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Author Topic: akai s950 (1989) midi digital sampler  (Read 5531 times)

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Online chrisNova777

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akai s950 (1989) midi digital sampler
« on: October 25, 2016, 08:27:25 AM »

http://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/akai-s950-digital-sampler/16
http://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/akai-s950/1372
http://www.artmix.com/wordpress/?p=433

Quote
Akai introduced the S900 in 1986 with the intention that it should supercede the S612. It did far more than that, finding its way into large and small studios alike. After nearly three years during which various updates have occurred, Akai obviously feel that it is now time to consolidate their position, hence the demise of the S900 and the S700/X7000, and the appearance of the S950.



Quote
After three years as an industry standard, the time has come for the S900 to make way for its successor. Welcome the S950 with time stretching facilities, expandable memory and hard disk interface.





WITHOUT A SHADOW of a doubt, the Akai S900 has left a lasting impression on the music industry, and many people still rate its sonic quality as being the best available from a 12bit sampler. With visual editors to make the machine easier to use available from the likes of Steinberg, Drumware and Digidesign, the S900 has become the standard against which other samplers of a similar nature were measured. Then, lo and behold, exit S900, S700 et al, and voila - enter the Akai S950.

Ringing the Changes


FROM A VISUAL point of view, little has changed on the S950 from the S900. The S950 now sports blue and grey keypad buttons and restyled rotary knobs (the same as on the S1000), and the 3.5" disk drive has undergone some subtle changes in external appearance.

On powering up the S950, you are greeted with a message proclaiming the machine's identity and announcing the availability of 512 Kwords of memory space. The first major improvement over the S900 is that the new sampler's memory is expandable from a standard 512 Kwords (750 Kbytes) up to 536 Kwords (2.25 Mbytes) by removing the bottom panel and plugging in one or two EXMOO6s, which each consist of 6 RAM chips. With this expansion in mind, the maximum number of samples in memory has been increased from 32 to 99 and the keygroups from 64 to 198. The feel of the keypad is lighter and, unless my eyes deceive me, the backlit screen is brighter than the old 900's.

Another positive development is that, whereas the S900's software updates had to be booted off disk, both of these upgrades are included in the 950's ROM and so exist in memory as soon as the sampler is turned on.

The new disk drive is capable of reading from and writing to either double or quad density (HD) disks and is far quieter in use than the S900's. Although a 12-bit machine itself, the S950 will also read 16-bit S1000 disks, presumably ignoring the last 4 bits of information (few people realised that the S900 was able to read samples of between 8 and 16 bits, as long as it received correct instructions). Having tried this out, I can report that S1000 samples sound almost as good as they do on the parent machine.

The sampling rate has now been increased to a maximum of 48kHz in keeping with the domestic R-DAT rate and gives a bandwidth of 19.2kHz. This indicates that the design of the input filters has been improved and it is these which usually ensure that any audio input above half the sampling rate is sharply rolled off to avoid what is termed "aliasing" - the echoing of frequencies in the upper half of the sampling rate into the lower half.

The optional Atari hard disk/CD/DAT interface board (IBI05) permits sampling from CDROM and R-DAT directly. In these cases the recording rates will need to be set at either 32, 44.1 or 48kHz, depending on the source, and as the board has both fibre optic and phono (SPdif) inputs, both of these are offered as options under the recording function. A minor point, but the S950 display really should show 44.1kHz as the CD frequency and not 44kHz as it does.

The S950 allows you to continue using playback while loading in new programs/samples, as long as the required samples for the program playing are still onboard, which is especially useful when memory expansion boards have been fitted, S900 owners will be pleased to learn that the S950 will accept S900 disks. Loading a full S900 disk takes about 40 seconds.

The S900 had the ability to velocity-crossfade samples, which allowed for the mixing together of two sounds with the balance of the mix dependent on the key velocity. This feature can be particularly useful when retreating sounds which vary timbrally with playing velocity. For example, a Fender Rhodes has a distinctly different timbre when played softly than when hammered, and the sound gradually moves between these two extremes in response to playing technique.

This facility tended to be impractical to use on the S900 due to its relatively limited memory size, as sounds treated in this manner require two samples to be taken for loud and soft allocation. Unfortunately, despite the expandable memory available on the S950, velocity crossfading has not been implemented. For some reason the manual still carries the crossfade explanation diagram on page 12, yet states categorically on page 21 that "There is no velocity X fade function in the S950". Worse still, the spec at the back lists "Velocity crossfade" as an edit possibility.


Time Sttrretchingg


AND NOW. LADIES and gentlemen, the moment you've all been waiting for. Time stretching allows the length of sample to be changed without altering its pitch. The original sample length is taken to be 100% and this can be altered proportionately - reasonably enough, 50% will halve the length while 300% will triple it. As far as I can make out, the S950's time stretching uses digital harmonising. There are only two alterable parameters: D-time is the delay factor, while mono/poly affects the character of the stretched sample. If a sample of constant pitch is being used, Auto D will attempt so calculate the best D-time. Although high values of D-time cause echoes and small ones gives a ringmodulator type of effect, uses such as varispeeding a master, transposing a piece of music while leaving one of the original phrases unchanged, or just getting a loop to the right length while leaving the pitch unchanged, can give good results.

Unfortunately, time stretching can cause problems with looped samples if a perfectly looped sample is time stretched, in loses that loop and has to be auto looped again - but all too frequently the S950 isn't able to find new auto loop points.

On the other hand, you can take a sample which has proved difficult to loop, stretch it to 200% and find that the autolooping takes to it like a duck to water. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

From the point of view of sound quality, the affected sample is of a practically identical standard to the original, especially if only small percentage changes have been used.

The numbers freaks among you can delight in the maths involved in keeping a sample's length the same at a key change. If the key change is upwards, multiply 1.0595 by itself for as many semitone as the transposition and then multiply by 100. So for an increase of three semitones (a minor third), this gives 1.0595 X 1.0595 X 1.0595 X 100, which equals 119% to the nearest percent Then transpose this altered sample up three semitones and the result should be a correctly pitched tone of the right length. If the key change is downwards, then follow the same procedure, but divide into 100. So for a decrease of three semitones, the required factor will be 100 (1.0595 X 1.0595 X 1.05951 which gives 84% followed by a transpose downwards of three semitones. The ability to do this is unavailable on any other piece of gear at the price level of the S950.


Notching Disks


TIME TO START a row. The ability of the S950 and S1000 to load both double density and high density disks leads me to an interesting observation. If you've been buying double sided/double density disks for any period of time, you'll probably be aware that disks manufactured by name companies but not bearing a brand name can be bought for around a quid a time. Meanwhile, high density (HD) disks cost at least £2.50 - nearer £5 if purchased individually from a shop.

But there's an alternative. The only visible difference between the two types of disk is an extra cut out opposite the write protection cut-oat. If you make this extra hole in a DSDD disk it will work as a high-density disk. Obviously you ran the risk of losing your data on a disk that isn't up to scratch. The risk is yours (and mine) but I can point out that I know Casio FZ1 owners have been using this trick without trouble for some time now. If you're in doubt, you can always use such disks as a cheap way of backing up your samples. There, I've said it.

Problems


ROLAND'S S550 ADDED a new dimension to the 12-bit sampler by going for 16 voices which are dynamically allocated to eight polyphonic audio outputs. However, on the S950 Akai have retained the eight voices and monophonic audio outs of the S900. While the 950 does have left and right audio outs, these cannot be treated as extra individual oats - instead, voices 1-4 are allocated to the left output and 5-8 to the right output.

In their September press release, Akai announced that "the S950's disk drive can be activated via MIDI for programme selection". Apparently this should have read hard disk drive; a slip of the pen, perhaps, but for a while some retailers (and magazines other than MT) were taking the Akai line - and why shouldn't they? You have been warned.

Akai's press release also spoke of double speed MIDI being employed to increase the speed of sample-dumping via the five-pin DIN - a tedious process at the best of times. This facility may well exist, but, an the time of writing, no-one at Akai appears to know how it is implemented, as they haven't received the SysEx information from Japan.

Another casualty of the upgrade from S900 to S950 is the ASK90 audio-to-drum-trigger interface, which sat comfortably in the rear panel of the S900. This is incompatible with the S950; instead, you have to use Akai's new ME35T trigger-to-MIDI interface (which costs about £250). Now, as far as I can see, the only reason for this is that the rear mounting for the ASK90 is now required for the hard disk interface and I assume that to re-cut the metalwork would have been expensive. Some people complain of a delay when using the ASK90, but after 18 months of studio use, not one drummer has ever complained about mine. Effectively, anyone wishing no replace their S900 with an S950 will have to replace their ASK90 with an ME35T - shame.

One final moan - the S950's manual in basically a re-write of the original S900 manual. The trouble here in that it was never a definitive work and hasn't improved with its adaptation for the S950. It seems to be an opportunity Akai have missed to correct a shortcoming of an earlier machine.

Verdict


FOR THE FIRST-TIME buyer the S950 is as attractive proposition a clean-sounding 12 bit machine with provision for memory expansion up to 2.25Mb, an interface for hard-disk storage of samples, and the ability to draw on the S900's comprehensive sample library (with S900 samples actually sounding better on the 950) as well as the growing library of samples available for the S1000.

Existing S900 owners may lament the passing of velocity-switching on the new sampler, and resent having to trade in their ASK90 for an ME35T, but, on the other hand, the S950 currently represents the cheapest way of getting into time-stretching and all the musical avenues which this feature opens up.

The S950 may not represent as mach of an advance on the S900 as some people might have wished, but it certainly represents as attractive proposition to anyone serious about their sampling.

Prices S950, £1399; EXM006 expansion boards, £249;
IB105 board, £99. All prices include VAT.

« Last Edit: January 07, 2019, 01:39:21 PM by chrisNova777 »

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sending samples via Serial Port / RS232
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2016, 10:55:18 AM »

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Re: akai s950 (1989)
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2017, 03:55:03 PM »
apparently its possible to buy a low cost gotec floppy emulator + flash it with hxc firmware to use in the s950 with a usb jump drive - the following info thanks to Jerome Hankins off s950 facebook group dec 2016:

GoTec floppy emulator flashed with HXC
the GoTec has to be flashed with the HXC firmware to work

Quote
I bought mine off of the U.K. ebay. It was very simple to install. Pull the top case off... remove the power board and the drive in under it. There is 4 screws the holds the drive into the s950... you can access those from the bottom of the unit. When you do this up grade remember to flip the ribbon cable at the drive... if you don't it will give the write protection error. If you need links let me know.
http://hxc2001.free.fr/floppy_drive_emulator/

&feature=youtu.be

replacing floppy drive info:
http://floppy.shugart.free.fr/page.php?page=contacts/pa_en.htm
http://floppy.shugart.free.fr/page.php?page=materiels/index.htm

replacement models:
SAMSUNG SFD321B/ICL
SAMSUNG SFD321B/LE
SAMSUNG SFD321B/LFDWW TA
TEAC FD-235HFA549
YE-DATA YD-702D-6537D
YE-DATA YD-702D-6538D

https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_nkw=%28Alps%2C+Samsung%2C+Teac%2C+Ye-data%29+%28DFP723D14B%2C+DFR723D04A%2C+SFD321B%2FICL%2C+SFD321B%2FLE%2C+SFD321B%2FLFDWW+TA%2C+FD-235HF-A549%2C+YD-702D-6537D%2C+YD-702D-6538D%29&_sacat=0&_sop=15

CHINON FZ-357
CHINON 357-A
« Last Edit: April 10, 2019, 03:21:15 AM by chrisNova777 »

Online chrisNova777

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does STEEM work with Drum Filer + S950?
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2017, 09:44:24 AM »
just wondering if anyone was able to use "drum filer ST" http://www.oldschooldaw.com/forums/index.php?topic=3111.0 on a pc using the STEEM emulator ????? to communicate samples from the computer to the sampler

steem emulator
http://www.atari-forum.com/viewforum.php?f=5

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Re: akai s950 (1989)
« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2017, 08:17:12 PM »
Quote
512kwords=750kb=stock memory, no upgrades installed

1024kwords= 1.5mb=1 memory expansion chip installed

1536kwords= 2.25mb=2 memory expansion chips installed=fully expanded

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Re: akai s950 (1989)
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2017, 07:59:38 PM »

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Re: akai s950 (1989) midi digital sampler
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2019, 06:00:37 AM »

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external floppy emulator allows both floppy + sd card to be used!!!!
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2019, 08:56:09 AM »


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Re: akai s950 (1989) midi digital sampler
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2019, 12:59:41 PM »
http://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/akai-s950/1372

Akai's S950 isn't so much a new model between the S900 and the S1000 but a successor to the S900 itself.

Quote
Akai introduced the S900 in 1986 with the intention that it should supercede the S612. It did far more than that, finding its way into large and small studios alike. After nearly three years during which various updates have occurred, Akai obviously feel that it is now time to consolidate their position, hence the demise of the S900 and the S700/X7000, and the appearance of the S950.

How does it differ from its nearest relative, the S900? A couple of cosmetic changes have taken place on the front panel, namely that the keypad is now blue/grey and the original knobs have been replaced by the S1000 versions. The disk drive is now of the type that can use either standard DS/DD disks or the quad density (marked as 'HD') variety which will hold twice as much information, and are capable of reading the 16-bit S1000 samples by, I presume, only reading the first 12 bits of data. The quality of these tends to be excellent and it is certainly worth borrowing some S1000 disks and converting them onto the S9S0.

While the S900 memory was fixed at 750 Kbytes, the new machine has the same standard memory but can be expanded by unscrewing the bottom panel and fixing in either one or two EXM-006 boards, giving a maximum of 2,250 Kbytes which means that data from three S900 disks can be loaded up simultaneously. To this end, the maximum number of samples has been increased to 99, the keygroups to 198 and, additionally, the sampler can continue to play while loading up new programs/samples so long as the samples for the program being used are already in memory.

Practically all of the version 2.1 software updates have been placed in ROM so that they are in residence as soon as the S950 is powered up and all extra pages pertaining to hard disk are also implemented. The maximum sampling rate has been increased to 48kHz and the existence of the optional IB-105 interface board for hard disk/CD/R-DAT means that samples can be transferred digitally into the S950 from the relevant source. The increased sampling rate gives a maximum bandwidth of 19,200Hz and example sampling times as in the table below:

Quote
The only major function update is time stretching, a simplified version of that intended for the S1000. The idea is to keep the pitch of a sample constant while altering the length and is based on digital harmonising. A sample starts life as 100% and can be stretched up to 999% or shrunk down to 1% (although values of below 30% tend to have dubious musical connotations). The delay factor (D-time) can be user set and defaults to a figure of 1,000 - high values of D-time lead to multiple echoes while small values give a ring modulator type of effect.

A constant pitch sample is called a 'mono' sample and 'Auto-D' can be used to provide a suitable D-time value, while a variable pitch sample is termed 'poly' and a D-time value of between 800 and 1,400 is usually about right. As a new sample is created, the process can take up to 91 seconds to perform dependent on the length of the sample and whether mono or poly is selected. Sound quality of the new sample is pretty well on a par with the original and on small percentage changes the results are very good.

"The only major function update is time stretching, a simplified version of that intended for the S1000."


Velocity cross-faded (X-Faded) samples have disappeared without trace. This is the ability to take two sounds, sampled as 'soft' and 'loud', and to fade one in as the other fades out depending on the playing velocity. This particular facility was of limited value on the S900 as two samples had to be taken of each sound and the fixed memory meant that multi-sampling was severely restricted. As the S950 is memory expandable, the omission of the function is a mystery and, of course, any other techniques which require a x-fade pair have also vanished - velocity x-fade time skew and mix to mention but two. As many S900s are used as super drum machines with the ASK90 drum trigger unit attached, it comes as a surprise to learn that this interface is not compatible with the S950. The space on the rear panel has now been taken up by the hard disk board and should this particular facility still be required, the ME35T will have to be bought which is an eight-input audio trigger to MIDI unit acting in much the same way as the ASK90 (see H&SR review November 1988). A final point worth mentioning here is that you can no longer format a disk and save the memory from page 4 of the disk menu, the disk has to be formatted first.

Is everything in the garden rosy? Akai appear to have decided against being adventurous. While other sampler manufacturers have plumped for larger internal memory and higher polyphony as standard (eg Roland S550), Akai have kept the former the same, but expandable. The latter is still eight notes with individual monophonic outputs. While this may be fine if the S950 is to be used solely for drums, it is less satisfactory if different instruments are to be used from the same program. For instance, with a memory capacity of 99 samples, it is now conceivable to have fully multi-sampled strings, brass and piano co-resident in the same program and yet it is impossible to assign them to polyphonic separate outs in order to run them into individual channels on a mixing desk.

Having added a static voltage controlled filter to the version two software upgrade on the S900, it would have been nice to see resonance and feedback controls added to convert this into a dynamic filter of more useful proportions.

Conclusion


It would have been nice to have seen a 2.25 Megabyte sampler with 16-note polyphony bearing the name 'S950' but the price tag would probably have been nearer to £2,000. This would have kept the status quo regarding second-hand S900s, which have suffered an inevitable resale price collapse, but would then have been a little close for comfort to the S1000 so perhaps Akai got it right. The S950 shared the ease of operation which has been the hallmark of Akai samplers and though still 12-bit, the sound quality really is very good. There are omissions, but then this isn't Akai's top of the range instrument anymore and it's up to the individual user to decide what can and can't be lived without.

I really see the S950 as an up-to-date S900 which has some significant improvements over its predecessor yet the retail price is still realistic.

The S950 costs £1,399 inc VAT.



« Last Edit: January 30, 2019, 01:00:32 PM by chrisNova777 »

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Re: akai s950 (1989) midi digital sampler
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2019, 08:08:52 PM »

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Re: akai s950 (1989) midi digital sampler
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2019, 10:24:29 PM »

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Re: akai s950 (1989) midi digital sampler
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2019, 05:48:06 AM »