IK Multimedia SampleTank 4 by Sound-Guy
SampleTank 4 from IK Multimedia
IK Multimedia introduced the fourth generation of SampleTank, their rather large sample player, back in spring of 2019, and though I had SampleTank 3, I hadn’t time over the past several months to upgrade and test the newest version. The first few releases of version 4 were quite buggy, but they recently released an update, the 8th minor revision since the original release of SampleTank 4, with half a dozen more fixes, an equal number of optimizations and some improved operations. If you use SampleTank 4 you should update to 4.0.8 soon and get back to playing it. If you are still using an earlier version, read on.
SampleTank 4 basic Parts View
What It Is
Like SampleTank 3 version 4 (ST4 from now on) is a 16-part multitimbral sample-based virtual instrument. It provides multi-layer sound support, multiple articulations, and thousands of samples. As before there is a standalone version and plug-ins versions for your DAW (AAX, VST2, VST3, and Audio Units – 64 bit only). But compared to earlier versions, ST4 has more comprehensive sound editing along with access to more sounds and more of IKM’s FX plug-ins, including EQs, dynamics, reverb and saturation units. ST4 adds 13 new effects (for a total of 70) from their AmpliTube and T-RackS software collections.
SampleTank 4 FX window
As for the samples, there are up to 260 GB of them! There are actually three versions of ST4 that vary only in the sample content provided. The MAX version includes about 8,000 sounds and requires 300 GB of disk space; the standard version has around 6,000 sounds and requires 128 GB; the “lite” SE version has about 2,000 sounds and needs 40 GB of drive space. I remember a time when 2,000 sounds would not have been labeled as a ‘lite’ version! New sounds include better pianos, new keyboards, guitars, bass, drums, strings, brass, synths, vocals, and percussion. Overall there is pretty much any class of sound you should ever need and all of them I auditioned are excellent.
SampleTank 4 Editor window
Old and New Sounds
When you install ST4 it finds all your old compatible IKM sound files that it can use, including those from SampleTank 3, the Syntronik synth collection and Miroslav Philharmonik 2. I was happy to find I could load a Philharmonik 2 multi-instrument collection that I had created a couple years ago, and all the instruments, their levels and pan positions loaded into ST4 correctly. Also Syntronik presets, including those I had created, loaded and played fine. While the Max version sounds very impressive, downloading nearly 300 GB of files can take some time – and when I first tried a few months ago, it was especially painful since each of the 90-some folders had to be accessed separately. This was fixed by IKM in late March 2019 so that you can select multiple folders prior to starting the download.
Multi-Instrument set loaded from Philharmonik 2
More Sound Modes
In addition to the sound editing function, ST4 has a new player mode adopted from Syntroniks with an arpeggiator, strummer, a phraser and a loop manager that enables flexible groove creation. There is also an improved Mixer panel, and an enhanced Live Mode. Live Mode provides fast access to complete sets of instrument sounds and FX, and can be controlled by a MIDI controller such as IKM’s iRigs. In all ST4 has eight “views”: the Parts View, the Instrument Browser, Edit Panel, the Effects Rack, the Player Panel, a Layer Editor, the Mixer and Live Mode. These are each easily accessed and if you are familiar with earlier versions, you probably won’t need to dig through the manual. Of course there is a PDF manual included if you need it.
I tested SampleTank 4 using a PC Audio Labs Rok Box with Intel Core i7-4770K CPU @ 3.5 GHz, 16 MB RAM running Windows 7 64 bit. RAM requirements vary depending on the sounds loaded and I found loading a full orchestra on 16 tracks required less than 300 MB of RAM, but more complex sounds might require more storage. CPU use was surprisingly low – even playing the arppegiator along with a full rack of five FX never exceeded 4% on any one core, and six of my eight cores were basically flat-lined. Impressive efficiency!
A hell of a lot of sounds, especially the MAX version, with excellent editing and modulation flexibility. Relatively easy to use, and integrates well with any IKM sound libraries you already have.
Excellent quality samples of a wide range of instruments. Even the “lite” version has 2,000 sounds and if you feel the need and have the cash (or Jam Points or a cross-grade or upgrade situation) the full 8,000 should keep you busy for a few years.
Relatively easy to use compared to some full-on sample-based virtual instruments.
Live Mode provides easy and fast access to complete sets of instrument sounds and FX, and IKM have tight integration with their iRig Keys I/O controllers, enabling a performer to load sounds, control macros, trigger loops and launch live sets from the keyboard (iRig or other MIDI controller) – no mouse needed.
The updated Parts view streamlines the process of layering and mixing sounds.
New editing capabilities can take sampled sounds further from ‘reality’ than previous SampleTanks.
FX rack (now with 70 effects) provides high quality processing totally within ST4, very useful for live playing
Low CPU resource requirement.
Window can be continuously resized from 1223 x 860 pixels up to your full monitor size.
Not as much sound enhancement capability as some more complex virtual instruments, but probably more than most people really need!
Depending on your video monitor you may find the “dark on darker” color scheme a bit . . . dark. On my system it works fine.
Downloading and installation is not the simplest process I’ve ever used, and is in fact a bit convoluted. Other software (even from IK Multimedia) that I’ve installed recently was very easy by comparison. I didn't consider installation in my Ease of Use rating since once installed ST4 is very user-friendly. Note that if you don’t download all the available instruments and sounds at first, you can do so later as long as later is not more than 180 days after you first register ST4! If you wait too long you’ll need to buy another 180 days of access ($10, not expensive but a bit annoying).
Storage requirements for sound files are not trivial, especially the Max version, but hard drives are cheaper than ever! You may want to get a fast SSD for these sound files, and for your other sampled instruments.
The MAX version is not cheap, but the ‘lite’ SE version is quite affordable and will keep you supplied with plenty of sounds. You can add more sounds later as you wish.