These days it seems every man and his dog is making a sampler, however Native Instruments have really taken the lead with their Kontakt sampler over the last couple of years, partly due to the sheer scale of their offering and the quality of their product and also the fact that many third party sample library creators use the Kontakt player engine to deliver their products.
Mach Five 3
Mach Five is not a new sampler, it has been around for several years. I owned the first version when it first came out, but then remember spending a huge amount of time waiting for version 2. In the end I gave up waiting and moved on to Structure.
Now MOTU have released version 3 and it comes with some serious fire-power wrapped up inside it, including synth modules of virtually every type including Subtractive, Wavetable, FM and Granular synthesis modules. It includes a comprehensive scripting engine, a loop slicer, time stretching using IRCAM technology and a full effects arsenal. It also comes with a 45gb sound library, more about that later.
To be honest, to call Mach Five v 3 a sampler is not fair, it’s better to imagine it as a self contained sound creation workstation that ticks far more boxes than a sampler.
My copy arrived on Friday and it didn’t take long to install the unit, get the iLok codes and then install the library. One point to make right away about the install is that the Mach Five library is simply dragged from the DVDs to your drive and directory of choice, I like this. I get a little tired of going through layers and layers of install options to make sure the sound library is in the right place, then only to find out later my module can’t find the library, this happens on virtually every product I install, so MOTU making it this simple proved it can be done!
Of course the first thing most people do when they get a new Virtual Instrument is take a listen to the sounds. MOTU have worked hard to make the core library of Mach Five something special and they not only include a large library of stock sounds and loops but also some flagship instruments which in most cases make extensive use of their new scripting engine. These include;
- Telematic - an emulation of a Telecaster with some very cool scripting tricks.
- J Bass - a Fender J Bass again with serious scripting behind it.
- The Upright - a very nice upright bass.
- F Grand - Yes you guessed it a grand piano, complete with pedal noise and much more.
- Mark 79 - A nice version of a Fender Rhodes 79 with tons of character.
- Star Drums - multi-sampled, multi mic’d acoustic drum kits.
- Percussiv - A multi instrument, multi sampled percussion set.
I have to say, these are some seriously good instruments for those who want as-near-as-possible instrument realism. They are the kind of instruments that get the creative juices running and surely isn’t that what this is all about? I think of all of them the drums were the weakest offering, when you have so many good drum VIs on the market such as BFD, Addictive, Strike then perhaps drum sampling and emulation should be left to dedicated instruments. The Telematic is a highlight, I’ve never been a big fan of sampled guitars mostly because of the performance issues, but this one is getting closer to having a guitarist in the room.
The second area where Mach Five creates sounds is using the new included synth modules and this is extensive. It includes FM, Drum, Wavetable, Subtractive, and Granular, Noise plus of course you can use your own samples. On the back of this is almost unlimited filtering and modulation sources to shape the sound into anything you like.
Another layer of Mach Five 3 is the performance aspect, you have three windows, the Main, Mixer and Performance. The mixer feels like any mixer in a DAW with all the features found to craft the sound of your mix. The performance window giving you a easy way to manage it live with mapping of keyboard and velocity range.
What becomes apparent very quickly with Mach Five 3 is that it is feature packed, it’s like the designers sat in a room and said let’s create a list of everything people could ever want in a VI, then add a few more things and ship it as Mach Five 3. There seems to be no feature or expense spared, I’m sure this review is missing a ton of stuff, but I don’t have the space or the time to list everything!
Mach Five 3 is by far the easiest way to get the biggest sound that I’ve come across, granted the library may not be anything like the lorry load of sounds that ship with Komplete or for that matter Kontakt, but what it lacks for in library it makes up for in features.
I’m sure the most common comparison of Mach Five 3 will be Kontakt, but that would be a mistake. Both have their merits, but at around the same price here’s what I would say. If you want to get it out the box and play factory created sounds then perhaps Kontakt is for you, but if you want a sampler powerhouse that includes almost unlimited sound creation potential then it would have to be Mach Five 3.
The thing I love (yes love) about Mach Five 3 is how easy it is to start with nothing and in a matter of minutes have an amazing sound from scratch, be that from samples or from synthesis. What it makes me feel is that this is what Omnisphere would be like if you could create you own sounds and not just modify the existing patches. This is one serious powerhouse of a virtual instrument.
I’m starting to think of Mach Five 3 as the Swiss Army Knife of samplers. Think of a task you need to do in the creation of a track, be that playing a standard sample instrument (which Mach Five 3 loads in virtually every popular format), slicing a beat and then dropping it in your DAW timeline, creating a synth from scratch with virtually any kind of synthesis and with endless modulation sources, time stretching some vocals - then Mach Five 3 can do it. Better still, in most cases you can do it without reading the manual, which indecently is supplied in paper format for a nice change!
Several years ago I dropped Mach Five for the reasons given earlier, but this version has really won me over. What all of us need when making music is great sounds, powerful features and ease of use. Perhaps it’s called Mach Five 3 because it ticks all three of those requirements, for that reason I’m going to give it my Editors Choice Award. You may not have given Mach Five 3 a second thought, take my advice and check it out - it’s a winner! More here