Puremagnetik has staked out some really cool territory in downloadable soundware. Initially they focused exclusively on Ableton Live, but newer releases over the past year or so add versions compatible with Native Instruments Kontakt and Apple Logic. What’s most interesting about their model is that, in addition to a la carte “Micropaks” for $12, you can subscribe to the website for $5.75 monthly or $60 yearly, and get unlimited downloads of all current releases. This is a remarkable value in light of the breadth of material. An all-access pass to their extensive back catalog is $198. We downloaded a bunch of their latest, along with a few older Micropaks for good measure. Here are a few of our favorites.
This title contains five drum kits with a few variations. The samples were taken from modular synths sporting modules by Doepfer, LiveWire, and MFB, and sound much more complex and textural than your usual TR-808-style fare. Overall, the vibe here is quite experimental, with harder sounds suited to electro and breaks tracks. That’s not to say these sounds can’t also be used in other genres, since each kit’s macros deliver a lot of added customization. Overall, this Micropak is a grab bag of stabs, hits, and percussion that really shows what a slammin’ analog modular rig can do in the right hands.
B-System: Percussives and B-System: Basses & Leads
A loaded Buchla 200e synth is so luxurious that unless you’ve also got enough cash for a Tesla roadster, you’ll have to settle for a library. Fortunately, Puremagnetik makes two great ones.
Percussives includes over 650 24-bit sounds that, like Analog Drums, ably demonstrate the sonic range of a killer Buchla rig. You’re not going to find anything run-of-the-mill here. Instead, you’ll feast on modular insanity with all the trimmings. With so many samples arranged into ten kits, there’s something for every hardcore electronica producer if you’re willing to sift through the data. A bunch of Live clips with macros and effects help speed this process, as you can always edit these clips into something that suits your needs.
Basses & Leads includes 24 nicely designed patches that range from buttery, warm basses to “WTF” leads impossible to describe in words. Many patches include essential synth macros like cutoff, resonance, drive, and basic effects such as echo and overdrive. After playing with this collection with a good buddy of mine, we were both solidly impressed with its usefulness for a wide variety of musical applications. It’s definitely a keeper.
The Casio CZ series was a dark horse of the ’80s digital synth revolution. Coming on the heels of Yamaha’s record-breaking success with the DX7, the CZ-101 and its successors instead relied on “phase distortion” synthesis to deliver digital approximations of analog-style sound design — but wound up creating an enduring cult following.
Phazeform’s patches really cover the possibilities here, with a decidedly retro slant that’ll inspire either devotion or loathing depending on your taste, as they’re decidedly digital in that ever-so- ’80s way. There’s even a bank of sounds from the legendary Casio VL-Tone calculator — er, synthesizer. This synth appeared on quite a few new wave cuts, most notably Trio’s “Da Da Da.”
While PPG was first out of the gate with wavetable synthesis, Ensoniq pushed the envelope in the ’80s, culminating in their final all-original synth, the Fizmo. Waveframe goes beyond sampling various Fizmo patches, adding 30 Instrument Rack-based Fizmo emulations, each set up as a unique patch. For some users, this approach can be a trifle taxing on CPU resources. For others, the flexibility will be a godsend. Waveframe delivers the Fizmo sound quite nicely, and as with the Phazeform Micropak, you’ll either love it or hate it, as it’s extremely unique. That said, $12 is a steal for a loving recreation of a bit of synthesis history.
Upright (bass, not piano) was one of our favorite Micropaks by far. If you’re into classic ’90s hip-hop, jazzy house, or downtempo, you’ll love it. Nine presets run the gamut from fingered to bowed to heavily processed and synthetic. The traditional bass patches were right on the money, but the bowed patches here are stunning and worth much more than the $12. The processed patches, however, weren’t really my cup of tea. One of the nicest things about Upright is that the bass was recorded direct as well as close-miked. The use of Brauner and Neumann mics also show attention to detail. This is a beautiful instrument, recorded with love.
PROS Huge variety of electronic and vintage synth sounds, including rare and underrepresented synths. Subscription model offers exceptional value.
CONS Some back-catalog libraries work only with Ableton Live.
INFO $5.75 monthly or $60 yearly, puremagnetik.com