Whether you're an electronic musician who's searching for the right set of sounds to load into your software sampler or an analog bloke who's desperately in need of Amazonian crickets to lay into a video effects track, chances are, sometime you're gonna have need for a sample library. Often, commercially available libraries are expensive and might not include that elusive sound or be in the right format for the job. In response to this dilemma, the folks at sonomic.com have created an on- line sound library that includes over 200,000 royalty-free sounds using an approach that follows the company motto: "Search >> Preview >> Download."

For starters, the Sonomic site offers a simple search engine that's made up of four basic categories. The first three determine the type of sample that you're looking for. For example, Samples include loop and one-shot sounds that can be loaded into a sampler or DAW for use in a performance or background bed. Sound FX includes strings, foley, and background sounds that range from the natural to the wild-n-zany. Multi-Samples include fully edited soundbanks that can be loaded into a software sampler in a number of file formats (currently offered in Unity, SampleCell, ESX 24 formats, with forthcoming support for other popular software samplers). The final category, Soundbay, acts as a personalized holding tank that automatically stores all of the sounds that you've purchased from Sonomic, allowing them to be searched, managed, and accessed from any Internet-connected computer, at any time. Following the "Search >> Preview >> Download" idea, Sonomic offers an extensive search engine that lets you look for specific instruments, playing styles, sample-rate, loop/one-shot, BPM or key. In short, it's really easy to zero in on what you need, without a muss or fuss.

Once you've found a range of samples, the samples can be easily previewed in real-time using either Windows Media or Real-Audio formats. Adding them to the shopping cart lets you move on to the checkout counter where they can be purchased with any major credit card. Speaking of bucks, Sonomic offers several payment options: 1. If you only need one or two sounds, you can purchase them individually for $1.99 per sample, $7.99 per sound effect or $4.99-$24.99 per multi-sample. 2. For $29.99 per month, monthly subscribers can download 10 sound effects or 30 samples per month (If you don't use all your downloads, they'll rollover to the next month!). 3. A $39.95 Library Card lets you choose any 50 samples or 20 sound effects and is available from Guitar Center, Sam Ash, and Mars, as well as select independent stores. 4. A number of annual service contracts are also available (prices and service contracts can be viewed on the site).

Finally, once the soundfiles have been paid for, they can be downloaded in either AIFF or WAV formats (multi- samples are often compressed as self-extracting files). At any time in the future, all of your purchased soundfiles can be accessed from your personalized Soundbay account. Although I have a typical modem connection, I still found navigating around the site to be straightforward and easy. The one-shot/loop sounds are high quality in that they use sounds from Zero-G, Q Up Arts, Sampleheads, Numerical Sound, Universal Sound Bank, Electronisounds and Doug Beck Music, among others. There's also a fair number of Multi Sampled instruments and voices from which to choose. Most are in the Unity and SampleCell formats. Being a Steinberg Halion user myself, I had to update to the latest version of the software sampler so I could import EXS 24 files. It took a bit of doing, but I figured the import process and was soon playing samples that mapped out over the keyboard.

Personally, one of the most impressive parts of the site relates to the fact that Sonomic recently acquired the rights to the BBC's extensive sound effects library. The ability to download impossible-to-find nature ambience tracks from all over the world (care to download a 60 MB file of frogs and crickets recorded in a Zaire forest?) is truly amazing! The site's well worth checkin' out. At the very least, you should bookmark the site-you never know when you might need it. (sonomic.com)

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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