Sample Magic BLOQ Review
So, this days, I’ve read a lot of stuff about the BLOQ instrument available for Kontakt 5, Ableton 9 and Logic X. This is a sample instrument, well, in fact two instruments, one for drum machines and one for synths. After some minutes trying the Kontakt version, I’ve got to say, I’m thrilled, the drum machines sound awesome and the synths very realistic. Let’s check it out!
Ok, so, to me, the most obvious thing to do is start with the drum machine instrument. First of all, the look of it is very vintage. The sliders make me remember some 90’s Roland synths, like the XP series, so, very cool!
The Bloq Drum instrument has three tabs or pages: Main, Sequencer and FX. They are pretty much self explicatory, so, lets start with the Main tab.
The first thing is the voice section, which has a sample selection slide, a start time, random and tune controls for each pad. Speaking of pads, as you would expect, there are 8 of those, and you can combine samples from different machines on those pads per patch.
So, then, we’ve got an 3-stage Envelope generator with Attack, Hold and Decay, this, again is configurable per pad. Moving on, there’s a multimode (HPF or LPF) resonant filter, again, per pad. Finally, we’ve got a Transient designer with attack and sustain parts, so, you can definitely tweak a lot each sample, but, wait, there’s more! You also get a compressor, an EQ and a Tape emulation for each pad, so, possibilities are almost endless.
Back to the pads, you can select the kit and the instrument for each pad, so, for example, you can have an 808 kick in one pad, a Drumulator snare in another, a 909 Clap on a third pad and some Korg 55B toms. Each pad can be soloed or muted too. One other cool thing is you can link or unlink pads 7 and 8. The most typical use for this is for Close and Open hats to share or not the same voice.
So, you might be wondering which machines are sampled in here, right? Well, basically all the ones you might wanna have in your room: Roland TR-606, TR-626, TR-707, TR-808, TR-909, Cr-68, SCI Drumtraks, E-Mu Drumulator, MXR 185, Korg DDM 110 and 55B. To my taste, the only ones missing here are a Linndrum and maybe a Simmons, but, hey, I’m not complaining here!
Finally, at the bottom, we find some settings like, velocity, pan, level, delay send, reverb send, bit rate and sample rate, and kinda hidden, a very cool feature: you can select between modern or vintage mode, and this has to do with the quality and noise of the sample and again, it acts per pad, so, very cool.
Moving on to the Sequencer Tab, we find a pretty standard 32 steps, 8 tracks sequencer. As you would expect, there’s one track per pad, and here you set the gate and the level for the steps you want to. Of course you can change the length of the sequence, add shuffle and accent, you can set the clock division for the steps or just have it free-running. There are 8 pattern slots that goes from C#3 to G#3, and the C3 note acts as a start/stop.
Finally, in the FX tab, is where you make all the adjustments for Delay and Reverb.
This is a very nice and flexible instrument. Samples sound very realistic and with the vintage mode is actually like playing an early 90s Akai MPC. I believe the machines they’ve sampled are very well chosen, and the fact you can combine samples from many of them in one patch, tweak and process each pad separately makes this instrument very versatile. Of course, sequence and FX are a great add, and if you can’t have a couple of shelves full of vintage drum machines, you should get this instrument right away!
The other instrument in this collection is the Bloq synth, with pretty much similar conception as the drum machine, and some serious vintage synth patches sampled (and very tweak able too!)
So, normally, I don’t like sampled synths, specially vintage ones, cause, with a sample instrument, there’re lots of things you can’t do, but, hey, this is a very complete sample instrument!
Again, we have the same three tabs as on the drum machine: Main, Sequence and Fx. On the Main tab we find some sends for phaser, chorus, stereo spread delay and reverb.
Below that, we find sliders for sample start, unison and detune, pitch mod, tremolo and autopan. The latter three can be modulated via any of the 3 LFOs or the EG2. Next, for the filter, we have a HPF cutoff, and a LPF cutoff with can be set to various modes including a 2 or 4-pole ladder. There’s also a resonance for the LPF, and yes, it will self oscillate, an envelope amount, LFO MOD, which again, any of the 3 LFOs can be set as source, and a filter drive.
In the modulation department, there are 3 LFOs which can output triangle, square, saw and random waveforms, an utility envelope and a dedicated waveform envelope. both EGs are ADSR.
As with the drum machine, you’ll find the same EQ, Compressor and Tape emulation, and finally, some settings: Play mode can be set to Poly, Mono, Chord or SEQ, Sampler mode can be set to modern or vintage, there’s an Analog amount (like on some Waves plugins), bit rate and sample rate, velocity, tune, fine tune, pan and output level controls.
The Sequencer, is again 32-steps, and it goes up or down an entire octave, you can set the volume and gate length for each step, add accent and swing, add a chord, set the clock division (1/4, 1/8, 1/16 or 1/32, sorry no triplets), and of course any patch can have up to 8 sequences.
The Fx tab has controls for the delay, chorus, reverb and phaser.
Some of the synths sampled in here are the Roland Sh-101, Tb-303, Juno (I guess is the 106) Alpha Juno, Jupiter-6, Jupiter 8, Yamaha Dx-7, SCI Pro-one, Nord Lead and the ARP Odyssey. Needless to say is that the patches selection is impecable and you’ve get very distinct patches from every synth. Very vintage.
To my taste, this is awesome to produce house or techno, but, you’ve got lots of options to tweak each preset. The effects sound great too.