Review – Independence Pro by Magix
Independence Pro is the ultimate sample-player/workstation – a bold statement to say the least. Can the sample library and software fulfill the developers promise?
by Luka Sraka, July 2016
Several years ago Magix bought sample-library manufacturers Yellow Tools. The result of the collaboration was the Independence Pro software sampler and sound library. There are three versions to choose from, the Independence Pro Software Suite, with 2 GB sound library, the Independence Basic with 12 GB sound library and the Independence Pro with 70 GB premium sound library. I am reviewing the latter one, but they all use the same user interface, so that which is written here will be applicable to those interested in investing in any of them.
Independence Pro is a massive sound library but it’s more than that. The sample player itself offers so much that it would be impossible to go through all of the features in one review. I will try to present as much as possible here.
Independence Pro comes with Independence 2, software that can run as a stand-alone application or as a plug-in. It comes in AU and VST format and is supported on Mac OS 10.4 or later, or Windows XP and Vista. Also included is Independence Live, streamlined easy-to-use standalone software intended for live use. The Magix web site is pretty vague about formats supported, but to our best knowledge, both 32-bit and 64-bit is available on both PC and Mac. VST (2) is available, as is AU for Mac. For this review, we worked with the 64-bit Mac, both standalone and hosted.
The user interface of Independence 2 is quite overwhelming at the first glance, but it soon becomes evident that it is very well organised and laid out. As with any good sampler it supports the multi timbral and multi output options.
The User Interface
Independence 2 is a well-organised software sample player but it takes time to fully learn and master all of its features. On the left of the plug-in window you see a list of all the loaded patches or layers with layer information; this features an extensive selection of tuning modes, MIDI settings, and the customizable instrument icon. On the top of the left section there is the volume meter, and pitch and tempo information.
At the bottom is the collapsible keyboard which shows you the usable keys and keys for key-switch options using different colors. On the right side of the plug in window, things get more complex.
Here you find different tabs that help you manage and change your project and sounds. The first tab is the quick edit tab, with basic information such as volume, panorama, filter and effect options. As the tab name suggests, it is used for a quick overview of your layer settings and quick manipulation. The quick edit tab also features the custom control sections where you have eight rotary encoders and eight buttons that can be assigned to any of your MIDI controllers, rotary encoders and buttons. These are also saved and can be used in Independence Live.
The next tab is the Modules tab, where you are offered a variety of options for manipulating your sounds. You can add or remove pretty much any parameter you want, from FX to layer parameters, add envelope filters, change MIDI parameters, use arpeggiators and much more. One of the prized features is definitely the Élastique (developed by zplane) which is a plug-in for making high-quality tempo and pitch changes to your audio loops or to customise multi-sampled instruments. Independence also features the Origami reverb. Origami is an impulse response engine that blew me away with its very realistic sound. Any adjustment and edit is possible in real time – hence, it is a powerful tool for a live performance as well.
You have the option to manipulate your sounds in any way you want, and if your heart desires still more, you can import third-party VST effects – but more on that later.
The next two tabs are the mapping and performance tabs. Here you can manipulate your sounds and playing style further, resulting in a truly individual and authentic performance.
Last but not least the user interface features the browser tab, a well-organized browser window for easy search of all of your instruments, samples and MIDI programs. Then there’s the mixer tab, where you can add effects to bus channels and do everything else you would expect from a software mixer. The last two tabs in the user interface are the preferences and the help function, which are self-explanatory.
The Sound Library
You will need a lot of disk space with this one. The sound library itself will use a massive 70 GB of space. The instruments and samples are organised into 28 categories, where you can find all of the usual suspects that you would expect from am “all in one” sound library, from acoustic and electric drum kits, orchestral strings and percussion to African Dundun and Talking drums. So you get everything that you could wish for and then some, including things you probably never even considered using like plastic tubes, watering cans and more.
The majority of the instruments don’t come with flashy names such as Baldwin or Steinway for pianos, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad sounding. If anything, they are very realistic. I compared the piano sounds to some of my other sound libraries (which do have fine-pedigree names for sampled instruments) and in almost every case, the Independence instruments sounded more natural and realistic to me. To be completely honest, every instrument that I’ve tried is sounds marvellous, and with all of the different possibilities, I was even tempted to write an oriental film style piece of music. Especially useful are the key-switch options on instruments, and also the instruments that are featured under the arranger, groove instruments and step sequencer categories. The only thing that did not impress me were the sampled guitars, both acoustic and electric. My knowledge about sampling is limited, but I imagine that some things like guitars are hard to sample. That said, I still think that the sampled guitars in Independence Pro are useful and adequate. And all in all, it might just be the guitarist side of me that is not impressed. Nevertheless, I can imagine myself using these sampled guitars in a project where there are more things going on and the guitars wouldn’t be at the center of attention.
The instruments are well-organized and expertly sampled. I’m sure this sound library will take care of the majority of your needs. With it, you can create anything from a small acoustic set performance to a big orchestral piece to an African or Eastern flavoured soundscape.
Using Third Party VST Effect and Instrument Plug-ins
To quote the developers: “Independence is the world’s first software sampler that allows unlimited third-party VST effects and instruments to be loaded into a sampler environment – guaranteeing you the highest level of control and flexibility for your music productions.”
I’m sure you have that one VST synth that you always wanted to use live but didn’t have an option for using it outside your favourite DAW … well with Independence you can do just that. Even more, you can import all of your favourite plug-in effects and use them all inside Independence. When the time for a live performance comes, launch Independence Live, open a saved Independence project, and you have all of your saved Independence and third-party instruments and samples with your favourite effects at your fingertips.
Independence for Your Own Independence
With all Independence Pro offers it is truly a great piece of software with superbly sampled instruments and an excellent user interface. The option of using third-party VST effect and instrument plug-ins, along with the built-in effects and mixer, means that if you wanted to, you could do everything inside the Independence software using your DAW only for recording and reading MIDI information. For live use this means that when you save your independence projects and open them with Independence Live, you have all of your sounds and effects (be they third-party or built-in) available at your fingertips in a slick and easy-to-use interface.
Yes, it is somewhat expensive. But it has a lot to offer, and if you hurry you might just catch the 50% off sale that the Magix are having at the moment. Getting 70 GB of samples with a great easy to use interface that can manage just about anything you throw at it for just $165 USD doesn’t sound bad at all.
I have been using Independence for a couple of months now, and am still barely scratching the surface of all that it can do. With a superb user interface and realistic sounding sampled instruments, I can see Independence being used for film music. But even for a small home studio guy, it could be the last big sample library that you will ever feel the need to buy.
Details and Additional Info
Magix Independence Pro Software suite 3.2 – $65 USD
Magix Independence Basic – $130 USD
Magix Independence Pro – $330 USD