Phonautograms - Atmospheres - virtual instrument sample library by Soundiron
Phonautograms - Atmospheres - virtual instrument sample library by Soundiron
Phonautograms - Atmospheres - virtual instrument sample library by Soundiron
Phonautograms - Atmospheres - virtual instrument sample library by Soundiron
Phonautograms - Atmospheres - virtual instrument sample library by Soundiron
Phonautograms - Atmospheres - virtual instrument sample library by Soundiron



Phonautograms is a unique vocal instrument with a rather remarkable pedigre: chromatically sampled vocal sustains captured over 150 years ago. This original method of recording, called ‘Phonautography’ was invented in the early 1850s, by French inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville. The sounds were captured by projecting the voice and other sounds into a cylindrical horn attached to a stylus, which in transfered the vibration into lines over the surface of oil lamp soot-blackened sheets of paper. These raw archival recordings were preserved by the French Academy of Sciences and finally decoded by First Sounds with the help of laser scanning equipment at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

We chose one of the very earliest human sound recordings - a simple vocal scale sung by Martinville himself in a recording called Gamme de la Voix (or "range of voice"). We then hand-crafted each of these samples by splicing, editing and manipulating raw sound into a fully playable chromatic solo vocal instrument. But that's just where we started. Next, we took that modified sound and warped it beyond all recognition using a variety of DSP and sound design techniques to create a diverse and compelling range of different ambient soundscapes, sonic textures, tonal pads, synths, atmospheres, drones and resynthesized drums.

Special thanks to First Sounds, an informal collaborative of audio historians, recording engineers, sound archivists, scientists, individuals and organizations who aim to make mankind’s earliest sound recordings available to all people for all time. First Sounds was founded in 2007 by David Giovannoni, Patrick Feaster, Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey.

The 1860 recording we chose for this library features a D major scale being sung by a single voice, believed to be that of the inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville himself. The original capture left the pitch one octave too high, giving the resulting timbre a female vocal quality. The newer version was translated at the proper original pitch, revealing the singer to have been a man. We used both audio files to give us a full two octave range of notes to work with.

You’ll notice that the uncanny distortion of pitch, smearing of tone and significant loss of acoustic information creates a ghostly warbling, almost weeping quality, somewhere between a voice and a strange woodwind-like sound, possessing a frail and innocent affect. It reminds us of the humble beginnings that our modern audio-visual media has grown from and ever-increasing power to share and explore music and sound that modern technology has given us.

We began with the individual notes that we were able to isolate from the source and loop to allow sustained playing. Our goal was to preserve the character and qualify of the sound just as it was for the main "Gamme de la Voix" sustaining vocal instrument. We then branched out widely, using all of the modern sonic manipulation tools at our disposal to craft 31 unique ambient synths, pads, drones, atmospheres and soundscapes as well as 41 electro drum kit sounds, including kicks, snares, hats, fx and more. This new content is totally unrecognizable from its humble origins, but the old soul of the sound somehow seems to carry through.

The original version of this sample library was published in 2010 by Tonehammer. In this new version, we've vastly expanded the features and content, with nearly 200 MB of newly created ambient and percussive sample content, full user interface and performance controls and our custom DSP effects rack for the Kontakt presets. We've also expanded sfz format support for this library, so everyone can enjoy this cool piece of modified sonic history. Existing owners of any version prior to 2.0 can email us for the low cost upgrade option to get all of the new content and features.


  • "Gamme de la Voix" Sustaining vocal instrument
  • Phonambiences: 31 sytnhs, soundscapes, atmospheres, pads and drones
  • Phonautogram Drums: 41 percussive hits & FX
  • Custom Kontakt GUI with automatable controls
  • Custom Kontakt DSP Mulit-Effects Rack
  • Custom SFZ GUI with automatable controls


This library is designed for the full retail version of Native Instruments Kontakt 5.1 or later. Kontakt is an industry-standard advanced virtual instrument / software sampler platform. Learn more about Kontakt by Clicking Here

Check out screenshots of our custom graphical user interface for Kontakt in the image gallery above. They provide a wide range of sound shaping parameter controls, each one totally automation-ready in your host environment or Kontakt's stand-alone mode.

This is a standard Kontakt open-format library, so the free Kontakt Player doesn't support this open-format Kontakt library. However, the sample directories are fully accessible to allow user customization, import and mapping into other wav-compatible software, sampler and synth formats.

The special Libraries tab doesn't support this open-format Kontakt library, but you can use the standard File browser tab, or import this library into the Kontakt database and Quickload tools for easy navigation, loading and organization.


If you'd like to use the sounds in this library in other synths and samplers outside of Kontakt, or you do not yet own the full version of Kontakt, you can still enjoy using all of the content and many of the main control features available in this library. We've included universal sfz presets. These open-format presets can be imported into any sfz opcode spec 2.0 compliant soft-synth or sampler engine.

There are many to choose from. If you'd like an easy to use sampler plugin that can load these presets with a full-featured GUI, we highly recommend the free Sforzando player by Plogue. We've optimized these presets to let you experience the full range of features we've included in our SFZ presets for this library. Sforzando is compatible with vst, au and rtas plugin format standards. It's available for Mac OSX 10.6 and up and Windows. Click Here for the Sforzando Player PDF USer's Guide

Or, if you'd like to load them into a powerful Softsynth that can give you the power to totally manipulate and blend these sounds in all sorts of cool ways, use Camel Audio's free Alchemy Player. Download it here!



  • 107 Samples
  • 278 MB installed
  • 3 Kontakt .nki instrument presets
  • 3 .sfz instrument presets (universal format)
  • 31 ambiences
  • 41 percussive sounds
  • 16 bit / 44.1kHz & 48kHz uncompressed PCM wav samples
  • Unlocked Kontakt presets and wav samples to allow user customization


System Requirements

The full retail version of Native Instruments Kontakt version 5.1 (or later) is required to use .nki instrument presets included in this library. The free Kontakt "Player" and "Add Library" import process do not support this standard open-format Kontakt library. Windows XP or higher. Mac OSX 10.6 or higher. Dual Core CPU, 1 GB System Ram, SATA or SSD hard drive recommended for this library.

An SFZ 2.0 Opcode Compliant plugin engine is required to use the .sfz presets in this library. We recommend the free Sforzando player by Plogue to enjoy all advanced sfz features in this library.

This software is delivered as a digital download, so a broadband connection is required. All sales are final. Please see our Help Page for download and installation instructions, tutorials and the End User Licensing Agreement before ordering.



Full version of Kontakt 5.1 or later is required to use the presets in this library Mac users: The Kontakt presets in this library require OSX 10.6 or later PC users: The Kontakt presets in this library require Windows XP or later The samples in this library are standard 16 bit 44.1 kHz wave files. They can be used in any audio software or hardware that supports common wav files.