Xtreme Digital *** 3/5 stars; Xtreme Hip-Hop ***** 5/5 stars
Format: EMAGIC EXS24
Following on from the success of their Xtreme Analog library, Emagic have followed up with two more discs of EXS24 sonic ammunition in the form of Xtreme Digital and Xtreme Hip-Hop. Supplied on a single disc, Xtreme Digital is subdivided by category into basses, pads, moving textures and so forth, with a further folder holding the creator's favourite patches drawn from each section. The sounds are mainly multisamples of popular digital instruments, although no mention is made of the synths responsible for each patch. Many are clearly of Yamaha FM provenance, while others demonstrate the characteristics of wavetable synthesis.
The quality of sampling and looping is excellent, as it was for Xtreme Analog, and the sounds range from metallic and brutal to the shimmery and cuddly. There are very few emulative sounds, with most patches being overtly electronic, and this extends to what Emagic call 'Chromatic Kits'. These are electronically generated percussive sounds mapped one sound per key, although they don't resemble any acoustic or electronic drum kit I've ever heard. They all have metallic overtones and would be ideally suited to 'post-modernistic Teutonic industrial electronica', but don't expect to find a kick, snare or floor tom in there anywhere. The bottom line is that this is a great sample selection if you like your digital synths to sound digital.
Xtreme Hip-Hop is a two-disc set comprising sounds and loops gathered from working hip-hop artists, rather than being thrown together in a garage by somebody's dad! In fact there are 142 sound sets stored in seven categories: 'Combo Kits', 'Drum Hit Kits', 'Drum Hit Sets', 'Drum Loop Kits', 'Drum Loop Sets', 'Instruments and SoundBytes' plus 'Effects'. The individual hits are supplied both dry and treated (with small room ambience) in both 16 and 24-bit versions. REX versions of the main loops are also provided and anyone running Logic 5 of later can make use of the EXS24's REX playback facilities, allowing loops to be played back at different speeds independent of pitch. However, at least in the case of Mac users, the REX system extension must be installed before these can be used. This is installed automatically when you use any REX-compatible application, but the extension doesn't seem to be provided with Logic 5 or the Emagic sample libraries. The documentation also refers the user to a 'read me' file on the install disks for more information concerning the library and its organisation, but this again seems to be missing. One of the things this would probably have told you is that you have to physically move the REX files folder into your sampler instruments folder before EXS24 can see it.
Those little niggles aside, Xtreme Hip-Hop is hellishly impressive and includes drum loops designed to be layered, sliced drum loops that you can trigger from MIDI notes to create new grooves of your own, huge libraries of both wet and dry snares, kicks, hi-hats, vinyl noises and weird 'kits' made up of guitar noises, vocal utterances and so on. In fact the guitar and vocal phrases selections are both copious and musically useful, especially the wah guitars, which have a great feel. On top of that you get electric pianos and assorted basses, so this really is a complete construction kit rather than just a bunch of loops. What's more, the loops have a fresh vitality often missing from sample collections and they have applications outside the hip-hop genre.
I have to admit that Xtreme Digital feels a little thin when compared to Xtreme Hip-Hop, and though it provides a useful range of digital synth sounds, I feel it could have gone rather further and offered more variety by including more wavetable sounds. For that reason, I can only award it three stars whereas Xtreme Hip-Hop deservedly gets five stars.
Xtreme Digital £49; Xtreme Hip-Hop £69 including VAT.