The Sforzando Sampler


#42

That was quick! Maybe you could post your “honest review” to their forum? I think it’s always good for software developers to get feedback from people who actually use their software in real world applications and maybe they are willing to improve it. Something like a round robin capacity should be easy to implement I guess?


#43

Thanks for the SFZ-effort! I’ve downloaded Jim Goodnow’s SFZ and am experiencing clicking sounds on some notes in the further part of the range. This wasn’t heard with Sid’s SFZ.


#44

I did attempt to see how SFZ works, and the barrier to entry is daunting, not the cost of it, but the ecosystem.

There is very little information IMHO, as this really is a tool purpose built for those at the deep end of sampling, predominantly using a text based editor - i.e lots of work…

Studying some of the Production Voices scripts, you could feel the designers frustration as he/she includes comments on opcodes which are not well documented or features that should be included in the engine.

I came away feeling that the sforzando approach has only one benefit - a free engine.

Please note I am not referring to the products made with Sforzando, some of which I have found to be better than things made with Kontakt. But credit here goes to the designer who persevered and the quality of the samples.

What is instructive is that Production Voices uses sforzando only for entry level products, and higher level products have more expensive versions only available in Kontakt.

As they say in english - pick your poison - each approach has its pros and cons.

Every approach has a non avoidable learning curve. The question is why have I bothered to learn all this, and how reusable will all this knowledge be in the future.

I think Kontakt will always have an edge, cos it is a primary product of that business, one of their longest lasting flagship raison d’etre. For anyone who does not have the luxury of building/licensing their own sample playback engine - e.g as used in Spitfire’s NON Kontakt products…, I think Kontakt may represent the optimal long term choice that preserves the knowledge gained.

Many years ago, I managed aspects of technology for a business, and has a bright idea, why don’t we use what is now known as Open Office or better still as I just checked - Libre Office… At the time my job was saved by the fact that Open Office was so unstable in Windows, it was literally impossible to recommend.

As I became more experienced I recognised that the purchase cost of an item is only one factor, I needed to consider things like training, continuity, compatibility, on-going transitions in the IT industry, and all things considered, unless I was working for a tech savvy nerdy organisation like CERN or NASA or MIT, Libre Office would be the wrong recommendation.

As much as I have been a beneficiary of the lower cost of Sforzando based products, some of the products come with a few glitches which get very little attention from the developer, and my suspicion is that the smaller number of developers actively using Sforzando could be a bit of a dead end., when you really start to get serious and discover that the platform may not address certain needs…With some Production VOices products I hear an accumulation of either keynoise or release samples which leads to a temporary audible popping sound triggered by releasing the sustain pedal. My best effort to investigate this phenomena indicates that there is a sudden ramp up in an aspect of the audio engine were temporarily lots of processing is needed for a split second - studying the setup page, which displays related parameters shows this up…and this phenomenon is definitely not related to the samples cos, by checking Windows Resource Manager, there is no additional disk read activity taking place at this time. and in Windows, most of the start of the required streamed files are already in the Sforzandfo cache or in the Windows cache of the most recently read disk contents…

My conclusion was that either by a limitation in the engine or a poor design choice by the developer, it was impossible for the audio of so many streams to be fed from memory to the processor, at a speed fast enough to avoid these glitches. They are especially relevant to long passages of music with long sustains, and only relevant to some Production Voices products like Electric V…

This observation is more of a red flag for Sforzando, based on real world use of some of the best examples of products based on the engine.

You pick your poison for sample instrument development. Sforzando or Kontakt


#45

I wasn’t sure from your video if the click was at the beginning of the note, or at the end of the previous note. If it is at the beginning, you might want to play with the Response Time setting, and the Attack setting.


#46

Well, I’m not a pro composer, so I cannot justify upgrading my computer just to run Kontakt.

On my machine, Sforzando loads in an instant while Kontakt takes forever (sometimes I just give up and restart the DAW). I found Kontakt to be such a memory hog that I really have to think twice before using it.

Also, I have been reading on this forum that Kontakt 5 cannot play Kontakt 6 instruments… That is not a treadmill that I want to get on. I have some Kontakt instruments that work with the free version, but when I’m writing, it is never the first VST I reach for because of the reasons above. I have so many Sforzando instruments that when I want to make another one, it is just a matter of search and replace on the text file. However, this workflow is not for everybody.

Cons? If you prefer graphical interfaces for development, Sforzando doesn’t have one. Also, you can forget about legato anything, or any fancy scripting. Also, as you noted, the playback engine may not be up to Kontakts standard.

It looks like Spitfire is starting to edge away from Kontakt. It would be interesting to know why. Just branding?

I also have the Estate Grand LE. I’m going to test that issue with the popping sound. Looks interesting.


#47

Over a period of 8 years I invested what was a tidy sum for me ,

1st in Kontakt v1, which eventually got upgraded to Kontakt 4, over a period of 8 years.

I’ve now had Kontakt 4 for about 7 further years, never done anything important with it, cos all the standard libraries that come with it are uninspiring - a huge disappointment, and I went through a period where I simply did not have any faith in sampled instruments for piano.

With hindsight some of this was my fault, I was raised on workstation pianos e.g - Yamaha Motif, and Yamaha PSR, and my cherished investment in Synthogy pianos, as authentic as they tried to be were not what I was accustomed to.

To their credit, Production Voice’s sforzando instruments, which I now own all of, with one exception, and Waves Rhapsody have restored my faith in piano sampled instruments, and I guess my piano skills have also improved a whole lot in the interval.

So I also would rather not have to fork out any more money to upgrade my Kontakt from v4 to v6, purely for the privilege of being able to try out the demos on pianobook, which are now limited to the 15 minute demos in Kontakt 6 Player…

My earlier comments with the caveats on Sforzando were only intended to spare you long term pain, in the event that you may wish to build a long term vision, especially a commercial one, on the product.

The free Production Voices Estate Grand LE was such a game changer in managing my expectations, and I have no regrets in investing in the paid versions of the sforzando based instruments. 1 really great advantage, if I need to install a second copy of a library, on a backup system or a gigging portable system, I do not run into licensing issues, as I would with Kontakt…or a Pace (ilok) based license management system.

One easy tweak which I’m happy to share with as many as possible, in the use of the Production Voices libraries is to, where this applies, convert the flac back to .wav files. with zero loss…in quality,. So i have both the flac and wav equivalents in the same directories. Then search and replace references to .flac with references to the .wav equivalent, in the sfz, and reload the instrument in sforzando.

To my ears, this minor tweak has a small but noticeable improvement in sonic quality…Somewhat surprising but true since flac is supposed to be a lossless compressed format…


#48

Fascinating about the difference between the flac vs wav. I suspect it must have to do with whatever on-the-fly decompression algorithm Sforzando is using for flac.

By the way, Production Voices Estate Grand LE is also my favorite piano, paid or free. I suppose I should buy the full version at some point, but not sure I can justify the disk space: 11GB! (Estate Grand for Sforzando is on sale right now for $24.00)


#49

What led me to this discovery was a freak anomaly in the playback of the flac version.

On the Estate Grand LE for Sforzando(the pay what you want version), I had a bit of a puzzle on two keys. At certain velocities the sound does not sustain, and abruptly cuts off.

The keys are G5 (91) and G#5 (92), and related to the pedal up sound at certain velocities.

I have narrowed this down to velocities between 51 and 76, which from an examination of the sfz files, maps to a single audio sample file :

PDL UP IN-G#5_0002.flac

The workaround was to convert this back to .wav which strangely eliminated the issue, and the rest as they say is history, I went on to convert all the flac to wav. Sure it does take up more space - and I now do this by default with all Production Voices sforzando instruments.

I did report the issue to Jason (Production Voices - Lead Designer) but never heard back from him on the matter…


#50

Do you think it would be possible for you to raise some of your issues with the developer of Sforzando (Plogue)? He is active on audio forums such as KVR and always open to feedback. Of course, if the problem lies within the sfz format itself, there is only so much one can do as a developer of a player plugin that is supposed to support this format.

From a pure user perspective (neither audio software developer nor sample library producer) I never had any problem using .sfz libraries and Sforzando.


#51

@OK1

… and: Sforzando actually does support graphical user interfaces. You just need to get an extended license from the developer to use this feature, but he has been generous in the past with entry-level sample developers, who wanted to use this feature.


#52

The graphical interface I was referring to was one for designing a sample library, sort of like Kontakt, but I acknowledge, its a different product…i.e sforzando and accept it does not have this, being predominantly a sample playback engine for the sfz format.

The graphical interface for end user control does exist in Sforzando, and I have used it in a few products especially those from Production Voices…

To be honest, my interest in the engines behind sample based products was to be able to do minor tweaks, or extensive tweaks, behind the scenes, whenever I felt that I needed some custom adjustment, not provided by the library developer.

Considering that there are so many sample libraries, I’ve reconsidered this interest in developing libraries - just too much effort, and resorted to living with whatever the library provider has made available. Rather than try too much to bend it into shape, for my tastes.

As a playback engine, with the libraries that come in sfz format, pretty happy with sforzando. Ultimately the tool is only as good at playback, as the programming of the libraries and the samples provided. As a playback tool - very stable (can’t recall any instance ever crashing in over 3 months - pretty solid)…


#53

I’ve also been pretty impressed with Waves Rhapsody, which comes with upto 8 microphone (up to 3 can be loaded at any time in one instance of the plugin) positions - Fazioli grand piano sample, very well sampled. The V11 of this Waves plugin resolved some of my concerns with memory management, and with this caveat now resolved, I highly recommend it - for typically less than $30 - amazing value, being able to have really decent pianos for $30 or less is a whole new world of affordability and sonic quality…No more excuses to have to make do with poor sounding and expensive sampled pianos…

Compared to the Estate Grand which comes with 3 mic positions, I find that the Waves Rhapsody sounds more cohesive when using more than one microphone position, while with Estate Grand, I have to be careful not to use the M/S at the same time as the close mic position to avoid what I hear as phase anomalies introduced by mixing the mics…


#54

I’m so with you about sampling. For example the soundfont editor Polyphone is open source, and I’m sure it would be a fine starting point for an sfz editor if I wanted to get into coding. Then I remembered this story I saw online, and decided that I’m more interested in making music:

" I thought using loops was cheating, so I programmed my own using samples. I then thought using samples was cheating, so I recorded real drums. I then thought that programming it was cheating, so I learned to play drums for real. I then thought using bought drums was cheating, so I learned to make my own. I then thought using pre-made skins was cheating, so I killed a goat and skinned it. I then thought that that was cheating too, so I grew my own goat from a baby goat. I also think that is cheating, but I’m not sure where to go from here. I haven’t made any music lately, what with the goat farming and all. "

Haha!


#55

You made my year… really really funny joke…must save it somewhere.

Totally captures where I am today… I got into all this to make music(and get the attention of the ladies - as a bonus), and have spent far too much time, with the technology and process behind the music - DAW’s, Operating Systems, Downloads, Purchases, Hardware, Sample Libraries, Plugins, Mixing, MIDI, USB/Thunderbolt, 44.1, 96k, oversampling, etc… etc… and lest I forget my own custom approach to Digital room correction - which I have found after much research to be a Godsend for improving the playback on speakers.

I am grateful for the ability and opportunity to learn all of the above, and it has been a blessing, but now that I feel that side of things has finally come all together, I’d rather get back to making music, than trying to be a music instrument developer… Life’s far too short to focus on tools…when I could be making music

I must say, especially when I finally got the whole setup tweaked over many years, and understood exactly what button to press or turn to give me what I wanted (or at least close enough), the icing on the cake that convinced me that sampled instruments have come of age, were the Prod Voices pianos, and Waves Rhapsody - just sitting down I could spend hours playing them - so realistic and inspiring. Happy to just play and marvel at what is possible - sampling has come a very long way.

One current challenge with pianobook is the lack of an ability to search which libraries are provided in what format - unless you go look through each one.

So like me if I prefer sfz, I can get a list of all the samples sets on pianobook, which have an sfz format.

Someday - soon…


#56

That’s actually possible! Just type the phrase “sfz” (obviously without the quotation marks) as a search query and you’ll find the few Pianobook libraries that have an sfz mapping.

This is how the result of that search query looks:
https://www.pianobook.co.uk/search?q=sfz&f_collection

Same with EXS24 format, the search phrase would be simply “exs”. Since those phrases / sequences of letters would typically only appear on pages that have them mentioned in conjunction with mappings for those formats.

Result of that query:
https://www.pianobook.co.uk/search?q=exs&f_collection

This is an easy substitute for a more obvious solution based on category filters or tags, which requires more work and maintenance on the web development site.


#57

Thanks - truly appreciate this, never thought of it - easy and quite effective…


#58

So after a good long read of this thread, Sfz seems like a good option to share sounds for me seeing as I have no access to Exs24 or Kontakt.

As it turns out my chosen sampler format (Renoise/Redux) saves key mappings for its sampler in the Sfz standard, though just key maps so I’ll have to apply some op codes to get the rest working. But that seems like a good way to simplify the creation process, especially considering Renoise is incredibly relaxed about what can be done in it’s demo so it can even be used without a license to build key maps in a GUI. I’ll share Renoise/Redux presets also I think.

I don’t own or have access to an acoustic piano at the moment so when I first heard about Pianobook I was disappointed that I was not able to contribute anything, but I’m happy to see now that the library has been quickly subverted to cover other sounds :smiley: So I’ll most likely be uploading ‘weird instrument’ sounds for the time being at least.


#59

Interesting thread!

I’ve had a quick look at HISE and am about to start looking through the SFZ documentation.

It seems like there might be some really valid reasons why only Kontakt is supported direct on this site, but it also seems that the consistent naming and file organisation within the library should make it fairly straightforward to support conversion to either/both SFZ and HISE format. Also HISE supports export as VSTi, so it also seems like it should be easy(ish) to provide a direct plugin for every sampled instrument making it easier for people who don’t have access to Kontakt.

I have less than two hours total experience with virtual instruments, so I might be way off the mark with the above, but I fancy getting my hands dirty trying to support a conversion script and instructions. Does anyone who has any experience with either platform fancy giving me a hand?

Also, it looks like both platforms have a steep learning curve, so if there are any technical reasons why the above won’t work, please let me know! (same applies for licensing issues). Until I dip my feet in a little more, I don’t want to shell out on Kontakt and I assume many other casual users are in the same position. Spitfire and Pianobook look like particularly vicious gateway drugs into the world of composition though… :slight_smile:


#60

A quick follow up. I think the usage license is likely to be a blocker here.
I was hoping to provide binaries built using HISE to allow those without Kontakt to use the libraries personally, but this wouldn’t be supported under the Open Source licensing terms as the underlying samples are not similarly licensed.

I think that leaves me with perhaps writing a ‘how to’ for HISE and migration scripts for SFZ to allow pianobook users to locally transform the samples for their own personal use.

Again, if anyone with any prior experience with these tools fancies helping, I’d love to collaborate!


#61

Aha, looks like this road is well travelled.
So, SFZ format seems to be the way to go and others have created SFZ files for some instruments.
Not clear to me why they don’t exist for everything, but I haven’t yet got a working instrument, so perhaps this will become clear after a bit more noodling…