Hardware Samplers: Where to begin... Akai S3000

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alexdingley
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Hardware Samplers: Where to begin... Akai S3000

Post by alexdingley » Mon Jan 02, 2006 11:02 pm

Hey there,

So I do some composition work, and production for my clients, and to ligten my CPU load, I bartered for an Akai S3000 sampler. It's got 32MB of ram and a scsi port. The guy also gave me a ZIP drive and CDrom drive and a bunch of old libraries...

Has anyone got some experience with this unit? any thoughts on if it's got a decent sound to it or not? I've been using software samplers for a while, and this is my first HW sampler.

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Post by matyas » Tue Jan 03, 2006 8:32 am

You know, I can understand people complaining about software replacing effects units, compressors, consoles, tape machines, analog synths, etc. But samplers are one area where software really does have the advantage. I've not used that particular Akai unit, so I can't speak to the quality of its DACs, etc., but I found hardware samplers kind of a pain. It's not easy to edit patches and they can be kind of slow loading samples. If you've already gotten the machine, make use of it, by all means, but what a lot of people are doing these days is picking up a cheap but decent second (or third) computer and loading it with Gigastudio or MachFive and using it as a dedicated "sampler". I think that approach would tend to give you more flexibility.

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True

Post by alexdingley » Tue Jan 03, 2006 8:40 am

That's not a bad point at all. I am fully aware of the ills of trying to edit within the sampler's interface... very tedious.

I'm trying to find out if there are any good sampler utilities for OS X that would let me do all the work in the computer.

I'm also considering the idea of dumping the sampler and taking the cash to get a UAD-1 card... which would also lighten the load on my CPU.

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Post by blakbeltjonez » Tue Jan 03, 2006 7:56 pm

matyas wrote:You know, I can understand people complaining about software replacing effects units, compressors, consoles, tape machines, analog synths, etc. But samplers are one area where software really does have the advantage. I've not used that particular Akai unit, so I can't speak to the quality of its DACs, etc., but I found hardware samplers kind of a pain. It's not easy to edit patches and they can be kind of slow loading samples. If you've already gotten the machine, make use of it, by all means, but what a lot of people are doing these days is picking up a cheap but decent second (or third) computer and loading it with Gigastudio or MachFive and using it as a dedicated "sampler". I think that approach would tend to give you more flexibility.

i'd definitely agree with you about the convenience advantage, but i've tended to migrate back to hardware samplers for the sound quality - everything i've used in software sounds kinda gutless in comparison, especially for drums and bass. it would be fantastic to do everyhting in the computer but to me the difference in sound is undeniable.

the S-3000 is a solid sampler even if it is a bit old, great for drums. if you're using OSX, your options are a bit limited since Peak and Recycle have both dropped SCSI support from thier apps with OSX. i believe there are editor apps such as DSP-Quattro that still support SCSI (and it looks like it would give Peak a run for the money).

having an old super cheapo 8500 PowerMac around running OS 9 works for me, i dump stuff via SCSI back and forth all the time between my E-mu E6400 and it's really quick. tweak sample in Peak or Recycle, SCSI dump it into the 6400, takes a few seconds at most. i'm sure it would be the same for the 3000 you have. my second computer is pretty much dedicated to the E6400 for editing. if all you have to do is lay in one-shot samples with no exotic LFO/envelope/etc. tweaking, it can be very quick. i would get an older SCSI hard drive if i were you (can't remember if you can put internal into the 3000 or not), zip disks can be unreliable and saving is a lot quickier with a hard drive. use the zip as a way to archive your hard drive as backup.

in the end, it's all about what you're used to. you might find that it slows you down too much. but as much as the software samplers seem to have taken over, still there are a sizable number of people who have gone back the other way, kinda like the whole mix-ITB versus use-a-console issue.

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Yep.... We'll see

Post by alexdingley » Wed Jan 04, 2006 12:04 am

Yeah, I physically got the SCSI HD mounted in an empty bay today. Now I just need to find an appropriate power and internal SCSI cable to connect it. From there, we'll see if it formats. The SCSI card in the S3000 has an internal ribbon... and there's a spare power outlet on the powersupply board... so I can't see why it wouldn't work. I just hope i can remember how to setup the jumpers to have the proper SCSI id. And I don't remember if I have to do anything special to terminate the internal SCSI chain.

I have DSP-Quattro 2. I made friends with the development team and scored it for free... very nice italian guys. I actually gave them some feedback on how to improve it and it looks like they took my advice on a couple points... because there's an update that fixes some of the things I mentioned. That aside... DSP Quattro 2 has scsi support, but I've never done that before... so I don't know what amount of flexibility and control it's going to offer me.

Are editing programs with SCSI support really just used for editing/truncating/loop point defining..? and then you dump them back to the sampler and do the mapping in there? If so... I'm still gonna find it clunky. I'm gonna pull some strings with Chicken Systems and get a copy of Translator pro. That should let me take all my non-compacted Reason NN-XT sample programs and bump them over to an AKAI format on CDrom. Then I'll be able to load them into the S3k and (hopefully) save the patches to the internal SCSi drive. it's looking more and more promising...

I downloaded the only manual available from Akai... but it's the S3000XL manual... which seems to have significant differences. the guts are ALL different.... this unit doesn't even have EDO or DIMM chips for Ram... they're some old skool chip type that I've never seen. kaaaraazy

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Post by Albert » Wed Jan 04, 2006 8:17 am

I think the best of the hardware samplers are the Akai S5000 and S6000, and the Emu Ultra series (E4XT, E6400, E5000). The Akai 5/6k series allow a max RAM of 256 megs, which really can load fairly large samples. Also, the 5/6k can be outfitted with USB interfaces and edited from the computer.

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new revolution

Post by alexdingley » Wed Jan 04, 2006 8:49 am

Yeah... the newer samplers do have it, hands down, in the RAM depot.

If I had my druthers, I'd have an akai Z4 or Z8. They can handle 24bit audio and can take up to 512MB of ram on standard dimms. If i had 600-800 bucks for a sampler, I'd buy a used one of them and deck it out with a big HD and lots of Ram. I'd love to convert my 24bit piano samples and some really huge, evolving pad sounds into a sampler that i could use live.

But for now I'll do what I can with my 16bit, 24MB of ram. today I'm gonna find out if the internal SCSI drive thing will work on the S3000. Just have to get the cables.

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Re: Yep.... We'll see

Post by blakbeltjonez » Wed Jan 04, 2006 9:36 am

thedeepcuts wrote:Yeah, I physically got the SCSI HD mounted in an empty bay today. Now I just need to find an appropriate power and internal SCSI cable to connect it. From there, we'll see if it formats. The SCSI card in the S3000 has an internal ribbon... and there's a spare power outlet on the powersupply board... so I can't see why it wouldn't work. I just hope i can remember how to setup the jumpers to have the proper SCSI id. And I don't remember if I have to do anything special to terminate the internal SCSI chain.

I have DSP-Quattro 2. I made friends with the development team and scored it for free... very nice italian guys. I actually gave them some feedback on how to improve it and it looks like they took my advice on a couple points... because there's an update that fixes some of the things I mentioned. That aside... DSP Quattro 2 has scsi support, but I've never done that before... so I don't know what amount of flexibility and control it's going to offer me.

Are editing programs with SCSI support really just used for editing/truncating/loop point defining..? and then you dump them back to the sampler and do the mapping in there? If so... I'm still gonna find it clunky. I'm gonna pull some strings with Chicken Systems and get a copy of Translator pro. That should let me take all my non-compacted Reason NN-XT sample programs and bump them over to an AKAI format on CDrom. Then I'll be able to load them into the S3k and (hopefully) save the patches to the internal SCSi drive. it's looking more and more promising...

I downloaded the only manual available from Akai... but it's the S3000XL manual... which seems to have significant differences. the guts are ALL different.... this unit doesn't even have EDO or DIMM chips for Ram... they're some old skool chip type that I've never seen. kaaaraazy


audio editing programs such as Peak, DSP, etc are just for single sample editing, they can't alter the program/keymap/etc and that's the major downside compared to software samplers that make all that stuff so neat and tidy. i've never used Translator but it should work - if you had to convert a library from scratch that would be a major ball ache on the Akai, Translator is one app for doing that kind of inter-platform program/patch conversion, there was also another popular one whose name escapes me at the moment. there might be some MIDI librarian/editor app that supports the S3000 as well since it was so popular at one point.

you shouldn't have to do anything to terminate the drive if i remember right since the 3000 is the last stop in the SCSI termination chain.

the s-3000 RAM chips are probably 32 pin SIMM's - remember we are talking about hardware from 10+ years ago, and RAM formats have changed several times over that period. should be able to find something on Ebay, it's the type of RAM that was in the old 020/030/040 Macs (think the 3000 takes 70ns or better as far as RAM speed)

DSP-Quattro really looks like a great app, it has certainly tempted me to leave Peak.... dropping SCSI support was kind of the last straw for me, the other issue is that Peak has seemed a lot more sluggish ever since it was released for OSX... it gets somewhat better each release but it's still just not as snappy as the OS9 version.

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Yeah...

Post by alexdingley » Wed Jan 04, 2006 10:04 am

DSP-Quattro really kicks ass actually. I just 'munged' a bunch of synth sounds. That's the knickname we gave the process of chopping up samples and truncating the ends.

With DQ2, I took a huge track of synth sounds from my old Korg Oasys (which I dumped At 24bit 44.1 a couple years ago); I batched them down to 16bit and then split them very quickly into individual samples, cutting them from full length down to just enough length to grab a loop section. Then I used the loop utility to setup loop points in each individual sample file, and I'm just about to put them into Reason NN-XT format... which is the easiest format to use for translator.

I'm waiting on my copy of TL8R to arrive now. Supposedly it can burn Akai CDroms.. so I'm gonna do this one sound as a test asap.

Alex

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