Fresh from the Impact Soundworks stables comes the Hollowbody Guitar – priced at a reasonable $159 and available as a digital download only. These guys know a thing or two about sampling guitars having given us two volumes of Shreddage and wowed us with their hybrid scoring monster ‘Juggernaut’. So when I saw ISW had returned to sampling the guitar, I was delighted to see they had taken on the glorious Sadowsky Jim Hall; a task not for the faint hearted.
Jim Hall as I’m sure you already know, was a huge pioneering Jazz legend. A master guitarist, arranger and composer, Jim sadly passed away on December the 10th 2013, so it seems a fitting tribute that his genius and unique sound has been immortalized in this sample library. No bad thing indeed if this introduces a new generation to his music and passion for it. The heart of this fine beast was captured in 24bit, directly sampling each and every fret on all strings, reproducing playing techniques and styles such as:
- Sustain, palm mutes, vibrato, tremolo
- Thumbed octaves, portamento (glissando)
- Staccato notes, hammer-on, pull-off playing
- Harmonics – artificial & real – neck slides, pick FX and noises
- Wide range of release noises
- Every fret sampled on every string
- Adjustable mapping and playing style
It represents a pretty comprehensive guitar all crammed into a modest 4GB of disk space. With hard drive real estate proving to be a growing concern, I was shocked to see something so detailed worked down to that size. You will be glad to hear this installs and performs on both the full, and free version of Kontakt 5.3. Installation is as painless and fluid as you have come to expect -p acked into 8 .rar files, there are no big surprises or iLok registration woes. Just your usual NI Service Centre authorisation and off you go!
How Does Archtop Sound?
So what does it sound like? Straight out of the box, Impact Soundworks Archtop is a crystal clean and warm blooded animal. Now I know a lot of you are allergic to descriptives like ‘organic’, ‘living’ and ‘warm’ but its exactly the first impression you get. I love the fact it wasn’t recorded with a ton of excessive plugins and pedals shows you they are keen to highlight what they have captured. As with the wonderful Shreddage, you are free to use your own bespoke choice in effects and third party plug ins, or indeed the respectable offerings inside Kontakt. You might just glean a little more if you do play this through Amplitube or Guitar Rig – the ‘go-to’ for clean guitar samples.
My only initial fear was, “how flexible is this library”? “Can I pull off a really life like, string bending, fret noise caked, gritty blues lead? A rattling 50’s rock riff or a surf and turf Dick Dale fret descent? And the answer is yes to all and much more. From warm dulcet jazz tones, to a barky telecaster bite, it surprised me how much range it would cover. Clearly your 3rd party plug-in, weapons of choice will broaden your scope for guitar sounds, types etc.
It is a highly intuitive GUI and easy on the eye layout. Compared to a leading guitar library that has been out for sometime now, I will say I applaud Impact Soundworks for making this as quick as it needs to be. Articulations are there to fire in at will, and one does not require a PHD in scripting or advanced guitar techniques to start working with it. Plus you’re not carving away 20-30 gb in hard drive for the privilege. As a bass player myself, but mainly a keys man, obtaining a real “ alive and organic” sound that actually made me seem like I knew what the hell I was doing, was a big ask. The hollowbody seamlessly transitions through its articulations. You don’t need soul sapping CC maps everywhere, you aren’t reaching for a guide just to obtain that elusive sound. You can feel the virtual pick under your fingers. So frankly, I can’t stop playing it.
The main GUI welcomes you with a set of articulation and effect switches, some tone, volume and pickup blend pots and a stereo on/off toggle which I thought was a nice touch. You effectively can have one pickup per side so to speak. It delivers a much richer, wider stereo picture. If you do want to ‘pop the hood’ a little more, you can set all your custom ranges for sustain, harmonics, hammer/pull, portamento to achieve that exact performance. The neck and bridge switch gives you broad control over a warm deep bodied sound to a more rocky rawkus biting attack, and as mentioned, you can blend between the two to locate any number of sounds.
Speaking as a keyboard player, anything that allows me to deliver a better performance like this is a godsend, although it wont play for you. This is no loop/ phrase machine. You will still need to bring those chops! But they will sound utterly convincing. I’m very fond of the instant midi learn by right clicking a switch or pot and assigning control, and I didn’t find the process convoluted or overly technical. By flicking to the fret board page, again for non guitar folk like me, you can see exactly what is going on. I’m guessing a guitarist will perhaps benefit more from being able to visualise those voicings.
All in all, for the princely sum of $159 roughly £95 or 116 euros, this is an astonishingly convincing guitar. Its lineage and pedigree aside, ISW simply know how to capture an electric guitar and in what manner it needs to translate for non guitar people, and those on a deadline not keen on hours of tuition. I mean seriously, for some libraries you spend so much time, it makes you wonder if it was more practical just learning the damn thing! Im not shocked that ISW pulled it off going by Shreddage. I just hope this is just one addition of many more to come. I’d certainly welcome a family of guitars captured with this detail and above all friendly to play!
Archtop is available on the Impact Soundworks website for $159: http://impactsoundworks.com/products/guitar-and-bass/archtop-hollowbody-electric-guitar