Originality is an important aspect of sampling. So I always love to see what new ideas sample developers can come up with. 8Dio has released what I would consider to be an original library with a unique concept, the Free You Project.
Essentially, 8Dio had their users send in a few of the sounds from their lives that were the most important to them, and these sounds would be made into a sample library. And they were. Was it a good idea, and are the results worth making a commercial product from? Let’s find out.
The Free You Project Source Material
Weighing in at around 4.5GB on disk (using lossless compression in Kontakt, originally over 11GB), Free You contains hundreds of actual source samples. As they are user-submitted samples, we’re not talking about complex multi-samples, but uniquely personal samples.
As mentioned above, these samples are supposed to be sounds that users feel are the closest to their heart. Since there were more than 200 contributors to the project, this means there is quite a large variety of source material (for more exact numbers, see below).
You get 15 patches categorized as “Tonal Melodies”, 10 patches categorized as “Rhythmic Pads”, and one patch categorized as “Stuttery Rhythms”. But don’t assume that you will only find tonal sounds in the tonal patches, or rhythmic sounds in the rhytmic patches. There is some overlap.
You’ll find things like guitar phrases, acoustic percussion elements made from everyday items, along with loads of scrapes, screeches, and other mangled items. You’ll get nature sounds, bells and whistles, and other familiar sounds as well. There are several vocal elements both of the singing and non-singing variety, synth sounds, and a lot of sounds that have been altered to where you couldn’t determine what the original sound was.
The sounds are very organic, and represent a ton of personality. As this seems to have been the goal of the library, I can say Free You has succeeded in a big way. Everything feels living and breathing. Most sounds evolve in some way over time, while others are focused on the initial hit.
Most sounds are geared towards being atmospheric and flowing, including the Rhythmic ones. They would work great for soundtrack work as well as ambient tracks, or as a background to any track needing a little non-traditional soundscapes.
All the sounds are placed together in patches. There are 12 sounds for each patch, but in reality, there are 36 sounds per patch. This is because 8Dio has layered together various source elements that complimented each other. For the most part, these three layers consist of some sort of hit (the attack portion of the sound), some sort of ‘sustain’ type of sound, and then a filler sound. The filler sounds are generally pads or drones designed as a bed where the other two sounds will lay.
So to clarify, you get 26 Kontakt patches, each with 12 sounds inside, and each sound has 3 different sound layers. This makes 936 total sounds! Some of these sounds have been added by 8Dio to complement the user-submitted sounds, but overall, there are a vast number of sound possibilities. An astounding number, really.
So back to the patch structure. You can solo or mute each of the three layers, which gives you the ability to play just one or two of the three if you wish. There is currently no way to cycle through every individual source by itself in the library. You have to load a patch and then select the proper sound, then solo each layer within if you want to use just one sound source.
I do have a few problems with the Free You library. First, because of the way the sounds were acquired, there is no real focus in the library. I understand this would be pretty difficult to do with user-submitted sounds of this nature, so it isn’t necessarily the fault of 8Dio. But it does make it more difficult to implement the library into your productions due to there being no theme to remember sounds by.
What hurts the library further is that the organization of the library is lacking. I’m talking about how patches and sounds are categorized. As shown in the image above, everything is very generic. The patches are named Tonal Melodies 01, Tonal Melodies 02, Rhythmic Pads 01, Rhythmic Pads 02, etc. And while the sounds inside each patch are somewhat similar most of the time, there is nothing distinctive to let you know what sounds are inside. You have to grind your way through each sound and each layer to find exactly what you want. This does lead to some experimentation, which can be good though.
But it doesn’t stop there. Inside each patch are 12 sounds. But yet again, no specifics on naming. You get Rhythm 1, Rhythm 2, etc.
I understand that it may be difficult to name the sounds included in Free You. But I feel 8Dio went too far into the generic naming, making it more difficult to navigate and found what you need. Even some rudimentary breakdowns like “Horror 01, Horror 02, Heavenly 01, Heavenly 02” would be an improvement as it would at least provide a general direction for the included sounds.
Finally, my biggest disappointment is that Free You is too restrictive in how sounds are mixed together. If you want to use individual sound sources from different patches, you can load up multiple instances of a patch
Ultimately, the sound material included in Free You is solid, despite being a bit scattered. There are definitely a lot of useful sounds in there, particularly for the atmospheric composer or somebody in need of interesting sound effects.
The quality of the patches and how sounds are matched together is superb overall. What they have done with the material is nothing short of amazing, really.
The Free You Faceplate
The interface of Free You is clean, and I’m a fan of the style, personally. The bright-colored sections of the interface add enough contrast, while the rest of the interface is easy on the eyes.
Each patch you load contains 12 different sounds, and you can switch between them by clicking on the pads at the top.
In addition, each pad is assigned to a keyswitch, so you can switch between them using keyswitches. While you can’t reassign individual keyswitches, you can adjust the starting point of the keyswitch range, which starts by default at C1.
But not only that, you can also use the mod wheel to cycle through sounds. By default, the mod wheel won’t switch sounds. But you can select any number of the sounds that you want assigned to the mod wheel (anywhere from 1 to all 12), and then when you move the mod wheel, it cycles through them in order. A nice touch.
Unfortunately, you can’t select more than one sound at a time. So there is no option for layering unless you load up multiple patches in Kontakt (but you then have to set the effects and other settings independently).
Below the patch selection are a variety of core settings to control things like envelope, pan and dynamic response. These are pretty straightforward, though you can randomize them using the question mark icon on the side, or reset them if things get too crazy.
You are also given three step-based controls; a Sequencer, Modulation, and Filter LFO.
The Sequencer is pretty much a velocity control, and is only available on the Tonal patches. Honestly, I found the sequencer very underwhelming because no matter how you have it set, every step retriggers the start of the sound, even if that step is turned off (it just makes that retrigger silent). There is no way to let a sound sustain out until the next triggered step. You can hear the tail, but the sound itself is shut off. So every sound was just sounds stuttered.
The Modulation sequencer and Filter LFO are far more useful and allow you to add some extra evolution to your sounds. All three of these sequencers can be programmed by hand or randomized, and you can adjust the step size using the dropdown arrow next to the Filter LFO.
Along the bottom of the interface is your mixing section, which allows you to turn layers on or off and mix them together as needed. Though there are no pan controls, oddly.
On the right is a standard 4 band graphic equalizer, and in the middle is the first of two different effects sections. These effects are more about changing the core dynamics and frequency of the sound. And you can randomize them as well, which is nice.
I mentioned that this is the first of two effects sections. There is another page to the interface, the Effects page.
These effects are the more intense and destructive effects. They are based on the standard effects included with Kontakt, but with a far nicer interface to deal with. Many different presets are included for each module, and you can also randomize each individual module. There is a lot of sound mangling to be had here, and you can change the sound to an unrecognizable one if you wish. Oddly, the icon for randomization is not the standard question mark used on the other sections of Free You. It is hidden on the tiny radioactive icon to the right of each effect name.
Getting the most out of Free You requires knowing a bit more about the hidden gems in the interface. For instance, any knob with a colored line/dot around it is actually two controls. The knob itself is one control, while the colored portion is another (you can see what each one controls by mousing over the name of the knob, as seen in the image to the right, which shows the two controls included in the “Amb Env” knob).
In addition, some knobs, like the Gate, have additional functions. On the gate, you get a dotted line around the outside, which is actually a mini-sequencer for the gate. WIth the Gate in particular, you also have a dropdown arrow that reveals a step duration.
So using the gate as an example, you can set the step duration, and then turn on or off individual dashes around the knob to give you a sequenced gate effect.
So in addition to the primary knobs, most of the controls included are actually two or more settings in one, making Free You quite flexible.
I’ve detailed every portion of the interface because I wanted to make sure it was clear just how much each sound could be altered. It was great fun to load up a patch and start randomizing everything until I had some really cool sounds flowing through the speakers.
I do wish there was a little more consistency with the randomize buttons, and more flexibility with certain modules. But with dozens of controls available, 8Dio have come up with a fairly powerful framework for the Free You sounds to live in.
I also really would like to see a “Sound Menu” type of patch that allows me to select a number of source sounds to mix together inside this interface. Many times, I would find individual sound sources that I wanted to mix with sound sources in other patches or sounds, but I couldn’t. I feel this type of feature would take Free You into a whole other level of power, and is a missed opportunity.
The Free You Project In Use
I had a hard time with the Free You library, not because I didn’t like it, but because I feel it is a notch short of greatness for what it is designed for. I greatly appreciate the effort and creativity involved in creating Free You, and there is no doubt about the quality of the patches themselves. But this isn’t a library I’ll be loading into my template or reaching for on a daily basis. Free You is the kind of library you reach for when you’re trying to come up with something different.
With that being said, the sounds in Free You are ones that can and do inspire. They are the type of sounds you build a track around. Many of them really are that good. Don’t take my criticism to mean that I would never use them, or that there is any problem with the individual sounds themselves. In fact, many of these sounds will fit perfectly into some trailer tracks I will be working on soon. I just feel it could have been a bit more in terms of how everything is organized and being able to create your own unique patches.
Should you buy Free You? As with any library, that depends. There is indisputable value here. If you like otherworldly organic sounds or need some atmosphere, you shouldn’t hesitate to purchase. If you do pop/rock/blues and other more traditional genres with standard instruments, you won’t find much here that will help. If you just like experimenting, Free You could be your playground.
In the end, with more than 900 individual sounds, a fairly flexible interface, and a low price point, Free You will no doubt satisfy many users. It is quite an accomplishment for 8Dio to take so many different sounds and create a polished library from it.