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Akai CD3000

CD-ROM sample player

The CD Side of sampling.

John Wright investigates the strange case of the Akai sampler that never was

Decisions, decisions. It's never easy choosing the right equipment, but when you're faced with a range like Akai's 3000-series samplers, the task becomes even more difficult. It took me three months to decide on an S2800; I liked the S3000, but couldn't stand the wait while I saved up the necessary wodge. Or at least, I thought I had decided. Just as I was about to part with the readies, a CD3000 arrived on my doorstep for review. "Well," I thought, "it can't do any harm just to have a look..."

Rather than spend tedious paragraphs rewriting what was said about the S2800 and S3000 when they first came out, I should, at this point, refer anyone who seeks a more in-depth account of those two machines back to the review in the March issue of MT. Suffice to say that the CD3000 shares all the family traits that have made the 3000-series machines worthy successors to the 1000-series: 32 voices, resonant filters (yippee!), program mixing, digital effects, Help pages, sectional editing, digital rescaling and wonder-of-wonders, assignable program modulation. It also comes fitted with 2meg of RAM, SCSI and eight individual outputs as standard, and Akai even throw in five free CD-ROMS to start your collection.

Strictly speaking, the CD3000 cannot be described as a sampler, for the simple reason that it doesn't actually sample. At least, not in the traditional sense of taking an audio signal in, putting it through an A/D converter and committing it to memory. Instead, the CD3000 can play normal CDs in its CD-ROM drive (as well as CD-ROMs), letting you 'sample' digitally from the actual disc. To this end, the 'Rec 2' display page - which is used in the other machines to set the optimum record level - has been changed to incorporate a set of 'normal' CD player transport controls; you can select Play, Pause, Rewind, Fast Forward and Stop just as you would on a tape machine. It's essentially the same as having a CD player hooked up to the sample inputs of an S3000 - except you don't have to mess around with record level setting since the signal is at optimum digital level anyway. No mess, no fuss.

There are certain other small differences on the CD3000, but these mainly concern the disc directory functions. Obviously, parameters are now provided to let you access the various sub-divisions and directories on the CD-ROM. The speed of access and loading is, as one might expect, incredibly fast - and because the samples on CD-ROMs are already arranged into keygroups and programs, you feel inclined to experiment more with new sounds - which can only be a good thing.

Apart from the slight changes to the operating architecture, the process of playing back samples on the machine is identical to the rest of Akai's new machines. Anyone lucky enough to already own an S2800 or S3000, but who needs more in the way of outputs, polyphony and memory, might well consider the CD3000 a worthy addition to their rack, since it offers all the processing power and facilities of the other units, without the expense of a wasted set of sample inputs. You simply sample on the S2800/S3000 and then dump the data to the S3000 over SCSI (or even on floppy disk).

But the most likely purchasers of the CD3000 have to be those people using CDs and CD-ROMs as their sole source of sampled sound - a group who, I suspect, form a substantial part of the sampling population. The CD3000 costs only slightly more than the S2800, and for the extra you're getting the flexibility of eight individual outputs and an on-board SCSI interface.

Altogether a pretty impressive package. Which is exactly why, after having the CD3000 in my studio for review, I have decided not to buy an S2800. But I'm not going to buy a CD3000 either, surprisingly enough. I'm opting for the S3000, because I do need sample inputs, and the CD3000 has shown me how essential individual outputs are in a studio operating without multitrack tape.

But these are just my own personal requirements - doubtless every other prospective sampler owner will demand something different. Which is exactly why Akai are onto a winner with this range of machines.


Ease of use Selective reading of the manual helps
Originality An interesting development in sampling
Value for money Probably better than the rest of the range
Star Quality A highly desirable piece of kit
Price £2499 inc VAT
More from Akai UK, (Contact Details)

Gimme five!

Akai supply no less than five CD-ROMs with the CD3000 to provide a broad-based foundation on which to build your own library: and considering CD-ROMs tend to come onto the market at anything between £70 and £150, you'll probably be glad that Akai have included discs of this calibre with your new machine.

The CD-ROMs provided have been created, or re-formatted, especially for the CD-3000, and include Akai's own library (Piano, Orchestra, Organ, Brass, Drums and Synths), a CD from Hollywood Edge (film sound effects), two CDs from East-West (Dance/Industrial and Drums + Percussion), and one from InVision (49 assorted sounds).

The quality of all the CDs is very high, although the sounds themselves are probably a little conservative for some people's tastes. However, the CDs really come into their own as a reliable collection of useful sounds you can turn to for something to fit a track immediately. In particular, the quality of Akai's own library is stunning - one of the grand piano programs is the best I've ever heard on a sampler, and you'd die for the lush string pads. Similarly, I've always been a big fan of the Neil Conti and Danny Cummings/Miles Bould drum sample CDs from AMG, and the East-West Drums and Percussion ROM features some classic cuts from these, re-formatted for the CD3000.

East-West have performed a similar trick with their Dance/Industrial sample CD, taking certain choice sounds and loops from it and packaging it as a special edition ROM. Although this version doesn't quite have the full glory of the original, it's still an indispensable collection of useful noises. The same applies to the InVision CD-ROM which includes some 49 sounds covering bass, brass, ethnic, guitar and several other sections.

But the real surprise for the collection for me was The Hollywood Edge disc, a CD-ROM packed with special effects from the big screen. Comprising noises such as car crashes, bullets, stabs, rockets, cars, dinosaurs, walking and cartoon 'bonks', this CD offers some excellent additives to spice up a flagging rhythm tracks.

Also featuring gear in this article

Featuring related gear

Previous Article in this issue

Roland SD-35 MIDI Player

Next article in this issue

Technics SX-KN2000 keyboard

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


Music Technology - Sep 1993

Quality Control

Gear in this article:

Sampler (Playback Only) > Akai > CD3000

Gear Tags:

16-Bit Sampler

Review by John Wright

Previous article in this issue:

> Roland SD-35 MIDI Player

Next article in this issue:

> Technics SX-KN2000 keyboard

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