Logitech CSDD1 Sampling Delay
An unassuming little sampler with no breeding, but I'm sure you'll be amused by its presumption. Logitech have produced a sampler of limited means which should appeal to any musician who enjoys a similar state.
With all the exciting new developments in so called affordable sound sampling such as the Ensoniq Mirage and the Akai rack mounted MIDI sampler, it's all too easy to forget that these instruments are still well out of reach of a large number of musicians who just cannot afford to spend that kind of money. This sad state of affairs is compounded by the fact that many of these would-be users have a lot of talent that could come to fruition given the right resources.
Though a relatively unsophisticated device, this Logitech product is certainly musically viable and gives nearly everyone a chance to get into sampling - providing that they have access to a mono synth with a one volt per octave CV output.
Housed in its 1U rack case with its colour coded knobs, the sampler looks neat if not overinspiring, but then it's designed to be used, not looked at. The input sensitivity may be switched to match 0dB or -20dB line levels and a conventional gain control works in tandem with a four section LED meter to ensure optimum drive levels, an important aspect when the system relies on an eight bit digital delay line.
As this sampler is a dual purpose device also capable of providing straight delay effects, a feedback control is fitted, which in effect controls the decay time of repeat echoes. The Balance control is used to regulate the proportion of delayed and direct signal and an the output control allows the output level to be regulated up to a maximum level of 0dB. Delay time is divided into six steps ranging from 66mS to 2S with a continuous Delay Time control offering fine control. A further control enables the maximum delay time to be doubled at the expense of reduced bandwidth - a not uncommon ploy used on delay lines of all prices. The bandwidth is 15kHz but reduces to 8kHz when the double time setting is in use.
The operating mode section consists of two switches, the first of which selects Delay or Sample mode. Once a sample has been recorded, the next switch, Hold is used to freeze the sound in memory where it remains until overwritten or until the unit is switched off.
One of the major drawbacks of budget samplers, and one which is made more acute by the lack of editing facilities, is the difficulty of loading a sample so that it starts exactly on cue when retriggered. To do this, the sample button or whatever the machine in question uses must be pushed at the exact instant that the sound being sampled starts, but Logitech have given us a choice of three methods of loading sounds. These are Internal, Manual and External, a three way rotary switch being used to select the desired option.
"Pitch tracking is reasonably accurate over an octave or so."
The Internal mode is probably the most useful, and this enables the sampling process to be initiated by the start of the sound being sampled. For percussive sounds, this method of sampling works very well, but for sounds with a soft attack, it's quite likely that part of the sound will be missed. In this event, the Manual mode may be invoked, but this means polishing up your reflexes in order to press the Trig button at exactly the right moment; if you mistime your sample of a Rembrandt being slowly ripped in two, you could have problems.
The final mode; External, allows the sampling process to be triggered by a positive going trigger pulse such as those provided by most synths (except those with S-triggers - in this event you'll need to get an S-trigger converter); this way you can use the synth output to operate a relay to switch a solenoid to drop the Ming vase onto the concrete block next to the mic and then... well it was just a thought.
The last control is the Single/Repeat switch which may be used to inhibit further triggering until the sample has finished; in its other mode, retriggering occurs whenever a new trigger pulse is applied.
Here the user has a choice of mixed or direct outputs and for use with a mixing desk, it is assumed that the Mix control would be set fully clockwise giving an effect only output. CV and Trigger outputs are present in the form of standard jack sockets, and a foot switch socket gives a further method of triggering samples.
A ground lift switch is fitted which isolates the circuitry's 0V line from the chassis (which remains grounded) and this can be a great help in identifying and curing earth loops. One enigmatic feature is a 25-way delta connector entitled Host Interface for which there is no explanation - could this be the computer link responsible for animating Terry Wogan?
"In terms of value for money, you can create echoes, synchronised delays and tuned samples for little over £200"
As a straightforward digital delay, this unit suffers a little from reduced dynamic range, an inevitable side effect when using eight bit linear sampling, though I do believe that some form of pre-emphasis is used to get the best possible signal to noise ratio given the sampling limitations. In this mode, the performance is acceptable if the input level is kept as high as possible without overloading, but it is noisier than most straight budget delay only devices.
As a sampler these shortcomings are less noticeable, but a low frequency pure tone does show up the quantisation noise to some extent. Samples with lots of upper harmonics work best as these tend to hide such shortcomings, and the noise level is very low when a sample is not being played.
Pitch tracking is reasonably accurate over an octave or so and is certainly good enough for most applications, but as the review sample was a prototype, there may be further improvements in this area before production models are released.
All comments made concerning this machine must be made in the light of its very low selling price and had this product hit the market a year or two ago, I would have hailed it as a major breakthrough. It's still probably the cheapest tracking sampler on the market and used with care it is capable of producing artistically pleasing results but it does contain omissions that limit its usefulness. For example, the sample always plays to the end once triggered unless you play a new note, you can't cut a note short by releasing a key early. There is no form of editing, though I wouldn't expect any at this price, and the use of linear eight bit encoding means that you do have to think carefully about the noise which will form an inevitable part of each sample, an important point if you are recording the results.
In terms of value for money, you can create echoes, synchronised delays and tuned samples for little over £200 which has got to be good news for those unable to contemplate more upmarket devices and the quality is fine for live use. If on the other hand you have your own commercial studio, you may well be able to afford the extra that it will cost to buy a sampler with a better noise performance.
As they say, 'You pays your money and you takes your choice', and in this case you get a sampler that is capable of producing some interesting and musically useful results.
It is available for £199 excluding VAT. For further information contact:- Logitech, (Contact Details).
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Review by Paul White
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