We have reviewed four of our favorite free software sampler plug-ins to let you know what’s available. All samplers we used were the most current version and tested within Reaper DAW, and as standalone where available.
There are lots of free software samplers available right now. They range from simple and utilitarian units to complex and tweak-able ones. Many of these can compete with some of the best commercial software on the market and will work seamlessly in your DAW of choice.
It might sound hackneyed but the best tools for creativity are the ones we actually use. In which case, it’s important to take the time to play around and find which instruments suit your needs, inspire your creativity and get you the results you want.
Perhaps you’re an experienced producer and composer looking for quality free software, or maybe you’re new to music production and are just having fun experimenting.
This review is for the purpose of those looking for free quality software. We receive no commission of any kind.
TX16Wx by Cwitec
There’s a reason why so many “best of” lists feature Cwitec’s TX16Wx sampler. And that’s because it’s fully packed of features. Based on the notoriously complex Yamaha TX16Wx hardware sampler, Cwitec’s software version is probably the most full-functioned free sampler available. If you are new to music production and/or software, it may seem daunting but the key functions are fairly simple to master.
The TX16Wx has a pretty extensive list of features. Firstly, it is a sampler and not merely a sample player as many other free software samplers are. This means it has the ability to record new samples rather than being limited to manipulating prerecorded files, although it can certainly do that too and supports huge sample files.
This free software sampler has 128 voice polyphony, built-in oscillators, filters and envelope generators. It also has a sample editor with automatic loop slicing, sample mapping and auto-pitch detection — which is pretty damn good.
Though the basic software is free, there is also a pro version that includes operations that are not available in the free version. These include time-stretching, pitch-shifting, built-in effects and an arpeggiator which is well worth the €39.00 license price.
It has 64-bit support and is available for Mac OSX or Windows. You can download it here.
Poise by One Small Clue
Poise is a great MPC-style percussion sampler. It’s simple to learn if you’re new to music production software and intuitive to use if you’re already proficient. It’s very light on CPU and fun to play with. I have lost count of the times I’ve expended my creative energy on overly-complex menu systems and GUIs, and Poise is a great antidote to that. You simply drag and drop samples from the menu directly to one of the 16 available pads, then get busy tweaking your sounds with the available parameters. What I really like about Poise is that there is very little menu diving. Most alterations can be made in the same window of the GUI and, although it is simple to use, it is feature-packed and functional without being bloated.
Poise has 16 available pads and the ability to layer 8 sounds per pad. Each layer has parameters for pitch, volume and pan, as well as envelopes for amplitude and pitch. What’s more, each of the 16 pads is routable to a different output for further processing in your DAW. Amazing!
Poise is available for Windows only in 32-bit and 64-bit formats. You can download it here.
Grace by One Small Clue
It’s another great, simple to use yet effective sampler from One Small Clue. I know there are a few reviews of this one already online and I may be a little late to the party, but I’m gonna extol its virtues anyway.
Loading of samples is simply by drag and drop into the sample mapper, where it’s quick and easy to set the note parameters. It has two nice-sounding filters with comb, lo-fi and ring mod options. There are amplitude and mod envelope generators, a pair of LFO’s and step-sequencers, and four X/Y pads that can be used to modulate most parameters. It’s compact and stable, and you can export patches using SFZ format. Like its sister unit Poise, it doesn’t actually sample but is a useful tool for manipulating prerecorded sounds and building interesting patches.
Grace is available for Windows only (Sorry OSX users) in 32-bit and 64-bit formats. You can download it here.
Independence free by Magix
Independence is slightly different to the others as it’s available as a standalone sample player, as well as a VST plugin. It’s a little more complex than the previous two models and not quite as intuitive to use. But once you get involved, there’s a lot you can do with it.
The free version has some feature restrictions because there’s a paid licensed version with a larger instrument library. You can import your own samples and build patches. The fairly extensive fx are really good quality. There’s also a free 2GB sample library available from the website. It is compatible with a wide range of sample formats, including AKAI and Soundfont, and it even supports third party fx VSTs. Independence is yet another great example of the high-quality music production software that you can download and use totally free.
Independence is available for Mac OSX and Windows. You can download it here.
Enjoy making your own music! If you need some help or tips, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write your message here.