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Sampler Checklist

Sampling keyboards and modules are the subject of this month's Checklist| Don't spend a dime until you've cast an eye over this definitive buyer's guide.

E&MM's buyers guide to end all buyer's guides, with a rundown of all sound sampling keyboards and devices currently available and soon to be unveiled.

As sound-sampling continues its runaway snowball success ever more manufacturers offer an ever greater variety of instruments to tempt you to part with your hard-earned cash. Casio and Yamaha currently lead the field in offering the cheapest user-sampling keyboards and, whilst obviously aimed in part at the domestic market, these represent a practical way of including genuine sampling in your sound arsenal.

Of course nobody's suggesting that these machines will offer Emulator quality reproduction or Fairlight manipulation facilities, but they are a commendable example of advances in technology enabling modern sound techniques to take their place in the amateur and semi-pro musicians' music.

On the eve of both the American NAMM show and our own BMF you can be sure that the other manufacturers will be swift in following the lead of Casio and Yamaha as well as introducing more pricey - though more upmarket - machines. None of which can be bad for anyone except, perhaps, our bank managers.



SK1 - £119
Eight-voice polyphonic sampling keyboard. To be reviewed.


Eight-voice, eight-bit sampling system, 17-second maximum sample time, 16 sound channels, crossfade facility, 3½" disk storage. To be reviewed.

Emulator II - £7250
Eight-voice, eight-bit sampling system; five-octave velocity-sensitive keyboard, split and layering facilities, analogue filtering and LFO, disk storage.

+ Superlative sound quality, maximum 17-second sample length, onboard sequencer, MIDI compatibility, ease of use in all areas especially looping;
- long loading times, poor keyboard;
= great improvement on original Emulator, shielded from obsolescence by continued updating on E-mu's part. Reviewed November '84.

Emulator II+ - £6320
Specification as for Emulator II but with twice the sound memory capacity, divided into two banks. Compatible with Emulator II disks, and available with either one or two disk drives.

Emulator II+ HD - £7470
Specification as for Emulator II+ but with 20Megabyte hard disk as well as floppy disk storage. Hard disk stores equivalent of 46 preset disks with retrieval time of around two seconds.


Mirage - £1295
Eight-note polyphonic sound-sampling keyboard; built-in 3.5" disk drive, sequencer and analogue sound modifying section, five-octave touch-sensitive keyboard with split options, full MIDI compatibility.

+ Superb sampling sound quality, good range of sound modifying options, user-friendly control layout, European version has better (than US equivalent) keyboard and disk drive;
- lack of step-time facilities limits sequencer's usefulness, demand outstrips supply in some areas, complex multisampling procedure;
= wonderful sampling machine with a (recently reduced) price that helps bring the technique within the reach of vast numbers of people for the first time, now with user-formatting and advanced software built in as part of the package. Reviewed July '85.


Eight-note polyphonic sampling keyboard; built-in disk drive, split/layer options, analogue sound-manipulation section including LCD-assisted waveform editing system. To be reviewed.


250 - £10,995-£18,035
Twelve-voice, disk-based sampling system; 88-note velocity-sensitive weighted keyboard, split facility.

+ Excellent sound quality thanks to unique 'Contoured Sound Modelling' system, comprehensive interfacing, onboard sequencer and chorus, 12 channel outputs;
- usersampling requires (expensive) addition of Apple Macintosh computer;
= after all the press-release hype, the Kurzweil delivers the goods, but elements of its design could be a lot more cost-effective. Reviewed December '84.


S10 - £TBA
Eight-voice, four octave sound-sampling keyboard; 12-bit sampling, four-second maximum sample time at 32kHz bandwidth, built-in 2.8" quick-disk storage. To be reviewed.

S50 - £TBA
16-voice, five-octave sound-sampling keyboard; 12-bit sampling, built-in 3.5" disk drive, dual and split facilities, 17.5-second sample time at 32kHz bandwidth. To be reviewed.


Prophet 2000 Sampling Keyboard - £1995
Eight-note polyphonic sound-sampling keyboard; built-in 3.5" disk drive, analogue synth section and arpeggiator; five-octave, touch-sensitive keyboard with split/layer options,full MIDI compatibility.

+ Incredible sound quality for price, looping and editing facilities are comprehensive and user-friendly, unsurpassed MIDI spec includes transfer of samples;
- synth section doesn't exactly live up to Prophet ancestry, though it's still useful, arpeggiator is waste of space;
= a welcome addition to the world of low-cost sampling machines, sets the standard for all of them, and like Emulator, has a whole host of updates soon to be unveiled by manufacturer to maintain its competitiveness. Reviewed December '85.


VSS100 - £210
Budget keyboard with monophonic user sampling section with four-octave, miniature keyboard; eight second sample length, choice of multi-sampling or four two-second simultaneously available samples.

+ Ridiculously cheap;
- quality predictably leaves something to be desired, as does omission of data dump facility;
= ideal introduction to the world of sound sampling.



S612 - £749; MD280 disk drive - £199
Six-voice, 12-bit rack-mounting polyphonic sampler; velocity-sensitive over MIDI.

+ Excellent sound quality for the money, ease of use, unique 'alternating' mode provides successful alternative to conventional looping;
- requires MD280 disk drive (at additional cost) to make it useful, only one sample per side of disk;
= a fine introduction to sampling, the first machine without a built-in keyboard to save you money if you already have a MIDI controlling instrument.

S900 - £1599
Eight-voice, 12-bit rack-mounting sampler; velocity-sensitive over MIDI, built-in 3.5" disk drive, six-octave range, multi-sampling) maximum 48-second sample time, extra facilities include software for eight-voice harmonic sound-generation. See review this issue.


Sampling Module - £TBA
Twelve-bit polyphonic sampler, eight-second maximum sample time, velocity-sensitive over MIDI, built-in analogue filtering section and VCA. To be reviewed.


Modular version of keyboard EMAX with same specification. To be reviewed.


Sampling Expander - £TBA
Modular version of Mirage, details as above. To be reviewed.


Prophet 2002 Expander - £1795
Modular version of Prophet 2000, details as above. To be reviewed.



BD240 - £TBA
Monophonic sampling delay; maximum 24-second sample time with four six-second cards (optional) at 18kHz bandwidth. To be reviewed.


RSD10 - £200
Monophonic sampling delay; maximum two-second sample time, autotriggering and layering facilities.

+ Very cheap, pitch-tracking system means you're not confined to IV/octave synths {even a digital poly should do the trick), sound quality reasonable;
- tape interface permits audio - not digital-storage of samples;
= a fitting complement to Boss' Micro Rack series, and probably the system's best unit yet: four-octave pitch range is widest in its class. Reviewed March '86.


SDD2000 Sampling Delay - £699
Digital delay with MIDI control over monophonic sound sample; one-octave range at full frequency response, three octaves at reduced bandwidth.

+ The cheapest MIDI sampler around, decent sound quality, added bonus of versatile delay section;
- limited editing facilities betray machine's DDL origins, no sample storage;
= still unbeatable almost a year after it was unveiled, sampling on its own would be reason enough to fork out the money, but MIDI and DDL put icing on the cake. Reviewed July '85.


DIG420 - £330
Monophonic sampling delay; maximum delay time one second, three-octave range.

+ Controllable from any CV/Gate synthesiser, reasonable sound quality, cheap;
- again, no sample storage, lack of editing facilities compared to machines designed to be samplers above all else;
= a worthy contender from a company with a growing reputation for delivering facility-laden outboard gear at near-giveaway prices. Reviewed November '85

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Akai S900 Sampler

Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Electronics & Music Maker - Jul 1986

Scanned by: Stewart Lawler


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> Akai S900 Sampler

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