I was playing around with a kick sample using the different playback methods in Ableton and thought I heard a subtle difference. Sampler sounded more like the actual audio clip and Simpler/Drum Rack sounded slightly thinner. So loaded them all in a project and used Blue Cat’s FreqAnalyst Multi to see if there actually was a difference. Well, sure enough, Sampler had around a +4 dB peak difference around 47 Hz compared to both Simpler and Drum Rack. There’s also some difference near 22 KHz. Here are some screenshots of FreqAnalyst Multi’s difference graph.
Sampler vs Drum Rack/Simpler
Below you can see the difference at the low and high-ends when comparing Sampler with Drum Rack.
Comparing Sampler to Simpler yields similar results which makes sense since, I think, Drum Rack uses Simpler under the hood. However, notice the high-end difference is much greater than Sampler vs Drum Rack.
Now, if I compare Drum Rack to Simpler, the only difference is at the very high end.
Sampler vs Audio Clip
Finally, if I compare Sampler to the audio clip, there is no difference.
Now, few people would notice the high-end difference, but with a sub speaker, the low-end difference is pretty noticeable when doing an A-B comparison. Also, different samples will yield different results. However, this is probably a difference without a distinction, particularly with a little EQ boost, but it’s interesting and perhaps a reason to reach for Sampler over Simpler all things being equal.
(Note that I used a MIDI Note Velocity of 100 and Vol<Vel setting of 100% which I’ve found made Drum Rack pads sound about the same as straight audio clips.)
I think I may have figured out the problem: the Snap option in Simpler. Basically, this set’s the beginning and ending of the waveform to zero-crossings to avoid clicking and is enabled by default. There is no such option in Sampler.
The impact of this option likely varies greatly from sample to sample. In my case, it cut off some lows and highs which makes a lot of sense. Turning this off made the difference and Sampler and Simpler now sound the same. Obviously, this option could be important if you encounter clicking, but you might want to turn it off and only enable if you encounter clicking issues.
I went back and forth with Ableton for quite a while. Initially, they basically said there was no difference and sent me a couple projects to prove their point. However, the sample they used was pretty tame with no significant transients. I found that if you used something really dynamic, their test would show there, in fact, was a difference. Anyways, I received an email today (Feb 23, 2021) and here is a snippet:
You have indeed found something here, although we cannot file this as a bug. While it is expected, there is no documentation that states Simpler and Sampler have to playback the exact same.
Unfortunately there is nothing I can advise you on technically on this case further, we will close this ticket now. Thanks for all of your efforts!
We will close this ticket for now but should you have any additional questions
So there you have it. There is a difference, but Ableton doesn’t claim that Simpler and Sampler should sound the same.