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Vesta Fire DIG-420 Sampler

I love to go a-sampling,
I'll steal from any track.
I chop them up,
And loop them round,
And then I play them back.
F-f-ful ree, f-f-ful rah... etc

THE GOOD NEWS is that sampling has now come within grasp of a lot of those for whom it was recently out of reach. The bad news is that it comes preprogrammed with the words "nineteen" and "Saigon" indelibly stamped all over its ROM.

Actually, that second statement is a lie — there were going to be too many copyright problems. The first statement, however, is thoroughly true. The Vesta Kaza DIG420 has made simple monophonic sampling available to the quite serious as well as to the very serious. The unit will accept samples of up to one second and will play them back in tune when triggered from any keyboard with a 1-volt-per-octave control voltage output. Important, that — a sampler for those of us with older, non-MIDI synths who don't feel like throwing them out just yet.

Samples may be derived from any source, be it microphone, instrument, record or tape, any of which enter the machine via the input jack socket on the rear of this one-unit (1u) high 19in rackmounting machine. An LED bar-graph meter and input gain control are able to sort out the input level from almost anything, so you can rest assured that if it makes a noise you can sample it!

Trapping your sample within the DIG420 is very similar to producing one for the doctor; it is not a difficult feat in itself, but it requires a little concentration and co-ordination. The Record button must be stabbed to coincide with the start of the required sound as there is no facility for precise editing of the sample once it's stored. There is, however, what's known as a "memory map", together with an associated range switch, which allows the memory to be isolated in stages from the front inwards.

For example, a "pineapple" can be turned into an "apple" by switching the range from its full position at number 8 round to about the number 5 position. This sort of editing requires a little luck, however, as the range control moves in steps rather than being fully adjustable.

This is a drawback for editing purposes but it does have the advantage of allowing rhythmic sequences consisting of bits of different samples to be built up. To achieve this, the first sample is made at the full memory setting. Then, subsequent samples recorded in progressively later parts of the memory leave the earlier parts unaffected. You can adjust timing and/or tuning using the rather confusingly named "multi" control. "Multi" is an abbreviation of multiply and signifies the multiplication factor concerning the speed at which the memory is read.

In this way the DIG420 can be used as an eight-step sequencer with each step producing a totally different sound. I'm ashamed to say I got quite carried away while listening to a stream of my own whistles, clicks and burps.

It is possible to lay one sample over the top of another by use of the Overdub control. In delay mode this pot acts as the feedback control but when you're sampling you can use it to keep an initial sample in the memory while it dictates the level at which any subsequent samples are layered over the top, useful for thickening a sound or to add harmonies. The most obvious use for it is to store short vocal phrases and then pump them out at will by a push of the Play button. This button enables the DIG420 to be put to good work without the need for a keyboard, although the pitch of the output will be limited to the position of the "multi" control.

Control Voltage (CV) and Gate inputs are provided on the back panel of the unit, together with footswitch sockets for Play, Hold/Record and Bypass. Two output sockets are also provided — one for the direct sound, and one for a mix of direct and the sampled or delayed sound. A Mix control on the front panel is used to set the blend between these two signals.

Connecting a keyboard to the DIG420 entails the use of a CV output to tell the sample what pitch it should come out at, and a gate or trigger output to tell the sample when to do it. So, once the sample knows at what pitch and when to come out, a Trig/gate switch on the front panel tells it how long it should come out for. In trigger mode the sample is replayed as a one-shot, and then cues itself up for the next pressing; in gate mode the sample will loop round for as long as the key is pressed.

At the time of writing this the final version of The Book Of Words was still not available, and the version in hand contains no spec list. Suffice to say the quality of the sample sounds possible from this unit is good enough for recording purposes.

Some sounds lend themselves better than others to the type of processing on offer here, and the unpredictable nature of real sound is a factor which should be borne in mind when attempting to sample from life. Just because it may not work first go does not mean that it will not be brilliant on the second attempt — and there may be no obvious reason for the change of fortune, fortune.

One little wheeze I used when attempting to sample a sound which was a fraction longer than the memory available was to use the CV input to lengthen the sampling time. This can only be done a little, however, as at too slow a rate the tell-tale metallic ringing of the digital goings-on become audible. Another thing I found myself appreciating about the Vesta Kaza sampler was the way you can use it to drop in little bits and bobs here and there without resorting to messing about with bits of string and scissors (sorry — razor blades and splicing tape). There is no doubt about it, sampling is useful as well 'as being a lot of fun.

Besides its sampling mode, the DIG420 can also be used as a delay unit. Using the Range and Multi controls the delay time is fully variable from almost nothing up to a second. Feedback and Hold facilities are provided and modulation of the delay time for chorus and flanging-type effects can be achieved by way of its CV orifice, albeit from an external source.

Here, then, is a fully-functional keyboard-controllable digital sampler for less quids than you would have expected to fork out for a digital delay a couple of years ago. It won't do as much as the big boys do, but it will do enough, well enough to keep you in at night for a good while. Now if you'll excuse me I have to attend to some business f-f-ful ree, f-f-ful rah...

VESTA KAZA DIG-420 echo sampler: £338

CONTACT: MTR, (Contact Details).

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Marillion airs

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Korg SDD-2000 Echo/Sampler

One Two Testing - Copyright: IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.


One Two Testing - Sep 1985

Donated by: Colin Potter

Scanned by: Mike Gorman

Review by Martin Sheehan

Previous article in this issue:

> Marillion airs

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> Korg SDD-2000 Echo/Sampler

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