Akai X7000 keyboard sampler
Images form of a sampling war between the X7000 and Roland's S-10 - identical price, closely matched facilities and comparable quality. Twins beneath the byte.
But first the differences: five octave keyboard and six split points for the Akai; four octaves and four splits for the Roland. Arpeggiator, mod wheel, and an extra set of envelope generators for the S-10; no, yes and no for the X7000. Six separate samples stored at once on the Akai (16 with the optional memory extension) and multi-MIDI capabilities so you can run all of them at once from a sequencer (separate outputs, too); only four samples at a time from the Roland and no multi-MIDI. Six note polyphony for the Akai, eight note for the Roland.
The X7000 at least looks entirely different - light grey with most of the front panel taken up by a row of 16 buttons which call up the samples in one mode, or parameters for editing in another. The built-in disc drive loads up your samples but (like the Roland) takes only one sound per side. Realistic grand pianos, for example, usually need a separate sample for each octave so no one sound is stretched too far. That's five sides worth.
The toughest job for any sampler is to produce a sustaining sound from a short sample by finding one part of the signal it can keep repeating - a loop. The X7000's autoloop facility does it for you, hunting through the information for bits that sound similar and will merge easily. Give it pure tones like a bass note or organ, and results are excellent - I was impressed. Samples with some movement in them, like swirling strings are much harder to match.
Also liked the overdub facility where you could take one sample via the mike or line inputs at the rear (say Vibes) then record another on top (Vibes plus Strings) then another (Vibes, plus Strings, plus Brass), etc. Soon after three dubs you begin to lose quality but calling up a trio of sounds from one button is useful, and creative, sonically speaking.
The sound quality of the X7000 is every bit as good as its rival, the S-10, and you've got an extra octave of keyboard to play with, plus the eminently useful multi-split. But from then on, I'm afraid the Roland triumphs at every turn. The S10 draws the very maximum use out of its memory space by letting you layer samples, detune them for fatness, or gang them together to give you one very long sample still at a good bandwidth. It also lets you flick between samples by use of the key velocity, and several other software tricks. The Akai could do all these things - it has the technology - but where are they?
Review by Paul Colbert
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