The 'Z's (as we are already starting to call 'em here at Sonic HQ) are certainly generating a lot of heat at the Gas Station - check out the thread here Meanwhile, here's the official blurb from the Akai folk;
FORT WORTH, Texas - Akai Professional, the recognized leader in sampling technology, is pleased to introduce their newest leap forward in the art of sampling. Designed for professional audio production at a reasonable cost, the Z-Series samplers offer all of the advantages of dedicated hardware, plus the interface power of ak.Sys. PC/Mac Control and Networking System Software. The Akai Professional Z4 and Z8 are a completely new generation that eclipses the legacy of the legendary S-Series samplers and surpasses the requirements of a new generation of studio and live sampling applications. The heart of the new Z-series is the Akai custom Z-96™ LSI sampling engine coupled with a high-performance IntelÔ CPU. This combination provides ultra-fast audio processing with up to eight realtime controllers and 24bit audio resolution with sample rates up to 96kHz. Many outstanding features grace the newly designed Z-Series of Akai samplers, including: Q-Link™ knobs for realtime modulation control, automated sampling using the new IntelliSampleÔ feature, Quick FX™ for macro sound munching, capacity for 512MB SDRAM, a new 24bit/96kHz 4-channel effects processor, 192 filters/26 resonant filter types/up to 3 simultaneous filters per voice, and dual independent LFOs with internal/external modulation control. Also included are an internal 20GB IDE hard drive (standard), balanced I/O providing full 24bit/96kHz A/D/A conversion, built-in sample rate converter on the digital input to eliminate rate-matching problems, and a USB host/slave connection with ak.Sys Control and Networking System software. The Z4's four Q-Link™ knobs, and the Z8's eight Q-Link™ knobs can be separately assigned to allow flexible realtime modulation of a wide variety of assignable parameters, including amplitude, filter cut-off and resonance, start offset, effect send, sample tune, and more. It is even possible to control an entire program or sound assigned to a single keygroup. The primary difference between the Z4 and Z8 is a removable remote panel, which is also home to its eight-realtime Q-Link™ knobs, to allow convenient control away from the sampler. As would be expected from any Akai sampler, the Z4 and Z8 employ powerful waveform editing features such as "Resample", "Insert Sample", "Delete Section", "Silence Zone", "Reverse Zone", "Pitch Shift", "Fade Up/Down", "Normalize", "Rescale" (user defined normalize), "TimeStretch", "BPM Matching", "Cross-Fade", "Sound Slicing", and many more. IntelliSample™ makes it much easier to create custom sounds by eliminating complete steps in the sound creation process. For example, using IntelliSample™ is a convenient way to continually record from an audio CD, normalize, name, and assign the samples to a program automatically. IntelliSample™ uses an audio trigger to begin the recording process. The recording starts when the input level exceeds the adjustable threshold level, and the recording stops when the level drops below the threshold level, putting the Z4 or Z8 into record-standby to wait for the next sample. The recorded samples are automatically named and assigned to a new program, or any specified program. The Quick FX™ utility allows sounds to be easily resampled and simultaneously processed with the optional internal 24bit/96kHz 4-channel effects processor. A variety of presets are available that describe the final result and further simplify the effects assign and programming process. Presets such as "Dirty", "Swell", "Squash", "Stretch", "Distant", and "Fat” will provide immediate results for most effects applications while retaining the original sample. Both the Z4 and Z8 offer 6-pole digital dynamic filters (3x2-pole filters) that allow realtime control of filter cut-off frequency and resonance from the Q-Link™ knobs, or via MIDI control change messages. The new design not only supports all filter types found in the powerful Akai S5000 and S6000 samplers, but also allows new variations such as the TRIPLE Filter, consisting of three independent 2-pole filter blocks providing up to three simultaneous filters per voice. While the Z4 and Z8 sport a 248x60 graphic LCD, power users will love the comprehensive PC/MAC interface provided by Akai ak.Sys Control and Networking System software. The award winning ak.Sys software provides complete Program editing, Multi editing, and file management. Connection to the computer is made via the on-board USB Host/Slave port. Software control through ak.Sys allows the new Akai Z-Series samplers to provide the advantages of both dedicated hardware and complete software control. The intuitive nature of a computer-based interface makes the Z4 and Z8 easy to manage, and since all DSP processing takes place outside of the computer system, it won’t overtax your computer. The result is a much more stable system with fewer computer related crashes and the ability to run efficiently while simultaneously using other audio applications.