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Review: Sample Magic’s Bloq delivers authentic vintage sounds on a shoestring budget

Sample Magic has been in the loops and samples game for the best part of 10 years, but to date haven’t dipped their toes into the world of virtual instruments, that is until now. Named Bloq and developed by producer and Sample Magic’s co-founder Sharooz, the instrument contains over 2.6 gigs worth of samples, so we spent an afternoon exploring its peaks and troughs.

Split into two modules, synth and drum, Bloq is built from a collection of samples made from Sharooz’s own vintage instrument collection, which includes classic gear like the Pro One, Juno 106, TB-303, TR 707, TR 909 plus many many more which we’ve listed at the end of the review. Each sample has been recorded in 24-bit through a chain of high quality compressors and channel strips, namely the SSL G-series, DBX 160, Focusrite ISA 430 and Neve 1073, all via a Prism Orpheus soundcard.

Bloq is available for Ableton and Logic as a rack or EXS24/Ultrabeat instrument respectfully, but it’s GUI is built for NI’s Kontakt, so we loaded up the synth module and gave it a whirl. Sporting worn steel plate fascia and wooden end caps to evoke the synths of yesteryear, it has three main sections, synth, sequencer and FX. The main synth section covers waveform manipulation with start offset, pitch, tremolo and auto pan. Unison level brings in a second voice which with detune, provides some nice thickening up of basses and keys.

There’s a filter section, two envelopes, three LFOs assignable to various waveform values and an EQ and compressor section. As well as useful tape drive and warmth controls you’ll find sends to a selection of FX including phaser, chorus, delay, reverb and stereo spread. Each can be fine tuned in the dedicated FX section and although subtle are very useable. The sequencer section has up to 32 steps, swing, accent, sync and a really handy chord function, which is great if you forget you major 6th and sus7.

Something that strikes you straight away is the out of the box usability of the sounds, with very little tweaking, basses are ready to bounce and keys are ready to shimmer. It definitely feels like a lot of love and attention has gone into building this sample library and the range of classic sounds available, gives you plenty of inspiration.

Next we loaded up the drum module, which has a similar look and feel, again there’s ways to tweak the individual sample with envelope, filter and transient controls, and similar to the synth, the front panel has compressor, EQ and tape drive. The effect sends consist of delay and reverb, which can be assigned to individual hits, and although it won’t be to everyone’s taste the reverb does have a certain charm. The sequencer on the drum module has space for 8 patterns per kit and there’s some predefined ones to get you started. You can mix and match which of the 35 kits individual hits are from, alter their bit rate to get some nice crunchy hats and add shuffle to give it some swing.

It’s clear after spending some time with Bloq that the star of the show are the samples themselves. Having high quality drum hits and synths to play with in a well thought out GUI makes for a lot of fun and I can see this finding its place in the market as a very well priced, light weight substitute for the real thing.

It’s under £45 and available on the Sample Magic website now. https://www.samplemagic.com/details/452/bloq

Synthesisers:

Roland Jupiter 6, Roland Jupiter 8, Dave Smith Prophet ’08, Clavia Nord Lead 3, Clavia Nord Lead 4, Teenage Engineering OP-1, Roland MC-202, Roland SH-101,Elektron Analog Four, Roland TB-303, Yamaha DX7, Korg DW8000, Korg Poly 800, Korg Poly 61, Arp Odyssey, Sequential Circuits Pro One, Roland Juno 106.

Drum machines:

Roland TR 808, Roland TR 909, Roland TR 707, Roland TR 606, Roland TR 626, Roland CR 68, Sound Master SR 55, Nord Drum, Sequential Circuits Drumtraks, MXR 185, Emu Drumulator, Akai MPC 60, Korg Super Drums.