The craziest, wackiest soundfont editor has got to be Synth Font. (Free for download, donateware, Windows only).
I just poked at the buttons and hammered on sliders for a while and about half the time it would behave like I expected the other half was just wacky (a little too hard to give examples as they just wouldn’t translate to written word).
This application reminds of what it would look like if you threw an AKAI sampler over the swing-set and it turned inside out. It is without a doubt the labor of crazy obsession. No detail is left unresolved — for better or worse.
I will die long before I have time to dive into something like this very deeply for just random use, but there may come a time when I want to construct a complete universe of sounds and I think soundfonts are the most powerful sample- triggering technology. Especially when the software knows what to do with them. For all it’s cartoony and offbeat user interface, SynthFont seems to have a great backend , good sounding, very responsive and healthy on memory.
The editor itself isn’t bad and definitely the most powerful, flexible one for free I’ve ever seen.
This is Part 2 of a tutorial on how to use rgc:audio’s sfz family of soundfont players in Ableton Live 4.0. In Part 1 I covered how to use the free VSTi sfz soundfont player and a GM font with direct multiple MIDI inputs. The output of the free version of sfz is a single stereo out which is very limiting because it means all the instruments are being routed into a single audio track in Live.
The VSTi soundfont player rgc:audio sfz (for Windows) plus the new release of Ableton Live 4.0 is turning out to be a fantastic pairing thanks to solid engineering on both sides. (A new bismark bs-1 for OS X was just released but I haven’t tried it in Live.)
Adding soundfont playing to Live is a welcome development and through Live’s new complex but powerful virtual cabling this setup is the environment to beat in terms of fun an productivity.
If you’re thinking of purchasing Sonic Implant’s brass soundfonts, that’s fine… but you better stock up on clothespins because your speaker will start smelling up the bedroom right quick.
In my never ending quest for good, blasty R&B horns sounds I just spent $19.95 on what turned out to some pretty weak ass synthy “horn” fonts. Serves me right for not trusting the free stuff.
Garageband (the software, not the site) users are starting to warm up to soundfonts thanks to applications like Andy Drabble’s Soundfont Synth which sells for $15 (although it sounds like there may be issues with version 1.0).
The site claims that it works in “any” AU host which presumably covers the upcoming release of Live 4.0 with it’s MIDI support which will open up whole new worlds for Live users. (“Will you be having some Grain Delay with your Steinway?”)
Soundfont support on the Mac is important because it spreads the ubiquity of the popular, yes “open” thanks to E/MU and Creative, widely used SF2 format (2.1 spec (PDF)). Having said that I’m not exactly eager to be first to try any of Andy’s stuff. Good luck!
A big props and thanks to natural studio for uploading (and maintaining!) a great drum set as an SF2 format soundfont . (WinRAR required for the individual set pieces, a lot of patience required if you download the whole thing in one shot.)
Of course I haven’t tried all of these but there are golden treasures here:
The very best free SoundFonts
Good sounds and a bit of imagination are the keys to make good music. To help you with the first part, I’ve searched the FTP archives and selected some of the very best SoundFonts that you can download for free. To make it easier to find what you need, the SoundFonts are sorted by category, and all are available compressed with Zip and sfArk.
Free soundfonts (and a whole bunch more stuff) at sf2midi.com (Registration required).
I can tell you that wading through free soundfont libraries online is a very, very time consuming endeavor but can turn out to be very, very rewarding when you find a good one. The selection doesn’t seem that deep at sf2midi but we keep wading.
Hammersound is the classic free site. Their servers seem to fade out sometimes so keep trying.
[UPDATE]: Thanks Gagarin for pointing us back to sf2midi who has done a nifty redesign of the site and quite an uptake in SF2 files! As of this writing there over 2,200 sound fonts and it is now easier than ever to find what you may be looking for. Even though they are still missing some ‘classics’ (like the Campbell strings sections) they are an essential stop.
VSampler has announced the release of 3.0 (FAQ at MAZ Tools).
Upgrades run from free to $150 depending on what version of what configuration you have.
VSampler is very powerful and may just be way too much for someone who is just looking to play some soundfonts through a DXi or VSTi host. But it covers so many different formats that if you collaborate with folks that have an old box of any sort it is very likely that VSampler would be the way to bridge to the modern world.
You email us, we hear you.
Here is the rgc:audio VST SoundFont player. And it’s free. And it’s good.
(screen shot in ACID)
Of course FL Studio embedded SoundFont loading into the main application, no plug-in needed.
[UPDATE May 8, 2008] It seems Cakewalk bought up sfz, but the simple sfz is still free, I’ve updated the link above.
[UPDATE Jun 11, 2009] CW keeps sliding the URL around, the link above is now working again (thanks rtk in comments below)