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Using the EXS-24 Software Sampler
Tips on the EXS and a Guide to developing your Custom Sample Library
Revised for Logic 8 in 2008
When I first got the EXS sampler, my thought was I'd just use it to spice up a few tracks in each song when my 2 other samplers, and esi32 and an e5000, got maxed out. Or for creating a sweet effect with a raw sample and all the emagic plugins. Those were reason enough to ante up the required funds to install it on my machine. However, I was unprepared for it's ease of use, and the sheer joy of having my library of samples on my hard drive. I'm going to tell you a few tips of setting up the EXS, and tell you what works with the EXS and what does not. For those unfamiliar with this software sampler, the EXS24 sampler now comes with Logic Pro and Logic Express 8--it will not work with other sequencers. At one time there was a VSTi version out now called the EXSP24 that did allow other sequencer users to have EXS sample playback capabilities as a VST instrument. The EXSP24 was also in Logic Express 6 and 7 before they replaced it recently in Logic Express 8. However the EXSP24 did not let you edit your instruments or zones--you need the full version of EXS24 and Logic Audio. Because the EXS uses your CPU and memory you want to have a reasonably fast computer and LOTS of RAM. Heh, when I first wrote this article I said "Go 512mb. 128 MB is barely cutting it, but it'll work." Today your Mac should have at least 2GB of memory if you want to get creative with the EXS24, though 1GB will work. I have 6GB in my G5 and it helps.
The EXS Compared to other soft samplers
The main reason why a Logic user is going to want to use the EXS24, rather than another soft sampler is sheer convenience. The screens of the EXS24 do not look better or have more features. and now 3, blows the doors off the EXS24 in terms of features, effects, routing, time-stretch modes, and types of filtering, envelopes, lfos, and other processors. To be fair the EXS has no effects--the assumption is you will use Logic's effects. What the EXS does have is a tight integration with Logic's menus, channel strips and automation. For many instruments, simpler is better--particularly if you automate. Just try automating Kontakt 2 sometime. Its a deep and heavy machine. The EXS24 on the other hand, is light, flexible and not a lot of baggage. You don't make a multi timbral set in the EXS, when you want another instrument, you call up another instance of the EXS24. Yet Kontakt 2 does import more sampler formats than the EXS. To import alien formats you need 3rd party help. Fortunately, it exists!
Translating from other Formats
It's unbelievable when I see what I have done. Right now I have over 10,000 EXS instruments. The most amazing thing is that this was not a lot of work. I have converted most of my emu cd roms, and of course my own cd rom creations (perhaps soon I will sell them in this format). The trick here is to use Chicken Systems Translator. I've been with Translator since it's modest beginning, but now it can actually take a bank of presets from an emu format cd rom and put them all in EXS format, place it in a directory structure that Logic will recognize. Translator works at the level of presets, bank, or whole drives. I typically translate a whole bank at a time. If you have a stock of emu cd roms and want to use them in EXS, I recommend Translator. It's so cool having all those pristine sounds available. Even the old EIII cd roms come to new life in the EXS. This is especially the case with the larger sounds that you never wanted to load because your sampler was tied up with something else. Or for another example, say you have a cd rom that has a great mandolin sample buried in the bank. You've never used it because its just too much of a pain to find the disk and merge it in with your work bank. Using EXS, those days are over. When a sample program is in your EXS directory, it's easy to find. You have access to all your EXS sounds immediately--gigabytes if you want, there's no limits--and, happily, no fumbling through cd roms!
SoundFont/Akai Import: Another cool EXS feature is that it will load soundfonts and do its own conversions from SoundFonts and will convert from Akai CD Roms as well. (Translator will do these translations too). Lets consider soundfonts--remember you can buy nice soundfont sets from emu, for example, the entire Planet Phatt set for about 20 bucks, I just got the Planet Earth set for $40. Unlike when you buy the synth, you can edit the source wave files in Logic's sample editor, (or any other editor that processes wave files). Anyway, for minimum cash you can get thousands of professionally polished samples and tweak them to death with filters, build massive 88 key drum kits, and best of all, organize them the way you want. Just try making a custom drum kit on a Proteus. Even though I have nearly every module emu has made, I went and bought all the soundfont versions just to use them in EXS. It did not cost much and as a result my library has expanded quite nicely. When you import or translate an instrument from another format, you can usually expect the key map and sample placement to be the same. If the source format used an onboard synth to envelope and filter the sounds, you may have to do some tweaking to get a similar result. Of course, the synth parameters of the EXS is not as well endowed as the Emu EOS, in fact, compared to EOS, it's rather coarse.
Autosampling your hardware synths and samplers. Rather than do a file translation, which can be hit or miss, you can do a hardware autosample of your synths presets. You can, that is, if you own samples your midi hardware sound generator (any synth, sampler, drum machine) automatically. You can specify exactly which notes will be sampled (you can make it sample every note at several different velocity levels if you wish, or just C1, C2, and C3 for simple waveforms. After it samples, it will build the EXS instrument and put it in an directory of your choice. Great stuff. I like to go into Combi mode on my Korg Triton and auto sample those great sounding textures that take up the whole Triton when you use them. Once auto sampled, these big thick pads take very little CPU, and the triton is free to do other stuff. I've also used autosampler to sample my own Ice Kold Tekno cd rom, which has such intense filter settings, no import file translator can get it to sound close. Autosampler just bakes the sound of the filter right into the sample. Then I can tidy up with the EXS filters. Emu's has an autosampling feature for those on the PC using Emu interfaces.
Making Icons for your EXS (and Other) Audio Instruments
Logic 8 Tip:
Logic stores user created icons in a hidden directory. You right
click on the Logic Pro 8 Application and click "show package contents".
From there you can go through the finder to Contents/Resources/Images/Icons. You have to
follow the format of the other icons. Namely, the file must be a
.PNG file, and have a file name that begins with a 3 digit
number, like 678.PNG. Be observant that you do not replace the
factory icons, unless that is what you want to do. I recommend
copying them all and place them in another directory called "factory icons",
then go to town and replace what you want.
You can record knob and fader movements from the EXS front panel with the mouse. Just hit record, grab your mouse and tweak. On playback, the knobs move. This has worked since Logic 5. Now with Logic 8, its easy and stable. You can automate all the important EXS parameters right over the track with the mouse. With a mackie control, you can use the motorized faders and the V-Pots (physical knobs) to tweak the EXS just like a hardware synth.
Using Recycle in the EXS
Since Logic 5 was released, the EXS became even more fun. In Logic 5.0 the EXS is able to import recycle .RX2 files directly. It can still do so in Logic 8. Logic still needs recycle for loop slicing. While you can adjust hitpoints within Apple Loops in the Apple Loops Utility, the utility still won't slice and put the slices on different keys. With Recycle, the process is simple. Save the RX2 in Recycle and import it into the EXS24.
Imagine the coolness. You take a Britney album and cut a verse, toss it in recycle and let it generate 100 slices of 'ol Brit, then pump it back to EXS and you have her squeaking and honking a different note on each key. hehe. Of course that's just poking a little fun (I really like Britney's production). You can also do this with any complex source material--once recycled, the slices will "automap" into the EXS. In 5.0 the process is even easier than this. You can import a RX2 drum loop into the EXS or right onto an audio track. If you go to the EXS, you can reprogram the hits in the matrix editor. If you drop it on the audio track, the slices line up to tempo and you can change tempos if you want and not affect the pitch. If you are envying the loop stuff going on in Sonar, this is the way to go. So one tip is get Recycle2 now and slice your fave loops.
Old Recycle Tip: For
you stalwarts that never upgraded beyond PC Logic 4.8., you can
still use your recycled slices
in the EXS. The savvy among you have already figured out that Recycle
can export to SoundFont, and as you know the EXS will import SoundFont
files. Voila! Simply slice and dice in Recycle and export to the
SF2 format. Now import that file into EXS and your samples will come
into the instrument right next to each other. You don't need a creative
labs soundcard for this operation, because you are just using the
soundfont file as an intermediary between the two formats. Recycle is an
Tips Using the EXS
Tip: Setting Up a Library (all versions)--after you install your EXS sampler take special care to set up a directory structure for your sounds. You are embarking on a major sampling catalog. You can always reorganize directories later, simply by moving instruments to and from new directories in windows. For example, I have a directory that's nothing but drum kits, which i have divided into sub-categories that are meaningful to me. For example, you may have over 1000 basses from various soundfonts, sample cd roms as well as your own--put them all in a directory. Next time you need a bass, they are ALL there for you to audition. It's things like this that makes the EXS a winner.
Tip: Building a library (For EXS in Logic 8 and newer): Start saving your EXS instruments into your Library directory structure. Logic now gives you the tools to organize all its instruments in a common directory structure at many levels, plus there are the two menus within the EXS24 itself. The first can now be located at ~/Library/Application Support/Logic/Plugin Settings/EXS24. The second is at ~/Library/Application Support/Logic/Sampler Instruments. You can put shortcuts in these directories to point to where your EXS24 sampler instruments are on external drives. With a little work you can make your sample library more accessible. Access is everything when it comes to libraries.
Tip: Making Channel Strips(For EXS in Logic 7 and newer): Since Logic 7 we have had savable channel strips. Now, in Version 8, this feature has really taken off. A channel strip saves the software instrument, its preset, all the plugins used as inserts, including eq and compression. When you save a channel strip you save all this data to your user library. This is a great way to build a custom sample library, effects library, synth library, drum library--ok you get the idea. When you hear the difference between a non-effected EXS instrument and one that is baked with plugins, compression and eq, you'll have new respect what the little EXS soft sampler can do! Move over Kontakt.
HEIGHT="350" WIDTH="517" class="tablemarginClean">
See the "old" EXS editor above and the new editor in Logic Pro 8 below
Tip: Directory Structure: You might think that you are limited to using just one hard drive/directory for EXS samples and programs. Not true. You can put EXS instruments anywhere you like. And when in Logic, the program selector will show them where you want them. The trick is using "shortcuts" to files. Those using Windows should be familiar with how to make, copy and paste a shortcut. Just simple make a shortcut of the EXS instrument, wherever it resides, and place it in the "Sampler Instruments" Folder in your Logic directory. Because shortcuts don't take much room, you can make a directory tree of enormous depth.
Tip: Fast Program Selection (For EXS in Logic 6 and older): If you access your programs from the front via clicking name window, you'll see your directory tree open up. If your directory is getting several layers deep, it may be troublesome to mouse through the layers to get to the sounds you want. The trick here is to use the "Controls" view of the EXS. By clicking the sample name in the controls view, a massive full screen list of all your EXS instruments will open up. I find this screen optimal for auditioning sounds and I can rapidly scroll through thousands of instruments. Another tip for finding sounds is to use the onboard search functions, but you should already know about that. If you don't, there's probably more you don't know and its time to RTFM! (Read the friendly manual, lol)
Extreme Headaches and their solution
If you have two samples of the same name, the EXS will have trouble deciding which to use. It will wait a long time, then finally ask you. This is quite annoying. The bigger your EXS library gets, the greater the chance you will load a duplicate sample. The solution here is to never have two samples with the same name. Remember that! If you do find your directory extremely messed up with duplicate samples, you can try the free EXS Manager Utility or go with EXS Manager Pro by Andrea Gozzi. You can get it at zZounds Andrea also has written 2 other applications for the EXS sampler: Autosampler and Keymap. Serious tweakers will get all 3 which you can do with the Compendium bundle.
Old Tip: Problems Reauthorizing the EXS. This is a problem for those that use EXS versions in Logic 4.8 and older. Every 4 weeks, the EXS will ask you to reinsert the master disk as proof you are the licensed user of the program. If you have 3 cd rom drives like I do, you may be in trouble. The EXS wants to see the disk in the drive you installed the program in, so if you tweaked or upgraded your computer, it's going to have a hard time, and so are you. You may end up inserting and reinserting for a while. Be patient, take your medicine and do the chore. Emagic came to the rescue with Logic 5.0, which uses a USB key that encodes your authorization in it. It works great. Now with Logic 8 there are no more dongles or keys. Ahh. The good people have won! If you are finding it impossible to authorize the EXS in 4.8.1 or lower, perhaps it is time to go Mac? Thankfully, in 2007 is problem is ancient history.
As you can see, I am quite enthralled by the EXS24. With plenty of years of sampling under my belt, the EXS has given me the opportunity to see all my samples under one roof in one application and my collection of sample cd roms is all the more valuable and being used more than ever before. I'll be back soon with more tips!
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