Best Sampler VST Plugins (2020 Round-up)

Sampling technique defined modern music. It allowed people to express in a different way and became a cornerstone of many music genres starting from hip-hop.

It’s been used everywhere and it’s really hard to imagine how a music industry would look like if it wasn’t invented.

Comparison of the Best Sampler VST Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Sample your own custom instrument
  • AudioWarp time-stretch and pitch-shifting engine
  • High-end audio effects
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  • All-in-one drum sampler and performer
  • Detailed sample editing with Decompose feature
  • Automated live sample recording
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  • Sample player with wave editor
  • Auto-sample VST or hardware instrument
  • Akai, Renoise and Soundfont file import included
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  • Loop creation creative workstation
  • Create grid based loop ready for re-arranging
  • REX file supported by many major DAW softwares
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  • 128-voice polyphony digital sampler
  • Record your own samples with record threshold
  • Supports SoundFont formats
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  • Famous Pitch ’n’ Time algorithm
  • Serato DJ's Cue Point integrated
  • Ideal for DJ performers
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History of Sampling

The first sampling was done in 1940 when Pierre Schaffer ignored traditional song form and played various sounds from nature by using a tape recorder. Sampler had to wait until the 1960s to be used again in a Mellotron synthesizer with The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” as the best showcase probably.

However, real modern sampling started with the rise of hip-hop and live DJ mixing. They used breakbeat parts from the funk music so that MCs could rap over it while the groove from the funk beat forced people to dance. In the 1980s sampling became mainstream when Roland and especially Akai started producing digital samplers. 

What Purpose Does a Sampler VST Serve? 

It’s completely fine if you’re unsure what Sampler actually does because it’s not a concept so well-known outside of the music world. Let us give you a couple of hints:

Pitch and Time Manipulation

Sometimes you will stumble upon a sample that’s perfect for your song but it’s either in the wrong tempo or key. Sampler excels in such editings thanks to specially designed algorithms and will preserve the audio quality at some extensive range.

Sample Tweaking

Modern software allows you to play with the samples in a very creative way that we really take for granted these days. You can reverse it or edit just some parts of it - you can slice it, swap it, prolong or shorten certain parts and eventually create something completely new and musically inspiring even from a regular speech.

Multi-Sample Instruments

Sampler VST allows you to combine various high-quality samples into a single multi-sample instrument. It also provides you with some algorithms and shortcuts that will allow you to combine samples together to achieve a certain articulation. Imagine the sound of a violin - you can sample it with thousands of files but you will still need an interface that will detect if you’re playing short or legato notes.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Here are the best sampler VST plugins:

  1. Steinberg Halion 6
  2. Steinberg Groove Agent 5
  3. DiscoDSP Bliss

Review of the Best Sampler VST Plugins

Samplers are not so easy to find on the market, so, read our review and save some browsing time:

Best Overall:
Steinberg Halion 6

PROS

  • FlexPhraser groovebox module
  • 3.400 synth and acoustic sounds included
  • “Sample your own custom instrument” tool
  • AudioWarp time-stretch and pitch-shifting engine 
  • High-end audio effects with dedicated convolution reverb

CONS

  • Basic modulation effects palette 
  • Might be overkill for typical sampling needs

Features and Specifications

Halion is an advanced sampler VST that comes with 192kHz sample rate support and provides you with 32 stereo outputs. Its library contains more than 3.400 synth and acoustic sounds and is packed with high-quality effects including REVerence convolution reverb.

Sample Recorded comes with the automated option such as Auto Trim, Auto Gain, or Auto Next that can handle a complete piano roll in a single take and there are several options if you want to map them automatically. AudioWarp will expand sample editing as you can perform some advanced time-stretch and pitch-shifting modifications.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is one of the first software samplers ever made and it was getting better with every next version. It’s actually hard to define all the fields where it excels, but it’s best used as a software prone to create some extreme sampling manipulations in all possible ways.

But this item is not just a sampler. It provides you with thousands of instrument sounds with a dedicated effects panel so you can use it as a very powerful synthesizer as well. If you’re into cinematic scoring, it’s worth reminding you that it supports 6-channel support natively.

PROS

  • Automated live sample recording 
  • 37,000 drum and percussion samples provided
  • 1000 MIDI drum grooves in 130 Beat Agent kits
  • Complex all-in-one drum sampler and performer
  • Detailed Beat Agent sample editing including the unique Decompose tool

CONS

  • Steep learning curve
  • No sample editing for Acoustic or Percussion Agent

Features and Specifications

Groove Agent 5 comes with some big upgrades. The number of velocity layers is increased to 32 per component and stereo outputs have been doubled to 32 as well. The decompose feature now allows you to manipulate the noise and tonal part of the sample independently.

Sample Editor tab allows you to audition a single layer of multi-layered pad and samples can be recorded directly to the pads. Both audio input or virtual instruments can be sampled automatically. This speeds up taking multiple samples for pitched or different velocity of the percussive instruments a lot.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is one of the rare software with detailed sampling oriented to the drum sounds specifically. Soundwise, both acoustic or percussion Agents work awesome, but the star of the show is the Beat Agent. Also, we really loved that the sample waveform is not just visible during envelope editing but it also follows the modifications and changes graphically along that process.

However, the feature we absolutely loved is the option to change the pitch tone of the tonal part while leaving the noise unpitched. This is very likely to happen in reality and this feature is unique on the market at the moment.

Best for the Money:
DiscoDSP Bliss

PROS

  • 6 dual zero-delay feedback filters
  • Akai, Renoise, and Soundfont file import included
  • 8 macro knobs for modulation with 2 syncable LFOs
  • Auto-sample your favorite VST or hardware instrument
  • Performance sample player with a dedicated wave editor

CONS

  • Polyphony is limited to 64-voice
  • Average effects quality and routing

Features and Specifications

Bliss is VSTi and AU compatible and can also work as a VST host for both 32 and 64-bit versions. It provides you with the wave editor with the full undo history and seven loop types including some advanced options like bidirectional or forward with sustain.

You can also add six dual zero-delay feedback filters and assign velocity and keyboard tracking to the cutoff parameter.

Regarding sample import, drum samples are mapped automatically when loaded and it supports various audio formats including Akai, Soundfont, and Renoise program formats.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Music is sometimes more about the sound we are used to than premium quality. Many famous songs were not produced with the overall best sound, but with the sound that best-suited the song.

That’s why sampling your favorite synth or VST instrument may come handy, especially if there is a fast and automated process for that. Bliss provides you this option so you can have your sound both in the studio or live in your rig lowering your CPU usage. It can also act as a VST host so you may take a chance and try your laptop for live performance as well.

Best Drum Sampler VST:
Reason Studios ReCycle

PROS

  • Loop creation creative workstation
  • A unique Dr. Octo Rex Loop Player
  • REX file supported by many major DAW software
  • Powerful Slice tool forms a loop grid based on transients detected
  • Envelope, Transient Shaper and EQ modules included in the Tweak tool

CONS

  • There is a maximum number of slices (99)
  • Fine Tune covers 25 cents instead of the usual 50

Features and Specifications

Loading a sound into ReCycle will start the audio analysis and break it into rhythmic components automatically. Those components are based on the transients found in the audio file. Transients you have found will create Slices and increasing transient detection sensitivity threshold will increase the number of slices found.

Next, you can manipulate them further in many ways from basic tempo changes up to pitch shifting or pitch preserving, envelope editing, transient shaping, or applying a basic 4-band EQ.

And once you’re done, you can export the audio file into the REX file format.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is a very useful software for all kinds of loop-based music. You can replace or move any drum component on the fly because of very precise groove deconstruction. It can also work with other instruments, but rhythm editing is the core of this software.

ReCycle REX file format is also an awesome way of keeping up all the slice information in a lossless audio file and it’s officially supported by many other software. This way, a new file will automatically stretch or shrink to any given project tempo accordingly and emulate the original groove you have created.

Editor’s Pick:
Image Line DirectWave

PROS

  • Supports SoundFont formats
  • 128-voice polyphony digital sampler
  • Automate sampling of the VST instruments
  • Built-in sample editor and loop finding tool
  • Record your own samples with record threshold

CONS

  • Mediocre filters
  • Sample arranging could be organized better

Features and Specifications

DirectWave is a 16-part multitimbral sampler with 128-voice polyphony with all sample rates supported. There are several built-in insert effects that can manipulate samples further with a bitcrusher or decimator while send effects will cover the typical effect range. with

It also provides you with the loop finding tool and sample editor capable of real-time sampling of both audio input or another VST instrument with certain automation options. Sample import can be performed with the drag-and-drop method and besides regular audio formats, DirectWave also supports SoundFont file format as well.

Why it Stands Out to Us

DirectWave was the first next-gen VST Sampler that sampled audio and performed waveform editing. It was made in a similar way like hardware samplers work and the reverb especially has that vintage vibe often found on such devices.

Everything you need for sample editing is placed within the front page of the user interface and the sample recording is quite easy. It can be automated, but we especially loved the record threshold option. This feature will wait until signal peak arises (-40dB) which will save some time in both recordings or entering the starting point for every sample.

Best Sampler VST for DJ:
Serato Sample

PROS

  • Serato DJ's Cue Point integrated
  • Pad-based sample player and editor
  • Time changes range from 1 to 999 BPM
  • Famous Pitch ’n’ Time algorithm built-in
  • Well designed and fast-working interface

CONS

  • Filters didn’t impress us
  • Can’t assign sample key manually

Features and Specifications

It includes Pitch ’n Time, an algorithm that is famous for flawless pitch-shifting and time-stretching manipulations. You can go up and down 24 semitones with 50 cents of fine-tuning while tempo can be stretched between 1 and 999 BPM. It also comes with an excellent key-detecting system.

Cue points system is taken from famous Serato DJ software and you can assign up to 16 cue points per audio file. Cues can be latched or gated so it will stop once you release the dedicated key or pad.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Having in mind their award-winning Serato DJ software it’s no wonder that their sampling software feels like it’s designed to please the DJ mindset approach, especially with the integrated cue points feature which honestly seems almost natural for this kind of editing.

They decided to keep it simple and improve the workflow rather than providing you with many options and for this type of work with the samples, it’s something we actually praise.

We really loved the extreme tempo changes option. Slowing it down way too much can actually generate some unexpected pad textures from any kind of recording.

What Makes a Great Sampler VST? 

Here are the key features of such VST:

Good Algorithm

Changing pitch and tempo is something that is considered as a basic feature for all samplers. This requires an algorithm capable of doing such manipulations without damaging the audio quality regardless of how far you go with the changes.

Options

Sampling is a very creative process. It’s all about doing something new and thinking outside of the box with the files given. That’s why including more options than you need at a certain point will be a great feature as it will lead you into the road you didn’t even think about. Any kind of randomization works great here as there is nothing wrong with rolling dice a couple of times just to see what automatization can provide you.

Interface

It’s important for work with samples to have a fast workflow. The interface must be intuitive and well designed otherwise your creativity will be lost in navigating the menus instead of catching that wind of inspiration.

Compatibility

There are many vintage samplers out there that have wonderful programs and files that are at the studio-ready quality. Great Sampler VST will include instant support for such legacy products as sometimes there is no need for “reinventing the wheel”.

Conclusion 

Sampling will allow you to combine things that don’t go together at first. It’s a very creative process and, eventually, it will only broaden your musical mindset. That’s why we hope that next time you hear an interesting drum loop or a famous cinematic dialogue it will trigger something different in you. 

People Also Ask

You probably heard of some copyright infringement so you may wonder if using the sample is real and is any length of sample legit at all. Luckily for you, we do have some answers that may help you understand what kind of sampling you can allow yourself and sleep stress-free: 

Is Sampling Legal?

No matter how long the sampled content, you need to write permission from both music producers and people who claim rights on the music. This holds the ground for music that doesn’t belong to the public domain area. Classical music can be sampled legally without any legal permission, for example.

Can I Sample Without Permission?

There is a false myth that you can legally sample anything shorter than 6 seconds. But honestly, it’s a quite gray area. If it’s something recognizable, we wouldn’t recommend it. If it’s just a basic sound that got you inspired, it’s much safer for you to hire someone to record that for your final mix instead.

Why Should I Use Samples in my Songs?

People relate to certain melodies or phrases. There is something magical happening when listeners recognize a song on the very first second. That’s why using even completely unfamiliar samples can make your song stand out. People may take a notice on your song just because of the sample you put.