I will now be publishing in-depth sample reviews on my web site. This is to hopefully help other users/composers gather enough detailed information about a library before making a purchase. I personally have been frustrated in the past with the lack of information given about samples.. unsatisfactory demos, lack of articulation list, and so on. So, I decided to offer this as a service to the public, because I know something like this is needed. Details are not in stone yet, so this might change, but here\'s what I have in mind so far regarding how the review process will be formatted:
Basically I\'m scrutinizing libraries based off these major factors: documentation, sound quality, usability, and performance consistency. Documentation is, obviously, the instructions packaged with the library, AND the convention the articulations use to convey their meaning (MW, KS, etc.). And is the manual concise, accurate, helpful, and comprehensive? Sound quality: how do they sound? Are they too muddy, too sharp, how close do they sound to the real live version of the instrument? Too processed, poor ambience? Usability: how easy is it to use this out of the box? Do I have to do a bunch of MIDI tricks to get what I want? How quickly can I compose a passage? Performance consistency: did the instrumentalists perform at a consistent level, with regards to dynamics and tone? Do all the samples have about the same tonal quality and expression, evenly across each dynamic?
Furthermore, when possible, I will have a complete list of ALL instruments and articulations, AND mp3 examples of almost every single articulation. The review will be concluded with a short demo (complete with MIDI source), and a summary of pros and cons, and a rating of each of the above categories on a 10-point scale, along with an overall average.
Obviously this is a pretty exhaustive review process. It\'s going to take time before I can even crank the first one out. When I do, I\'ll post here to see what you all think--I\'d like feedback to see if the review is helpful or not.
PS: The first library to be reviewed will be SAM Horns, followed soon therafter by SAM Trombones.
Wow, that sounds like a hugely ambitious and time-consuming activity -- you must be crazy! :-)
But seriously, while I\'m sure you\'d create an incredible resource, I wonder if the level of depth you propose is actually required or possible. For example, I\'d expect any review of a sample library I read to already include comments about the documentation, sound quality, usability, and so on, because otherwise it would be useless as a review. Also, the large sample library reviews in magazines such as Sound On Sound already feature articulation lists, pros and cons, and so on... Do you feel these reviews are unsatisfactory in some way?
My personal feeling is that the \'ueber review\' would probably be overload. A good review should give a snapshot of the reviewers\' experience with a sample library and distill the information into the most important points. If all of the instruments are well-recorded and playable, why comment on them individually? Just point out the excpetions. Plus, it would surely be impossible to create MP3 examples for every articulation once you get into the larger libraries? VSL... Gasp! :-)
Also, and I know I\'m being negative :-) don\'t do the ratings thing -- it\'s utterly meaningless! :-) I mean, if you give one library 5/10 for sound quality and another 6/10, what does that mean? What the subjective difference between 5 and 6? Give me articulated reasoning any day! :-)
I\'ve always thought it would be good to put out the sample library equivalent of the CD music guides you can buy, but for the fact there isn\'t enough demand. If you were going to do an online resource, I think it would be better to get a team of reviewers together, a damn good editor, and encourage feedback from visitors so a broader view of each sample library could be pressented.
Wow Sam! That`s really good of you. I admire you as a composer so I would definitely take your advice, although I think I`m gonna buy SAM horns and trombones as soon as I return to the UK. I`ve heard enough amazing demos to make up my mind on those 2 already!!
If you check out the big reviews of libraries like Garritan, Sonic Implants and Dan Dean Brass Ensembles in SOS, they all have articulation lists... :-) I\'m still intrigued why you don\'t find the reviews \'in depth\' enough to make a buying decision, though... :-)
I think you\'ll find a rating system a complete nightmare to work with when you start the review -- the SOS five-star thing does mean something, but I think the rating system mainly exists to come up with funny lists in the star ratings box! :-) Five stars means the title is fabulous, four stars means it\'s great but lacks something, and three stars or less is a bit iffy. I\'m not sure how anyone could deduce anything meaningful from a ten-point scale... Also, if you think people will skim the in-depth review and head for the ratings, why go to all the trouble of the in-depth review in the first place?! ;-)
I don\'t mean to say \"don\'t do the reviews\" because I take my hat off to anyone who manages it; but I think there\'s so much more potential for a web-based sample library review service than just one more review... It\'s also a subject that\'s more than a little close to my heart! :-)
Thanks for the support, guys. Yes, I realize this is huge and possibly insane. Keep in mind, I\'m just going to try this to see if it\'s something worth doing. Bottom line: if the users/composers don\'t find it useful, I\'ll put a stop to it. I will rely very heavily on the feedback from my SAM Horns review, and make a decision based upon that.
I\'ve seen the Sound On Sound reviews. They\'re usually a handful of paragraphs summarizing the sounds and going over pros and cons. Pretty good, but I did not see a list of articulations. For me personally, I do not find these reviews in-depth enough to make a purchasing decision.
As far as the 10-point based system: I will definitely be using this system along with \"articulated reasoning\" as Mark said [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img] The score system is basically a way for \"skimmers\" to scroll down and quickly see what I rated it. This is useful for people who have already read reviews or have an impression of a library being, for example, excellent. Then they can go to my review, see the scores, and work that in to their decision. Someone who sees low scores may be wondering why I rated it as such, and then read the full review to find out my reasoning. Sound On Sound has a 5-star based system.. and a lot of other reviews have either a star-based or point-based system. So I don\'t think it\'s entirely pointless (pun intended) [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]