Happy Sampling: An Interview with TX16WX’s Creator
Herein we offer a chat with the developer of reigning king of affordable bloat-free soft samplers, Calle Wilund, the man behind TX16WX.
by Suleiman Ali. July 2015
Despite the widespread proliferation of software effects and instruments of all shapes and sizes, there is strangely a dearth of quality software in some very important categories. Most surprisingly, affordable soft-samplers are a rare breed, with products either falling in the “please sign here and here / give us your first-born” price range that encompass everything including Gigabytes of included content and even their own scripting language (can you spell “bloat”) or being very basic samplers that offer nice interfaces yet a very limited feature set.
The first serious fully loaded contestant in the free / ridiculously cheap stakes was the fantastic Shortcircuit 1.0. It was used by many, mainly due the amazing features and an intuitive GUI that got the job done. But then the usual happened: development slacked and then stopped. The developer went onto greener pastures (Bitwig), and Shortcircuit was, for all purposes, abandoned (or frozen in time).
Enter a nifty little VSTI called TX16WX. It initially seems to emulate Yamaha’s original rack mounted sampler of the same name, but with additional features. It was small, free and had a developer who was attentive to users. By the time the dust cleared and TX16WX 2.0 came around, it had indeed come a long way from Kansas and the original hardware. The GUI has grown by leaps and bounds, while the features had increased to include almost everything you could ever want in a soft sampler (including the fact that it actually sampled, and that too in a fast easy manner with quick editing and mapping). The original king was dead, and everyone hailed the new flesh. Currently at version 2.4.1 this 32- / 64-bit Win- / Mac-friendly VSTI is truly a sampler’s dream and many a musician’s / producer’s choice of sampler now. The basic version is still 100 % free (like free beer), and pro-version includes effects, wave matrices and group switching. The clincher here is that all the instruments that you make and share in the pro-version work fine without any issues or limitations in the free version so it pretty much is an ideal distribution format.
So this small sized, resource friendly work of coding art can allow you to slice a few loops, assign then to MIDI notes in a few mouse clicks, while also adding multi-velocity round robin samples and sending each to separate outputs in your DAW, and furthermore allow you to switch between them using key-switches. That is just one small example. If you haven’t, you need try it at the below link NOW!
The free version also allows to trial ALL of the features of the pro-version without any limitation or crippling. The pricing is beyond fair (using a model similar to Reaper).
Having seen the sampler grow from its humble origins has been nothing less than awe-inspiring. I always knew Calle would be an interesting and intriguing interviewee, and he did not disappoint.
So without further adieu, here is the man behind the machine, Calle Wilund.
SoundBytes: Please introduce yourself to our readers and let us know a little about your background?
Calle Wilund: I’m Calle Wilund, a Swedish male (slightly middle aged). Originally, I was the co-founder of Appeal Virtual Machines (creators of the JRockit JVM), principal architect and lead developer for many years. Nowadays I am the CEO of CWITEC, doing DSP and high end computing software works around the globe. Once upon a time I was also a composer and musician, though very rarely now.
SB: How did TX16WX start out and what was your initial goal in developing it?
CW: Initially I just wanted a sampler instrument for myself, and since I felt that none of the available options had the features and work flow I was used to from my old hardware instruments, I decided to write one myself.
SB: Looking back, how would you quantify and explain its evolution since its beginnings?
CW: Eventually I came up with a beta of the first iteration of what I had lovingly called “TX16Wx”. Of course, I made the mistake of making it public to see what the feedback was. I got quite a lot of response, and soon ended up spending more time supporting and improving the sampler than actually using it :).
I guess the rest is history: I got a lot of nice feedback, and eventually decided to make it a “real” product with TX16Wx 2.0, and a premium edition. Development has been very user driven, with a core group of very vocal and energetic users pushing for features.
SB: Where do plan to take TX16WX in the future and what new features can users look forward to?
CW: I want to keep pushing work flow and core functionality, mainly adding to features that allow creative sampling and sound mangling. This includes improved mapping capabilities and better modulation and automation. Additional sound shapers, such as more advanced envelopes and filters will also be coming.
For TX16Wx 3.0 you should also expect a face lift for the UI and a better overview of things.
SB: What is your reasoning behind keeping the basic version free as well as such an affordable and extremely fair pricing model for the Pro version?
CW: I think that sampling is an aspect of music making where free or affordable alternatives have been a bit scarce or at least had a lot of pitfalls. TX16Wx is a test bed for the CWITEC libraries and DSP technology, much of which is going into other, more commercial projects. As such, I can afford to provide it without necessarily earning a profit from it.
SB: What was your philosophy behind keeping the TX16WX file formats as open / non-monolithic (un-locked)?
CW: This was always the biggest headache for me producing music, even with hardware. Once you picked a tool, your work would be locked into the format of that product, which most often would be closed and undocumented. This meant that once the product died, or I simply wanted to move on, trying to carry materials or libraries forward might not even be possible. But if at least file formats are documented, you can at the very least always write a conversion tool yourself, and have the freedom to move on. And the same of course goes for moving stuff to the TX platform. Since everything is documented, anyone can write conversion or management tools for sound banks etc.
SB: What are your thoughts on sampling / soft samplers and their current usage?
CW: Personally, being a bit old school, and with my heyday in the “biz” being the 90’s or so, I think to some extent the possibilities people have now also stifle creativity. It is no secret that I am not a huge fan of the oversized sample libraries of today, where splurging on samples is used instead of good sound programming. But on the other hand, for some use cases it is clear that modern banks provide unprecedented realism and potential. In general though, I think people should try sampling their own sounds, or at least do as we did back in the day; Ripping sounds of their LP’s and CD’s and turning them into something else 🙂 .
SB: How has the feedback from the musicians / producers community been so far for TX16WX?
CW: It has been very positive. I try to take all suggestions into consideration, or at least explain the rationale for design decisions. In turn, users give a lot of feedback and provide user cases and testing.
SB: What other effects and instrument developers do you admire or appreciate (for coding, philosophy, GUI etc.)?
CW: I’m a big fan of the TAL series of effects and instruments (not the least because I love my old Juno106). And of course REAPER is almost like a coupled product for the TX16Wx, as it provides a very similar fair licensing model.
SB: Will disk streaming ever be an option in TX16WX in the future?
CW: Yes. And it will be way better than in other products.
SB: Do you plan to develop any other instruments and effects under the CWITEC banner?
CW: CWITEC is co-developing some very exciting products using TX technology. I can’t give any details right now though.
SB: Is there anything else you want to add for our readers?
CW: Don’t let technology and options overwhelm your creativity. Find a small number of tools that you like and can afford, then learn to use them well. Too many toys will just make you lazy.
SB: Thank you for the interview!
CW: Thank you, and Happy Sampling!