Review – Arpology by Sample Logic

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Sample Logic combines a step animator/sequencer, great samples, and many powerful effects, resulting in a winning combination.

 

by Rob Mitchell, July 2017

 

Sample Logic is the creator of many high quality sample-based libraries.  Joe Trupiano started the company back in 2006 and since then Sample Logic has built up quite a library of sound sets in its catalog. Some of the many titles include Cinematic Guitars, Morphestra 2, Cinemorphx, and Bohemian. For this issue of SoundBytes, I thought we’d take a look at Arpology. It is an advanced arpeggiator/step sequencer with a large library of sounds. It includes 550+ varied instruments and multi-instruments covering several music types. Over five gigabytes of samples are packed into the product using lossless sample compression. One very cool feature is its Drag-and-Drop MIDI function that can give new life to your other plugins. It also has a preset for the TouchOsc app for tablets, allowing you to control Arpology from your device. In additional to all this, Arpology is NKS compatible.

To use Arpology on a PC or Mac you’ll need either Kontakt (5.5 or higher) or the free Kontakt Player, Intel Core 2 Duo (or higher CPU), and four gigabytes of RAM is recommended. For the PC you need Windows 7 32/64-bit (or higher), and for the Mac it’s OS X 10.9 (or higher). Once you’ve downloaded and installed Arpology, you must run either Kontakt or the free Kontakt Player to activate the product using a serial number. For this review I used the Kontakt Player.

After you have it loaded, you’ll see a menu on the left side for picking either an Instrument or a Multi (layered sounds). The Instruments are in three categories: Cinematic-Organic, Electronic, and Percussive Impacts. Once you have selected one of these, the main display is revealed. One thing I wanted to determine was whether you could load in other sounds besides the Arplology factory content. You can do that, but only if you have the full version of Kontakt. But that’s OK since there is a large amount of sample content in the first place.

After you’ve loaded in one of the instruments, you could load in a second or third instrument from the menu on the left side. Alternatively, you can just skim through the other instruments one by one using the left/right arrows next to its name. As I mentioned, there are over 550 instruments from which to choose, but you can also turn off the Step Animator to play all of these instruments in a standard fashion if you’d like. This is actually a good way to audition what each sample really sounds like without any extra arpeggiation/sequencing going on. For now, let’s take a look at the many parts that make up the Step Animator.

 

Step by Step

Across the top you’ll find the information window (informative when you make changes to a setting), a randomization button, and playback speed settings. The Playmode settings of Latch, Freeze, and Random can be very handy. Latch will keep playing the note for you until another one is played. Freeze will keep playing the current step over and over until you switch it off. Random will play through the sequence once, and then it will play random sequences after that. You are also able to change the playback direction of the sequence. A swing control is included, and enabling the Stutter control will play every step as a stuttered step.   The Quantize button helps out the sequence if it happens to have an odd amount of steps. It does this by adding more steps to reach the next bar. Other settings are for adjusting the step amount, octave range, and “Restart” will begin the sequence from the first step. A metronome can be enabled that helps you keep track of the rhythm.

You can configure Arpology to use up to 128 steps. When you use that many steps, it divides them up over eight groups of sixteen steps apiece. To switch between the eight separate sets, you just click the buttons in the upper left (labeled 1 – 8). Selecting the “book” icon to right of those numbers will automatically flip to the next section of the sequence when it is playing.

There are many functions that are located along the left side, and each step is a column with buttons and sliders which can change the parameters for each step. The varied functions are Step Type, Velocity, Length, Arp Type, Transposition, Duration, Stutter Rate, and Pan. For each of those functions, clicking the “R” button will enable it for randomization. After you’ve selected the ones you wish to change in this way, you just click the “Random” button in the upper-left. I will go over what these functions actually do so you can get a better idea of just how powerful Arpology really is.

The “Step Type” can be set to Rest (nothing is played), Note (normal note is played), Stutter (repeats a note), Glide (glides to the next note), Freeplay (you can play anything until the next step), or Stutter Alternating (stutter effect between the notes being played). The “Velocity” setting is the input velocity level for each of the steps and they are controlled by using sliders. Clicking the chain icon will link all the sliders together so their levels stay relative to each other, or you can use the Velocity Preset menu to quickly add some variety to the sequence.

 

Other settings include the option to enable the modulation wheel to control the input velocity, and clicking the pencil icon lets you draw in the amount on the “Easy Draw” display that appears. The “Length” setting has presets available so you don’t have to adjust every step to the length you want to use. Of course, you can manually set up each step to whatever length you’d like by using the separate menus for each of the steps. They can be set to Whole note, 1/2, 1/2 triplet, 1/4, 1/4 triplet, 1/8th, etc. You can also enable the mod wheel button to adjust the length while you play.

The “Arp Type” settings include Up, Down, As Played, Random, Chordal Alternating Octaves (alternates between the octaves using the “Octave” setting), and Chordal Compound Octaves (plays the notes and an octave above or below). Transpose is for setting each step to the pitch you want (+/- 36 semitones). The “Duration” setting is for the overall play time for the step. If it is set to the highest amount, it is able to play the full length of time determined by the Length setting. You can use this to get an adjustable staccato-effect on the notes. Just like with the Velocity section, this Duration part of the display also has the same type of drawing functionality built-in. “Stutter Rate” is the speed at which the stutter-effect (repeats the note) occurs, and works with the Length control to determine how many times the stutter occurs. “Pan” is exactly that. You can pan every step of the sequence however you’d like. It also has the chain feature to link the steps for panning, the Easy Draw function, and a mod wheel assignment you can use.

 

Effects

In the lower left are two tabs for switching between the Step Animator and the Effects display. Along the top of the Effects tab are available choices: Filter, LoFi, Distortion, Pitch, Wave, Delay, and Reverb. Clicking on any of the effect labels for these will display the effect’s controls in the center of the screen.

The Filter has resonance, high and low cut controls. The high cut can be assigned to the mod wheel. You can also dial in an amount for velocity (using “Vel to Hi-Cut”) to affect the high cut with the velocity. The LoFi effect is exactly that, as it lets you add a level of noise, and you can change the bit and sample rate. Also included are a few LoFi presets to get you started. The Distortion effect gives you some overdriven grunginess to add some grit to the sound. The Pitch effect will adjust the pitch (+/- 3 octaves) and you can also adjust the pitch bend amount. 

The Wave effect is documented as a “Wavetable Synthesis Engine”, but I found it just uses a regular waveform, which is fine with me. There are eight basic waveforms from which to choose: Pulse, Saw, Sine, Sine/Saw, Square 1, Square 2, Square/TriSaw, and Triangle. You can select the amount of the waveform that plays along with the regular samples in a preset. It has its own EQ that can be adjusted, as well as an ADSR envelope.

Last but not least, Delay and Reverb effects round out the group. The reverb is quite good. You can select between digital or convolution reverb types, and there are fourteen presets to choose from. The IR waveform (impulse response) can be reversed as well. One great feature for most of these effects is that they each have a built-in step sequencer for many of the individual settings. This lets you use preset patterns or draw your own, and it offers a wealth of various audio possibilities. The only effect which doesn’t have this addition is the reverb.

Towards the top of the Effects display are buttons for the Mixer, Triggers, and LFOs. The Mixer is a simple slider-based mixer for the levels between the Samples and Waves effect. They each have a panning slider as well.

The Trigger section has presets from which to choose and selecting one of the six trigger pads will change the sound in different ways. Let’s say you set it to Latch mode and play a note so it just keeps playing the pattern over and over. After that, you can switch on the Triggers, select one of the eight different presets, and each pad will change the sound in distinct ways. Each trigger pad is more like an on/off switch for whichever effect, so you can have all six triggers selected if you want. It’s a great feature, but I didn’t see any way to configure them myself to use some effect settings of my own. It doesn’t really say on the display what is going on with each pad either, so I found myself just clicking around until I had the result I was after.

 

The eight LFOs can be used to modulate certain pre-assigned targets. These include high and low cutoff, resonance, sample rate, drive, pitch, volume, and panning. Each of the LFOs has a choice of five different waveforms: Sine, Triangle, Square, Saw and Random. The Speed, Fade, and Percent (amount) controls let you adjust them to your liking. Velocity can be set to affect any of the LFOs, and the mod wheel can be used to adjust the LFO speed. On either side of the display for the effects are settings for the Volume envelope (attack/release), Compressor (with seven presets), four-band EQ, and Master Hi/Lo cut.

 

 

Conclusion

Arpology is a powerful monster that hides in a sheep’s clothing. There are countless possibilities here that await the audio designer. But even though it has many options, it is still very intuitive. The only thing I’d like to see added would be an easy way to change the settings of the Trigger section and to be able to assign my own labels to each of them. If you happen to have the full version of Kontakt, then the sky is the limit. Of course, this product is mainly aimed at those interested in arpeggiators and step sequencers. In that regard, it definitely delivers on all fronts. With its MIDI drag-and-drop, optional iPad integration, Multi-instrument function, and huge amount of extra built-in features, Sample Logic’s Arpology is one to be reckoned with.

Arpology retails for $399 USD, and it is also available in the “Producer Bundle” which also includes Cinematic Keys and Cyclone Retwisted. That bundle retails for $799 USD (the full retail price for buying the contents individually would be $1099 USD). You can get more information about Arpology and hear audio examples here:

https://www.samplelogic.com/products/arpology/

 

 

 

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