Review – Samplitude Pro X2

 

Samplitude Pro X2 is a powerful DAW, with lots of horsepower under the hood and great plugins to match. We check out many of its features in this review.

 

by Rob Mitchell, Nov. 2015

 

MAGIX is a software company that has been creating titles since 1993, and they have many music and video applications available. They have also developed a large collection of loops as well as audio editing and sampling applications.

Last year I reviewed one of their products called Musik Maker 2014 Premium. This time around, I will be reviewing Samplitude Pro X2.  It is a powerful DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) with an interface that you can customize to your liking. It includes many instrument plugins, VST3 support, music notation, sample rates up to 384 kHz, 5.1 surround mixing, multi-core support, 256 inputs/outputs, and much more.

 

Installation and Requirements

Before I get into more of its details, here are some installation requirements needed to get it running. Samplitude Pro X2 works with the Vista operating system, Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 (32-bit or 64-bit). You’ll need a minimum of a 1.5 GHz CPU, 2 GB of RAM for the 32-bit version, and 4 GB of RAM for the 64-bit version. 

Installation was easy, and it will ask you which components you’d like installed. It does take a while to download some of the content needed for a few of the plugins. After it is finished, it will prompt you to activate it with a serial number. You can also use it with a Codemeter dongle, but it is not required. They also mention a way to use it with networked computers, and using the dongle with the server of that network. For this review, I just have it setup the standard way on a single PC.

 

Getting Started

Any DAW can have a wealth of features included, so it is pretty much impossible to try and cover everything that it has under the hood. Therefore, I will mainly try to report on what I believe to be some of the more impressive features and the instruments and effects which are included. Hopefully this will give you a better idea of what you can expect from Samplitude, especially if you are shopping around for a new DAW.

After you get it running, you will see a start-up dialog screen which asks what you’d like to do next. This is similar to a few other DAWs I’ve used, but this one has a couple of additional options included. You’re able to start a new multi-track project or load an existing one, and record a WAV file or load one that was previously recorded/sampled. Also from this start-up screen, you can load the included Samplitude multi-track demo project, open their help system, view the “Tip of the Day”, or view a tutorial video.

When I clicked on Show Video Tutorial, it brings you to a page with helpful articles that have audio examples, but I didn’t see any video clips on the first tab called “Latest”. Also, when I clicked on the number two (for the next page of articles) it gave me this message: Error 404 – Page not found. In the upper right, there are a few more articles (and a couple videos) under the tab called “Popular”. Some of those are from 2011, but they are still useful. Even if they are not totally updated for this latest version of Samplitude, you can still use them for learning purposes.

If you use the search field above those tabs I mentioned and type in “Tutorial”, you’ll find some more videos. Many of those are a bit older but still helpful nonetheless. It would be nice if that page was fixed though, as it could use a makeover.  No matter what, just make sure and use the documentation that is included with Samplitude itself, and you can also use the Help menu at the top of the screen if needed.

When you want to make a new track of your own, you’d normally open a new Virtual Project. This is their term for a new composition including tracks to record audio and/or use MIDI tracks with the plugins of your choice.  The main display after you create a new Virtual Project (VIP) is the Arranger display. This is where you can see the audio you may have recorded (or imported) and the MIDI notes on each of their respective tracks, as in most other DAWs. 

Once your project gets going, it may get a little complicated to keep track of exactly where you are within your composition. This is where the markers come in handy. Samplitude Pro X2 has a few different types for various situations you might have a need for.  Besides the regular type of “marker” that you might use (i.e. verse/solo/ chorus, etc.) it has other types as well. They include markers for the tempo, functions related to CD burning, bar markers, and for use with the grid position.

One great feature is the ability to use tabs, and these can be docked in a few different places. Basically anything that can be docked can be moved to another part of the screen if needed which can help with your own work flow. The best part is that you are able to set it up for what works best for you, and the type of project you may be working on at the moment. Normally the tabs are right below the Arranger section, and you can add more tabbed items or delete the ones you don’t use as much.

One way you can use the tabs to your advantage is to have the MIDI Editor up at the top, so then you can have it open as a full screen editor. This lets you easily switch back and forth within the project to the other screens. You could also have more than one project open at once, and switch between them by using their tabs. To move one of the tabs, you just click and drag the tab where you want, either up towards the top of the display, or down towards the bottom. If you drop it somewhere that it can’t be docked, it will then just be a floating window which can be moved around as needed.

Another way you can customize your layout is by editing the toolbars. Using this function, you’re able to add or remove elements on the toolbars that are along the top and/or bottom of the display. If you decide you don’t like the extra icons you’ve added (or taken away), you can click “Reset All Toolbars”. Another handy feature is the different workspace choices they’ve included. These change the layout in different ways, adding and/or moving display’s contents to make it easier to use for a certain task. The layouts include Mastering, Big Icons, Post Production, and Power User.

 

Objects

Objects in a project are sections of audio that reference your main audio file(s). Within these objects, the properties of the audio can be manipulated. Panning, volume, effects, pitch changes can all be accomplished from here. Actually, there is much more that can be done, and you can use what they call the “Object Editor” to edit them to your liking. Each object is assigned its own editor, so if you split one object in to 3 parts for instance, then each of those three objects would then have its own editor.   

 

The Object Editor lets you get to many controls for editing the audio. From here, you’re able to work within three sections: FX, Fades, and Time/Pitch. In the FX section, you can make changes to the gain, use AUX sends, add plugins, adjust the 4-band parametric EQ, change the panning, and edit some automation features.  The Fades section lets you change the fade-in/out curve types and adjust the timing for each. You can also change the content of the audio from here (i.e. browse for other audio files), and adjust the position of the audio.  The last section is for time-stretching and pitch-shifting. This lets you change actual time it takes for the audio to play, and adjust the pitch to what you’d like. You adjust the pitch in half-tones, cents, or as a factor taken from its original value.

In the last section on the right side, you can jump between the other objects using the arrows. You’re also able to take four different “Snapshots” of the Object Editor’s settings. You can then switch between those to decide which one you like the most.

There are also MIDI objects in Samplitude. The MIDI data gets an editor similar to the Object Editor that I wrote about previously. Some of the settings included are for the velocity, bank and program selection, quantization, and the object’s position and length.


A new feature in Samplitude Pro X2 is the VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier) faders. These will not directly affect the music signal, hence they work differently than regular faders.  If VCA master fader is assigned to certain channel signals, those channels and the post faders for AUX sends are regulated in the same way. This is great for keeping an equal balance between the direct and effect signals. It is a feature that is similar to what is included in analog mixers, and is a brand new addition to Samplitude Pro X2. Originally it was just included in their more expensive DAW called Sequoia 12, and I think it was a great idea to add this feature to Samplitude as well.

Revolver Tracks let you make edits for tracks without saving the automation or effects along with them. It allows you to have different variations of the track for you to use anytime you want. Keyboard shortcuts can be used to easily switch between the takes you’ve recorded.

 

Instruments


Samplitude Pro X2 is loaded with many instruments and effects. Some of the instruments include Independence, Vita, Vita Bass Machine, Vita Rock Drums, Vita Vintage Organ, Revolta 2, and DN-e1.

Independence is a sampler which has a 12 GB library, and has sampled brass sections, drum kits, synthesizer sounds, world percussion, pipe organ, electric and acoustic guitars, pianos, and more. I really could have devoted a separate review for it, as it is complex plugin with a large amount of controls. It does take a while to download this large library to the computer, but it’s worth the wait.

The Vita series of plugins cover many of the basics in other departments, especially if you don’t need the complexity of Independence to get your tracks going. Some of the samples aren’t quite as good the ones in Independence, but they can still be very useful.


Revolta 2 and DN-e1 are both subtractive synth plugins. Both of these work well, but I really like Revolta 2. It is an easy to use synthesizer plugin with a great sound, and a smooth sounding filter section. You can also load your own VST plugins that you might have installed previously.

There are way too many effects in Samplitude to list in this review, but just about anything you can think of is in the Samplitude package. Some of these include compressors, gates, limiters, reverbs, vocoder, EQ, delay, an FFT filter, and distortion plugins. There are even some for restoration that can help get rid of hiss, clipping, and crackle on your imported audio. I also wanted to mention something about the routing of the effects. In the Effects Routing Dialog box, you’re able to put them in the order you’d like, and they can be set as “pre” or “post” fader. In addition, the internal effects can be used multiple times per track and/or object. 

 

Conclusion

Samplitude Pro X2 worked well for me during this review, except for one issue that reared its head. It didn’t happen until I tried importing a file, such as a MIDI or WAV file. When I tried to do that, it would sit there for about five seconds, and then Samplitude would crash. I couldn’t figure it out, as everything else seemed to be working ok. I tried many ways to fix the issue, but nothing was working. A couple days later, I heard of a possible solution over on the Samplitude/Sequoia  forum. I had mentioned my issue on the forum, and that I have a new Dell. They suggested uninstalling the Dell Backup and Recovery application that was pre-installed on the PC. After that was uninstalled, it worked like a charm. I am not sure why it would interfere with importing files, but I was just glad the issue was fixed.

Here are a few other features I didn’t get to during my review:  Samplitude has multiple outputs per channel, built-in CD/DVD burning capability, and zPlane time stretching technology: élastique Pro V3 for quality pitch adjustment and stretching of your audio. This stretch technology feature can also be used with multiple tracks at once. An on-screen keyboard is available, and can be enabled to trigger notes. One way you might use this is if you’re traveling, as there might not be any room for a MIDI keyboard.

Samplitude Pro X2 can also import and export many different formats, including WAV, AIFF, MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC. Broadcast WAV, and OGG. Also, the AAF and OMF formats are supported so you can easily bridge the gap between platforms.

Despite a few quibbles I had with the MAGIX website and some tutorials being a little outdated, I was impressed with Samplitude Pro X2. It really has a lot going for it, and it’s just overflowing with features. You will definitely need the manual and make sure to use those tutorials, as it is a complex and powerful DAW. The Help menu is very useful, and the documentation is good. It is a heavyweight contender in the world of DAWs, and MAGIX has done a superb job putting together so many clever functions in this well-rounded package.

Samplitude Pro X2 retails for $399 USD. Magix also has the Suite version for $599 USD, which includes many more plugins, and a 70 GB library for Independence.  For more information or to purchase, go here:

www.magix.com/us/samplitude/

 

 

 

 

 

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