Review at a Glance
What is it?
A unique sample library of 'real' sax (Liquid Saxophone), and bass (Liquid Electric Bass), instruments. Both are played using the "liquid instrument series" controller, which is based upon the Celemony Melodyne editing system. Stand-alone, VST, AudioUnits and RTAS.
What does it do?
It allows the user to "play" each instrument in a variety of very usable and editable styles. Styles, or "phrases", that can be edited to become your own.
Who would use it?
Composers and musicians from any genre of music.
How does it sound?
"Sax-tastic"! (That's good). If you don't believe me, then hear it from a Grammy winner. (... read on)
What is so great about it?
Finally, a sample collection that hit's the mark.
What is not so great about it?
One of the most difficult to emulate instruments has finally been reproduced, almost flawlessly. If sax and bass samples of the past have let you down, then you've got to give the Liquid Instrument Series a try. It's all "real" and very editable.
Ueberschall Liquid Instruments Series': Sax and Electric Bass
Too often, we read about technological advances that boggle the mind and create whole new ways to reinvent what has come before them. In the musically sampled world, there has been no exception, "except", when it comes to certain instruments. Without a doubt, the reeded instrument has been amongst the toughest sells when it came to convincing the ear.
Now, before I go any further, I need to tell you that there's a treat at the end of this review. Basically, audioMIDI.com has entrusted me to check out this program, take it for a test drive if you will, and render an opinion about it. This, I don't take lightly. But if my opinion isn't enough, stay tuned for that of another who just might know a thing or two about this topic.
Installation of the software was quite painless. The software comes on a DVD, so you'll need that type player to go from here. In reality, what you're installing is a player (LIS player) as well as the sample library. As future collections (libraries) come about, you really only need to install that new library, since one player fits the bill, up to sixteen different sound banks. Once you learn the Liquid Player's functions, you"ll be able to play the other two and future sound sets in the same manner.
A small printed manual, with even smaller print, comes with the software. If you have good eyes, you'll get much relevant info from the small, but attractive, manual. The manual is also available as a PDF on the DVD, this can be zoomed if you have trouble with the printed copy. The player isn't difficult at all to learn by just a small amount of exploration on your own. In all, it installs quickly and without a glitch. In fact, during this review period, I had the opportunity to download and install an upgrade which was very painless. After completing your standard challenge/response activation, you're off and running without a hitch.
If my math is correct, the sax library comes in at about 750 megs and the bass at about 456 megs of listening pleasure.
What Is "Liquid Sax"?
Liquid Sax is a sample library of created by Ueberschall, of Alto, Tenor, Baritone, and Soprano saxophones. Each instrument is played in different phrases based upon a variety of different genres. The styles range from that of the "smoke filled", traditional jazz bar sounds of the early 1950's to more contemporary "smooth" jazz type styles. There's bebop, swing, cool 60's soul and bossa, 70's funk, Latin, rock and more. Even dance music will benefit from the vast array of this collection of riffs. Really, as you'll soon learn, there's no limit to which "style" you use Liquid Sax, due to it's one of a kind edit-ability.
If you want "real", then . . . hire a "real" sax player to throw down licks as professional as these. It's true, this is not a living sax player, but it's played by one and truly sounds the best of ANY sample collection around today.
The styles, or phrases, are accessed via the sounds section of the liquid player interface. First you'll choose from a soprano, alto, tenor, or baritone sax to act as your instrument. Phrases are laid out orderly by style and root, and you don't have to stick with the original tempo. Each style group has several varied phrases from which to choose. Minor, major, or other scales are available. In fact, there are more varied scales than you may ever need. Riffs play right from the player for instant auditioning before editing, in either a one shot play or looped mode. All selections reacted quickly, not sluggishly like some other interfaces, to my P4, 1.6 Gig set-up, running XP. This is true for all buttons and sliders on the interface.
From the editor section of the interface, you get to experience the fruits of the hard work behind the Melodyne editor. All notes are laid out in grid fashion and are manipulated by the standard dragging, for time difference, and dropping for tone changes, on the grid interface. Each note from every phrase can be edited to become 'your own'. Again, results are instant. This hasn't been possible with sample collections before the LIS player came to be. You can't yet add or rearrange notes in a sampled phrase, but by eliminating some and changing, or stretching, their time and pitch, you really can come up with a new and different phrase.
On the editor page, you'll also encounter some sliders and drop down button options, most of which are self explanatory. (volume, pitch, etc.) The panorama slider changes the left right pan of your phrase. Formant controls the sounds in a filter type demeanor. The drop downs along the right side of the sliders mainly pertain to your edited phrases and what you want to do with them. Also, it was great to hear that, when you change the tempo, the notes do not change at all from their original tone quality. They simply speed up or slow down and play as in real time.
The sound quality is, to date, the best I've ever heard. There have been other saxophone sample discs, sample players, and sample loop recordings, but Liquid Sax is the first sax sample collection to truly sound like the real thing. Listen close and you'll hear the players' reed noises as they blow. I'm sorry, but that's a component missing from most all the rest and certainly something you will not get from a MIDI file.
This unique program allows you to take any monophonic sample loop and edit it, note by note. This technology is able to recognize the beginning and end of each note, keeping them separate, and analyzes their relationship with the next note in succession. How? I don't know. But I care. Because, the result takes your music samples to the next, and final, step. Music! Sounds are simply, much more musical after being put through the Melodyne process.
As in the past, and in future reviews of sample collections, I won't pretend to understand the technologies involved in creating what our ears have to enjoy. It's called Local Sound Synthesis. I will let you know however if, in my opinion, it works or not. In this case, Man, it works!
What Is "Liquid Bass"?
Liquid Bass is a sample library consisting of sampled phrases played upon a 78' Musicman Stingray, a 77' Fender Jazz Bass (Maple neck), and a 62' Fender Jazz Bass (Fretless). Styles offered are from the funk, soul, disco, house, pop, rock, beat through jazz, nu jazz, latin brazil, styles up to downtempo, lounge and easy listening styles. All phrases are expertly played and offer up inspiration from the first listen.
It's tough to choose a favorite here, as all phrases from each of the styles is impeccably performed. I always gravitate toward the "downtempo" type riffs, but really I enjoyed the latin grooves just as much, if not more. It's just cool to have someone actually play for me, so I don't end up with a keyboard recording of a bass riff. Through your musical ear and editing, all phrases can be adapted to most any genre of music.
As stated earlier, all libraries utilize the LIS player and are edited in the same way. Once you hear these sample phrases, and know that you can tamper with each individual note to your hearts' desire, it'll be "almost" like you played the real instrument yourself.
If, there are drawbacks to mention, it'd be that the technology only works on monophonic samples. When you think about it, with sax, bass, voice, etc, that's no real problem though. Also, the fact that you cannot embellish and add notes to these phrases could be frustrating, but I can live with this as well. Also, the tiny print on what is otherwise a helpful manual, is a bit of a strain.
Speaking of ...
. . . a "real" saxophone player, I thought that I'd give a shout out to someone I work with, who just might be somewhat of an authority on sax and sax samples. So, I had Tom Scott stop by my studio for a listen and got his opinion of the Liquid Sax.
For those who don't know, Tom Scott is a renowned composer, arranger, producer, musical director and saxophonist. To date, he has twenty-five solo recordings to his credit and for these efforts has earned thirteen Grammy nominations and three Grammy Awards. Not to mention a Cleo award and movie, television, commercial, and album credits beyond count ability. Remember those great sax solos on Steely Dan's "AJA" album? That was Tom. Remember listening to "what the man said" on the Paul McCartney tune of the same name? That was Tom. Ever heard a sax solo on every song on the radio? That was, okay, most of those were, Tom. I think you get the point. (More "Tom" stuff - here.)
So, what did he say? After giving the liquid sax a listen, without a pause, Tom Scott said, "Someone finally got it right! That's the best sampled sax I've heard to date." Who needs me to write a review?! If that's not an endorsement, what is!
Is it "real"?
Well, the bass is as good as, if not better than any other bass samples around today. Coupled with the edit ability, it makes it hard to beat.
As for the sax, if you want "real", then . . . hire a "real" sax player to throw down licks as professional as these. It's true, this is not a living sax player, but it's played by one and truly sounds the best of ANY sample collection around today.
In short, the Liquid Sax and Bass instruments are top notch and will very difficult to beat. In the end; if you can't afford the likes of Tom Scott, then Liquid Sax is the way to go.
Review at a Glance