix, etc.) over the years. And still, Samplitude is the best.
Now, sometimes people think one system is somehow inherently better than another just because they're used to it. And I can totally understand that. And look, there are things that Pro Tools is very good at -- tracking live bands for instance. But Samplitude is better for editing. Maybe not even for editing music, but better for editing everything else. And it sounds great with music.
"But Drew" you say to yourself "how can you objectively say one thing is better? You're just prejudiced because you've been using Samplitude since, like, version 2 or something."
And I say: "objective" is right. The big difference is objekt editing. Samplitude does it. Nobody else does. Ergo: Samplitude is better.

(Tanita Tikaram. Not in any way related to the rest of this blog post.)
First of all a disclaimer. All audio editing programs work. And they all sound great. At one time engineers would slag on Pro Tools because they said it sounded bad. Me? I never thought that was so. But now those engineers seem happy again with Pro Tools. Further more, pretty much very major album is recorded and mixed using Pro Tools (even if they go through an analog desk). So the only difference in audio editing/mixing applications is the process of doing that work. OK, I'm glad we got that out of the way. Now:

I do two things: music and sound-for-picture.
In my music life I'm primarily mixing or pre-mixing my own band. And I'm surprised every dang time how nice the comes-with-the-product effects are with Samplitude. You want a nice 1176-type compressor? You want a Pultec or some older-sounding limiters or compressors? The ones built into Samplitude sound fantastic. Really, they're just great sounding. Believe me, you have much bigger problems in your life than the sound quality of the compressors, limiters, EQ's, and reverbs in Samplitude.
There are some advantages to the Waves stuff. They're multiband L3 is pretty nice sounding for that horrible squash sound you hear on modern records. But the single-band "L1-like" limiter in Samplitude is pretty good.
I do love the analog delays in Samplitude. They just subjectively sound nice. Mmm... nice.
In my sound-for-picture life I have much more exotic needs. For instance I need to be able to import OMF files. ProTools has traditionally been very difficult to work with in this regard. And Samplitude used to make you buy something called "EDL Convert" which was like six hundred bucks. But now Samplitude will let you import OMF directly. And it works.

I bought the upgrade to Samplitude, which is called Samplitude X. Right. It's technically version 12, but it's named "X". Fine. I've also reconciled myself to the fact that "Samplitude" is kinda a silly name anyway. So now we're at "X".
A 70GB sample library comes with the "Pro X Suite" version. I was a tad confused about how to load the samples 'till I found it was a menu item rather than an installer on the 10 DVD's you get with the program. But once I pressed the icon in the start menu it all worked automatically.
There's an automatic updater for Samplitude. It's a tad confusing to me. Actually, it doesn't seem to work at all. Maybe one day it will work. Nobody knows. Samplitude has had a history of "Oh, there's this thing which just doesn't work" which is what you get when you have a small company competing against the big boys (Avid). But the rest of this release is pretty stable it seems to me. UPDATE: the "auto update" seems to work now. To which I say  "hooray!"
Automatic Update unfortunately freezes at this screen.
The "Independence Workstation" comes with the Samplitude Pro X Suite. There are some surprisingly nice horn sounds included. I don't particularly like the piano sounds [UPDATE: oddly, there was a big high-end roll off filter applied to the default piano sound making it very dead - sounding, the piano is much better sounding than I first thought -- just turn off that dang EQ]. Ironically, the pianos included in the Vita workstation (which also comes with Samplitude) I find a bit more "real" sounding. Perhaps the pianos with Independence sound the way they do in order to better mix with an orchestra? I'd that that might be true except that the pianos are a bit dull - sounding and normally to get them to mix better you'd brighten them up a bit. But perhaps the pianos sound a bit more "real" only because they don't have the hyped-up top end of other sampled pianos?

Anyway, those are my first and somewhat incoherent impressions. Seeing as how I have to mix this movie, I'll have plenty more to say about the restoration suite and other features in Samplitude in the coming weeks.

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