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Summer of Samplers: The Beginning

Dirtywave M8 Tracker

Being a synthesizer nerd, I never had much interest in working with samples. It always seemed too static to me. Why commit to a static sample and work with that when I can have my oscillators and synth engines?

I got a first real taste of what can be done with samples when I got the Dirtywave M8 Tracker that among awesome synth engines also features a powerful sample engine. I played with drum breaks, voice samples, and synth pads (the result of that can be heard on my EP Süpère FX?). I was intrigued!

So samples aren’t that boring and static after all. I’m on vacation currently and decided to use this time to dive deeper into sampling and working with samples. Since I find software sampling still kind of boring (too easy!), I decided to go the hardware route. Digitakt? Roland SP-404MKII? Well, I like tinkering with vintage hardware, so vintage hardware samplers it is!

I decided to go with a classic: The Akai S1000. Released in 1988, this 16 bit sampler was used in a lot of 90s dance music that I loved back then and that I still love today. The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, The Future Sound of London, etc. The list of notable users on Wikipedia contains a lot of my 90s heros. And it seems to have been used on a lot of classic 90s jungle tracks. Also, with the big display, the big encoders and the F-buttons, it should still be pretty usable today. So the S1000 seemed like a good choice.

I also stumbled upon the Roland S-330, also released in 1988. Two facts make it an interesting device for me: Firstly, it’s only 12 bits, so I think one can expect a certain bit reduced crunchiness to come from it. Secondly, I like its quirkiness. It can be used solely with the front panel buttons, but even the manual states that it is not a very pleasant experience. Luckily, a monitor can be attached to the S-330, either via a proprietary Roland 8-pin-connector (more on that later) or via a monochrome composite video output. Also, a -in Europe rather unpopular- MSX mouse can be connected, to be used with the UI on the monitor. Since the MSX was very popular in Japan in the 80s and Roland being a Japanese company, this even makes sense from a Roland-in-the-80s-perspective.

So I bought the Akai and the Roland for halfway decent prices on eBay and I’m currently waiting for them to be delivered. Over the next weeks I will document my sampler journey here and on Mastodon/Twitter. I also plan to do some upgrades and modifications (floppy drives!), which should be a fun tinkering project. And, of course, let’s hope some music comes out of this in the end!

So stay tuned for more sampler fun!

Software Failure.    Press left mouse button to continue.
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