Most of us know all about the likes of Cubase, Sonar and Logic, but they’re not the only DAWs in the market. Some of the other sequencers on the market might not be quite so aggressively promoted or as stylish as the household names, but they’re quality applications nonetheless. Take Samplitude 8, for example.
If you’ve tried it, you’ll already know that it’s certainly not a program that’s short on advanced features. Now we have version 9 of Samplitude to consider. Available in Classic, Master and Professional editions, it’s the latter - and most expensive - version that we’re looking at here.
Open up the new software’s box and you find a concise, well-written ring-bound manual. There’s also a USB dongle; this is a WIBU CodeMeter Stick copy-protection device, so sadly, there’s no possibility of copying the Samplitude licence to any Syncrosoft or Pace iLok keys that you may have. However, the fact that (unusually) the CodeMeter Stick appears on your system as a disk drive means that you could conceivably plug it into a USB port on a totally different machine, if your computers are networked.
The complete list of new features is far too extensive to reprint here, so perhaps the best thing to say is that all of the key elements of the software have been improved in one way or another. Perhaps the most significant development is the introduction of the new Hybrid Audio Engine - we won’t bore you with the technical details, but the good news is that this allows Samplitude to run more simultaneous tracks, instruments and effects than ever before.
Then there are the score-editing features. Score editing itself is nothing new, but in contrast to certain other applications, Samplitude 9 Professional can display the music score in the same window and in alignment with your piano roll MIDI editor. This will make life a lot easier for the many people who transcribe sheet music into MIDI data to create their own versions of existing songs.
But what about flashy new toys? Don’t worry - Samplitude 9 Professional doesn’t disappoint here either. As well as the offerings from previous versions, there’s a new valve channel modeller, an advanced convolution reverb, a spectral cleaner, a Loop Station-like composer and a copy of SampleTank 2.1 LE. All of these gizmos work extremely well.
Elsewhere, we’re pleased to be able to report that the improved mixer retains its killer feature: zoomability. Even when screen space is extremely tight, you can zoom the mixer window out to a tiny size and have every single control on it continue to function properly. This still represents one of the most remarkable achievements in user interface design that we’ve ever seen.
One of the more noteworthy things about Samplitude Professional is that the developers have made no attempt to hide its functionality in hard-to-reach places. Instead, all of the menus are jampacked full of features. Although this can sometimes make the program feel a little overwhelming, it does mean that most tools are just a click or two away.
Samplitude 9 is certainly impressive, then, but you do need to bear in mind that - as with any advanced music sequencing package - it’ll take you many, many months to master all of its features. What’s more, you’ll inevitably get stuck from time to time as you try to figure out how to do things.
The good news, though, is that once you’ve learnt the ropes, it’s possible to navigate your way around both your projects and the application itself pretty quickly. And best of all, Samplitude 9 Professional sounds terrific. Magix claim to have spent a great deal of effort on refining their sound-processing algorithms, and we believe them.
So let’s ask the crucial question: how does Samplitude 9 stack up against the competition? If you make your comparison on a feature-by-feature basis, Magix’s software suffers slightly, but this isn’t really the best way to look at things. When you’re evaluating software as complex as this, what you need to consider is whether the feature-set meets your needs in terms of control, workflow, and performance.
If you work mainly with other songwriters when putting tracks together, Samplitude 9 Professional is ideal. As a sound engineer, it gives you all of the tools that you could possibly want. If, on the other hand, it’s you who’s the songwriter and you mainly make music alone, you may well find yourself both swamped and befuddled by the program and feel that its complexity drags you down.
If you’ve never used Samplitude before, it could be a long time before you become fully productive. To be fair, though, this is true of most applications, and its steep learning curve shouldn’t deter you from giving Samplitude 9 Professional a try. It might not be for you, but equally, it could be the alternative DAW you’ve been searching for.