Ultimate Sound Bank
PlugSound Pro (Mac/Win)
By Tony DiLorenzo
A Complete Workstation Plug-in...
PlugSound Pro 1.0 from Ultimate Sound Bank is a versatile sample player that ships with an 8 GB sound set. You can add to the collection by importing files in REX, AIFF, WAV, and other formats.
Ultimate Sound Bank (USB) refers to PlugSound Pro ($399) as a “complete workstation” plug-in, and what a workstation it is! PlugSound Pro ships with 8 GB of sounds, including USB's complete PlugSound Box. The sound set has synths, pianos, guitars, basses, orchestral instruments, drums, and ethnic instruments all controlled with an uncluttered, intuitive user interface. A loop library consisting of beats, vocal parts, and musical phrases is also included to kick your inspiration into high gear. You can even add to the arsenal by importing files in REX, AIFF, and WAV formats as well as Apple Loops. If you still need more, USB has a selection of expansion libraries called UVI Sound Cards.
GIVE ME THE DETAILS
At the heart of PlugSound Pro is the UVI Engine, the same core engine found in MachFive, Ethno, and Symphonic Instruments by MOTU and Atmosphere, Trilogy, and Stylus by Spectrasonics. PlugSound Pro's feature set provides 64-part multitimbral capability, 64 MIDI channels, and an extensive effects section complete with convolution reverb. The plug-in also includes an Expert mode for creating complex stacks and combinations, with each part having its own effects and output setting. Don't worry about some of the large sound files — PlugSound Pro can stream samples from your hard drive. The Sound Design section has enough sound-shaping parameters to satisfy your need to tweak, and a MIDI Learn feature so you can map controls to various PlugSound Pro parameters.
Navigation is a snap because most of the parameters are available in the main screen of the plug-in. Each part has controls for volume, pan, pitch, and polyphony along with two aux buses (Aux 1 and 2). There's even a Mastering section that includes 3-band EQ, a compressor, a limiter, and tube harmonics. Want to make a sound stand out? Turn on the Mastering section and watch PlugSound Pro come alive.
When I got the assignment to review this plug-in, I ran right to USB's Web site to start my research. The demo presets on the site only scratch the surface. I installed PlugSound Pro on a 17-inch MacBook Pro, which is a 2.16 GHz Intel Core Duo machine with 2 GB of RAM. (Note that according to the documentation, USB suggests placing the PlugsoundPro.ufs file on its own separate hard drive.) The entire installation, including authorization of my iLok Smart Key, went without a hitch.
I fired up PlugSound Pro in standalone mode and loaded a preset called Acoustic Grand Piano, an 11 MB masterpiece that is responsive and realistic in all registers. The collection of must-have Electric Pianos transported me back to the '70s. PlugSound Pro's Suitcase and Wurli sounds have that retro flavor, while the Electric CP patches (a nice re-creation of an electric grand) have the same bright, cutting tone as the original. Acoustic guitar sounds like the Guild, Mahura, and Martin are absolutely beautiful — the stereo spread versions will have you writing “unplugged” music with your computer.
Synth pads like Beend and Modeler sound like they came straight from a Korg Wavestation or Sequential Circuits Prophet VS. Dance producers will appreciate the extensive Synth Bass collection, and the Electric Bass collection will appeal to those with more organic tastes. Bass patches such as MusicM, Fend.Jazz, and RickenBass really sit nicely in a mix.
LET’S LAY ONE DOWN
After auditioning PlugSound Pro's generous supply of sounds, I decided to do a short demo piece to see how the plug-in got along with Apple Logic. The Wurli samples put me in a funky mood, so that was the style I went with. I started by making use of PlugSound Pro's Drag & Drop feature to fly a loop right into Logic. This feature couldn't be easier to use. When the Drag & Drop icon shows an audio wave, you'll be dropping an audio file into an audio track of your host software. Click on the Map button, then the Drag & Drop icon will change from an audio wave to an eighth note, and you'll be able to drag MIDI data to your host. I created tracks using MusicM 3 Long for bass, Complete Orange Clav for rhythmic comping, Wurli Loud for piano, and Paul Hard Synth for a laid-back synth line. I also made use of the E Funky guitar phrase from the loop collection (PlugSound Pro Demo).
With a street price of around $299, PlugSound Pro proves to be a powerful virtual instrument with plenty of bang for the buck. This versatile plug-in comes with a well-organized library of high-quality samples ranging from basic to exotic. Built-in mastering and effects processing combined with a user-friendly interface make it easy to like this one. Well done, Ultimate Sound Bank.