Test Drive: The AKAI S1000 Digital Stereo Sampler

Another added feature with the version 2.0 software is "Timestretch." This result of this function is equivalent to slowing down or speeding up a segment of audio and using a pitch transposer to bring it back to its normal pitch. The big difference here is that the S1000 does this by analyzing the audio and filling in the gaps (when stretching the sample) with "copies" of the audio around the gaps. When "shrinking" a sample, the S1000 deletes bits of the sample, making it shorter while maintaining pitch. This is most handy for creating "multi-samples" of a single musical sound. For radio production, it's faster and more practical to use a pitch shifter and vari-speed on a reel to do the shrinking or stretching.

What else do you get? Musician types especially will appreciate the S1000's ability to assign up to four samples to one keygroup, or one key. Each sample can then be assigned its own "velocity zone," and these zones (or ranges) can overlap. The S1000 features 16-voice polyphony. Again, this may be overkill in radio production; however, any of you who use samplers for musical purposes will know the advantage of being able to play 16 voices at the same exact moment. There's the option to hook up hard disks to the unit using an Atari hard disk interface or a SCSI interface. A hard disk is the way to go in production (if you've got the budget); loading samples and programs is much faster, and storage space is increased dramatically. Version 2.0 also now supports hard disks larger than 60 meg, including Sony's optical disk.

Other features include two envelopes in the Sample Edit section, one for the amplitude, the other for a low pass filter. A digital interface is also available for recording samples digitally. It will interest S900 owners to know that the S1000 is compatible with S900 disks in that it will read the samples. Version 2.0 reads samples and programs.

Several little features were included to speed up small tasks. For example, when naming a program or sample, many samplers (like many digital signal processors) have you turn a knob or press a cursor button to skim through the characters of the alphabet. Then you have to hit "enter" or something else to assign that letter or number. Pressing the "NAME" key on the S1000 switches the 28 buttons on the front panel to an alpha-numeric keypad. Entering a name is as fast as typing with one finger. Also, if you're working on one page in one section of the sampler, you can "MARK" that page and go off to an entirely different section of the sampler. When you're through messing around there, you just hit "JUMP" and you're back where you started. There are several other little features that reduce button pushing and save time throughout the unit. On the back panel you'll find a mono effect send with stereo returns. Of course, there are the stereo outputs plus eight assignable outputs for a total of ten available outs. The effect send can be used as an eleventh output if desired. You get a jack for stereo headphones, a foot switch, and your basic MIDI connections. Inputs are on the front panel and you get a choice of balanced XLR's and 1/4 inch jacks.

What does this beauty cost? List price on the S1000 is $6000. The S1000HD (with internal hard disk) is $7000. The S1000PB (playback only) is $3600. The S1000KB (keyboard version) is $6700, and the EXM005 memory expansion boards are $1350 each. For the production person using samplers just for voice work, the S1000 may be more than you need, unless you want a sampler with plenty of creative headroom. If you mess with producing your own music beds, sweetening existing beds, or plan to in the future, check out the S1000. This unit will be around for a long time. AKAI designed the S1000 to be easily updated as new program options become available, and the option to expand memory up to 8 meg helps make the S1000 a sampler to last for years. For more info on the S1000, contact AKAI in Ft. Worth at 817-336-5114.

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