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Old school hardware samplers
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Author Old school hardware samplers
Looking at a hardware samplers, something old and preferably 12bit for that crunchy bitcrushed downtuning sound and for the tactile joy.

Obviously sp1200 is a classic for this, what is a fair price for one of them these days and how does the MPC60 shape up sound/valuewise?
sp1200s are really expensive I guess. I got a sp-12 which has half the sampling time which is cool. Some of the stock sounds are good.

I didn't really like the mpc 60 that much. I think the sequencer is great, but I wasn't super into the character of the sound. Same with the s900.

Ensoniq mirage is good if you want to get something pretty gnarly. It is sort of like the others, but in it's own way. Also has resonant filters unlike sp-12 or mpc 60, but is a little more difficult to do a multisample for drums.
Wracked with Guilt
Personally, the best sounding hardware sampler I have ever used is the Sequential 2000/2002. This tasty combination of 12-bit sampling and CEM VCF/VCAs can be had for peanuts these days - although it must be said they are qiite tricky machines to master by modern standards. Surprisingly great build quality as well....
Emax and 2000/2002 mentioned above are both good choices regarding value for money. Akai's of that era are not that colorful and have no filter resonance but I do like their sound a lot, especially when you are using outboard. They tend to be more flat and this fact really helps when you are shaping sound with external units. Just my two bits. Guinness ftw!
Prophet 2002s are also really nice. The filter is nice. Emaxes are good too. The problem is that most of these went from being something you might find for $100-150 to people asking 500 or more.
Korg's DSS-1 is a favorite of mine. years ago I had an Emulator II, which I do miss but the DSS-1 is a steal and more interesting. incredible filter, dual delays and draw your own waveforms. a highly underrated sampling synth.
hadn't really considered keyboard samplers, some of those old sequentials are pretty rare now i imagine.
Is the main difference between keyboard samplers and mpc style setups the workflow? I'm assuming sequencing is easier on the pad samplers, like hit record and bash away to a metronome kinda deal for beatmaking. Do these keyboard workstations function in that way or are they meant to be played like a keyboard?
Some of these samplers have sequencers on them like the emax and mirage, but they are more like sketchpads than a full sequencer. If you need a sampler with a sequencer built in, an mpc 60 is probably the best one there is (or the mpc 3000).
The MPC 60 is probably going to be the best bet unless you get the ASQ-10 and your sample of choice. Either way using files system that are obsolete is such a pain. I LOVED my 60 but after a while I just couldn't deal with the super slow loading speeds and I removed the floppy drive for an emulator but it was still a pain. I was going to spring for an internal CF reader but I just decided to go laptop and if I needed gain/compression and all that jazz, I would just re-sample from my vintage cassette deck, or plenty other techniques.

The only thing I do miss is the baller sequencer on the 60, but I don't miss it taking all of my desk space.
Yeah guess floppy disks aren't the quickest storage around. Quite cool to be able to plug a mic/line into a keyboard and have your sound mapped across the keys with all that nice bit crushing and filtering.
Sir Ruff
I'd say the Mirage and the Emax are the two best "character" samplers you could buy today. Between those two, the Emax is the easier one to use. The Prophet-2000/2002 sounds good, but you really have to push it to get things to start aliasing/crunch. Also generally rarer. If you don't need a sequencer, then I wouldn't bother with the Sp-12/1200 or MPC-60, since a lot of their "vibe" comes from how you program the sounds within them.

Older Akais have the perception of being "gritty", but they are really pretty clean thanks to fairly steep anti-aliasing filters. They darken the sound and boost the mid-range more than anything. That being said, the Akai S-612 is probably the best sampler ever in terms of immediacy--set your threshold, record, and done. Things will definitely sound "dirty" at lower sample rates, but just not aliased/crunchy.

The recent Korg samplers, from the microsampler to the sample tribe one, are also all capable of sounding really crunchy at low sample rates.
In the early 1990s, I did everything on a couple of S950s run by Creator. There were better sounding samplers out there, but none had such a fast MIDI response time.
mirages are still had easily and for dirt cheap, you can get a gotek and pay 10 euros for the hxc firmware and slap one of those on and never deal with a real floppy disk.

emaxes are great but expensive.

akai units of any age are easy to work on and really nice to use. if you can afford a S9xx get it
interested by this ASQ-10... Would an ASQ-10 and a mirage/emax be a good match for sp1200?
slimenbones wrote:
interested by this ASQ-10... Would an ASQ-10 and a mirage/emax be a good match for sp1200?

Emax is overlapping with the SP in terms of sound, the ASR is a perfect add-on, so much to do in there. Guinness ftw!
Bath House
Me and Sir Ruff (above) are sampler aliasing lunatics who have both chased that dragon for the past decade (longer, actually...yeesh, we're getting old). Between us, we've owned all of them and half of them one of us has sold or traded to the other one.

You have to keep in mind that the engineers of that era were working their asses off to make things sound as "good" and "realistic" as possible. Any "lofi sticky icky crunchy wunchy digga-digga dankness" is the result of intentionally pushing these things to their limits, operating them out of specs, or otherwise going around the intention of the design in order to bring out that gnarly fuzziness. That was always the biggest surprise to me as a young guy - I assumed that it was as simple as buying one of those samplers and then you'd just magically get "The sound." Nope!

The 12-bit Akai stuff, for all of its reputation, sounds shockingly smooth and great. It's a little dark, but even pushing to lower sample rates, sampling fast and pitching down, etc. it really hangs in and give you a "high quality" sound. Drums and beats sound nice and "thick" on these things but nothing's fuzzy, crunchy, aliased, etc. pretty much no matter what you do.

The Emax, for all of its similarities to the SP-1200's engine, still hangs in with better quality than the 1200/12. It's not the magic box either. I am a 1200 owner and it's one of my favorite pieces of gear, but like Ruff said half of the sound is the interaction of the sequencer with engine and its limitations, not just "put in clean sound, get out 'lo fi sampler' sound." Starting with vinyl, pitching it up to 45, sampling a 2.5 second or less chunk, pitching it back down, then sequencing with a sequencer with weird swing and voice choking behavior = THE sound, but you have to do all of that to get there.

I think that the Akai S-612 is the cheapest/easiest box to buy if you just want to get gnarly lo-fi sampler sounds. They're still cheap (I assume?), they're incredibly simple to use, and what goes in comes out sounding funky.
Notron fn
I just got my Emax up and running again.

There's some new SCSI options out there if you have a scsi capable sampler.

scsi2sd is this small card that lets you replace a scsi HD with a micro-sd card.

My old 20mb seagate HD in the emax was kaput.

Now I think I will try to locate a good HxC drive to replace the floppy with.
Notron fn

One other nice thing about the scsi2sd...

It can also be configured so that it appears to the sampler as 4 scsi drives...
If you like aliasing don't overlook the wtpa2. It's like putting a candy burgundy paint job, wire rims and vogues on a sk-1.
I still have my Roland S330 sampler purchased back in the late 80's (or was it early 90's?). It is a 12bit sampler, with a 4 second sample memory at its max 30khz sample rate, or 8 seconds at 15KHZ. it occupies 1U rack space, so the display is tiny. However, you can plug a regular monochrome monitor into the back and a Roland mouse into the front , and you have a system that makes sampling and organising samples a breeze. It has a very smooth sounding resonant filter.

These were great machines, and very well built. Their big brother (S550) has twice the sample memory but I think is otherwise the same.

At the time I tried the Akai S900. It was the industry standard, but the Roland's filter was more musical to my ears, and the ability to edit samples on a big screen with a mouse completely sold the S330 for me.

I used to borrow friend's synths and multi-sample the raw VCO waves across the keyboard. The S330's VCA's, LFO's and filter were good enough to recreate a fair rendition of the original synth. My favourite sample set (which I still have) is from an Oberheim Matrix 6.

There is a keyboard version of the s330 available called (I think) the W30.
I really want an S330, the filters on top of a sound like my S50 would be amazing! editing on the Roland is OK, I use a tiny 'in dash reverse cam' monitor as a kind of oversized LCD. Would love an RC-100 tho.. just for the swagger!

The funny thing about those is the memory works in chunks so there is not really much point getting anal about truncating anyway, just get used to having to grab a sample a few times to find the input gain sweet spot & work arounds like grabbing a few octaves of 'attacks' to fancy up single sustain loops.

Bath House wrote:
You have to keep in mind that the engineers of that era were working their asses off to make things sound as "good" and "realistic" as possible.

This is what I love about old samplers, and cheap samplers in general. The textures at the edges of the machines capabilities. Far more interesting results & process than the hi-res 24 bit world we spend so much time in nowadays.
I keep going back and forth over getting a hardware sampler. Maybe one day.
Thinking more about the S330. It took either a 'green-screen' monochrome monitor, or any colour monitor with an RGB feed. I still have the Roland mouse. You really need one of these to get the best out the machine.

There were a number of ways of triggering a sample. My favourite was an adjustable threshold - you set it so sampling started only when the signal got loud enough. There were 8 individual outputs, which was useful for processing drum sounds.

The last version of the O/S supported sequencing software. So you had a mini-fairlight, with sequencing, sampling and an architecture powerful enough to produce quite complex synth pads. You could even 'draw' waveforms! All of this came in addition to a very extensive sample library. One of my favourite techniques was to use the initial transient of say a harp being plucked, layered over a more sustained sound. That's pretty much how the Roland D50 produced its signature sounds.

The next instrument I bought after my S330 was an EMU Proteus-1, with the 4mb InnVision rom installed. The Proteus 1 was an amazing device for its time, loaded with modified Emulator 3 samples. The InnVision board was superb, with a great stereo Hammond patch, and a selection of bass's, electric guitars, keyboards, and a range of what we would now call 'world' music instrument samples.

The S330 sounded warmer. It didn't have the Proteus's dynamic range, (12bits vs. 16bits) or the Proteus's 20z to 20khz bandwidth, but the S330's bottom end was more solid, and samples like orchestral strings sounded more lush.

That's why I have never got rid of my S330, or my Proteus-1 / InnVision combo. In fact I think I'll look them out, and fire them up, for old time's sake. I just need to find a screen that will work with the S330.
maybe take a look at the Casio FZ 10M tiz 16bit but great filter
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