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Re: Samplers 101

At 20:40 +0200 4/27/98, Woehni wrote:
> Could you explain to me the basics of a sampler??  Like: how it works ,
>what can be done with it , how they are used in homestudio setups , what I
>can do with a sampler and a computer , names and brands of good samplers
>and wha I should expect to pay on the used market.............and so

Yup, a sampler is a little digital audio recorder/player.  Generally a
sampler can:

- record audio from an analog or digital in, transfer samples over SCSI or
MIDI to a computer, save/load the sounds on a SCSI drive (or CD-ROM).

- given a raw recording (sample), specify where to start playing, where to
stop, where to begin and end looping (if at all, forward/backwards/both).

- truncate (like cropping in a graphics program, getting rid of the
portions of the sample that you're not using), normalize (make the signal
as loud as it can be without clipping), compress, equalize, mix audio, etc
etc etc.

- combine multiple samples by layering them or spreading them across the
keyboard, dealing with how their pitches relate to the keys struck

- VCF, VCA, LFO and performance control over them, just like a synth

- assigning patches to MIDI channels, transposing, volume, panning

I think of a sampler as a way to grab some sound, loop it if I like and
mess with the pitch, amplitude, and timbre (as much as one can with a VCF)
dynamically.  Samplers are great for drum sounds, capturing loops, and just
about anything you'd want to use a MIDI-controlled sound generator for.
However, I don't particularly use my S-760 as a synth; I have other devices
with better filters and more control.

Notes on various models:

The EPS-16 has what I consider perhaps the best user interface ever
designed when it comes to using keyboards in live performance.  You can
have 8 instruments which are mapped to either internal sounds or MIDI
transmit channels, specify a key range for each one, toggle them on and
off, and create presets with combinations of enabled instruments and
keyboard splits/transposing.  It's also pretty easy to find used ones at
decent prices.  The sound quality isn't quite what you'd get in a new
device however.

The S-760's ability to hook up an external mouse and monitor are wonderful
(you need to buy the expansion board to do this, but it also gives you
extra ins/outs).  The con of the S-760 is that it's not one of the more
popular ones (Emu and Akai?), so if you'll be buying your sounds, you'll
find less of a selection.  But if you're making your own sounds, give it a

A friend loves his Kurzweil K2000 (now there's the 2500) because it's also
a fantastically flexible synth.  I almost went that route, but the 2000's
limited polyphony (perhaps addressed in the 2500?) turned me off, plus
there was something a little lifeless about some of the factory sounds.

I know people with Akais and Emus who seem to like them.  The Emu fans seem
to like the filters in particular.

There are now samplers that run on your computer.  On the Mac there's VSamp
(see http://www.kagi.com/smaug/vsamp/ ) and I imagine there's something
similar for Windows.  It's been awhile since I checked it out.  You're
subject to the computer's often less-than-stellar sound hardware, but it
might be a fun and easy way to get an idea for what the technology can and
can't do.

Feel free to ask more!  That's all I have time to type right now.


 Doug Wyatt                             doug@sonosphere.com
 Sonosphere (electric/improv music)     http://www.sonosphere.com/
 "Accidental Beauties" CD release:      http://www.sonosphere.com/wyatt/