Samplitude Music Studio 2013 Review
by: Cary Levitt, October 2012
by: MAGIX Software
Requires: Windows XP through Windows 8 or later (32-bit or 64-bit), Intel or Intel-equivalent multicore processor running at 1.5GHz or faster, at least 4GB RAM
MSRP: US$99.99, € 198,99 (€ 99,99 during October/November 2012)
MAGIX Samplitude Music Studio 2013 is a digital audio workstation (DAW) for PC that unifies all of the steps necessary in complete musical production, including recording, arranging, audio and MIDI editing, mixing, mastering and CD/DVD burning. Besides virtual instruments, the software also includes effects modules and other tools for creative sound recording, mixing and production. Samplitude Music Studio 2013 is a professional quality DAW, fully developed, providing full-featured audio recording and production on Windows 32-bit and 64-bit PC and laptop computers. Depending on your needs, MAGIX offers in addition a range of plug-ins to serve a wide variety of creative needs. Samplitude Music Studio 2013 is part of the MAGIX Media-X-Change product line, which means that it imports and exports data quite seamlessly between other MAGIX multimedia production software such as MAGIX Movie Edit Pro and MAGIX Music Maker. Samplitude Music Studio 2013 is based on the high-end Samplitude Pro X studio recording software engine.
Any full-featured studio recording software is bound to be packed with controls, configurations, and a wide range of features, and Samplitude Music Studio 2013 is no exception.
- Mastering Studio v4 - This latest version shows off MAGIX's years of successful development experience in production software
- Help, Tutorials, Guides - To get fully into audio composition, recording and creative music interests, you're going to have to learn jargon and technology, and the Samplitude user interface doesn't dumb anything down (which is a good thing), so the well-produced video tutorials are a valuable inclusion for any new user of the software
- User Interface - MAGIX has designed a user interface with selectable Workspaces (6 in total, including the MR-64 board), levels of complexity (Easy, Power User, Automation) and customization (Standard or Custom) which you select from a drop list to expose deeper levels of control and adjustment as you become more familiar with the software and with audio recording in general
- Plug-In and VST Compatibility - Steinberg's Virtual Studio Technology (VST) is an interface for integrating software audio synthesizer and effect plug-ins with audio editors and hard-disk recording systems, and Samplitude can make use of all the thousands of VSTs out there (but, as always, be careful of bad VST files - there are plenty of them)
- Formats, Formats, Formats - Import/export in WAV with codec, MP3, CD-A, OGG Vorbis, AIFF, FLAC; import in MIDI standard formats (MID, GM, GS, XG) and WAV (24- & 32-bit); export in MIDI standard formats (MID), and WAV (24-bit)
- Precision Tuner - Help musicians precisely tune guitars, violins and other stringed instruments
- Multitrack Recording - Use up to 128 tracks in 24-bit/96kHz
- Portability - Install it on an inexpensive laptop and take Samplitude Music Studio 2013 anywhere including rehearsals, live shows, studios, basements, schools, theaters, venues, events and so on
- Vita and Vita 2 - The built-in sample players are versatile, as good as anything else on the market right now; includes professional drums, strings, bass and percussion, and basically anything you can think up for your recording work
- Rock Drums, Bass Machine, World Percussion, String Ensemble - Mostly new modules in this version, they're very well-designed and the sample control and composition tools work well
- essentialFX Compressor & Vocal Strip - If you're using solid vocal tracks recorded with good mics and you've still been struggling to get the spoken or sung vocal quality you need, this should do it for you; we really like the implementation of the soft-clipping feature and the de-essing function - very slick and very professional
- Social Network Sharing - Upload directly to Facebook, YouTube, SoundCloud and MAGIX Online Album
- Media-X-Change and Integration - MAGIX Software develops a full suite of serious audio and video production programs, so Samplitude Music Studio 2013 can import directly from MAGIX Music Maker projects and export directly to MAGIX Movie Edit Pro; very, very handy when you're working on multimedia projects
MAGIX Software hasn't left any tricks or standards out of Samplitude Music Studio 2013. It's a complete studio experience backed up by its internal hybrid audio engine based on 32-bit floating point processing, direct compatibility and use with connected MIDI keyboards and hardware controllers (including MIDI Learn), features such as pitch correction, time stretching, pitch shifting, precision tuning, a metronome, and all the expected pro interfaces for VST, DirectX, ASIO, ReWire, SMPTE, MTC and MC (master and slave).
A few microphones, some royalty-free music tracks, your own compositions and recordings, an event recording done with a Roland R-09, a basement set up as a basic studio or a real studio or no studio, a Windows laptop and you're good to go. All of it or none of it is needed, depending on your musical talents, creative talents and willingness to experiment. The better the sound card you're using, the better the direct input will be if you need it. The better the recorded material you import as a complete file or track by track from external sources, the better the final product. The more carefully you choose samples, effects, compression, levels, balance, reverb, and on and on, the better the final product. I installed and tested Samplitude Music Studio 2013
on a Lenovo IdeaPad P580 Core i7-3520M (3rd gen) with 8GB of RAM - by no means the fastest laptop on the market. No production slowdowns, no crashes, no lockups, no problems.
With a background in music which dates back to 1990-2000, but not so much a guitar lick or a cadenza on the piano ever since, it was still an absolute blast to briefly get back into composition, recording and just playing around with a powerful creative music studio, powerful mixer and powerful production tools. I laid down a few tracks (piano and guitar), added drums, effects and bass guitar from samples, adjusted levels, did some mixing, and then recorded some vocals just for fun on a little Sony PCM-D50 Portable Linear PCM Digital Recorder and fed the resulting file into Samplitude. When I was satisfied, I produced the whole thing to a DVD. That was play time.
I did a much more serious project (but it was still fun) with several professional musicians in Toronto, a group of accomplished players who regularly record and play gigs in and around the city. These guys are all Pro Tools users, so they ended up being surprised at how powerful Samplitude Music Studio 2013 really is and (money being as tight as it is for poor-but-dedicated musicians) kept coming back to all the features and solid performance packed into a $99 software studio. Price aside, the most frequent comment I heard was about how stable and responsive Samplitude seemed to be, and that was my experience too - very little lag time when working with 30+ tracks on my basic core i7 laptop (a reliable $649 laptop as of August 2012), the point being that you simply don't need hyper-powered, expensive hardware to successfully run and use Samplitude Music Studio 2013.
For you novice recording engineers out there, understand that one of the fastest ways to really get the most efficient use and the finest control of studio software is to use keyboard shortcuts to enhance as well as the mouse. Samplitude Music Studio 2013 is fully keyboard shortcut enabled. For example, use the "A" key to select the complete sample as a range. The Home and End keys set the play cursor to the beginning or end, forcing all selected ranges to disappear. A range can be selected from one exact marker position to the next by clicking on the marker above the wave; then hold the Shift key and click on the second marker. Want to move a range horizontally? Use Shift + mouse click. The Shift + Ctrl + arrow keys will flip a range to the right or left, which is one way of testing a loop at a different position. There are many, many more keyboard shortcuts - check the Help system.
The core of Samplitude Music Studio 2013 is the MAGIX Samplitude Pro X professional studio recording suite. So basically anything you do with Samplitude Music Studio 2013 is bound to come out quite well unless you deliberately mess it up or simply don't yet know what you're doing. One way or another, a technically bad recording won't be the software's fault. Samplitude Music Studio 2013 is competing against a tough crowd including Acid Pro, Pro Tools, Reason, Sound Forge and a few other software studios. For $99 (compared to $500 for Samplitude Pro X, or $700 for Pro Tools 10), we'll call this one an extremely good value indeed.
Cons: There are a couple of rough edges in the user interface, including an active reverb/delay pop-up console that appeared greyed out but was actually fully functional. Somebody at MAGIX needs to assign an experienced user interface designer to sit with an experienced recording engineer to go through every part of the user interface and tweak a few things for consistency and recognition. There's no single, comprehensive keyboard shortcut list in the Help system - the shortcuts are scattered in different help topics - so I think MAGIX should include a full list that is formatted for printing.
Pros: Samplitude Music Studio 2013 contains everything for multitrack recording, audio editing and composition, sound design, mixing, mastering and publishing (including CD/DVD burning). The software may not have the big-deal brand recognition of Sound Forge, Reason, Pro Tools or Acid Pro, but that doesn't prevent it from being a superb product especially considering that it's core engine, Samplitude Pro X, is one of the best. The essentialFX Compressor & Vocal Strip can do wonders with vocals, and (with a little help elsewhere in the software) in many situations will get you past the need for an Aphex 204 Aural Exciter/Big Bottom; again, not bad at all for $99. If you want to dumb it all down and use Samplitude to create something as relatively simple as a regular podcast, you can do that too. One of the most important factors in choosing Samplitude Music Studio 2013 is that fact that it is so stable and reliable in operation, the point being that creativity and production time that is stalled by slow renders, slow responses to control and settings changes, and crashes that ruin minutes or hours of work simply aren't acceptable from any sort of music studio software which is supposed to be professional quality. Samplitude Music Studio 2013 is versatile, easy to use, and with some careful attention to the solid tutorials can be used by even the most inexperienced, novice recordists as well as experienced audio engineers, recordists and musicians to produce excellent results. It's a complete, reliable studio for musicians, bands and producers. Recommended.