Native Instruments Kontakt
2002 – present
Most DAWs now include samplers more powerful and versatile than even the most expensive hardware rack units of the late 90s and early 2000s. Whether it’s EXS24 in Logic or HALion in Cubase, chances are your software can do things with samples which the last generation of producers could only dream about. But in terms of ultimate sample playback power, NI’s all-conquering Kontakt plugin is the clear leader.
The irony, of course, is that most software samplers can’t actually sample. Very few plugins allow you to record and edit audio directly in the sampler interface. Instead, the approach of many contemporary ‘samplers’ is to focus on playing back professionally recorded and programmed sample-based instruments, whether that be drums, multi-sampled synth sounds or acoustic instruments.
For the most extreme example, take a look at a top quality Kontakt-based string library such as Audiobro’s LA Scoring Strings. The cost of hiring a full orchestra and a suitable recording space is prohibitive for all but the highest-budget projects. Instead, sample-based string instruments provide a cheaper solution. However, the challenge of recreating an entire orchestra involves capturing the nuances and subtleties of dozens of musicians. Each note could be played with different articulations: vibrato, trills, legato, and so on.
The irony is that most software samplers can’t actually sample.
The full LASS package includes a total of 16.5 GB of samples (and that’s in NI’s lossless NCW compression format – it equates to about 24 GB of uncompressed 24-bit WAVs). The instrument takes full advantage of Kontakt’s extensive scripting options in order to allow those different types of expression to be recreated virtually. The results when programmed effectively are so good that it’s hard to tell it’s not the real thing. If you needed proof of how far sampling has come since the days of the Fairlight, Emulator and Mirage, Kontakt offers the perfect demonstration.