May 2, 2023

Producers: Find Samples quicker using a free Sound Library Manager.

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One thing is for certain. Looking for the perfect kick, snare, loop, or vocal chop can be more tedious than it has any business being. To add to that, platforms like Splice only offer minimal search capabilities and can only manage the files you acquired through their platform - no dice for any sample packs you bought independently.

While DAWs like Logic Pro and Ableton have a built-in sample browser, navigation is still somewhat clunky and search functionality is no better than what you'd find in Finder / Windows Explorer.

Apps like XLN Audio's XO and Waves Cosmos do offer a great deal more search flexibility, but ultimately fall short when it comes to either handling loops (which XO can't do), or being responsive and fluid (which Cosmos certainly isn't).

What if I told you that sound designers in the film and games industry have had this problem figured out for years now? And what if I told you that you can get similar solutions for FREE?

Sound Library Managers

Sound Library Management software has one purpose: Making your entire library of sounds searchable and accessible at a moment's notice. With sound designers usually dealing with libraries containing hundreds of gigabytes worth of sound effects, I'm sure you understand why this kind of software is a big deal for a smooth and steady workflow.

A Sound Library Management app lets you search for anything contained in your sample library and preview the results instantly. This means that you don't have to first open a folder and then search for the sound that's hopefully contained within. Think of it like your iTunes / Winamp / Windows media library on steroids.
Once you found a sound you like, you can simply drag & drop the file to your timeline or use the spot to timeline feature that most of them offer to directly insert the file at your playhead position or selection in the DAW.

While the film industry standard, SoundMiner, is quite pricy, a number of feature-rich FREE alternatives have hit the scene over the last couple of years. In this article, I'll talk about some of the apps available and list their pros and cons. No ads, just wanting to share something I wish I had known about years ago.

What are the Similarities?

While the apps I'm going to list differ in certain feature sets, I wanted to start off with a list of things relevant to music that all of them can do.

  • Instant previewing of one-shots and loops
  • Handling multichannel (surround) files
  • Converting files from stereo to mono prior to export
  • Spotting straight to your DAW timeline
    Software will automatically recognize (or let you choose) which DAW is open and, with a single button press, let you insert the currently selected file at your playhead / selection location on the timeline.
  • Ability to send only a portion (selection) of a file to your DAW
  • Previewing and exporting sounds pitched down or up.

And now, let's get to my recommendations and what sets each one apart!



As far as I'm aware, Soundly has been among the first apps to offer sound library management free of charge and provide the option for a paid cloud library that can cover the needs of any sound designer looking to get their start in the industry.

Soundly really focuses on doing all the necessary basics, and doing them right. It's super responsive, offers many handy features like an easy-to-use metadata edit window, and features a brand new built-in Voice Designer which can generate AI-based text-to-speech in a split second.

In "Dock Mode" soundly shrinks to a toolbar-like interface which takes up about 15% of your vertical screen space while retaining all of its searching and monitoring functionality. This works especially well if you're working on a single-screen setup but would like to still have your samples just one drag & drop away.


  • Super responsive search with built-in thesaurus
  • Dock Mode is a huge bonus for single-screen users
  • Very simple and quick metadata editing
  • Built-in Voice Designer gives you dozens upon dozens of AI voices with just a handful of clicks. Super handy for drops, temporary dialogue tracks, background walls, and much more.
  • Ability to work with cloud storage like Google Drive and Amazon S3
  • Peer-to-peer connectivity for network collaboration either locally or around the world.
  • Ability to drag & drop files into library without copying them. They will end up in a section called "loose files".
  • Pro version offers extensions including real-time search in the FreeSound library
  • Very high quality cloud library with new sounds added daily at $14,99 (focused on sound effects, not musical samples).


  • No FX-rack functionality. No ability to host audio plugins within Soundly.
  • Can only connect to one library at a time.
  • Free version limited to indexing 10,000 local files.
  • Free version limits voice designer renders to 25/lifetime.
Try Soundly

Sound Particles Explorer


A couple of months ago, audio processing powerhouse Sound Particles threw their hat into the Sound Library Manager game with Explorer. This free app features many of Soundly's features as well as some handy additions that could prove pretty helpful for your creative process.

Sound Particles' claim to fame is their flagship software of the same name that utilizes technology inspired by 3D rendering and procedural generation to create sonic source material out of dozens, thousands, or even millions of individual samples without requiring much manual tweaking. Remember any recent movie with gratuitous gunfire or a swarm of creatures surrounding you sonically? If so, you have definitely heard Sound Particles in action.

But now, back to Explorer. Just like Soundly, it allows for quick searching for samples and loops, dragging & dropping straight to your DAW, and, of course, the ever-helpful "Spot to Timeline" feature that places the selected file (or section within) straight at your playhead. While Explorer doesn't automatically detect which DAW is running on your machine, if you tend to use the same one most of the time you won't have to manually select it from the dropdown each time.

A welcome addition is the built-in effects rack where you can create a processing chain consisting of various bundled plug-ins. These include: EQ, clip gain, reverse, pitch shift, woosh, and more. These effects automatically get rendered to a new file whenever you drag & drop or spot a file into your project. Combinations of plug-ins can also be saved as presets for easy recall.

The big advantage over Soundly? There is no hard limit to how many individual files the free version can index. In fact, the only feature the free version doesn't get is access to the Sound Particles FX Cloud online library.

One handy feature in its metadata panel is that it keeps track of how many times you've used (drag & drop or spotted) a sound letting you keep an eye out for sounds you might be overusing.


  • Unlimited indexing capabilities in free version
  • No paywalled features besides their cloud library
  • Basic FX rack integrated (EQ, woosh, pitch shift, phase invert, etc.)
  • Ability to convert sounds from any format to mono, stereo, surround, and ambisonic
  • Multiple view options let you dock a smaller Explorer left, right, or at the bottom of your screen
  • Waveform preview in sound list and spectrogram view for selected sound
  • Fluid search and user experience
  • "Brightness" column is an interesting factor to sort your search results by
  • Supports binaural (virtualized) monitoring of Ambisonic and surround files
  • High-quality cloud library available ($19,99/month)


  • No support for third party audio processing plugins.
  • UI elements can feel a little too small on higher resolution screens.
  • Can only connect to one library at a time.
  • Currently no support for networked collaboration
  • Currently no support for network storage or cloud storage providers
  • Spot to Timeline does not auto-detect your active DAW
Try Explorer

SoundQ by Pro Sound Effects


SoundQ comes from the company Pro Sound Effects, a household name in the film and games industry when it comes to ultra high-quality original sound effects libraries and the ability to purchase sounds both as bundles as well as individually. While SoundQ is also a vehicle to facilitate the SFX purchases on demand, it's also a very powerful sound library manager that's similar to Soundly in many ways.

Three distinct advantages over Soundly are as follows: 1) you can browse the library without requiring any paid subscription. 2) around 2,000 sounds and 100 music tracks with stems come bundled with the free version. 3) The free version can index an unlimited number of local sounds.

Alas, cloud collaboration, network storage, or shared libraries are not supported - but these often don't apply to music producers anyway.


  • Unlimited indexing capabilities in free version
  • 2,000 SFX and 100 royalty-free music tracks (w/ stems) included
  • Fluid search and user experience
  • Automatic keyword translation in search
  • integration included in free version
  • Lowest-cost subscription at $9.99/month while including 100,000 sound effects


  • No built-in processing or 3rd party plug-in support.
  • Can only connect to one library at a time.
  • Currently no support for networked collaboration
  • Currently no support for network storage or cloud storage providers
  • Spot to Timeline does not auto-detect your active DAW
Try SoundQ

BaseHead Creator Edition


After SoundMiner, BaseHead is likely the 2nd most popular sound library manager in the film and games industry. While most versions of it can be quite pricy, they recently introduced a Creator Edition which focuses on the essentials and also brings with it a huge library of 22,000 sound effects graciously donated by some of the biggest names in the SFX library game.

While the number of files the free version can index is limited to 69,000, this should still be enough to suit many producer's needs. Exporting resolution is limited to 24 Bit / 48 kHz which is perfectly fine for use in music, and pitch-shifting can be "baked-in" when dragging & dropping or spotting to timeline.


  • 22,000 included SFX make this the largest included library on the market
  • Fluid search and user experience
  • Supports multiple databases (aka multiple folders on different drives can be indexed)
  • Can index up to 69,000 local files


  • Exporting to timeline limited to 24 Bit / 48 kHZ (fine for most music needs)
  • No cloud storage integration
  • No plug-in support
  • Minimal metadata support
Try BaseHead

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