Billed as a ‘Modular Sonic Workstation´, the rest of us would describe Independence as a high-end sample library playback device. This might not sound too catchy, but it neatly sums up what the software´s all about. However, if the idea behind this plug-in is simple, the execution - as we´ll discover - is quite the opposite.
Independence comes with 18GB of sample content, and as soon as you hear the first preset you´ll start to understand why it costs £350. Put bluntly, the software sounds stunning. But we´re getting ahead of ourselves here - let´s start from the beginning.
Installation is simple, although you do have to manually drag and drop the sample library into the correct folder, which seems unnecessary. Another irritation is the USB dongle, for which we had to find yet another spare port. The software runs standalone and as a VST, DX, RTAS and AU plug-in.
You might feel a little let down when you load Independence for the first time, as the interface isn´t exactly easy on the eye. We don´t know why some software developers opt for rigid-looking angular text, but it´s a little industrial for our taste and makes the UI seem much less inviting and harder to read than it needs to be. This is a shame, as Independence is actually very well thought out and easy to navigate, particularly when you start to consider its depth.
A row of buttons across the top enables you to access the various windows, and each of these is used to control a different aspect of the software. And we´re not just talking simple sample playback features here either - on offer are all of the functions you´d expect from a professional performance plug-in, including sophisticated mapping functions for creating your own patches, performance controls to create variations between notes, an extensive effects section, a layering screen so you can stack up different sample banks, a mixer screen to balance the aforementioned layers, and preferences for assorted global settings.
For all of Independence´s versatility and power, we suspect that many users won´t go far beyond the presets and supplied sample banks. It´s not that it isn´t easy to create your own or import existing libraries (in a variety of formats), rather that Independence is very much geared towards accurately reproducing real instruments, and if you do have access to a selection of these instruments, you wouldn´t need to make a sample library of them - you´d just play them!
As for the sounds that are included here… well, we really can´t say enough good things about them. A flick through the presets and a few strokes of your MIDI keyboard are all it takes to send your jaw to the floor, as these patches range from really good to mouthwateringly exquisite.
As we´ve already mentioned, the bias is towards the real, so if you have no use for a complete orchestra, a world instrument library, a convincing range of guitars or an amazing collection of drum kits, then you´d be better off with something cheaper. However, if you often have need for the sound of completely convincing instruments and don´t yet have access to them, you won´t regret this purchase.
Impressively, the likes of brass and woodwind - both of which are traditionally very difficult to replicate - are beautifully presented here, and each instrument is offered in a variety of playing styles.
So, is this the perfect sample library? Well, it´s certainly one of the best we´ve tested. If you´re a PC user and already own GigaStudio, you might not be tempted to switch, but Mac users in search of this type of thing would be hard pressed to find anything better.
There are a few niggles, however - firstly, long load times. Independence is no worse than any of its rivals in this respect, but we wish there was some way of loading the samples logically - perhaps by starting with everything at one velocity. These samples could be made available for playing with the others loaded in the background.
The other issue is a general performance one: on some of the more complex patches, there´s a distinct problem with retriggering notes. Sometimes, when you press a key multiple times, the notes don´t retrigger, which is particularly problematic when you´re trying to play in drum patterns.
Ultimately, though, we have to conclude that Independence is one of the most incredible sounding and useful plug-ins we´ve seen, and it also has the capacity to grow with you (YT plan to release more libraries in the future). If real instruments are what you want, this is what you need.