Article first published as Software Review: ‘Magix Samplitude Pro X2’ on Blogcritics.
Celebrating 25 years of professional audio production, Magix has released Samplitude Pro X2. Samplitude actually made its debut on the old Commodore Amiga system, back in 1992. Three years later, Samplitude was made available for the revolutionary 16 bit Windows 3.1. With its long history, and lengthy feature list, it’s no surprise that Magix Samplitude is considered one of the best digital audio workstations available. There are actually too many packed-in features to completely them all in this review. The follow up to last year’s Magix Samplitude Pro X, X2 offers a number of improvements, and believe it or not, additions.
Before you can start manipulating audio on your computer, you have to get it there. You have a couple of options when it comes to content creation with Magix Samplitude Pro X2. Your first option is to record the material yourself. Unlike some of Samplitude’s competitors, you don’t need special hardware to record material. That does leave you at the mercy of your gear, but adds a great amount versatility. At the very least, it does remove a barrier to entry. You can also import whatever compatible audio files you have on your computer, or have access to.
A second content creation offering provided with Samplitude Pro X2 is MIDI composition. MIDI data can be imported and exported by way of the on-screen keyboard, midi controllers, or by mouse. The notes, velocity, volume, note length and pitch can be copied, moved, lengthened, and shortened in Samplitude’s MIDI editor. Not enough can be said about the thoroughness of the included MIDI editor that will even spit out sheet music on demand. Also included in the software is a robust drum editor, loop designer, and the Independence sampling workstation, along with a number of virtual synthesizers. Pro X2 also now supports the new VST-3 standard.
Once you have something in Samplitude Pro X2 to play with, the program offers quite a bit of assistance with editing and mixing. You can even completely rearrange the layout of Samplitude, to fit your needs. Anything that’s been recorded can be spectrally edited in the spectrogram, for extra precision. There is even a comping feature which allows you to compare and edit multiple audio takes. If the timing needs to be fixed, Magix offers impressive time stretching and pitch correction. I actually took a 110 beat per minute guitar track and pasted it into a new 120 bpm project. After a couple of mouse clicks, the guitar loop genuinely sounded like it belonged. I really can’t express how effective Samplitude’s “elastique” tool really is.
Mixing is one of the areas where Samplitude Pro X2 really shines. While this is a pretty competitive specialty, Samplitude Pro X2 and the new Suite have just about every angle covered. To start, Pro X2 allows for up to 999 tracks for audio and MIDI data, up to 64 inserts per channel, and supports 5.1 channel surround sound. New to Pro X2 are voltage controlled amplifiers that let users convert channel strips to faders, and multiple output support, making it easier to mix complex arrangements. Speaking of arrangements, the project window features a customizable docking system with multiple screens in mind.
The relative downsides to Magix Samplitude Pro X2 and the accompanying suite are that for one, they aren’t cheap, and having as many features as they both have, make them fairly difficult to master. Magix does offer a free 30 day trial for each, but be prepared to really dig in for those 30 days. The suite costs double what the standalone program does, but adds over 50 GB of content for the Independence workstation, the Vandal virtual guitar and bass amplifiers, an analog modelling suite, and Magix’s renown cleaning and restoration suite, along with a few other perks.
Make no mistake, Magix Samplitude Pro X2 and the suite are pro level software packages and are priced accordingly. Samplitude might not be as well-known as some of its competitors, but that that has less to do with its feature set, and more to do with its Windows PC exclusivity. There is no Mac version yet, and that means that those looking to upgrade from Garage Band, would have to invest in a new rig, to graduate to Samplitude. Of course, if you really do math on the extra hardware you’ll have to buy, that might not be such a bad idea.
I’m not new digital audio workstations, but after my short time with Magix Samplitude Pro X2, there were still plenty of features I didn’t really get to dig into. There was also a bit of a learning curve for me, because of the age of the program I’ve used up until this point. Luckily, I also discovered that there are a surprising number of video tutorials for just about everything in Samplitude. This is a product of good customer support and a large community of users. Considering all of changes to my normal recording, mixing, mastering process, in such a short period of time, I was really impressed. After putting Samplitude Pro X2 through its paces, and doing quite a bit of research on the competition, I have no problem recommending the program to those looking upgrade.