Solve the Case of the Missing EXS Instrument Samples in Logic Pro

Fancy yourself as a bit of a Sherlock when it comes to re-connecting missing samples in Logic Pro X's EXS24? Well, take a break from the sleuthing and let Joe Albano show you an easier way!  

Most people who work in Logic probably make extensive use of the sample-based Virtual Instruments like the EXS24 sampler plug-in. And 99% of the time, we also probably don’t give much thought to how and where the components of our favorite EXS sounds and patches are organized and stored. But every once in a while, issues arise that force us to take a look at how EXS sounds are put together, and a decent understanding of that can help speed through those times, and get us back to work quickly.

Fig 1 Logic’s EXS24 Sampler.

Logic’s EXS24 Sampler.

On the upside, Logic and EXS are pretty good at keeping the elements of EXS instruments organized and catalogued, and if we don’t  deviate from Apple’s preferred approach to organization, we don’t really have to think about it at all. However, there are situations where we may find that, either by accident or by design, we make changes that force us to confront EXS’s hierarchy of organization, which has evolved to be a bit complex on some systems. I’m going to take a brief look at how EXS sounds are organized, and where the elements are kept on hard disk, which should come in handy in those situations that require a little manual EXS organizational effort..

EXS Instruments

Sample-based Virtual Instrument sounds, including EXS sounds, consist of at least two main components: the patch (a.k.a. program, setting, instrument, etc.), which organizes the individual samples, and those actual samples themselves, the audiofiles (WAV or AIFF) that make up the notes or loops that are being played. The patch assigns (maps) individual samples to specific keys, and provides (usually) subtractive synthesis modules (Filters, Envelope Generators, LFOs) to govern the response, and control the expressiveness (musicality) of the sound in performance. 

With EXS, these two elements are necessary for every playable instrument. Patches are called EXS “Instruments”, and are identified by the extension .exs. 

The EXS Instrument Menu.

The EXS Instrument Menu.

Each EXS Instrument contains the necessary references to the individual WAV or AIFF samples that supply the actual sound of each note. This is the first place things can go awry.

Re-linking samples

When EXS Instruments are first installed, the installer places these two components in separate folders—one for the samples, and another for the EXS Instruments. 

EXS Instrument & Sample Folders.

EXS Instrument & Sample Folders.

If an EXS Instrument loses track of where its samples are on disk, it will search your hard disks for them automatically. Fortunately, Logic’s automatic search function is very fast (especially compared with some other programs/plug-ins), but it will still noticeably delay the loading of the sound. If it finds more than one copy of the samples it’s looking for on your system, it will throw up a dialog box asking you to identify the one in the correct location (this can happen if you have your sample library backed up on local disks, if the samples are used in other Instrument patches, or if there are multiple samples with the same names). You should do this ID carefully, because it will be permanently stored with the Instrument as the new default location for those samples when loading that sound in the future—so make sure you don’t point EXS to a backup copy on a removable disk, or you’ll most likely have to go through the process again. Once the samples have been located and re-linked to the .exs file, the Instrument should load fine from that point on, as long as the samples are not moved.

The whole process is pretty quick, but if you have to do it repeatedly while auditioning sounds, it can be a drag on workflow. Normally, EXS Instruments will not lose track of their samples’ locations, but there are a couple of common scenarios where this may happen.

Re-locating  EXS Sample Libraries

When you install Logic’s so-called “additional content”—around 35 GB or so of samples, mostly EXS sounds—the installer only gives you the option to install them on the startup disk. However, many peoples’ startup disks may be too small or too full to accommodate the library, or they just prefer to keep all their sample libraries on a dedicated separate (external) hard disk. EXS sounds can be moved by hand, and references made to the new location(s), but even when it works properly, this often triggers the search for samples the first time each Instrument is opened. To make things more complicated, there are several locations where Logic/EXS looks for .exs files, and either the Instruments themselves, or a reference to any alternate location, must be in one of those spots. EXS Instruments are found in the startup HD’s main Library, in Application Support > Logic, in a folder named Sampler Instruments; additional sounds (that are used in Garageband as well) are found in Application Support > Garageband; and any third-party or user-created EXS Instruments would normally be stored in the User folder, in Music >Audio Music Apps. 

Root-level Library Logic & Garageband Folders (containing EXS Instruments & Samples).

Root-level Library Logic & Garageband Folders (containing EXS Instruments & Samples).

User >Music >Audio Music Apps Folder (with Alias to re-located EXS Sampler Instruments folder).

User >Music >Audio Music Apps Folder (with Alias to re-located EXS Sampler Instruments folder).

But these are just the EXS Instruments, without the actual audio files they reference. The actual WAV and AIFF samples can be stored anywhere—by default, they’re found nearby, but in separate folders, named EXS Factory Samples (Logic) or Sampler Files (GarageBand). Usually, there’s no need to relocate the EXS Instruments (unless you just want everything to be in the same new location, not a bad idea)—they are small in size and don’t take up too much room. But the samples themselves may need to be moved, to save space. This can be done by copying a folder to be re-located to the new location, and making an Alias or Symbolic Link of the Folder in the new spot—I usually use an Alias. You’d then re-name the Alias by removing the word “alias”, and insuring that the spelling is identical to the original Folder. This Alias would replace the original folder full of samples, in the original location. Logic/EXS should then be able to follow the Alias to the samples in their new location, but the first time each Instrument is opened, it still will have to re-link the audiofiles to each EXS Instrument. To avoid having this slow down a session, you can do two things: open your most commonly-used Instruments at least once ahead of time, and, if you maintain a backup of the samples, have that disk offline when opening EXS sounds that first time—Logic should then automatically find the only copies of the samples and re-link them, without you having to dialog with it, making the process a bit quicker. There used to be functions within Logic, as well as a third-party program, that took care of this housekeeping, but these options are no longer available.

Traveling with Logic/EXS Projects

The other situation where people sometimes run into missing samples is when someone takes a Logic Project to another studio. If there are EXS Instruments and their associated samples used in the Project, and these are in the usual locations, outside of the Project folder, then they may show up missing if the studio doesn’t have the same library content installed. Even if it is there, Logic/EXS may have to re-link the samples, as above.

The best way to avoid this is to use Logic’s options for copying all EXS Instrument & Sample data used in a Project to the Project folder, before taking it on the road, insuring that not only will it be available at the destination studio, but that Logic will know where to find all the sample components, avoiding problems and saving time, to boot. When you do a Save As, you’ll see the options to “Copy EXS Instruments & Samples” to the Project folder—just check that, then Save. The Project folder may swell greatly in size if you have a lot of EXS Instruments open, but you will be sure of having all the EXS elements needed when you get to the destination studio.

Saving Options to Copy EXS Instruments & Samples to Project Folder.

Saving Options to Copy EXS Instruments & Samples to Project Folder.

Settings & Patches

There is another situation where you may run into, especially when traveling with EXS-based Projects. Besides the EXS Instruments, there are other file types that you can load to open EXS sounds. In the EXS plug-in window itself, besides the Instrument menu, you’ll find the Settings menu. 

EXS (Plug-In) Settings Menu.

EXS (Plug-In) Settings Menu.

Settings (stored in the Plug-In Settings folders in the same root Library and user Music folder locations) contain most of the same data as EXS Instruments—Filter, Envelope, and other front-panel settings—but not the sample-to-key mapping information, which is only stored in the EXS Instrument. Settings are also stored in the Project file itself, so all the front-panel controls of an EXS Instrument used in a Project will always come up as you left them in that particular Project (overriding the stored values). But if the EXS Instrument can’t be found, the plug-in can’t link to the actual samples, and all you’ll hear will be generic sine waves instead of the proper instrument notes. If that happens, you’ll have to locate the missing EXS Instrument by hand, but at least you’ll know what went wrong, what to search for, and where to put it when you find the missing .exs file.

The same is true when calling up EXS Instruments from the Channel Strip menu, or the new Patch Library. With these formats, just as with EXS settings, all the front-panel settings will have been stored in the Project file, so everything will look correctly, but if the EXS Instrument is not found (or Aliased) in one of the necessary locations (Logic Project folder, User Music folder, or root Library folder), you’ll hear the weird, telltale sine wave instrument tones playing on one or more tracks.


Maintaining the links between Sample Instruments and audio samples is something all samplers must do, and despite the worst-case scenarios I just went through, EXS is one of the best at keeping things together, and one of the fastest at re-linking, on those occasions when it does become necessary. And as long as you know what’s going on under the hood, it’s usually a fairly simple matter to put a sound back together again. The key is to make sure that whenever you re-organize, or travel with a Project, you’ve accounted for all the separate pieces needed for that Project to play properly. Keep track of them, and EXS will be your friend! Happy sampling..

Joe is a musician, engineer, and producer in NYC. Over the years, as a small studio operator and freelance engineer, he's made recordings of all types from music & album production to v/o & post. He's also taught all aspects of recording and music technology at several NY audio schools, and has been writing articles for Recording magaz... Read More


But if you do not have ANY samples or sampler instruments inside of the Garageband folder, how do you reinstall them?
Joe A
If any of the Logic/Garageband content is missing (accidentally deleted, incomplete install), you should (in theory) be able to identify and download the missing content from within Logic. Under the Logic Pro X menu, choose Download Additional Content... This window will show a list of all content, and indicate what (Logic thinks) is missing—you can select those items and download/install them. If Logic thinks it's all there, you could try re-installing anyway, starting with Essential Sounds and Legacy & Compatibility..
I just did a complete install of ALL of the additional content but still the original path for the sample files for Garageband sampler instruments are missing (They are Legacy instruments in Logic). Do you know if Logic reorganized these samples?
Joe A
Without knowing more about the particulars, it's hard to say.. If the missing content is from songs made in older versions of Logic, using older Library content, that could be part of the issue.. From what I can tell, the Legacy content installed by Logic X does not include absolutely everything you'd have if you'd installed all the previous versions of Logic. And the original path might well be different, although Logic is usually pretty good at resolving that on its own, if the missing samples are anywhere on accessible HDs..

You said "original path for the sample files...are missing".. Does that mean Logic finds the samples, just not in the original location, and you have to click through a dialog box each time you load one for the first time.? That's pretty typical if things get moved around, but once an instrument is opened and the new sample location noted, that instrument will remember the new location and load normally from then on..

But if Logic can't find the samples at all, after searching all HDs, that would seem to indicate that they are in fact completely absent..

I guess it's also possible that some GB content is not installed by LPX at all, but only as part of a GB install, even though it would then be accessible to Logic.. I've not encountered that, but then I never use the actual GB instruments, since, AFAIK, they're just versions of instruments from the regular EXS content..
Thanks so much for your replies. Yes it is difficult to articulate what is going on because I cannot post a screen shot. I started with Logic 8 CDs and when I open some older projects it cannot find some GB legacy samples like piano but it finds them in other projects I have copied them to. My entire GB Instrument Library folder is empty for the sampler files and sampler instruments subfolders (Library, app support, GB, instrument library, sampler, sampler files and sampler instrument folders are completely empty) and I did not move these! I think when I installed LPX they might have been overwritten or something.
Joe A
Sounds like the samples that *are* being found must in the Logic content folder, and the others *should be* in the empty GB locations you referred to. So it would seem that a GB install must include stuff that's independent of the Logic install's Legacy items, and it's missing—perhaps an incomplete install.. I'd think the next step might be to (first back up the Logic Library stuff, and then) re-install the GB content from *within* GB—my GB is old, but the current version must have a similar "Additional Content" option (it's referred to in the App Store)—maybe that will fill up the GB folders. Apparently there have been issues with this before..
Major Mind
Hey, i'm a producer who essentially lives on the ex24 machine, i don't have the best organisation but i've never come across many problems before. Recently i couldn't open a file as i didn't have enough space on my macbook, the file is large and the beach ball would appear and the project would go to ''force quit''… so i was trying to free up some room on my finder. I moved a lot of files into my external hard drive, and put the files i had moved into trash. Now when i open projects, some projects are fine, while others have lost the ex24 pre-sets i had before. They come up as ''Missing - High-snare'' for example. Is there any way i can retrieve these files? As i do have the pre-sets on my hard drive, i just don't know how to, for example, re-load them into my ex24 so i can fix the projects. This would save a whole lot of time as finding all the parts again is time consuming and difficult. I run mostly from sample packs, not sure if that makes a difference! Hope this made sense and would love feedback ASAP as i'm working with deadlines. Thanks a lot
Joe A
Hi Major Mind..
Restoring the missing EXS files will depend on exactly what's missing. Your example "Missing - High Snare"—is this an audio sample or an .exs instrument file? Usually, if audio samples are missing, you'll get a dialog box indicating the original file path and options for manual or automatic searching; automatic searching will usually locate the missing (moved) samples, and the new location will be remembered from then on.
However, your description seems to indicate that what's missing is the .exs Instrument—the preset. Then you may see a warning in the instrument box (where the instrument pop-up menu is accessed) within the EXS panel itself. If that's the case, then you'll have to locate the missing file yourself. EXS will expect these files to be in one of two places, the factory library Folder or the user Music folder (see the article for the locations of both of these—the paragraph titled "Re-locating EXS Sample Libraries"). If you've moved the factory content, you'll need to create aliases (or symbolic links) for the re-located .exs instrument folder(s), and place these in the original location, with the name(s) edited to be identical to the original folder(s)' name(s)—if Logic has automatically created new (blank) folders, replace these with the aliases.
You can do the same thing if the missing .exs instrument presets are user presets—create an alias for the Sampler Instrument folder in User/Music/Audio Music Apps, then Logic should automatically find the .exs instrument presets, wherever the aliased folder is stored.
Keep in mind, there's really no need to move the .exs instruments, they don't take up much room—it's only the audio samples that do, and Logic/EXS will search for those automatically, as I mentioned.
Hope this helps..
As much as i appreciate sites like this,i would much prefer if you could get to the answer and explain solution rather than trying to fill space with pointless stuff that we already know .I still cant find the straight forward answer in this essay .
Hi Joe
Thanks for the review.. Great info and well explained. I alike other people decided to move my samples & my instrument to an external sample dive. I do not however see instruments (EXS extension) that I've added from other bundles to the menu of my EXS pull down menu. I did create a symbolic link to where I have moved the original folder. If you can please help. Thank you very much
Joe A
Hi Diego -

If you are seeing the factory EXS content that you moved, and only third-party content is not showing up, then (assuming you deleted the original folder from the startup drive after moving it) it would seem that the Symbolic Link is working. The pull-down menu within EXS shows Sampler Instruments (.exs files), and user instruments are usually stored in a second Sampler Instruments folder in your Home folder (User->Music->Audio Music Apps->Sampler Instruments); did you move that one as well (with a Symbolic Link), or just the factory sounds? Did you check the hard drive to confirm that those third-party sounds were successfully installed -- perhaps an Installer didn't follow the Symbolic Link..? If you can see them (in Finder) in (either) relocated Sampler Instruments folder, but they still don't show up in EXS's menu, then are you sure you're looking in the right menu? Remember, there are two menus -- the one in the EXS GUI itself (which is the one I've been referring to), and the regular Plug-In Settings menu, in the plug-in Header. If the third-party sounds are really Plug-In Settings, then they would need both Settings files (in the user Plug-In Settings folder, same path as above), and there'd still have to be an .exs file in one of the Sampler Instruments folders, or you'd get an error dialog, or a missing (.exs) file indication when you tried to load a Plug-In Setting. Confusing, huh..? ;-) If none of that helps, then I guess I'd need more detail to troubleshoot further.. :-)

There's an issue where I put an 808 or some hihats in the sampler and it sounds nothing like the sample or all I hear is a white noise kind of sound. How do I fix that?
Joe A
I'd really need a lot more detail to hazard a useful guess, though a couple of things come to mind.. How do you "put an 808 or some hihats in the sampler"? -- do you mean you're loading in an existing Instrument/Setting or importing raw samples (.wav, .aif) into the EXS Instrument Editor? If it's the former, sometimes if a Setting or Patch is loaded that references a certain Instrument (.exs) and the Instrument has been moved or has gone missing you'll hear a sine wave tone in place of the missing sample.. If it's the latter, there are a number of things that could result in hearing the wrong sound -- for example, if the sample's Root Key/key assignment settings are not set correctly, you could be hearing an unintentionally transposed version of the actual sound (a hihat accidentally transposed down might sound like white noise, or sound "nothing like the sample" would when it's heard at the correct pitch)..
whenever I buy a drum kit this happens with 808s. I’m importing raw samples.
Joe A
OK, a few things to consider..
- What's the sample format -- are the samples .wav or .aif? Those are fine, but if they're in another
(lossy) format there might be an incompatibility with Logic/EXS.. If so, maybe try converting to
.wav or .aif with an external format converter and re-importing..
- Is the note you're playing for a particular sound/sample the same note assigned as the Root Key
in the Instrument Editor for that sample? If not, make that setting..
- You said "whenever I buy a drum kit".. These are commercial sample sets then?
From what compan(ies)? Does the problem happen with other samples in the same set(s) or just
808 samples? Does the problem happen with all 808 samples in a set or just the hihats?
Does the problem happen with all 808 sample sets or just certain ones?
- You described the problem as "sounds nothing like the sample" or "a white noise kind of sound"..
Can you be more specific in the description of what you're hearing versus what you expected
to hear..
- Keep in mind, some 808 sounds ARE made from white noise..
I make sure the sample in the plugin is set to the right note. I buy them from Splice or straight from artist that probably don’t use Logic. I know a lot of them use FL studio and some use Albeton. Like Josh Pan or other modern EDM&Trap producers. If I buy a drum kit some 808 samples will work and some won’t. The white noise happens mostly with hihats, but the 808s when they won’t work it sounds odd. Like the distortion was taken out maybe. Or even just a rough sound like it wasn’t as clean as the sample
Joe A
Ok, it sounds like the issue may be with specific samples -- wrong Sample Rate (not matching the session SR), audio format (some incompatible lossy format), or simply individual sample quality itself..? I assume you're comparing the sound of these problem samples as they play in Logic/EXS with what they sound like when you audition them on the company's website before downloading, and they don't sound the same..? At this point I guess I'd have to hear what you're hearing -- both before (original sample demo audio) and after (EXS playback audio with those samples), and also see screenshots of all the EXS settings -- to narrow down the possible causes any further. Since this isn't a full-featured forum (it's more of a comments section really) there's no way to attach audio or images here; you might want to take some screenshots and/or record some audio or video demonstrating the issue (showing a few examples), and then try posting on one of the many full-blown Logic discussion forums that allow for uploading file attachments -- if someone can see/hear what you're hearing they might be able to narrow down possible issues.. The more specific the details you provide (along with a sufficient number of audio/video examples) the more likely it'll be that the problem can be isolated..

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