I've had a couple of sample-based instruments to review lately, and both have weighed in at over 50 gigabytes each. Given my non-spectacular Internet speeds this has meant leaving the studio powered up all night just to get the download. Some downloads will at least pick up where they left off if your Internet drops out, but others require you to go right back to the start.
Equally challenging is the process of finding drive space to store them all, which got me wondering why these things have to be so big. My first experience of samplers was with the early Akai S‑series instruments, which loaded from floppy disks that couldn't even hold as much as one megabyte each. That meant the samples had few if any velocity layers and were seldom longer than a couple of seconds before the tail was looped — but even so, some of them sounded quite wonderful. I'm not suggesting that we should go back to two‑second looped samples with minimal velocity layering, but libraries that consume 50GB each seem to me to be perhaps a touch too far in the other direction. Before you pull me up on this, I can see why a large library might be necessary to cover all the layers and nuances of a concert grand piano or a full‑blown orchestral section, but where the sounds are more abstract, synthetic or processed in nature, I'm sure some space saving could be made without compromising the musicality of the end result.
We are constantly being told that decluttering helps lead to a happier life, and I'm definitely of the opinion that this would be true with sample libraries.
Alternatively, if the libraries really must be so large in order to realise the artistic vision of their creator, might it be made easier for the user to exile those sample sets that they know they're never going to use? Either erase them completely or move the unwanted ones to an external backup drive. I've yet to come across a sample library where I want to use every single instrument, so being able to evict the ones that won't be needed seems like a sensible option — except that many sample libraries come as a single file to aid copy protection, so there's no way to get at the individual sample sets. I know this would require some thought as the same sample sets are often used in more than one preset, but surely there must be some way to manage things more effectively? After all, we are constantly being told that decluttering helps lead to a happier life, and I'm definitely of the opinion that this would be true with sample libraries. And don't even get me started on plug-in folders!
Paul White Editor In Chief