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Resident Advisor Review

"Using samples of classic gear can be a frustraing experience, fraught with tedious searching and then maybe just making do with a sound that's not quite what you were looking for. A lack of staisfying samples was what prompted Sample Magic co-founder Sharooz Raoofi to manually sample his own instrument collection before a trip to LA, fill out the library with other synths while he was out there subsequently decide to release it as a product. The equipment in question includes many of the main classic synthesizers: Juno-106; Jupiters-6 and -8; 303,808,909,606,626, and 707; ARP Odyssey; E-mu Drumulator; CR-68; DX7; Nord Lead; and Pro-One. I admit, though, that I was a little sceptical about Bloq. DOes the world really need more sample libraries of these instruments.

There are two things that set Bloq apart from other sample collections I've used. The first is its immediately rich and powerful sounds. The machines were recorded using a Prism Sound Orpheus soundcard, with the signal path passing through kit like the Focusrite ISA430, Neve 1073 and Empirical Labs EL-8 Distressor. The recordings have ended up with an authentic feel, like your're hearing the sound from the instruments themselves rather than a second-hand source. Creative and mix-specific processing aside, I didn't feel like they would require anything extra to sound full and professional in a mix.

The second is that it's packaged in a very usable fashion. It comes as a Kontakt instrument, and also as a collection of Ableton Live drum racks and a Logic EXS24/Ultrabeat version, catering to a range of users. The Kontakt and Ableton solutions had an uncomplicated, immediately usable feel to them. There aren't too many patches - about 75 patches across all the synthesizers and 35 drum kits - which makes it easy to get familiar with the whole thing and find the sound you want. This particularly down to the synth patches encompassing a lot of very classic sounds and the drum machines being flexible, often covering the range of possible settings in the hardware. Bloq is two instruments, one for drum machines and one for synths, and with multiple instances of Kontakt (or multiple instances of Bloq with Kontakt using multi-outs), you could conceivable set up a virtual studio of classic drum machines and instrument patches.

The samples themselves are processed using the host's envelopes, filters and so on. A limitation of using multisamples (as opposed to virtual synths) is that it's not quite the same as tweaking the original patch, but there's a lot of flexibility available, including effects such as phasers or tape saturation. In Kontakt, the controls themselves are also set out on an inspiring vintage GUI, and whereas the miniature LCDS below the soliders on the synth version might have you squinting and reaching for the manual, everywhere else the controls are clear. Overall, there's practically everything you'd want.

One example is on the drum instrument, where each of the effect controls is available per drum hit rather than per kit. You can load any of the hits from any of the kits on each of the eight pads, select the particular sound using the Sample slider and then affect the envelope, filter, transient, compression, EQ, tape drive, sample/bit rate and dely/reverb sends - every control on the first page, in fact - on each hit separately. Moving on to the second page, there's a 32-step sequencer that's pretty flexible, including accents, shuffle, random elements and slots for eight patterns. In complexity, it reflects a fairly simple vintage sequencer more than it does a modern bells-and-whistles one. The drums were punchy and present. Like a lot of people probably do, I've got a few different 808 kits knocking around, but when I loaded this one up, I felt a lot more like I was getting an 808 that I have had in the past.

Meanwhile, the synth instrument is based on a range of different recorded synth patches that you can tweak using the host's controls. As with the drum version, a similar range of controls and FX is availbe, including a sequencer and sends, but with extra features you'd want for synth sounds, such as an LFO, a filter envelope and chord functionality. Clearly you still can't dial up any sound you can think of, so the success of this approach depends on the choice of patches. They've made canny choices here, though, and as you scroll through what's on offere you'll find yourself recognising a lot of them, largely from the early rave era and 1990-2000. Just to highlight a few examples, the Retro Polychord does inded induce mid-to-late '90s, chilled-out drum & bass nostalgia, as does the Alpha Rave Chord. The House Organ is the Nightcralers' "Pushing the Feeling On" patch. And a number of the Jupiter and Juno patches especially are true staples.

This all becomes even nicer when you consider the price tag, which is not far above what you'd pay for a CD full of WAVs. If you're Ableton-based, you'll ideally want to have Kontakt, as the Ableton rack leaves out a number of features that you'll miss. I'd say in any case, though, the choice and weight of the samples, and the immediacy with which they're brought to you to use, makes using classic sounds in software a wholly pleasurable experience."