Test Drive: SAMPLITUDE PRO X Multitrack Recorder/Editor

MIXER AND PLUGS

If all the Object business gives you the willies, you can work with a very well-specified mixer, with inserts, aux sends, panners and so on, not to mention nice touches such as a Mono button in the master section and a gain pot at the top of each channel. Samplitude’s routing is reasonably flexible, with the usual limitation that you can’t send or output a channel to itself, but there are a few quirks that bear watching. While the automation in general is sophisticated, for some reason it will not allow you to use automation to switch plug-ins in and out of bypass, which seems a strange omission in a program that is otherwise so powerful.

As well as saving Object snapshots to disk, Samplitude can also store effects chains and channel routing presets, and these can be loaded in either the Object Editor or in Mixer channels. And I am happy to report that it is simple to set up an Aux channel to use as a pre-disk fader when recording with a microphone. A bonus is that the Aux can then be saved as an Object, making it a snap to set up a new project with that pre-disk Aux channel.

While some of the plug-ins lack the under-hood control of parameters available in the pricier “Suite” version, Samplitude Pro X includes a nice collection of very good-sounding plugs, across all categories. In particular, the very useable Vintage Effects Suite is included in its entirety, as are reverbs, distortion plugs, plenty of EQ, filters, modulators and dynamics, and even some de-noising plugs. There are also quite a few software instrument plugs, since Samplitude Pro X does MIDI.

DOCUMENTATION AND SUPPORT

Samplitude Pro X comes with a full printed manual, a rarity with software products these days. Having been translated from German, its occasionally an awkward read from time to time, but an integrated online help system works rather well. It’s an HTML system, so the text is not as stylized as one would see in PDFs, but the search function works very quickly, and I was able to find the information I needed in short order.

Tech support is available, of course, via email; you can also speak to humans, who are located in various countries, during normal business hours. In the US there’s an office in Nevada which accepts calls from 9am to 4pm EST, Monday through Friday. The support section of the Magix website has all the particulars, and I really did get a knowledgeable human when I called Nevada.

WRAP THAT OBJECT

As mentioned above, Samplitude has until now been a pricey editor, but that has certainly changed. Samplitude Pro X lists for $499, which is literally half the price of the full version 10 we reviewed back in 2008. I got an email quote from an online merchant of $325, which is reasonably close to the pricing of Adobe Audition and Sony’s audio-mostly, lower-end Vegas product. Yet it contains even more features and a re-designed user interface suitable for working advanced imaging projects. Their “Pro X Suite” product continues to hold its kilobuck retail price, but is aimed more at record mastering with features seldom used in radio.

Should you try it? Of course, as there is a free 30-day demo available from the website. Should you switch? That depends on what sort of free-thinker you believe yourself to be. The entire Object-oriented business will either thrill you or frustrate you. In any case, this is a very deep piece of software that will handle anything you throw at it, so long as your workflow is not completely calcified. Yes, it’s not one of the Big Three (or four or whatever), but it’s stable, it works and sounds good, and you might just like it. Steve sez check it out.

For more information in English, visit www.samplitude.com/en/. For German, www.samplitude.com/de/. For support and sales in the US, visit www.magix.com/us/.

ERRATA

Last month’s look at Avid’s Pro Tools 10 generated several questions from readers regarding how PT uses over 4 GB of RAM, given that it is still a 32-bit application on either Mac or Windows.
The answer is that strictly speaking, the program itself cannot access more than 4 Gigs. However, if one is running either Pro Tools 10 HD, or Pro Tools 10 with the Complete Production Toolkit, then one can adjust the size of the Disk Cache from the “Normal” setting to one that uses available RAM beyond 3 Gigs on a Mac, and 4 Gigs on Windows. In other words, if one has 12 GB of RAM, then one can assign up to 9 GB to the Cache on a Mac, and 8 GB to the Cache on Windows. What’s the benefit of doing that? The Disk Cache function loads as much of the current project’s audio as possible into the memory set aside in the Disk Cache value. In practice, this makes PT far more responsive than it otherwise would be. The small delays that occur when starting playback of large projects, especially those with lots of edits, are reduced to near zero, and locating from the beginning of a session to near the end feels truly instantaneous. The entire system feels much faster overall.

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