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Topic: Objectively Evaluating a Sample Library

  1. #1

    Objectively Evaluating a Sample Library

    On this forum there has been a fair bit of commentary on the quality of various libraries. Often demos are used to illustrate the overall sound of an instrument - which is obviously valid.

    Another approach is to play back a midi file that triggers each sample chromatically going up the scale. I like this approach because it can reveal the resonance much more clearly - I use this when recording real instruments by adjusting the mic position then having the musician play the chromatic scale and listening on headphones. One other variation of this approach is to have 4 tracks offset slightly and each track playing a different velocity level. This way one can hear the dynamics on each tone or listen to one dynamic by soloing one of these tracks. The overall speed of this can be adjusted by changing the tempo. Faster tempos really highlight the attack of an instrument.

    One of the midi files that I use is at http://www.numericalsound.com/scale4tk.mid

    Ernest Cholakis
    Numerical Sound

  2. #2

    Re: Objectively Evaluating a Sample Library

    I just discovered an interesting subjective test: Do a simple mockup. Now crank it up. Does it rock the room? Or can you hardly stand it?

    I just got QL Brass. It passed the crank test with flying colors. I\'d be hard pressed to record a live band to have the same quality sound as my quick little demo did (with just a touch of Giga reverb).

    If you can\'t crank your simple mockups, the detailed mockups won\'t sound much better, unless you\'re a really talented mixer. And that will only take a sorry sample set so far.

  3. #3

    Re: Objectively Evaluating a Sample Library

    One of the tests I use is similar to Ernest\'s but rather than restricting the test to just one velocity, I\'ll use multiple velocities per note. This is easy to program in your sequencer...the easiest way is to program 12 velocity layers of each note at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110, and 120. Since you don\'t know how an instrument\'s layers are split numerically without getting into the editor, etc., these velocity choices will typically cover almost all the given splits. I typically place them on quarter notes. So, each pitch will take 3 bars to \"scan\" all of the velocity splits. Take the 3 bars and transpose it up and down the keyboard until you have the range of the instrument you\'re testing. Try about mm=70 for the initial tempo setting. This will quickly reveal what the .wav files in any given library sound like.

    I\'m still trying to grasp the previous post...

    \"I just discovered an interesting subjective test: Do a simple mockup. Now crank it up. Does it rock the room? Or can you hardly stand it?\"

    Some years ago, I was teaching at a number of Colleges and Universities in our area. I had one particular student at one of the colleges who came in one day and informed me that he\'d just discovered the perfect way to practice. I asked him to what he\'d discovered. He replied \"Well, here\'s how I do it. I learn the song until its just perfect, and then I go back and put all the flats and sharps in.\"

    Could these two discoveries be in any way related?

  4. #4

    Re: Objectively Evaluating a Sample Library

    I seriously doubt any developer would permit a chromatically scaled demo to be distributed. I agree it would be an awesome tool for demo purposes.

  5. #5

    Re: Objectively Evaluating a Sample Library

    Well, the chromatic scale approach reminds me very much of learning the song without flats and sharps... What about articulations, legato, staccato, portato, the ability to vary the timbre etc.?

  6. #6

    Re: Objectively Evaluating a Sample Library

    Keytar - I agree however maybe a scale in a reverberate field would be valid and help to protect each sample developer\'s investment.

    Jeannot - I agree I also use the midi file on various other articulations however I would not mix them up - listen to the full scale of a given instrument one articulation at a time. A fast scale (120-150bpm) of a string library will quickly reveal the weaknesses of the samples - especially the attacks. one can often hear the \"sound\" of the noise reduction algorithms used on the original samples.

    Strings have one of the most complex resonance\'s curves so a chromatic scale helps to reveal the timbal changes in an instrument. For example in a violin section there should be a strong fundamental tone somewhere between C4-D4 and G#4-A#4. If the instrument sounds too even between C4-C5 then one knows that some \"artificial\" processing has been done on the samples.


  7. #7

    Re: Objectively Evaluating a Sample Library

    I think some of the East-West piano demos are just a chromatic scale. To me, they\'re too fast to hear the character of the samples across the range of the keyboard, however.


  8. #8

    Re: Objectively Evaluating a Sample Library

    Ernest, I absolutely agree with you on the resonance theory. However, musicians know there instruments very well and instinctively compensate in their playing for these resonances.

    Noise reduction in my opinion is the Achilles heel of all the libraries that I work with on a daily basis. I have come up with a new way of doing noise reduction in a less \"intrusive\" way;
    unfortunately it is not very practical, as it has to be done on a sample by sample basis and it only works on completely unprocessed samples.

    As far as I now, sample developers do not sell you unprocessed samples.


  9. #9

    Re: Objectively Evaluating a Sample Library

    Yes I think that most (not all ) libraries are now using some form of noise reduction and users are definitely not talking about it (not at northernsounds anyway). It seems like technical \"sound issues\" always take a back-seat to marketing consideration especially on this forum. Look at this posting - you would think a few more people would be interested in a discussion on a methodology for determining the sound quality of a given library - but it looks like 4 people max is it !

    Jeannot unfortunately there simply appears that there are not enough musicians like you who actually listen to the sound with their ears - most seem to listen more with there eyes. I wish there were a few more like you !


  10. #10

    Re: Objectively Evaluating a Sample Library

    I just discovered an interesting subjective test: Do a simple mockup. Now crank it up. Does it rock the room? Or can you hardly stand it?-Jon

    Jon, I get it, if no one else does, and I\'m with you. I was just thinking this morning about doing some simple mock-ups, and wondering if they would withstand the test of full room-filling volume.


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