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Natural Studio (www.naturalstudio.co.uk) has produced several high quality free soundfonts, including the NS7 free drum kit (over 200MB) - in my view this is easily the best and most natural sounding free drum kit ever made. The only drawbacks with the kit for playing standard MIDI files are that the samples are not fully GM mapped and are not normalised. I have edited the soundfont for my own use. Douglas Whates recently released a professional quality retail version of the NS7 drum kit including a number of different kits played in every conceivable manner! This extends to 5 DVD's and retails for just £50. At the time of writing, I note that the copyright to the NS7 retail kit has just been sold and sadly, the free soundfonts do not seem to be available for download at present. Please email me at email@example.com if you are unable to locate them as I may be able to help.
Papelmedia (www.papelmedia.de ) - a German site which offers for sale a high quality GM sound bank (over 300MB) for around $40. They also have a number of quality free soundfonts available for download (which are derived from the GM bank), with the emphasis on orchestral and choral sounds. I suspect the GM sound bank they have for sale will be very good indeed.
www.hammersound.net - a great resource with lots of free soundfonts - a well-kept site.
www.sf2midi.com - thousands of soundfonts and MIDI files available for download here. You have to register to download sounds but it doesn't cost anything. A lot of the soundfonts are not that good, but if you work on the principle that the bigger files are generally better and sort them by file size, you'll quickly find most of the best sounds (and there are some very good ones). There are also some excellent MIDI files and a users' forum.
www.guraydere.com - some excellent soundfonts here. Look out for the 120MB Clavinova grand (it's sampled from a Yamaha Clavinova electronic piano, but it IS good) plus some excellent electric pianos and Roland ensemble strings.
Hybrid (http://home.graffiti.net/hybrid-sf/index.html) has thousands of soundfonts. As with all the big collections, there are a lot of poor sounds here, but if you sift through there are some other good ones. The highlights are probably the excellent Akai Pro and "Splendid Grand" pianos, which were both made up from free samples released a few years back by Akai. Although these pianos were made using the same samples, the Akai Pro includes a low pass filter and therefore has a much softer tone than the Splendid Grand, which retains the full brightness of the original. These are probably the best free pianos available and I use them for most of my music. The Hybrid website is having problems at present but for £30 they will send you the entire collection (currently 16 CD's!).
www.soundfontdepot.com and www.emusicmag.com/soundfonts - quite a lot of free soundfonts here - OK as long as you can cope with the flashing adverts!
www.soundfonts.it - a few good sounds here, as well as Mr Ray and Organised Trio VST instruments!
The above list of sites is far from exhaustive, but the SF2midi site, in particular, includes many of the files found on other sites. If you want a good free GM sound bank to cover general sounds, you might want to try the SGM180 from: http://www.geocities.jp/shansoundfont/.
You might also try the following sites:
www.mymidi.ru/banks.html (in Russian!)
For a while, there was an excellent forum for home musicians under the name "Audioshots" which carried several excellent free multi-sampled instruments, including the huge Maestro piano. The forum has sadly disappeared, but I do have most of the sampled instruments. Unfortunately, my download limit is too small to host them here. However, I may be able to help you if you are unable to source them elsewhere.
OTHER SOURCES OF SOUNDS
Worra's Place (www.worrasplace.com). Quite a lot of free files in Gigastudio format. Some very good ones - look out for the Pedulla Thunderbass, Terkelson's Mandolin and Marimba and the Yamaha CP80 Electric Piano. This isn't an exhaustive list! Again, you may be able to covert these to SF2 format using cdxtract (see software links). If not, please enquire, as I may be able to convert to other sample formats for you.
www.gigfiles.com - this site offers lots of big multisampled sounds for download in a variety of formats, including SF2. To get the majority of the sounds you have to become a member ($89 for a 6 month period allows you to download everything). The site specialises in big acoustic pianos but for me these seem to have too much reverb. However, there are also quite a lot of other sounds, including electric pianos, guitars, pop strings, drums & percussion etc.. There are a few free sounds which you can download after registering for a free membership. There is a very large and strange flanged piano, "Wowsynth" (an impressive stereo synth) and Panpipes - the bigger of the 2 panpipes files is fantastic!
Warren Trachtman (www.wstco.com) has produced some wonderful acoustic piano soundfonts - to me, his 80MB crossfaded Steinway C is one of the most realistic and expressive piano soundfonts available. To download this and a smaller 40MB version, you need to make a $5 Honor payment at Amazon.com (which you can reclaim if you're really desperate!) and then follow the links. He also does other file formats of his big pianos.
OTHER FILE FORMATS
I have spent many hours at my computer finding the best free sounds. Most are in the popular soundfont (SF2) format. In fact, most samplers recognise the SF2 format. However, if you own samplers which do not, I may be able to convert SF2 to other formats. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in using this service.