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!

Comments (7)

  1. Just bought an Ensoniq EPS 16+ havent used it yet but i get happy just looking at it :p anyway also have the EPS Classic and had 1 ASR-10. Fun for reducing samplerate, transposing etc or my fetish collecting floppies!

    Other fun samplegear: VP-9000 and S-330 just for having a big green monochrome screen 😀

  2. Anton Hosinsky

    There´s a special charm to old gear that computer technology simply don´t have. Also, when you work with limitations you get forced to think in a different manner than when you have access to every conceivable option and that opens up new creative flows.

  3. Kayvahn

    Hi Don, I read you have a Prophet 2000.

    Although it’s simpler than most early nineties samplers I do like the sound of it.

    Where would you place it in your old hardware sampler affections?

  4. sK3LeTvM

    Don, I own a full blown Akai S5000. 128 voice, 16 output, FX. Besides a decent sampler, it has also differentfilter, matrix modulation. I created sounds with it where as people go Aaaargh, what synth is that !!
    S56K are sold for very reasonable prices. And in 15 years, people will wipe to get one…

  5. Mboomba

    I have an AKAI S-1000 and yes there is nothing like hearing hte click of the wheel as you set up parameters and painstakingly name your files. Its lie texting on a flip phone. Slow and deliberate. Sometimes your brain needs that. Along with 16 bit sonic fidelity to match.

  6. YahooSirius

    There is something about EOS that aids the creative that and the sound are hood enough reason to stick with my E4

  7. The Voran

    Back in the day i could only afford a Akai S950 but a few years ago spotted a S3200 Not xl so 1992. i thought 100 quid was a steal and i don’t regret it. I use Propeller heads recycle 2.0 in a windows 98 system PC. I then transmit samples to a Akai S3000xl and save the program to a zip drive. I take the zipdisk pop it in my 2nd zip connected to my S3200 and load up the program tweek and use the great 2nd filters ect alot faster than it sounds makes you feel like a Lab techy 😉 If you sample hot into a old S3200 it is ruff and can not be replicated on a DAW Lovely jubbly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *