Togu Audio Line or TAL have some serious property to their name. TAL-NoiseMaker (included as one of the top picks in our free VA synth round-up) is still one of the best sounding freeware VA synths despite being several years old, and their more recent recreations of the SH-101 and Juno 106 are simple, cheap and very realistic analog emulations that have earned many compliments while on duty providing synth pads, leads and basses in my music. It’s no surprise that TAL-Sampler, the latest offering, takes this ethos and runs with it exactly where you would hope.
On the face of it, TAL-Sampler is quite limited. The sample engine features four layers, each of which can house multiple keygroups. While modulation is quite extensive, most of it applies to the entire program and can’t be set up on a per-keygroup or even per-layer basis like I’m used to expecting. The filter, luckily, can be switched in and out for each layer, but other than that, your tweaks apply to everything.
Why would anyone even think about picking this sampler up, then? Well, because it does such a good job of providing the much sought after “vintage crunch” by emulating the vintage samplers which have become the holy grail of gritty hip-hop and drum and bass beats.
TAL-Sampler has only a handful of sampler models, but they are all tweakable to a high degree, allowing you to add jitter, hiss, reduce input volume, sample rate, saturation, etc… These parameters interact with each other and the pitch of the sample in complex and glorious ways, with the analog components carefully modeled to deliver pleasing artifacts. Adding hiss doesn’t just play noise alongside the sample, for example; it breathes noise into the sample, changing the treble response and texture.
While we’re talking about the sound, take a listen to a demo I recorded, where I am rapidly exploring the parameter space of the emulations and tweaking the filter and envelopes:
Built in to the sample engine is an old-school time-stretching facility, very reminiscent of the early Akai time-stretch. Don’t expect a realistic stretch, that is not the point here! It’s best use for grinding up kicks, snares, vocal samples and the like.
All of this glorious crunchiness feeds the analog modeled low-pass filter in spectacular fashion, adding even more interactions and texture to the sound. The filter has a variable slope, from 24 db to 6 (keeping its resonance at all times) and responds to input level changes. It just feels so right and sits perfectly in the instrument. A high-pass mode would’ve been most welcome, and I hope a future update adds one (along with possibly more sampler models), but what’s here is sonic gold.
The 10-slot modulation matrix, three envelopes and three LFOs seem to apply to every layer, which surprised me. To make up for this, we’re given four macro knobs and the ability to modulate virtually any knob we see, including the effects. This means if you wanted to add an effect or envelope change to a certain keygroup, you would be forced to do it via automation or MIDI modulation rather than programming. This is a limitation that I’m sure will cause all manner of happy accidents, but I can’t help but feel I’d have liked the option to tweak individual keygroups, or even layers. However, the set-up works for the sampler’s intended purpose – namely loading a few samples in and having no-nonsense fun with them.
The icing on the cake is a set of effects: a one-band EQ, a reverb tailored to long tails, and a delay, all of which respond smoothly to automation and sound great. The GUI is like the guts of the plugin itself – no frills, utilitarian; straight to the point. The adjustable colours are a nice touch, and loading in samples and assigning them to keys is quick and easy since you can do it by playing your keyboard.
Togu Audio Line have hit this one in the back of the net, in my opinion. You use this baby for the sound, especially when pitching down drums or making old-school jungle. It doesn’t need to load or make massive multi-sampled programs, it’s there to be used as an expressive instrument in-and-of itself. While an expansion of the feature-set would be welcomed, it’s not damping my appreciation one bit!
Togu Audio Line have hit this one in the back of the net, in our opinion. You use this baby for the sound, especially when pitching down drums or making old-school jungle.