The World Drums banks are almost universally outstanding. Barsotti offers a wide variety of playing styles for each drum, including single and double hits, muted hits, flams, slaps, and rolls. In some cases, 50 or more samples are used in a single program to create expressive velocity splits, making them a joy to play.
The jangly tone of the tambourine drum is a standout. The samples cover a range from hits that play only the drum to others that emphasize the jingles, resulting in a very playable program. Other favorites of mine include the Moroccan derbuka; the deep, solid timbre of the African donn donn; and the medium-pitched, slightly resonant Indonesian ceremony drum. The unusually low-pitched tabla is less successful, marred by rattles and buzzing; the instrument might have benefited from a bit of repair before the sampling session.
I was pleasantly surprised by the elemental vibe of the German Big Hand Drum, with its deep, loose-skinned timbre. Two perfectly captured military snare drums include side sticks, flams, and press rolls. Although the hits are great, the phrases and beats would have fared better with a stellar percussionist at the helm. Many rolls have a slightly uneven swing feel instead of a steady left-hand-right-hand pulse.
In addition to the drums, the World Percussion section has 21 instruments. Its finger and hand cymbals, African rice shaker, rainmakers, gong besar, dream catcher wind chimes, and gamelan cowbell are all worth noting.
The Kantele category offers my favorite string samples. A Russian cousin to the dulcimer, the kantele's strings are plucked or struck with a stick. The resulting timbre sounds like a cross between bell and string, with an aggressive attack balanced by a sweet sustain. The sampled kantele phrases are sparkling and slightly mysterious, combining scraped string sounds with the other playing techniques. A Small Kantele bank focuses on special effects and loops well suited for horror-movie soundtrack material.
The twangy and rich saz multisamples are eminently playable with good dynamics. Chinese erhu, Irish truxa mandolin, German Framus banjo, and a couple of acoustic guitars are also included, but they seem less compelling after hearing the gorgeous kantele.
Bells and Metals
The Bell and Metal section is strong throughout, with great sampling, unusual timbres, and expressive programming. I instantly put the mellow metallophone to work in an ambient ballad. The shimmery and slightly chorused Bamboo Vibraphone bank is a favorite, especially the Bamboo Vibra 2 program, which features a distinctive double-hit at high velocities. The Shanghai Baby Piano is a rod-based toy piano with a bouncy, complex attack. It sounds as though the original instrument was in poor shape, but its unevenness lends the sound a charming, organic quality.
The Tibetan cymbals offer a good selection of velocity switched, sampled gestures, including multiple strikes and rubbed cymbals. The pitched versions stretch a single sample over the keyboard to create delicate fairy bells. The Tibetan singing bells are sweet and resonant.
The Woodwinds section offers an unusual mixed bag of sounds, from Indian snake charmers to Irish whistles. Many of the woodwind programs offer a velocity switch between legato and staccato samples and are available with or without vibrato. I would have appreciated samples for different dynamics, as well. Uneven volume or tone mars some multisamples, and the programming should have compensated for those differences. Still, you'll find some good stuff, including the strong, complex tone of the Irish low whistle; the hollow, breathy alto recorder; and the susato tin whistle. A bank of flute phrases offers five octaves of swoops, jumps, flutters, and bird noises.
A World of Good
Ethno World offers an interesting mix of elements. The woodwinds and strings are uneven, but the drums, percussion, and bells offer a wealth of outstanding material. Those sounds alone are worth the investment.