Sampling tool for Mac users
Sunday, 27 September 2020 2:28 pm
There are currently two modules which can import multi-layer samples – the 2box DrumIt Five (and its Di3 sibling) and the Alesis Strike.
The challenge, however, is finding suitable multi-layer samples. One solution is to source them from VST sample packs like Addictive Drums or Superior Drummer.
When the 2box was launched, a number of us devised ways to generate .wav samples from the major VSTs using host programs like Reaper, but this was tedious and time-consuming. It required a MIDI sequence for each instrument and articulation and then running the output through a third-party tool before loading the .wav files into the 2box sample editor software.
Around 2012, Lustark Software launched SDSE, a one-click solution for converting VSTs to 2box-ready samples.
Since then, SDSE has attracted a loyal following, but it only works on the Windows platform and also requires Reaper to function fully. So we Mac users have been left out in the cold.
Well, the sample Ice Age is over, thanks to Xtractpler, a newer app which works on both Windows and Mac computers.
How it works
Xtractpler, like almost all software these days, is distributed online via download and has a very simple installation process for both Mac and Windows.
I tested it on a MacBook Pro and had no issues. The program needs to be authorised with the code which you get after payment.
The only other preparation required on Macs is the installation of Soundflower, a program that helps share audio internally. This is not required with Windows machines.
Soundflower is a free program, but you may have some trouble getting it installed. Initially, I couldn’t get it to run and kept getting an installer error, but with the help of Google, I was able to find an easy fix (see: https://www.fluxforge.com/blog/soundflower-os-x-10.11-10.12-macOS-sierra/.
Xtractpler effectively triggers the instruments on your VST by sending MIDI signals of differing velocities. So, the set-up involves two actions – preparing your VST or host for the incoming MIDI data and routing the audio to Soundflower and then configuring Xtractpler to send the right MIDI notes and record the audio.
I tried Xtractpler with a few VSTs – EZdrummer, Superior Drummer and Addictive Drums. In each case, it was fairly simple to configure the VST to accept MIDI on channel 1 and send the audio back to Xtractpler.
Setting up Xtractpler is also fairly straight-forward and intuitive. You select the appropriate MIDI output (IAC Driver Bus) and choose the capture mode – in my case, drum mode. (The program can also be used for live audio.)
The work happens mostly in the Configuration window, where you choose the instruments to be sampled, assign the relevant MIDI notes and choose the output folder.
There are a few options for each instrument, but it’s all pretty easy to follow and Xtractpler has detailed step-by-step instructions on the website.
You can basically set up the whole kit for sampling in one screen before hitting the Capture Audio button to begin the capture.
If you’re impatient and just have to check the output folder, you’ll be disappointed as the .wav files only appear at the end of the process. But if you keep your eye on the VST, you’ll see the triggering happening, so you’ll know it’s working. You won’t hear the sampling, however, because the audio is sent direct to Xtractpler and bypasses your speakers or headphones.
It took a few minutes to extract quite a few layers of samples from each kit I tested and I was impressed with .wav files, which I loaded both into a 2box module and into the Strike Pro.
Obviously, comparisons to SDSE are inevitable and I have to preface this by saying I have not tried Lustak’s software because I couldn’t access my Mac-based VSTs on a Windows laptop.
But from the video demonstration, the ‘original’ program looked fairly straight-forward and easy to execute.
I note that you can do almost unlimited samples with SDSE, but Xtractpler is limited to 30 samples per instrument. However, you can get around this by creating multiple versions of the instrument, each with a different velocity range, and then combining the output.
SDSE’s output is 2box-ready, whereas Xtractpler produces a series of ‘raw’ folders which need to be imported using the 2box sample editor. If you’re converting for the Alesis tool, this is not relevant, but for 2box, it is an extra step.
SDSE boasts that it removes duplicate samples and optimises the output, but Xtractpler makes no such claims.
Where SDSE does have a clear advantage is in its templates and configurations for almost every VST out there. For now, Xtractpler only has one configuration available – for EZdrummer.
But, obviously, the big advantage of the newcomer is that it works on Macs – and does so very well and easily.
And pricewise, Xtractpler sells for under US$30 (regular price is $26.99, but the developer points out that discounts of up to 25% are often available), while SDSE is around $35.
If e-drummers get their wishes, they will eventually be able to load multi-layer samples into more modules, so the need for VST conversion apps will only increase.
For Mac users, Xtractpler is a breath of fresh air, at last enabling us to do what our Windows counterparts have been doing for years with SDSE.
Sure, there is room for improvement. For example, the paucity of configuration presets means more work for users at this stage, but as the community grows, I’m sure we’ll see more templates shared – not that the configuration is rocket science anyway. And maybe the developers will come up with a way of doing more samples per instrument. But for $30, this is a great option.