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Recording Magazine Review

Having established itself in the market as far back as 2006, UK-based Sample Magic has distinguished itself as a one-stop shop for all types of dance-related material. The company creates not only loop libraries but patches and presets for popular samplers and virtual instrument plug-ins, as well as instructional materials like books, tutorial apps, and even a two-day House Music Production Course at Alchemea Music College in London.I had a chance to meet Sample Magic cofounder Sharooz Raoofi at the NAMM Show last January, and was impressed not only with his enthusiasm for the genre but also with his savvy as a recording musician. Sample Magic records its own guitars, bass, drums, and vocals, and has a small but well-thought-out recording room whose quality is reflected in the products under the SM label. In this review, we'll discuss the very last physical release in the Sample Magic DVD catalog (the company has shifted to download-only for future releases), and listen to some sounds from a Sample Magic download.The data DVD in Electro contains about 700 MB of unique sounds, which is roughly quadrupled as the material is presented in several formats. There's 24-bit/44.1 kHz WAV files for use with most DAW software and plug-ins, 24-bit/44.1 kHz AIFF files in Apple Loops format for direct import into Logic and GarageBand, RX2 files for use with REX-compatible software like Propellerhead Reason, RMX-ready data for use in Spectrasonics Stylus RMX, and presets and samples for easy use with software samplers - Apple EXS24, Steinberg HALion, Native Instruments Kontakt, and Propellerhead NN-XT. Single hits and samples are found in the WAV folder; AIFF versions aren't provided, but aren't necessary to any of the supported products. The loops are organized by instrument or loop type, then subdivided by tempo. In keeping with the Electro style, there isn't a huge amount of tempo variation in the material; most of it sits nicely at the traditional 128 BPM, with some 125 and 130 BPM here and there. Most DAWs' time-stretching algorithms will have no trouble matching everything up. Each file is named with 'ele' for the Electro library, followed by a loop type ('bs' for bass, 'cmb' for combi, etc.), tempo, a short name, and key signature. This naming convention is consistent through the entire library, with only a few exceptions.The library includes loop folders for bass, combi (combinations of bass and drums), drum, fx, music (chords and arpeggios that can serve as a basis for a track idea), nu-perc (treated and unusual percussion), synth, tops (percussion sounds that ride on the ‘top’ of the drum arrangement), and vox (vocal effects). This gives a comprehensive set of building blocks that fit together to make Electro tracks with a consistent swing and feel.The sounds themselves are very much in the Electro style—aside from a few distorted bits here and there and the occasional wobblebass, everything is clean, sharp, and sparkling. There are a few funky basslines played on a Fender Jazz Bass, but the majority of the basslines are pure electronic heaven, simple and frighteningly catchy. Sample Magic states that it’s all about the bass in this style of music, and while there’s enough other rhythmic material to keep you happy for weeks, the basslines really are the crown jewel of this collection. Whether alone or in a combi, every single bassline in the collection is capable of inspiring an entire track on its own.I can envision users splitting Electro’s material into two distinct uses: the very genre-specific bass and combi lines, and the drums and nu-perc that are suitable for a lot of other dance styles. The fx folder even has some one-shot rises and drops that wouldn’t be out of place in a dubstep set. An interesting paradox—a sound collection that is strongly faithful to a specific subgenre of dance music yet manages not to be a one-trick pony!As the final physical release in the Sample Magic catalog, Electro was given some extra attention in terms of packaging and included material. There’s a booklet detailing the history of Sample Magic’s releases, a definitive gear list (see below), and perhaps most interesting of all, a little taster from Sample Magic’s educationalmaterials—several pages of tutorial tips and advice on getting the best from the library and producing high-quality recordings.A bonus CD contains another 692 MB of bonus sounds—not only a selection of 24/44.1 WAV files from eleven previous Sample Magic releases, but also House drum hits from DrumDog and a collection of demo MP3 files.Another nice extra is the second DVD in the package, which contains a short film of Sample Magic cofounders Sharooz Raoofi and Dave Felton in the company’s main recording studio, discussing the gear they use to get their sounds and the creativeprocess of working with loops. There’s a look at familiar recording gear like the Prism Sound Orpheus 8-channel A/D–D/A interface, Empirical Labs Distressor (they make heavy use of the Nuke setting), a Focusrite ISA430 as a channel strip for acoustic instrument recording and electric instrument DI, an old dbx 165 Over Easy compressor, and the Focal Twin6 Be monitors (reviewed July 2008) used as the room speakers with the venerable Yamaha NS10m as check monitors. On the soundware side, FXpansion’s Geist (reviewed April 2011) is a main workhorse for the creative process, loaded up with sounds the Sample Magic team create and tweak themselves.Electro would be a great value for the data DVD alone; the added materials give it even more bang for the buck. If you’re into the Electro genre and are looking for a collection that is both true to form and of historical interest, you’ll want to have a copy of this DVD on your shelf. You’ll come back to it again and again.