Although there are countless superb virtual instruments out there for those looking to get their hands on convincing vintage synthesiser emulations, when you need a truly authentic recreation of a particular patch or waveforms, multisamples captured from the original hardware are often the better option. The KONTAKT sampler is very well catered to in this department, with countless classic synth libraries available from a variety of developers at a wide range of price points. Indeed, even if your budget amounts to nada, there are still plenty of fabulous retro treasures to be discovered.
Here, we’ve rounded up five standout examples to get you started, and enlisted up-and-coming Berlin-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Yaffra to put together audio demos of each one. A name to look out for, Yaffra has recorded and toured with a panoply of big names, including singer and cellist Kelsey Lu – be sure to check out his eclectic sounds on Bandcamp.
As usual, make sure you’re running the full version of KONTAKT to use these libraries.
Developed in collaboration with Hungarian synth pop outfit The Gomb, Gombulator’s intriguing interface is based on the cover of the band’s 2016 ‘Breaks (And Amends)’ album. The soundbank behind it comprises multisamples of all six presets (piano, organ, trumpet, flute, violin and harpsichord) and the drum kit from the (early ‘80s) Yamaha PSR-15 portable synth, which have been processed and polished, then arranged contiguously around the ’crescent moon’ knob for sweeping through. Clicking the water, meanwhile, randomly triggers various sampled chords for accompaniment, and the whole thing hangs together nicely as an arty and rather lovely sounding curio.
Micro Pod 1 and 2
This pair of KONTAKT libraries from UK soundware developer Synth Magic lets you customise 38 sampled retro synth patches within a scripted interface that incorporates amp and filter envelopes, a ton of filter types, an LFO and more. It’s not entirely clear what instruments the samples draw on, although brief mention is made of “a Yamaha PCS500 home keyboard, Origin synth and 8-bit synth waveforms”; but what matters is the sounds Micro Pods 1 and 2 make, which are evocative, punchy and, thanks to the amount of tailoring on offer, impressively versatile.
Hideaway Studio collection
Hideaway Studio Collection features a set of bespoke instruments created using Wilson’s own Delia Derbyshire-inspired ‘discrete tube synthesis’ technique, which involves “using nothing but old tube test gear and DIY tube circuits to build up new instruments note by note, layer by layer.” The resulting electronic experiments are supremely warm and organic in feel, from the spiky punch of DIY Tube Harpsichord to the dark Vangelis vibes of Warm Pentode Brass.
Free DW8000 collection
Enrich your KONTAKT library with this diverse set of multisampled patches from the Korg DW-8000 hybrid digital-analogue synth. The original patches and sampling thereof are the handiwork of KVR forum-goer dokidokipanic (aka Alex), and he hasn’t gone for any particular theme with the sounds, which take in strings, pads, percussives, keys, vocal-esque timbres, FX and more. Filtering has been applied in KONTAKT to do away with synth’s inherent noise on certain patches, delay and/or reverb are baked in, and the interesting character of the DW-8000 shines through from start to finish.
Part of Cinematique’s Klang series of KONTAKT freebies, released in 2019 to mark the company’s tenth anniversary, Easy Life is built on a single sample captured from an EMS VC3 synth. The frequency-rich tone in question feeds into an arpeggiator and can be adjusted in terms of note length, low-pass filter cutoff and arp rate. The Fatness and Distortion buttons toggle added warmth and grit on and off; the arp features a random mode; and one-slider delay and reverb modules bring spatialising and echoes to the party, the latter with a choice of convolution models.
Ultimately, Easy Life is all about that central sample, which has been designed to be satisfyingly responsive to the provided parameters and arpeggiation, and sounds great in all manner of electronic music settings.
Photo credit: Gunda Schliep