Top 5 Greatest Samplers - Episode 5

Akai 'nda Thought It Would Be Number One!      25/11/07

No flash plug


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18:50 mins

So here we are at the end of another SonicTV series with the concluding episode of the Top 5 Greatest Samplers of all time... Ever!
We’re glad to report another success with a gigantic stampede of viewers enjoying each episode over its 10 week run.
It seems like a lot of viewers share our passion for hardware and empathize with the comments made in the interviews as well as enjoying the absurd comic ramblings of Professor Marc Norris (who will now be taking a short break for the Panto season, returning in the New Year with the Top 20 Weirdest Instruments show).

As you’ll know by now, the 'chart' format is not based on scientific fact. It’s used mainly as an excuse to ramble on about synths and samplers and show you loads of footage of lovely gear porn and the techy folk who like to talk about it.

As for the feature called The Art Of Sampling, we’ll be repeating that as a mini series in the new year with new added features and reams and reams of facts and figures about looping and sampling for the hardcore fact fiends.
Also keep a look out for the Top 5 Greatest Samplers ‘Extra Bits’ episode which includes all the interview footage that hit the cutting room floor plus some LOL Prof Norris out takes!
All coming soon to SonicTV.

But right now, here’s the lowdown on the number one greatest samplers of all time…Ever!

1. The Akai 'S' Series

Engineer Masukichi Akai began producing radio components from a shed at his family home in 1929, helped only by members of his immediate family. 55 years later, at a West German Music Festival, "Musik Masse", the name of Akai was to become synonymous with the world of music production with the introduction of the Akai Micro Studio System. The system included a multi-track recorder (MG-1212) and Akai's first analogue synthesiser, the AX80. The AMSS aimed to provide an easily accessible way to perform music recording and mixing which previously was possible only in an actual recording studio.
The success of the AMSS led to the development of the S612 and later in 1986 the S900.
The Akai S900 was an 8-voice, 12-bit sampler module. It featured a maximum of 11.75 seconds of sample time at its highest sampling rate of 40kHz, or even more with sampling rates as low as 7.5kHz. The Memory was set at 750KB. Editing consisted of eight edit pages (Play, Record, Edit sample, Edit program, MIDI, Utility, Disk, and Master) accessible by pressing one of the eight buttons along the bottom of the LED display.
The S900 defined the look, feel, and operating system of Akai samplers to come.
In 1988, Akai released the improved S950.
Still 12-bit sampling and 8-voice polyphony, the S950 is an upgraded S900, increasing the sampling rate to 48kHz and the internal RAM capacity to 2.25MB (unlike the S900 its stock 750KB RAM was upgradeable), and adding such functions as cross-fade looping, and pre-trigger recording. The front panel was identical to the S900. However, the disk drive now takes both HD (half density) and DD (double density) floppy disks. The S950 also adds a time-stretch function, an optional trigger-to-MIDI interface the ME35T, and a 13-pin Voice output plug (the same that is on the S612) for external processing of its voices.
But the best was yet to come.
In that same year, Akai introduced the S1000, the most impressive rack mounted sampler of the decade. On release, the S1000 was one of the most affordable, and therefore, one of the most popular 16-bit 44.1kHz stereo samplers. It features 16-voices, up to 32MB of RAM, and 24-bit internal processing wherein samples can be processed through a set of analogue-like (although digital) modifiers, including a digital filter (18dB/octave), an LFO, and two ADSR envelope generators (one for amplitude and one for the filter). The S1000 also offered up to 8 different loop points. Additional functions included Autolooping, Crossfade Looping, Loop in Release (cycles through the loop as the sounds decay), Loop Until Release (cycles through the loop until the note begins its decay), and Reverse. The operating system is stored on ROM. However, upgrades can be loaded from a disk. Time Stretch function was available on version 1.3 and higher.
The S1000 came standard with a set of XLR and a set of 1/4" inputs on the front panel for sampling with a knob and switch for gain adjustment. On the back panel is a stereo out and 8 assignable outputs, along with effects send (mono) and return (stereo), a footswitch input, and the usual MIDI connectors (IN, OUT, THRU). Available options included expanded memory (up to 32MB with Akai's own memory boards), Atari Hard Disk Interface Board, Digital Audio Interface Board, and SCSI Interface Board.
The S1000 quickly became an industry standard and remained so for many years. Its nearest rack mounted rival was the Roland produced, S550 and its cousin, the S330. A list of artists that used Akais would be as long as a 1980’s MIDI cable. Depeche Mode, Jean Michel Jarre, The Chemical Brothers, Future Sound of London, The Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran and Gary Numan all picked up on the luxury that Akai samplers could offer compared to their closest rivals.
After the success of the S1000 Akai was unstoppable. There followed the S2000, the S3000, the S5000 and the S6000. All offering higher specs than their predecessors. The ‘S’ series had direct lineage to Akai’s MPC range which gained huge respect from music producers and reigned supreme in Hip Hop as a hands on beat makin’, time stretchin’ sample box of a new generation.

Meantime, big love to everyone who gave up their time to take part in this series and to all the people that have contributed with their knowledge and passion for hardware samplers.
That’s it for now. Happy Christmas, thanks for watching and see you all again real soon!

Simon Power
(Producer, Top 5 Greatest Samplers)

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