Review: Cassette Bundle.01 by ThePhonoLoop
ThePhonoLoop is a small team of sound designers with a fondness for vintage sounds. If you've never heard of them, it might be because they're part of the underground world of Kontakt developers that mostly release libraries for the Full version of Kontakt (not Kontakt Player) - a world that i'm also in with Genera Studios releases. Releasing Kontakt libraries that run in the Kontakt Player isn't something you can do without interacting with Native Instruments, so a lot of the best Kontakt libraries get sold for the full version of Kontakt in boutique type shops (such as KontaktHub, Sampleism, or PluginBoutique).
The Cassette Bundle.01 by ThePhonoLoop to me is the perfect embodiment of this world of Kontakt Full libraries. It brings you to a world of vintage sounds through modern user interface design. The bundle comes with 3 libraries: Cassette Piano.02, Cassette Mallets.01, and Cassette Keys.01 - each of which involves recording the samples to cassette tape and playing back the samples from several cassette decks with varying levels of degradation.
This style of sound design is very popular in bands like Boards of Canada, an electronic duo popular for their usage of tape machines and other vintage sound sources. ThePhonoLoop has done an absolutely amazing job bringing you this sound with so much detail. Lets take a look at the specs before diving into some details:
3 Vintage sounding sample libraries
The ability to switch between cassette deck sources
Independent control over tape noise
Available in Kontakt, Ableton Live, EXS24, and SFZ samplers
~2,000 samples making up over 5GB
Velocity and round robin sampling
While this is a bundle that includes three libraries, for the most part we can cover one GUI. They do vary from library to library but in general the layout and style is the same, which is a great thing as you won't have to learn three completely unique interfaces. The GUI overall has a nice vintage flair, everything is laid out logically, and everything is controlled in one page. To me the marks of a great UI design is if you can figure it out without having to read a manual, and thats exactly what happened with all of these libraries.
You have completely control over which cassette deck you choose, two ADSR's, LPF, 1 LFO applied to 2 sources, drift control, real tape noise control, and a selection of very nice effects. A very nice addition is the usage of simulated round-robins - this is a technique that uses neighboring samples re-pitched to simulate the effect of capturing even more round-robins (and its very convincing).
As i've already mentioned, the sounds in this bundle take you to the backyard of Boards of Canada. You can get very clean keys, piano, and mallet sounds, but the real gold of these libraries is in the imperfections. Switching cassette decks has a drastic effect on the sound in some cases, and the integration of drift and DSP Kontakt effects can take this library to complete beautiful chaos. Check out this demo I did of Cassette Keys to get an idea of the sound: