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SCSI to CF “Blackbox” interface for samplers

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If you own a lot of samplers, Blackbox is a more economical solution than filling each sampler with its own SCSI to CF (or SCSI2SD) interface. Because if you got 5 samplers, you end up in a pretty decent sum of money with minus in front of it. These interfaces don’t go for peanuts, so thinking economical comes as a useful option. This is why i went for the Blackbox solution, which is a single drive, that connects to every sampler via a standard SCSI cable (assuming the sampler has a SCSI interface). I will also assume you’ve read basic SCSI guidelines and you know each end of the SCSI chain must be terminated. If the Blackbox interface will be in between two samplers, then obviously don’t have to terminate it. I should also point out that the interface can normally be used by two samplers at the same time, with only exception that no two samplers are trying to read or write to the disk, since you will end up with corrupted data. If you need to swap the card (i.e. one sampler uses one card, the other uses another) simply power the Blackbox down, replace the card, power it up, wait 20 seconds and access the card from the second sampler. It is as simple as that.

And it is true, old samplers that feature SCSI ports can run on modern CF or SD cards. Full list of the verified / tested samplers is below. All it takes is a SCSI to IDE bridge. At one point these were relatively cheap, nowadays the price has gone up, but if you happen to have 7720U in this article i will describe how to build the ultimate SCSI blackbox for your old sampler. I should also point out that the popular alternative is a SCSI2SD which is very similar thing. In fact what i describe for the CF blackbox applies very similar to the SCSI2SD and you can build a blackbox with either of these two. In here i will describe building SCSI to CF. If you have any extra questions, please check here first and see if those have already been answered.

This interface was built using:

  • an old SCSI external case
  • ACARD 7720U bridge
  • IDE compact flash reader with 3.5″ bay
  • IDE ribbon cable
  • 3.5″ -> 5.25″ drive bay converter
  • two MOLEX connectors and some wires
  • car paint, black matte, in three coatings
  • noiseless 40mm fan
  • plexi to build a bracket between PSU and “drive” bay area for better airflow

I have tested it and works perfectly with following samplers:

  • Akai S1100
  • Akai S3000XL
  • Emulator EIIIXP
  • Emulator E4XT
  • Roland S-770
  • Ensoniq ASR-10 (power up the blackbox 20 sec in advance!)
  • Roland S-550 (System CD-5 V.1.02 required, power up the Roland, let OS loads, power up blackbox, wait 20 sec to boot, ignore “Parking”, go to Disk setup, left click “Hard Disk ID=” then right click it and the drive will show up)

So how does it work? Exactly like a normal SCSI drive, ie a HD or a CD ROM. In fact you can take all of your CD-ROM’s, save them as images and then write the one you need onto the CF card, which in this case would be a 1 GB Compact Flash card. After learning a lesson with damaged Akai CD ROM i backed up all my CD’s on the hard drive in the .img format. I still own the original disks, so this makes it fully legal. Using a software called DiskImage i can now transfer the content of a CD ROM into a (1GB) CF card. Tried it and works perfect. That way no more need for the external SCSI CD ROM connected to my sampler, which was just taking space, producing a lot of noise, and was much slower than the CF card.

A small tip for those who use Akai samplers. On the Blackbox back set the ID to 5. Because Akai’s default SCSI drive is 5. That way, each time you turn on the Akai, you won’t need to go to settings and change ID. Just press F7 (SKIP) and you’re in. And another tip, if you want to format a card with Akai sampler use the arrange command for the formatting work. It appears that “Format” command was for something else.

You can also build your own custom sample compilations and your own CD-ROMs (so to speak). CF card once formatted and filled with data on a sampler can be read from any computer with CF card reader (and appropriate software) as a disk image. It can then be stored on the computer (and ZIP-ed to reduce file size). This way you don’t need dozen CF cards. Two or three are more than enough. Simply archive your project to computer once you’ve finished it, format the card in your sampler and you’re set for the new project. Once the next project on the sampler is completed, again archive it to computer and start again. If you’re on a Windows machine best program to read and write images is Roadkill’s DiskImage. However be VERY CAREFUL with this program since it has access to all of your disks in the computer, and if you select a wrong drive as a destination to write an image, you might end up with deleted hard drive! Always double check the destination and the drive letter into which you have a card reader assigned. If you’re on a Mac then you don’t need any extra software. Just got to Utilities and use Disk Utility. From there you can read CF and SD cards and save them as images, or write ISO images onto same cards. I suggest you do some google on how to read / write ISO images on a Mac, using Disk Utility.

All connected together looks something like this:

Closer look at the IDE CF card reader, IDE cable and power supply Molex. Jumpers are set to Master:

Closer look at ACARD 7720U. Right side: power supplying the bridge, left side LED wire for the IDE drive. LED wire is not 100% necessary but highly useful, since it provides indication when the drive is active. Without it you won’t know. Jumpers are set to ID5 however please ignore it, since i don’t use any jumpers in this setup. This SCSI case has a SCSI ID selector on the back which you just connect to these three jumpers. That way you no longer have to open the box in case ID change is required:

Here you can see the 3.5->5.25 bay converter and power supply from the unit connected to CF drive from where it is divided into two lines. One stays at CF the other goes to ACARD bridge:

View from the back:

Finished product:

 

Comments (6)

  1. Richard B

    Hi Don. Could you tell me a type and size of CF to use, as I have installed a Raizinmonster in my S1100 and USD a 1gb sandisk CF card, and I got it to work initially after arranging the card on the s1100. But when I tried to save to the same card at a later date I got a disk error. And now I can’t even re-ARRange the card at all as I just gives me a disk read error. I have even tried to reformat it on my pc first, but the S1100 seems to have properly fell out with it :( . So, not wanting to willfully waste more cash on blindly bying CF cards, I was wondering which ones you have found to be reliable? I assume 512mb are the preferred size. Best regards, Richard

    • Don Solaris

      If this is internally connected then you will have to do one modification. I know this sounds crazy but some of the S1100 have their SCSI connector set backwards in factory. In other words you have to rotate the cable 180 DEG. This might require cutting the plastic notch on the SCSI cable itself in order to push it in the other way around. This was the case with my and another S1100. Give it a shot. I take no responsibility for any gear damage though. Because i see no other explanation. Option B: Before you do that, you can verify that the cable is OK by writing any Akai CD ROM .iso image onto that card. You will have to use software that writes images onto card media (you can not just drag and drop iso file onto the card). If the sampler sees the content, then i guess the cable is ok and you don’t have to put it the other way.

      If the connection is via external SCSI (on the back of the unit) then i can’t help.

  2. M Bouazza

    Hi,
    Works this 100% with ASR-10?
    And how match is cost?
    Greetz,

  3. ray

    Hello Don,
    Will a rs232 serial cable work at all plugged into a scsi port on a sampler?

  4. Have you tried SCSI2SD? It is a GREAT solution and works in mostly everything!

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