Rebis RA226 Digital Sampler
Curtis Schwartz on the rack
Rebis are a British company best known for their modular rackmounting studio effects units. These have consisted of optional addon units such as compressors, noise gates and parametric delays.
The most attractive feature of this Rebis range to my mind has to be its cost effectiveness; most of their units cost between £50.00 and £200.00. The compulsory power supply and rack which will house up to 14 units will cost around £100, and only takes up 3U of rackspace. This means that for well under a grand both big and small studios can have a rack full of frequency conscious noise gates, de-essers, an auto-panner (an effect I'm rather partial to at present), a delay or two, and more.
The latest addition to the Rebis range of effects is the RA226 Digital Sampling module which fits into the standard Rebis rack and power supply system. For its price tag of £498 it will provide 5.5 seconds of sampling or delay time with a full(ish) bandwidth of 16kHz. When the bandwidth is reduced the sample time increases up to a maximum of 22 seconds with a 4kHz bandwidth. The RA225 will accept up to three memory expansion cards each adding a further 5.5 seconds of memory for only £166.00.
The editing facilities of the Rebis Sampler are very versatile considering the unit's compact size. The six front panel knobs consist of an Input Level control, a Mix control between direct and delayed signals, Feedback and Pitch (delay time) controls and a pair of knobs for editing the start and end point of the sample. Six push buttons switch between Delay or Sampling mode, Record, Loop, Latch, Reverse and Forward triggering of the sample itself.
The sample can either be triggered manually from the front panel switch or automatically from an audio trigger sent to the audio trigger input. The third method is from a CV/Trigger source such as a synthesizer with a CV/Gate output. This will trigger the sample and also control its pitch over a two octave range.
One of the more unusual features of the Rebis Sampler is its editing ability. In addition to having quite versatile and accurate control over the start and end points of a sample, the Rebis Sampler is also able to edit out a 'window' from a sample; ie, with a sample of someone saying "One, two three, four five", the Rebis will be able to edit out bits in the middle in order that the sample say "One, two, four, five". This feature is particularly useful taking out a click or glitch or drop-in noise in the middle of a sample, or it might just be used to provide interesting special effects.
The procedure for loading a sample is quite simple one — by switching out of the delay mode and then pressing the Record button, the Sampler is then armed and ready to catch a sample. The LED by the REC button flashes until a signal is heard — which then triggers the sampling process. The length of sample time is determined by the amount of memory in the unit, and by the setting of the Pitch control. When set at +1 the sampling bandwidth is set for maximum bandwidth, and minimum time. If you have loaded up the sampler with the maximum amount of memory (ie, 22 secs) and you simply want to sample a rimshot, you can set the start and end point knobs to only a fraction of the total time so that you don't have to wait the full 22 secs until the sample ends. Immediately after a sample is made, it is then replayed — so if you haven't fiddled with your start and end point controls, then you're going to have to wait 44 seconds before you can start fiddling...
When talking in terms in bandwidths it is difficult to assess the true quality of a sampler simply from the manufacturer's quoted specifications. There are several variants in the measuring process of bandwidths which can often become a bit misleading. I always feel much happier with the good old A/B comparison between direct signal and the sample. Bandwidth-wise, the Rebis Sampler sounds very respectable when I compared its sample of a compact disc recording with the original — the only noticeable difference being a slight digitised tone quality present in the sample which was not there in the original. This is only something that is noticeable when its sound quality is scrutinised in such an unforgiving way.
One of the first things that interested me about the Rebis Sampler was, because of its low price tag and size, the use of several of these units at once. Perhaps they could be used in a mix when all the tracks are full and you wish to replace the snare with a sample as well as to trigger another two simultaneously for a stereo sample. At the price the Rebis Sampler will be selling at, such a set up could become quite feasible.
With this price tag the system would appear to have quite a healthy future ahead of it. Once you have expanded the basic 5.5 seconds (if you feel you need the extra memory time) up to its maximum of 22 seconds (still at a 16kHz bandwidth), and bought the rack and power supply, you will still only be paying around £1200, which I think still represents very good value for money. Bear in mind that it will provide a system from which to build — adding on bits and bobs (noise gates, compressors etc) as and when they are needed.
Possibly, the best recommendation for this system is that after having had a bit of time to use the Rebis system in a working context, I have decided to take the plunge myself and start building up my own Rebis rack of goodies — starting with the Sampler itself.
Review by Curtis Schwartz