Sampling has come a long way in the last few decades, in no small part due to the explosive advancement of sampler VSTs, software instruments, and specialized apps.
In the tutorial above, we take a look at some of the best VST samplers and specialized apps that are out there, and how you can effectively apply them in your productions. Watch along and find links to download each tool below, along with some free options that we couldn’t fit into the video but are absolutely worth checking out.
Best sampler plugins (VSTs)
From versatile sample-based instruments to powerful sound design plugins, here are seven of the best sampler plugins to keep an eye on in 2024 and beyond.
Many consider the Mellotron to be the first analog sampler—and Arturia has achieved a highly faithful recreation of it with Mellotron V. The Mellotron’s iconic hazy sound is emulated with immaculate attention to detail, while there are also some added bells and whistles that help you incorporate it into a modern workflow. The instrument is available both as a standalone plugin on Arturia’s site, or as part of their renowned V Collection. You can go to 0:15 in the video to learn more about Mellotron V and hear it in action.
Another powerhouse instrument from Arturia, CMI V is an emulation of the CMI, one of the earliest digital sampling systems to ever become commercially available. Its sequencer in particular is incredibly powerful, allowing you to import your own samples and manipulate them in unique ways, as we demonstrate at 1:45 in the video. Like Mellotron V, this instrument is also both available on its own and as part of V Collection.
Easily among the best VST samplers, Serato Sample is a powerful but intuitive plugin that enables producers to quickly find and make loops their own. Its pitch shifting algorithm is second-to-none, and its “Find Samples” feature allows you to start experimenting with unique segments of your imported sound in seconds. Check out 2:27 in the video to learn more about Serato Sample and hear it in action.
While Serato Sample is the king of longer loops and samples, there’s nothing better than XLN Audio’s XO when it comes to working with drum one-shots. Its one-of-a-kind UI intelligently categorizes similar timbres together, and allows you to audition them in a visually appealing and highly intuitive way. Go to 3:35 in the video to learn more about XO and hear it in action.
If you’ve watched any amount of project file breakdowns from artists and producers, you’ve likely already heard of KONTAKT. The sampling platform provides both a simple sampler as well as a universe of instrument libraries, spanning everything from stripped-down drums to full-fledged symphonies. Check out 4:43 in the video to learn more about KONTAKT and hear it in action.
Another industry standard in sample-based instruments is Omnisphere. Spectrasonics claim that it’s the only software synth on the market that offers a hardware synth integration feature, and this innovation transforms over 65 classic hardware synthesizers into extensive hands-on controllers. Go to 4:33 in the video to learn more about Omnisphere and hear it in action.
On the surface, Pigments may seem like a software synth that, while excellent, doesn’t have a whole lot to do with sampling software. However, it deserves a spot on this list for its severely underrated granular sampling engine. At 4:54 in the video, we demonstrate this feature in the context of a beat—you truly have to hear it for yourself to understand its full potential.
Best free sampler plugins
If you’re on a tight budget, there are also a wide array of free sampler plugins that can open up new creative possibilities. Here are six options that are worth exploring as a starting point.
- Zampler: A surprisingly comprehensive free sample workstation featuring three LFOs, three ASDR envelopes, and a a host of effects units
- TX16Wx: A software sampler featuring a powerful mapping editor, beat slicer, multimode filters, and more
- Grace: A VST plugin sampler that prioritizes minimal workflow disruptions, with features like drag-and-drop sampling, SFZ patch importing, and more
- MT Power Drum Kit: A free drum sampler offering high-quality sounds that evoke a real acoustic kit
- InstantSampler: A simple sampler that plays back recorded audio with the possibility to vary or trigger a wide range of parameters
- Dropout: A VST sampler that uses granular pitch shifting and sample slicing to transform sounds in unique ways
Also note that some of the paid sampling software options like Mellotron V, CMI V, XO, and Pigments can be tried for absolutely free via three-day trials on Splice Rent-to-Own.
Best mobile apps for sampling
Plugins for your DAW aren’t the only options available today for ‘in-the-box’ sampling. At 7:00 in the video, we also showcase an example track produced entirely on a phone, using a combination of the three apps below in conjunction with the Splice mobile app.
- BandLab: A cloud music creation and collaboration platform that features a powerful 16-pad sampler
- Koala Sampler: A powerful mobile sampler that lets you both record and import samples for editing
- Flip Sampler: A sample-based mobile music studio that’s designed with a fast and intuitive workflow in mind
How can I play Splice samples through my VST sampler?
If you use Splice Sounds in your production process, you’ll be pleased to know that importing them into VST samplers is a straightforward process. Most tools should allow you to directly drag-and-drop them from the Dekstop app—we demonstrate what this process looks like below using Logic Pro X’s sampler as an example:
Once you get accustomed to this workflow, you can apply it in an array of creative ways, whether it’s processing one-shots, designing your own sampler instruments, exploring creative key mapping techniques, or emulating more hardware-inspired workflows (as demonstrated in our overview of Logic Pro X’s Quick Sampler).
If drag-and-drop doesn’t work with your plugin of choice for whatever reason, you can also import the audio files directly by locating them in your Splice folder on your computer (often in a file path like Splice → sounds → packs → pack name).
The best VST samplers and apps: Conclusion
Hopefully this article helped you discover some of the best VST samplers and apps for broadening the horizons of your sampling process. What was your favorite plugin or app we covered? Are there any gems that we missed? Let us know in the comments section of the video, and subscribe to the Splice YouTube channel for more production tips and insights.
Take your music further with the new plugins, fresh sounds, and more available in the Splice Creator plan:
December 13, 2023