sfz Format Resources


So what IS the sfz format?

The sfz format is an open file format to define how a collection of samples are arranged for performance. 

The goal behind the sfz format is to provide a free, simple, minimalistic and expandable format to arrange, distribute and use audio samples with the highest possible quality and the highest possible performance flexibility.

SFZ Format

Some sfz format history

The sfz format was created by René Ceballos founder of rgc: audio.  It is now maintained by Cakewalk.  The first implementation of the sfz format was in the rgc:audio sfz.dll ‘sfz Player’.  Which you can still download for free here: Cakewalk – SFZ Player.  The sfz Player features sfz 1.0 specifications and features.

Old News Snippet of Cakewalk purchasing rgc:audio:

Cakewalk has acquired rgc:audio, a leading developer of DirectX and VST synthesizer plug-ins for Windows. Joining the Cakewalk product development team is rgc:audio founder and synthesizer expert René Ceballos…

The first fruits of this deal will be a “revolutionary” software instrument for the upcoming version 2 of Project5, available in April, 2005.

The ‘revolutionary’ software instrument was Dimension.  Later released as Dimension Pro, boasting the new SFZ 2.0 specifications and features.  Dimension Pro is now included in the latest versions of SONAR Cakewalk’s flagship DAW.

Check out the sforzando User Guide for additional sfz history and developments from Developer David Viens point of view.  In the “welcome to sforzando section”.

Being a royalty-free format, any developer can create, use and distribute SFZ files and players for either free or commercial purposes.

Recent sfz format developments

The sfz format has gained traction over the past few years.  Compatibility has been added for many of the major sampler engines in DAWs along with other major standalone samplers and converters. More interesting though is the amount of virtual instruments and samplers that load sfz as the main method for sample mapping and loading.  Beat Zampler, Camel Audio Alchemy Player, and Plogue sforzando are some of the most usable of these and cross pollinate together nicely.  Meaning you can load the various sfzs into each and trade sample content between the free packages, make your own custom instruments and tweaks!  Even more exciting is that 3rd party sample developers are starting to release their libraries in sfz format, this is a nice alternative to proprietary formats, or locked monolithic formats. 

Beat Magazines – Beat Zampler


The plugin supports just the basic keymapping sfz format opcodes, and velocity mapping.  It uses it’s own filters and envelopes controllable on the User Interface, but not accessible via sfz programming. Many find it fun to program, lots of sounds and programs available for it. Half a dozen or more free sound banks for it on their website.

beat zampler sfz format

Camel Audio – Alchemy Player


Alchemy Player ships with 1GB of exclusive samples and a library of 200 presets selected from the full version of the Alchemy Player!  Nice 1GB of sounds!  The Alchemy Player can handle a dozen plus some sfz format opcodes.  It handles groups and round robin via sequence opcodes.

camel audio alchemy player free sfz content

LinuxSampler.org – Linux Sampler


The LinuxSampler project features a very powerful streaming audio engine.  The LinuxSampler is also available as just an ‘Engine’ decoupled from any interface.  So if you want to save resources you can run without any GUI needed.  You can download different “skins” for their engine.  The screen shot shows the JSampler “Fantasia” Skin.  The supported formats include GigaStudio/GigaSampler format, SoundFont, and sfz.  The supported sfz opcodes are quite extensive. 


Plogue – sforzando


Out of all the free sfz format player options Plogue sforzando is highly SFZ 2.0 compliant.  It supports close to all of the sfz opcodes implemented in Dimension Pro, and adds some more specialized opcodes to boot. Also includes the Free Sounds for ARIA Engine Vol.1.  A collection of dozens of sfz instruments kindly donated from various sources.  (even PatchArena!)

sforzando powerhouse sfz player

rgc:audio Cakewalk – sfz


The original sfz legend.  Amazing high quality audio engine for it’s time and Free!  Low on CPU and resources and featured adjustable CPU controls for the best performance on any PC.  Works with any VST host.  Only downside is that there was never a MAC OS X version. 

rgc audio sfz

sfz Format Portability

One of the reasons I’ve loved the sfz format from the start is that it is open, portable, and flexible.  It’s comforting knowing that the custom sampled instruments created today and 5 years ago will still be able to load in the future.  We’ll still be able to load these instruments 20 years from now and beyond.  Free of proprietary monolithic formats where your samples and content are locked in. 

The SFZ Format is widely accepted as the open standard to define the behavior of a musical instrument from a bare set of sound recordings. The sfz format is gaining momentum.  If you are interested in learning more check out the links below to learn more.

Helpful sfz Format Links

http://sfzformat.com/ – The original rgc:audio sfz page at sfzformat.com maintained for posterity. 

http://www.cakewalk.com/DevXchange/article.aspx?aid=108 – The Cakewalk sfz Format Page, with example downloads.

http://ariaengine.com/overview/sfz-format/ – ARIA Engine sfz format overview page.

http://drealm.info/sfz/plj-sfz.xhtml – An alternate view of the sfz format by Peter L. Jones.  Also includes mappings to various free sfz instruments.

http://www.camelaudio.com/SFZ-Player-Editor-Definition-Samples.php – Camel Audio Alchemy Player SFZ Page.  Includes resources on editors, and links to free sfz instruments.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1598633147 – Simon Cann’s Cakewalk Synthesizers Book.  Features the full sfz 2.0 documentation. 

http://www.linuxsampler.org/sfz/ – sfz Format Support in Linux Sampler