Pulpo Audio has released free D’Pinga Latin Percussion and Dry Aged Bass sample-based virtual instruments in VST and AU plugin formats for PC and Mac.
Pulpo Audio is a new developer with quite a selection of freeware VST plugins. There are currently five of them – Bongo, Conga, Timbal, and Guiro percussion plugins, plus the Dry Aged acoustic bass guitar. They are available as 64-bit and 32-bit virtual instruments for PC and Mac, and unlike most such plugins which use Maize Sampler, these seem to be written from scratch in C++.
The sound sets are quite detailed, with up to eight velocity layers and a good selection of various hit types for each piece. The bass has six velocity layers, line and mic recordings, and three articulations – plucked near the soundhole, plucked near the bridge, and muted. Dry Aged Bass is the largest instrument in terms of download size, weighing in at over 500 MB. The percussion instruments are no less detailed, but only have one mic position. Their naturally shorter sustain means the file sizes are smaller, ranging from 9 MB for the guiro to 127 MB for the timbales (which also include a cymbal, woodblock and cowbells, in addition to the timbales themselves).
The percussion sounds are detailed and realistic enough for some pretty serious productions, and have enough various strokes to make all the sounds needed in Latin or Caribbean music which would use these instruments. It’s not quite a complete late 20th century Cuban percussion section – there are no shakers or claves, but hopefully all those are coming in the future (though the site offers no hints of what might be next). I wouldn’t call them the world’s best percussion freebie, as in my opinion that’s still darbuka-nut, but aside from that, these are the best other free percussion plugins I’m aware of, and basically head and shoulders above any similar free Latin percussion samples I’ve been able to find. I would also say they are almost as good as SM Drums, but I worked on the Sforzando version of those, so I’m biased.
The Dry Aged Bass is an old acoustic bass guitar, which is something of a niche bass instrument because of its lack of unplugged volume. However, when sampled the lack of volume doesn’t matter, and this bass actually sounds quite nice, with plenty of character and quite a rich sound, especially with the mic recordings. There are no hammer-ons, pull-offs, slaps, or every-fret-on-every-string sampling, but again, for a free virtual instrument the level of detail and realism here is excellent.
The plugins themselves are fully functional romplers, with quite a few knobs for adjusting various parameters, as well as legato settings (which in the case of drums means a hit on a particular kit piece mutes any previously sounding hits on the same piece, the way hi-hats work in most virtual drum kits). The bass also has keyswitches between the articulations. There seems to be no facility for changing the keymaps, which could be useful for someone who wants to control the percussion with an e-kit, or put multiple percussion VSTs in one MIDI layer channel to control all from a large keyboard. But other than that and multiple mic positions, the plugins do seem to have all the important features that commerical drum plugins do.
Although they are all listed as version 0.9, not yet a full release, all the plugins seem perfectly stable ready for use. The 64-bit Windows installer tries to use 32-bit VST directory paths by default, the newest guiro is not listed in the documentation (meaning you have to figure out what key is what sound by playing it), and the 32-bit Mac versions have not been tested yet, but other than that everything seems to be there, stable and fully functional. CPU use is very low – even a busy percussion part with all four percussion plugins loaded only hit 3% on my system – but all samples are loaded into RAM, which means that the bass takes up a half a gig by itself.
The plugins are written in C++ using the JUCE framework and their code is available on Bitbucket and released under the GLP3 license, so if you are a developer, you can even create your own plugins based on this code. We’re looking forward to Pulpo Audio’s future releases, as these first few virtual instruments look very promising.
Dry Aged Bass the D’Pinga Percussion can be downloaded from Pulpo Audio (32-bit & 64-bit VST/AU plugin format for Windows & Mac OS).