This year’s KVR Developer Challenge includes a free sample library, Sounds of Life by Ocean Swift. The name is suiting, as the library is filled with a few hundred samples from everyday life – ranging from babies, cats, and dogs to traffic noise and engines. In addition to supplying the samples as is, Ocean Swift has also manipulated the samples to form new sounds, for use in sci-fi games, horror movies, ambient music and much more. All in all, there are 592 stereo sound files in 24-bit WAV format, resulting in an 862 MB download.
Reviewing this kind of sample library is very different from reviewing a library of, say, concert violin samples. This sample library is not so much about the pristine audio quality of seamless loops. Instead, it’s about capturing the very essence of what we do during the day. Thus, traffic noise is, well, noisy, rather than filtered to immediately suit a track. At first, I felt a bit negative towards this philosophy, not least the fact that the more harmonic samples (say a tweaked microwave oven ping) are not tuned, but supplied at the original pitch. Soon enough I accepted this solution, appreciating that the samples are true to their origin. Likewise, since the samples are unfiltered and geared towards many users (not just musicians), it is important to watch out for low-end rumble, which has not been filtered out. So be sure to bring out your high-pass filter when using the machine samples!
In my mind, there are three uses for this library’s samples. The first and most obvious is using them as sound effects in music, radio shows, computer games, or film. Many of the manipulated sounds are particularly useful for these applications, such as laser beams or horror-movie-style spoken phrases. The next way to use them would be as musical elements in music tracks. While most samples are non-harmonic, I have had success in incorporating mangled bicycle ring samples and the like in my ambient music (more on that below). Finally – and perhaps most interesting – would be to use the samples as starting points for audio sculpting tools. For example, running them through MeldaProduction’s MMorph or MSpectralDelay would surely produce interesting results.
Downloading the library is a breeze. The download speed was good when I tried it. Also, it’s just a ZIP file containing the samples, so there is no awkward installation procedure to follow. Ocean Swift should also be commended for not forcing the user to sign up for accounts, mailing lists or the like. And since it’s just a matter of files, it is easy to delete samples you may not be interested in, to save disk space and to keep a better structure of your samples.
After having listened to the samples, I wrote an ambient track consisting of only unfiltered sounds from the Sounds of Life library (though the reverbs and occasional delays are from my DAW). I think the samples work well in this context, and some of them worked better than I originally thought they would. In the track below, these are the samples I used (in order of appearance): a glass bottle sound for the bass and melody lines; wind chimes with a melody that repeats throughout the track; some kitchen appliances for the drums; a truck engine to establish a “doomy” feeling; a tweaked microwave ping for HUGE chords; a wood saw; a bicycle ring sample with a very nice ending; a Vietnamese traffic agent (I think); a water sound from a pool; a woman laughing; some street ambiance, paired with an alien sound; and finally some running machine, about fifteen samples in total. Though not the intended use for a sample library, using Sounds of Life as the only source was an interesting and rewarding experience for me.
So should you download this sample library? Yes, I think you should! Most of the original sounds are not that different from what you could sample yourself, but it is very nice to have access to so many sounds with a single download. Moreover, many of the tweaked sounds are surprisingly useful and in themselves well worth the download – perhaps of more value than the original sounds. Enough said on the matter – go ahead, download the files and enjoy the sounds of everyday life!
Sounds Of Life is available for free download via KVR Audio (862 MB download size, ZIP archive, contains 592 audio files in stereo 24-bit WAV format).