Where so many sample developers struggle to combine musicality, usability, and value for money in a single product, Nine Volt Audio continue to make it look like a walk in the park with their BPM Flex range of AIFF/WAV/REX loop libraries. In fact, the subject of this review, Pop Rock Guitars, marks a new level of excellence even amongst this roster's already illustrious company.
What you get is a series of composite loops made up of three separate audio files, each recorded with a different classic electric guitar. A Fender Stratocaster (Guitar A) plays more of a lead role, while a Gibson Les Paul and Les Paul Special (Guitars B and C, respectively) typically provide accompanying rhythm support and often work well panned to opposite sides of the stereo field. For each loop, the guitars each adopt one of three well‑chosen preset amp-drive levels (Clean, Overdrive, and Distortion) but otherwise the recordings are free from effects. There are about 240 of these three‑layer packages, grouped for auditioning into 16 musically related 'mini‑songs' called Suites (nominally spanning an 89‑143bpm range) and each one topped and tailed with a suitable intro and outro.
The player has impeccable tuning and timing and an exceptionally sensitive ear for stylistic conventions. As with many a great session player, you're treated to a bravura display of musicianship without a trace of egocentric flashiness. This is worth its weight in gold when you need guitar parts to order. Recordings are clean and engaging with low‑end girth, in particular, very cannily judged to slot into a full mix without a great deal of extra processing.
This library is tremendously flexible and usable. This is partly on account of Nine Volt Audio's exemplary REX encoding, which gives you bags of leeway in terms of tempo matching, especially when slowing down loops. Even the fastest 143bpm REX files remain gapless down to 95bpm, without any time‑stretching at all. Then there's the fact that the guitar models and amp-drive preset levels stay consistent across all the Suites, so any two Guitar B Overdrive loops, for example, will always work together tonally.
But that's not the end of the goodies. For all the drive levels of Guitars B and C, you're also given straight eighth‑note open fifths (at 90bpm and 130bpm nominal tempos), sustained major and minor chords and a selection of slides.
All in all, this is a shining example of a workhorse sample library. Nine Volt Audio should sell skiploads! Mike Senior