Magix Samplitude 10 Pro review

12 Dec 2008

It's not the most inviting audio software, but with solid core features and some unusual extras it adds up to an attractive package.

Price when reviewed: 
764(£764 inc VAT)
4

When musicians argue about the relative merits of Cubase, Logic, Sonar or Pro Tools, we must confess that we've never heard anyone get excited about Magix Samplitude. However, it has a long pedigree dating back to the early nineties, and at £664 exc VAT for the flagship Samplitude Pro, it demands to be taken seriously.

This is considerably pricier than the competition mentioned above, but a 'crossgrade' offer means that if you own any other recording software, you can buy Samplitude Pro for just £392. The offer includes budget audio software costing just a few pounds, so there's no reason to ever pay full price.

Samplitude Pro takes a conventional approach to music production with features and a general look and feel that are broadly similar to Cakewalk Sonar. Audio and MIDI recordings are arranged on a timeline, while other windows handle comprehensive mixing, MIDI and audio editing, musical notation and virtual MIDI instruments. VST and DirectX plug-in support complements the bundled instruments and effects, and other supported standards include multiple input/output ASIO and WDM sound cards, ReWire for running in tandem with other software and 5.1 surround mixing.

Version 10 includes a major overhaul of the automation features, which allow changes to mixer and instrument settings to be recorded or drawn as envelopes with the mouse. The new implementation leaves nothing to be desired but recording changes in real time generates dense data, making it fiddly to edit later. A Thin Out command is available to simplify this data, but we would prefer the ability to apply this automatically.

Samplitude Pro's strongest feature is its effects bundle, arguably negating the need for third-party plug-ins. The compressor includes a choice of vintage and VCA algorithms and includes tape-saturation emulation.

One of the two reverbs uses convolution, generating ambiences from impulses captured in real spaces, and comes with a comprehensive library of impulse files. The distortion effect is capable of anything from gentle tube warmth to screaming distortion. There's a comprehensive master effects section, and even Autotune-style pitch correction built in. An off-line Spectral Cleaning editor removes unwanted noises with surgical precision.

The new addition to the effects bundle is Am-munition, a compressor-limiter that is both complex and unorthodox in its approach but rewards technically minded users with some impressively beefy sounds, particularly on complete mixes.

Sadly, the virtual instrument bundle isn't so impressive. Robota is an analogue drum sequencer with plenty of fun features, but it's unlikely to see much use beyond a limited range of dance genres. The new Independence LE is a general-purpose synth that draws on 4GB of samples.

The quality of its presets is excellent, with a refined grand piano, lots of world percussion and scope to expand on small selection of analogue synth sounds via the synthesis controls. However, there aren't enough acoustic drum kits and no orchestral instruments at all. Magix' competitors offer a greater quantity of more versatile virtual instruments.

Samplitude also falls behind the competition with a lack of support for video playback - an essential feature for synchronising music and video for soundtrack work. There are plenty of other positives, though, including an extremely flexible mixer with the ability to re-order effects chains and even each component in a mixer channel. There's a new, extremely high quality time-stretching and pitch-shifting algorithm. The arrange window is quick to navigate and includes comprehensive crossfade and snap-to-grid options.

Details

Price ex VAT £664
Price inc VAT £764
Overall rating 4
Ease of Use rating 3
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4
Software subcategory Audio production software

Requirements

Processor requirement 1.5GHz Pentium or equivalent

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? no