The LinuxSampler project was founded in 2002 with the goal to produce a free, streaming capable open source pure software audio sampler with high stability, efficiency and very low latency, providing professional grade features, comparable to both hardware and commercial Windows/Mac software samplers and to introduce new features not yet available by any other sampler in the world.
LinuxSampler was designed very modular, especially (and in contrast to other samplers) it was decoupled from any user interface. LinuxSampler itself usually runs as own process in the background of the computer and usually does not show up anything on the screen, or at most it can be launched to show status informations and debug messages in a console window.
That means LinuxSampler itself is the "engine" of the sampler, it is the software component which performs all the heavy and time critical computational tasks of handling MIDI events, calculating the audio data and sending the final audio data to your sound card(s). We call LinuxSampler the sampler backend.
Virtual instruments (i.e. pianos, drums, orchestra ensembles) based on sampler software are created and distributed as files, which essentially contain recorded audio samples plus so called articulation informations. The latter are a very important factor to make audio samples assemble a realistic sound of i.e. natural instruments. The are defining when and how exactly the individual audio samples shall be played back and modified by the sampler.
It is planned to support all common sampler formats in LinuxSampler. At the moment the sampler supports the following three:
- GigaStudio/GigaSampler Format: First format ever supported by LinuxSampler and hence probably the most mature option in LinuxSampler right now. When we started to develop LinuxSampler back in 2002, we chose to concentrate on this commercial sampler format first, because at that point it was (in our opinion) the most popular and "best" sampler format in regards of quality and features, especially for the synthesis of natural instruments like pianos, brass and bowed instruments. Some of the best sounding orchestra libraries were made in this format at that time.
In contrast to all those commercial samplers out there who claim to support the GigaStudio/GigaSampler format, we invested many years and a lot of effort to reassemble the original sound of this format as exactly as possible, as it was with the original GigaStudio PC software. Other samplers usually provide only raw sample playback for this format and - if at all - only limited support for its articulations and synthesis model. LinuxSampler however is providing i.e. envelopes and filters with very precise characteristics and accuracy of the original ones used in the original GigaStudio software. We even reassembled the "warty" parts of the format, that is strange aspects of the format. All this just to fulfill one goal: playing back your huge collection of high class .gig instruments with LinuxSampler exactly as they sounded like with GigaStudio! And as of to date there is probably no other sampler out there which does that job better.
- SoundFont Format: Being a very popular sampler format, supported by numerous hardware devices and sampler software products for many years, we also added support for the SoundFont format. However, since this format is fairly old and limited we did not spend as much effort on it than on the other formats. So there is currently not full support for all aspects of this format yet. Be invited to help us on finishing support for this format!
- SFZ Format: Not to be interchanged with the SoundFont format! Even though their names suggest them to be similar, and also being initiated by the same company, the SFZ format does not have much in common with the SoundFont format! The SFZ format is a quite new one, an open format that is also used as basis in many commercial sampler products. It has the potential to become a broad standard format among sampler products. It is extensible for custom features, provides articulation information in human-readable text form and samples are usually stored as separate files along to the articulation files. The latter also allows a variety of audio formats to be used and gives sound designers and their customers various advantages to work with.
Due to its high potential we recently spent a lot of time in supporting this format in LinuxSampler. A lot of this format is already supported (v1 and v2) in LinuxSampler, also extensions of commercial samplers, and we continue to evolve support for this format.