Test Drive: The AKAI S1000 Digital Stereo Sampler

The looping functions of the S1000 are exceptional. In comparison to the S900, which offers only one set of loop points in a sample, the S1000 offers up to eight loops in any single sample. The owner's manual offers a good example of the power of having eight loops: You can record a voice track saying, "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight," and set eight loop points that would result in the following playback: "One, two, two, three, three, three, four, four, four, four, five, five, five, five, five," etc. Now, use your imagination; Use these eight loops with a piece of music. Some VERY interesting long beds can be created using several loops on a simple six or seven second piece of music.

Like all samplers, the S1000 is designed for the musician first; and, as a result, the looping functions very nicely address the needs of the musician. When you push the LOOP function key to go into this part of the sample edit mode, the LCD display changes to show two separate windows, each displaying the amplitude waveform of the sample. On the left is a graphic representation of the entire sample with vertical lines showing where your loop points are set. On the right, you get a split-screen display that shows exactly how the waveform looks at the point where the loop begins. With this display, you can actually see how the amplitude waveforms align themselves at the loop point, and adjustments can be made visually to create a smoother loop. When sampling musical sounds, this feature is extra nice. "Auto-Looping" is also supported to find the best loop points in a sound automatically and much faster than by human trial and error.

Once your samples are recorded, you then write the "program" to span the samples across the keyboard. One nice feature of version 2.0 is the ability to set SPAN points by simply touching the low and high keys of the keyboard that you wish your sample to span across. As you hit the two keys to indicate span points, a small, graphic representation of your keyboard is displayed on the LCD screen, and a line is drawn across the keys selected for that sample. The process is quick, and the graphic display makes it easy to see what is where. Programs can be assigned the same number, and by activating that number, several programs can play at once. Let it suffice to say that the "Program Edit" section of the S1000 is incredibly versatile. The available parameters and features go well beyond the needs of any radio production situation. Imagine what you'd like a program to do, and the AKAI S1000 can probably do it.

Before continuing, a moment must be taken to pat AKAI on the back for the great job done on the owner's manual. It is very "friendly" and guides the user through all the functions of the S1000 in a way that even a novice can understand. The manual even goes beyond explaining the functions of the S1000 and comes off many times like a tutorial on samplers in general. This same approach to "friendliness" is taken with the front panel layout and the software in the unit as well. Eight computer-type "function" keys are laid out to make movement through the various functions of the S1000 simple. The large LCD display allows for a lot of text to be displayed, thereby providing a lot of information on one screen. This makes it easy to see what you're doing and where you're at. The graphic capabilities of the display add to ease of use on several of the "pages" of the software. As complex and powerful as this machine is, a moderately experienced user can get to work with very little reference to the owner's manual.

Now, back to the fun stuff. Another feature added with the new version 2.0 software is "sample merging." This takes two samples (occupying two areas of memory) and re-records them as one sample (basically reducing memory usage by one-half). Samples can also be spliced together with the "JOIN" function. Both merging and "joining" are fairly effortless. By the way, the S1000 processes up to 200 samples and 100 programs, or a combination of up to 400 samples, programs, and keygroups. In radio production, this means there are NO limitations here.

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