Archives for : hardware sampler

Why using old hardware samplers?


Here is a common question that pops up from time to time on various music production forums:

“I am really curious…WHY would anybody want a dedicated hardware sampler in this age of high performance computers?”

Here is what i have to say on the subject:

  1. Sound (very important)
    I have a NI Kontakt which is de-facto standard in computer sample playback. While i use it on daily basis as a working tool to develop a sample library i find it zero to non interesting for sonic manipulation. So, if i need tool to play a 1GB piano sample, i will obviously use a Kontakt, because it’s there within a few mouse clicks, not to mention the library explorer, etc, thousands of sounds at your finger tips. Plus the all powerful scripting tool. But if i want a specific sonic character, i go straight for the ASR-10 or Emax I or S-550, etc without any second thought.
  2. Authenticity (sometimes crucial)
    If i want authentic sound of the 90s, yes i can import an Akai sample CD into Kontakt, but that doesn’t mean it will sound the way it was designed to sound, when played from original machine (ie S1100), with original parameters, and all its quirks.
  3. User interface & mind focus (i find it important others might not)
    Yes i have a few samplers for which it can be said they sound the same as a Kontakt would if sample is not transposed too far away, a non resonant filter is used etc. For example Akai S3000XL. However the problem is i just can’t stare at the screen for 10 hours. Sorry. Second thing, and more important, not only it is tiresome after a few hours but the mind during that time occupies *totally different area* of the brain, which in this case is visual cortex, instead of finding myself in the creative portion of the brain and going for the SOUND. While its 32MB might not be spectacular, it is more than adequate to run a complete drum set and run some loops thru resonant filter, etc. During all that time i want to focus on the keyboard, a mixing desk and effects processors rack, NOT on a computer monitor. It is a night day difference after a few hours of working – and those who work this way know what i talk about. In fact, take a look at second hand sampler prices. Emax I was $100 just a few years ago. Try to find SE/HD rack version nowadays below $1000 if you can. We talk about a machine with 512kB of RAM.
  4. Fetish factor (probably irrelevant but…)
    Yeah there’s something cool about navigating thru Akai’s screens or moving that second rotary dial on S1100 to setup various things. The one that goes “click” each time you move it a single tick.
  5. Misconception (many people don’t know)
    While in the 90s it might be pain in the a** to setup something like a 76 keys drumset on Akai S1100, today with modern computer this takes several seconds using a software called Translator. In fact it takes the same amount of time to build a drumset on Akai as it does on a Kontakt. Just drag and drop a folder of samples and they are automatically mapped across any amount of octaves you set. Only requirement is that your computer has a CF card slot and that Akai is connected to CF drive or has a CF drive (such as Raizin Monster). Gone are the days of navigating thru menus and setting each sample with its dozen parameters.

There’s probably more but this is what i decided to say on the first call. Particularly since the question became so ubiquitous. So i hope this solves the enigma – once and for all!