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Topic Summary

Posted by: chrisNova777
« on: March 03, 2019, 07:23:31 AM »

Posted by: chrisNova777
« on: January 30, 2019, 04:41:26 PM »


The Akai S612 Digital Sampler is one of the most recent additions to the ever-increasing range of rack mounting, MIDI-controlled units aimed specifically at keyboard players. Standing 2 units high it will, by means of microphone or line input, sample any sound you care to feed into it. All the user has to do is set the record level so that it doesn't peak above 43 on the meter, press the Record Mode button, and make the sound - the Akai does the rest. Once sampled by the machine, your sound can be played at any pitch, either monophonically or in 6-note polyphony, by means of a MIDI keyboard (any make will do). If this keyboard is touch sensitive, the sample can be played with dynamics - and of course pitch bend and modulation can also be transmitted to the Akai.

To illustrate the versatility of this new sampler, I'll give you an example of its use. Recently, while recording with a band called Bach to Bolivia, we sampled a Fender Strat and then, using the overdub facility on the Akai, added to the original sample another note, one octave higher. This new layered sample was then transposed down one octave, using the Transpose function, and we ended up with a sound like a rather twangy bass. Using a Yamaha KX5 remote keyboard, I was then able (through the wonders of MIDI) to play a Duane Eddy (don't actually remember him; just heard the records) (oh, yeah? - Ed.) type bass solo, using the pitch bend ribbon and modulation control on the KX5 to produce the effect of those bendy bass strings!

The actual sampling took about ten minutes, and this was spent getting the right sort of sound for the Akai to sample. Because it was so quick to use, more studio time was available for the actual playing, which is just as it should be! (It also had the guitarist looking over his shoulder...)

According to the maker's specifications, the S612 is a 12-bit sampler with a maximum sampling time of 8 secs. At 1 sec. the sampling rate is 32kHz, dropping to 4kHz at 8 secs. What this means in practice is that most sounds need to be sampled within the 2 second range in order to retain enough top - even a bass drum needs highs to cut through. This is explained quite thoroughly in the handbook, which, incidentally, is one of the best I've seen for any keyboard or effects unit, and in any case the length of sample isn't critical once the Akai's easy to use looping and editing facilities are brought into play.

Once the sampling rate has been chosen by pressing an appropriately high or low note on whatever MIDI keyboard you're using, and the sample has been recorded, the start and end points can now be quickly trimmed to requirement using the two horizontal faders. When these faders are reversed, the sound is also reversed - it all adds up to very easy manipulation of samples. In the 'One Shot' mode, the sample is played through once, as long as a key is held down for the full duration. To produce infinitely sustained sounds it's necessary, as on all samplers, to loop the sound, and this can be done in a number of ways.

When the looping button is pressed, the Akai's computer scans the sample for the most appropriate splicing point and automatically provides the best loop. Similarly, in the Alternating mode it selects a loop point but then plays the loop forwards-backwards-forwards-backwards etc. This can be much more effective in producing the continuous sound of strings, for example, but don't expect miracles with looping - as with all samplers, the sound has to be perfectly even over a reasonable length of time (perhaps 1 sec.) before successful seamless loops can be built.

For effects/special loops, the Manual Splice facility allows the user to select the loop point, thus overriding the internal computer. Again, loops can be constructed as described above, enabling the setting of rhythmically repeated words, snippets of music or any other non-linear sounds, and in certain cases this mode is preferable to the automatic looping. However, with continuous sounds the computer almost always finds a better loop point than the human!

Once a sound is sampled and looped, there are a number of other parameters which can be altered from the S612. Using the LFO section, vibrato can be added in varying depths and speeds, and its entry can be delayed. Filtering can also be applied and the key-off decay of the note can be adjusted. Transposition is easily achieved from the MIDI keyboard - press 'Key Transpose' on the Akai and then press the appropriate note. Finally, tuning can be adjusted either before or after sampling over a range of one semitone.

Having achieved the ultimate sample, it can now be stored on a 2.8" disc using the optional (but almost essential!) Akai MD280 disc drive. This will set you back another £280 on top of the £900 you spent on the sampler, but in the absence of cassette dumping it's the only way to store sounds. All the looping and editing settings are remembered on disc, so that the sample comes back next time exactly as you left it. Akai supply the blank discs at £29.90 for ten, and also provide, as another optional extra, a very good range of 6 factory samples. Two of them cost £59.90 each, the other four are £49.90 apiece, and the user can select from a very comprehensive range, but if possible try to listen to a few first - some of them (for example, a choir singing the word 'Bon!') are fabulous, but virtually useless!

There's only one feature of the Akai S612 that I have any complaints about - unfortunately, it's only controllable from a keyboard, and no provision is made to trigger the sample from external sources. I'm thinking particularly about replacing/triggering individual drum sounds - a facility which would make the machine even more versatile, and invaluable as part of any studio's outboard gear! Apart from that, however, I have nothing but praise for this unit, and strongly recommend that, if you're looking for a high quality sampling system that is very quick and easy to use, then the Akai S612 MIDI Digital Sampler could be the one for you.

Posted by: chrisNova777
« on: January 20, 2019, 07:04:56 AM »

Posted by: chrisNova777
« on: January 18, 2019, 08:17:59 AM »

akai s612 sampler

The S612 captures sound.

Akai don't look as if they are a company who do things in halves. Only 8 months ago they launched their first line of equipment in the pro-musician market - namely a 12-track recorder/mixer using video tape as its recording medium, and a 8 note polyphonic, programmable, touch-sensitive keyboard. At this year's Frankfurt Music Messe, they unveiled eight additions to their new range - a MIDI polysynth, a mother keyboard,.a Music Computer system, Sound Module, MIDI Arpeggiator, Delay and Fader (all of which work via MIDI control of the MIDI'd instrument's sound generator), and the S612 MIDI sampler.

The S612 is housed in a 2U 19" rackmounting unit. First impressions are of a very smartly styled, organised and clearly labelled facia, which has a colour scheme extremely reminiscent of Yamahas more recent lines - lots of green, mauve, red and blue. A quick peek around the back however gives this away as being the pre-production unit that it is by the absence of any labelling for the three connections, in addition to having two anonymous push-buttons and a single red LED.

As most people must know by now, sampling is the name given to the short-term digital recording of sound, which can then be replayed in real time, either by external triggering as on the DMX15 80S, or from a keyboard as on the Fairlight.


Where Akai's S612 fits in, is somewhere between the two, in that its physical appearance/construction is not dissimilar to AMS's DDL, whilst its samples can be stored onto floppy disk and are played by a MIDI keyboard or other MIDI source. The floppy disk storage of samples is optional but the MIDI instrument of control of the samples is essential. In this respect the fundamental system that we are talking about is the Akai S612 with a MIDI keyboard, which is in my case a DX7 synthesiser.

The facilities that the S612 offers are sampling from 2 to 8 seconds, editing, looping. LFO modulation and filtering of the sample and as I previously mentioned, the ability to Save/Load this data onto the 'Quick Disk' disk drive for immediate storage and retrieval of the sample.


Looking at the front panel, on the left is the power On/Off switch, two input jacks (mic and line), input level and monitor level knobs. Input level is indicated by a 7 stage LED record level meter with indicators in green up to 0dB, and then three reds for 0, +3 and +5dB. One other input socket 'Ext Trigger', is not for the external triggering of samples but for manually controlling the start of sampling.

The touch-pads in the center of this unit's facia are colour-coded, the two red buttons on the left are for recording of samples, mauve buttons for MIDI channel and Mono/poly switching, brown for data transfer to disk, and blue for sustain mode (looping etc). Coming back to the two record mode buttons, these are labelled 'new' and 'overdub', and are self-explanatory in that when you hit the 'New' button, on hearing a signal the S612 will load a new sample, erasing the memory's previous contents. However, by hitting the 'Overdub' button, you will retain the previous sample, while being able to load a new sample 'on top' of it. This feature is quite useful for building up unusual effects, however I found its best use was in simulating multi-samples over the keyboard. For example, a single sample of a piano will sound realistic within the octave of the sampled note, yet when you play a couple octaves away, it will begin to sound like a banjo, or low 'mess' as the case may be. So by sampling two or three notes over the keyboard, although not cutting out the sound of samples out of their range, the effect still dramatically improves the scaling of the voices. You could of course overdub many more than two or three times, however you would degrade the sound quality much in the same way as 'bouncing' on a conventional tape machine.

The S612's sampling time is determined by the note played on a MIDI instrument prior to sampling, and this can be from 2 seconds to 8 seconds. The sample 'root note' and sample length are determined prior to actually recording it. Play C below middle C, and you've not only set it as the center point of the sample's range, but selected its sample time — the lower the note, the longer the sample, the higher the note, the shorter it gets (with corresponding effects on bandwidth and hence, sound quality.) Optimum quality being achieved at the minimum sampling time. This roughly reached a 15KHz bandwidth for the shortest sample time, and fell when sampling time increased to this unit's maximum sampling time of 8 seconds, to a point where treble could be termed non-existent.

The mauve buttons come under the heading of 'MIDI', and are for Mono/Poly, Channel Up and Channel Down switching. The S612 will receive MIDI information (key on/off, pitch and velocity sensing) on 9 MIDI channels as well as an Omni mode for reception from any MIDI channel (display reading 'O' in this case).

Beneath the MIDI switching are three brown touch-pads for data transfer to-and-from disk. When the S612 is used in conjunction with the 'Quick Disk', the whole system becomes more versatile. It can be used to store libraries of, alternative snares, different bass guitars, or simply many different samples and effects for live use (all looping, etc. being stored with the samples of course)

In fact to the get the most out of this unit I would recommend that it be used with the disk drive as the looping and editing of samples can be a fiddly business, as I'll now explain.

Close up of main control panel


To the right of the record level indicator are two horizontal sliders, beneath which are three blue touch-pads marked 'One Shot', 'Looping', and 'Alternative'. These are the controls with which samples are 'tidied-up'. In the straightforward 'One Shot' mode, a sample will be replayed once, and the two sliders will control its start and end points. This is how you can sample a sound off a drum track, and then 'edit' it so as to just play the snare, for example.

In the 'Looping' mode these sliders are assigned to the start and end of the loop. In order to hear how shifting the sliders affects the looping, there is a black button on the back of the S612 which repeats the sample every time a slider is moved - a very useful function, but still it is next to impossible to produce a loop without a slight click on this unit. One other looping mode is available, called 'Alternative'. Here certain unconventional looping effects can be achieved, such as the first loop being a segment of the original sample, yet played backwards.

Further to the right are an LFO and output stage. The LFO controls consist of rate and depth as well as a delay control for determining the amount of time before the LFO affects the sample. The LFO is very useful in 'covering up' clicks in loops, and de-humanises sampled vocals adequately. In the output section is a tone control and a decay control which will affect the release time of the sample. Then all that is left is the output level control, a tuning control and single output socket to conclude the front panel bits and pieces.


On the S612's back panel are the MIDI connections, and a socket for the disk drive (presumably, as there are no labels on the back panel of this model - even for which is the MIDI In or Thru...).

There is a little red (again un-labelled) button above which is a red LED which flashes when the button is pushed to enable transposition of the samples over the keyboard. You press the button, the LED will flash, and the note you play on the keyboard will correspond to the original pitch of the sample.

It is unfortunate that Akai have not put any additional inputs and outputs on the rear panel for studio linkage (as it is rack-mounting) to a patch-bay, but the red and black buttons have been shifted to the front panel on production models.


The S612 was one of the big surprises at Frankfurt, and is certainly something for Akai to be very proud of. It is a very useable piece of equipment, with all the essential features which are necessary on a sampler of this calibre. The way in which one loops and edits samples is very simple and easy to deal with, making the S612 a convenient, simple and rewarding instrument to use.
Posted by: chrisNova777
« on: January 07, 2019, 11:08:13 PM »

Posted by: chrisNova777
« on: June 20, 2017, 12:02:09 AM »

At present there are three sub one thousand pound samplers on the market that allow MIDI control, notably the Akai S612, Powertran MCS-1 and Korg SDD-2000, all of which are rack-mounting, though none include a keyboard. Of the three units, the Akai is perhaps the most complete in that it offers MIDI control of the sound plus quick and convenient storage of samples via the optional MD280 disk drive.

So, if money limits your choice then you're going to have to opt for one of the three systems mentioned, as samplers with an integral keyboard retail at over £1500. However, money isn't necessarily the determining factor and you may be equally attracted by the idea of not having another physical keyboard around and look towards the neatness of a rack-mounting unit for the space saving it offers.


As a musician or studio owner who's considering buying a sampler or has, in fact, bought this particular unit your main concern is obviously towards the real creative possibilities of using such a device. Paul Hardcastle and 'N-N-N Nineteen' aside, the potential of a sound sampler is, like they used to say about synthesizers, literally endless! But, of course, we all hear the same sounds time after time. The sheep syndrome is still alive and well in sampler land, but unlike the cliche vocoder and syndrum sounds of the 1970s, the sampler should pass through this stage unscathed. Its pedigree is far too impressive and many, if not all, of the major equipment manufacturers are taking the idea seriously and will all probably have a sampler of some description on the market by 1986. Yes folks, sampling is here to stay. So, let's have a look at what the Akai S612 system can do.


Having plugged the sampler and disk drive system together, nothing will happen unless you connect some sort of MIDI controlling device to the S612. So, we came up with the highly original idea of using the Akai AX80 keyboard and one of those five pin DIN MIDI cables with which I'm sure you're all familiar. Connecting the keyboard to the sampler via the MIDI In and Out sockets seemed to follow all the usual rules except in this particular instance it's a one-way conversation ie. the keyboard is controlling the pitch of the sampler so in actual fact the MIDI Out on the S612 is not used.

With everything connected up MIDI-wise, you obviously need to patch the audio outputs of both the keyboard and sampler into a mixer ready for monitoring and recording the sound. On power-up, the S612 shows its MIDI channel selector reading O, this means it's in Omni mode rather than what you may think is MIDI channel 0 which doesn't exist, of course, though you might be a little confused at first (remember: MIDI channels are numbered 1 to 16). The point of putting the unit into Omni mode is to save having to worry about setting the right MIDI channels on the controlling keyboard, sequencers or whatever. If a particular MIDI channel is required you can easily set it up later by using the MIDI channel up/down buttons under the LED readout. One point though, the S612 can only receive control data on MIDI channels 1 to 9 so it's worth bearing that in mind when using a powerful multitrack MIDI sequencer.

Sampling on the S612 is fairly self-explanatory and doesn't take a lot of time to understand. But, before delving into some of the more interesting and detailed aspects of the sampler, it's worth spending sometimejust running through how to record a straightforward sample.


First set all the LFO controls to zero, Filter to high, Decay to ten and Output level to whatever suits the mixer input. Set the two slide controls which are used for editing the sound so that the Start slider is fully to the left and the End slider fully right. In other words, you are hearing the whole sample rather than a spliced section of it (if you imagine the sliders as representing a variable length of audiotape it'll help you to visualise what's going on). Finally, press the button marked 'One Shot'. You're now almost ready to sample a sound but you will have to decide whether this is to be via a line input or the microphone input; we'll opt for the microphone in our example.

When the S612 is powered up the sample time defaults to two seconds duration, and if a MIDI keyboard is connected (which it is in our case), the two seconds sample time corresponds to middle C on the keyboard - MIDI key number 60. More of that later. Having plugged a microphone into the mic input on the front panel of the S612, set the Rec level so that the record level meter just flashes past the +3 range. Now you're ready to record a sample.

Press the Rec Mode New button and say something imaginative like HELLO. The audio level of your speech will automatically trigger the record mode of the sampler and make a recording. You can now hear the sampled HELLO by pressing middle C on the keyboard - it's as simple as that!

The word HELLO isn't two seconds long, however, so we've wasted some of the sample time. This breaks one of the golden rules of sampling, but more of that later too as it's related to middle C on the keyboard. Obviously something intriguing is going on there...

However, for our purposes we have sampled the word HELLO into a two second time slot. Once a sound has been sampled it can be edited, which is achieved by simply moving the two sliders that affect the splicing of both the sample Start and End points. You could trim the sample to play back only the beginning of the sound and get the 'HE' part of the word, or move to the middle and listen to the 'LL' bit or the end section and hear just the 'O'. By moving the sliders and listening, you can edit the sample down and create some very interesting results - even reverse the sound by moving the sliders to their opposite extremes. The most useful option, however, is the looping facility.


The above method of capturing a sound utilises the Akai's 'One Shot' technique which is great for sound effects and staccato playing but not quite so good for real musical exploration of samples. The looping feature, as it's known, is provided on the Akai and very simple to use it is too. The sampling method is exactly the same as before but this time you press the Looping button instead of One Shot, set your recording level, press the New button and sample a sound. It's at this point that a little experimentation tells you a lot about how to sample sounds that make good loops.

If you have a two second sample slot and you sample the sound of a chord being struck on an electric guitar, what you will hear on replay won't be a satisfactory sound as it will start with a good healthy whack on the guitar and then die away over the two seconds only to suddenly jerk back up to full volume again for another trip around the loop. Clearly, this is not what we want. A long sustained guitar chord that remains at a fairly constant level is the order of the day. To achieve such a good loop you need to use the footswitch control function on the front panel.

Plug a footswitch unit in and then prepare to sample the guitar sound. Having pressed the Record New button, a sample will not be made until you press the footswitch. The best sample will result by letting the guitar chord just start; then hit the switch. This misses the attack off the beginning of the sample, and if the chord can be sustained long enough until the sample time is over you can miss off the end of the guitar sound where the level dies away. Doing so, results in only the central section of the guitar sound being sampled.