Octatrack external sample player options

Hi there !
Been really enjoying the octatrack lately (bought and sold 3 times !!!). I am listing all the sample players that could meetwith the following requirements, in order to free some tracks :

  • trigger via the 8 remaining midi tracks
  • (optional) with onboard effects
  • multisampling
  • no size limitations (so I won’t pair it with a digitakt, or a as I woul like it to host all my loop library

I’ve narrowed down my choice to the following options :slight_smile:

  • most obvious choice would be an ipad with Koala / audiolayer / etc.with any other synth if I wanted to.
  • deluge is a good contender and ticks all boxes
  • 1010 black box
  • beatsqueezer
  • I’m dreaming of a second octatrack…

Do you have any other ideas ?
Thanks !!!

I do believe that the Octatrack was built and designed to work with: another Octatrack. It’s family.

4 Likes

Yeah keep it in the family man !!!

3 Likes

Akai S5000 with the i/o, RAM and polyphony upgrades and an SD reader. You aren’t going to find anything modern that comes close, especially not at the price and they UI is fantastic. If you can’t find one with the addons I listed or really need the effects board, an s6000 is a better deal than trying to upgrade a stock 5000 (an effects board on its own costs almsot as much as a 5000 but a 6000 is usually only $350 or so vs $250-$300 for a 5000), but if you can find an upgraded 5000 IMO the form factor is nicer (cool removable faceplate on the 6000 notwithstanding) plus no fan noise.

Great sounding converters - no vintage sampler character or anything but really clean and transparent, excellent moduation options, really fast to work with - I’ve never had to even open the manual for mine. There really aren’t any good modern polyphonic samplers until you get up into the high priced, flagship workstation keyboard zone, software has killed the market for them.

There are other late 90s and early 2000s rack samplers that have a lot mroe interesting, exotic features like E-Mu’s Z Plane stuff but you really can’t beat theAkao s5000/6000 for usability an in my opinion.

2 Likes

I’m curious is there a big difference between the S3000 and the two you listen to?

Yeah, the 5000/6000 are a totally different architecture from any earlier Akai sampler. They had a really rough rollout and kind of bombed because of bugs in the early firmware and high price (the s6000 would have been over $4k in 2019 money) but I’ve been using one with the final firmware for a few years and it’s great. No proprietary disc formats or filetypes (everything is windows compatible disk formats with WAV files), audio streaming from disk, live recording to disk from the main outputs and input simultaneously (so in a pinch you can produce a whole track on it, including using outboard effects), 128 voices of polyphony with up to 128 part multitimbrality, 256 megs of sample RAM, 16 direct outs (8 standard on the 5000 but can be upgraded; the 16 is basically a maxed out 5000 with a few hardware extras, but they’re essentially the same machine under the hood). Fully compatible with the open source SCSI to SD adapter that’s available from a bunch of Amiga community shops for decent prices - just pull the floppy drive and mount the SCSI2SD in its place, and jump two points on the IDE pin header to make it think there’s still a floppy drive installed. Can read all proprietary Akai discs and convert them to raw WAV files and s5000 programs, works flawlessly on everything I’ve thrown at it which is more than I can say for any commercial format converter I’ve tried. Two sets of MIDI in/out/thru ports so you get 32 channels of i/o (and it plays standard MIDI files, but I haven’t actually messed with that yet). PS/2 port on the front so you can hook up an old computer keyboard for all of your text entry needs if you want (inside it’s actually a highly custom 386 PC motherboard with proprietary audio, MIDI, disc controller and display hardware, running a proprietary, embedded operating system). Great selection of exotic filter types. The converters are really clean so if you want a character sampler this isn’t it, although they did add downsampling in one of the updates that’s specifically meant to emulate their older machines for people who complained that it was too transparent - by most accounts it doesn’t really nail the sound of the 80s and early 90s classics but it’s still useful for dirtying stuff up. 320x200 LCD display with 16 context-dependent buttons so it’s easy to jump around to different pages and parameters - it’s pretty close to self-documenting for the most part. The data encoder can get a little fidgety on them but it’s actually designed in a way that you can actually disassemble the encoder, clean and lubricate it and reassemble it without even opening the case, which is a nice unintended feature - mine showed up with a jittery encoder and it took 5 minutes to clean it out and make it work flawlessly with nothing except a pair of needle nose pliers, a couple Q tips and some deoxit and lubricant; there’s a good video somewhere on Youtube that shows how to do it and it’s less than two minutes long.

The main thing I’d say is only get an s5000 if it has all of the expansions you expec to need installed already, because they’re rare and expensive to get on their own. Especially the effects board, those are usually around $300 these days and at that point you could just buy an S6000. The effects aren’t supposed to be amazing but they’d be nice to have and I kind of regret not having them (but with 16 outputs you can just use the Octatrack or other outboard effects - you can even sample from the inputs during playback so you can sample with external effects, which isn’t anything special in Octatrack world but was pretty advanced for a sampler in 1998.

It doesn’t do anything exotic (other than some of the weirder filter types) but it’s a bread-and-butter workhorse with a really fast, intuitive workflow, and it doesn’t have the “vintage mojo” yet so the prices have risen but the price/performance is still really good even by modern standards IMO.

Oh, don’t bother looking for the USB addon - it’s the rarest and most expensive upgrade, it’s USB 1.0 so file transfer is impossibly slow, and by all accounts the proprietary control software they released was buggy at the time and is almost impossible to run on a modern operating system; I briefly considered getting one at first but it sounds like a huge waste of money).

The Akai z8 is even more advanced (it was the last generation) but the UI looks like a big step down to me and I’ve never used one so I can’t vouch for it. Could be worth considering, though.

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/akai-s6000-s5000

4 Likes

To add to your list, check out Pipes https://www.pipes.rocks/ - due for release in the next few months. Seems like kontakt in a box with no load time and puredata midi engines pre and proprietary FX post

Though some on your list seem to fulfill your needs already

3 Likes

Nice, that looks cool. We need more full featured, polyphonic hardware samplers, there are a lot of really cool specialized samplers out there these days (everything from the Octatrack to the Microgranny to the Morphagene if we really stretch the definition of “sampler” but there’s really not much out there for traditional polyphonic samplers unless you want to spend a few thousand on a workstation keyboard (workstations are like a parallel universe where everyone stayed OTB and 90s hardware kept evolving uninterrupted, but I really don’t have much hands on experience with that stuff). I get the economic reasons why there’s not much going on with conventional samplers but I hope that changes. There’s no tech reason one of the majors couldn’t put out a modern counterpart to something like an S6000 in a small desktop form factor for like $200 if the market ever emerges.

EDIT: 21 years earlier the s6000 still has twice the sample RAM though, plus streaming from disk. It’s crazy how even though DSP is exponentially more powerful than it was in the late 90s, modern samplers are still behind when it comes to everything else except for displays. Why any modern hardware sampler ships with less than 4gb of RAM is beyond me.

Where the modern stuff really shines is realtime performance features, display, and overall size/form factor. you’re not going to throw a late 90se/early 2000s Akai into a bag and take it to a show, it’s a big, heavy rack unit the size of 2 or 3 toaster ovens. It’s bigger than a lot of modern servers.

But it’s still a great piece of underrated gear and if you’re looking for a sort of middle ground between classic oldschool sampler and something like Kontakt you won’t be disappointed.

On the other hand, if you want a classic, old-school Akai sampler you probably DON’T want an S5000/6000. Based on the homework I did before I settled on the maxed out (other than FX board and USB) s5000 I’d say that, depending on what you’re after, the archetypal oldschool Akais are the s950, s1000 and s3200. If I ever get another sampler it will without a doubt be an s1000 based on the unusual interpolation scheme for pitch shifting and the onboard reverb. The s3000/3200 have a lot more functions and the s900/950 are the seminal Akai 12 bit. I’ve got the s5000 for power and flexibility, and an s612 for incredible lo-fi early sampler tone and because it was free.

So no point buying an akai 3000? for a few. hundreds bucks then? Should wait till I see a 6000?

I recently got a S5000 with maxed out RAM and USB and a 18Gb hard drive (I plan to add a card reader though), and am very happy I got one. The converters are awesome, extremely dynamic. I don’t have the FX board either, but with all the indiviual outputs that isn’t such of a big deal. I agree with everything @Supercolor_T-120 said about these samplers: beautiful technology. Really happy I got one. I’ve the 136MB multisampled/multilayer grand piano loaded permanently with plenty of space left for whatever else I may need. I sequence it with the Pyramid, Euclid percussion patterns through the S5000’s super dynamic converters is really spectacular. There are many beautitful ethnic sample sets around and those converters really do great recordings justice.

BTW, I’m looking for a great upright bass, if someone has one lying around… (the sample set I mean :wink: )

Not necessarily, it depends on what you want. I’ve never actually used an s3000 specifically but I’ve used MPCs of the same era (the MPC2000xl was my main sampler and sequencer for most of a decade) and read up on the 3000 and others a lot before I went with the 5000.

The 3000 and older are going to have a lot more of a SOUND, the 5000/6000 sound really good but in a very trasnparent, hi-fi way - I doubt anyone would hear an s5000 patch on a recording and recognize what hardware made it, unlike say an S950 which is pretty easy to spot if you know what to listen for. The older generations all sound different from each other but they all have quite a bit of character. How much this matters is kind of a matter of taste. The down side is the older ones are a lot more limited (which isn’t to say they aren’t powerful, especially the later ones like the 3000/3200, but they have a lot less storage and everything is proprietary disk formats and file types). The s5000 is over 20 years old but will still probably feel a lot more modern to you than the models from just a couple years earlier. To be honest, it still feels kind of futuristic to me in a weird way, maybe because it represents one of the last big steps forward in that kind of hardware. Sitting in front of one feels like being a combination of a 90s cyberpunk hacker and a spaceship pilot. The interface is lkind of ike the old Irix version of Softimage 3d realized in hardware.

I’m more looking for a HIFI sampler… as I have a MPC1000 and 2500 already. I’ll keep my eyes open for a decent s6000 then… I see a bunch of S5000xl’s on reverb for about 400 bucks (canadian)… should I just wait for S6000 to pop up?

There’s a S5000 on reverb I’m watching now for 600 Canadian. I’m so close to buying it but I’ll wait and do a bit more research.

I’ve did some research… it seems the USB add on is not going to work with win10? Without running a virtual win box of older version of windows or get a an older pc with with win xp… if these two options are not available, how would I save and load samples? Could I replace the floppy drive with some type of card or compact flash reader? Everyone seems to say make sure you get the usb extension, but if it doesn’t work on 64 bit systems, what is the point?

Thanks

No it won’t. You can run it in a Virtual Machine, or indeed dig up an old 32bit XP laptop (that’s what I did). The S5000 is not class compliant (that wasn’t even spec’d in those days) so it needs a driver and those drivers are 32 bit. I bet we can mod the drivers to run on later 32bit OS’s (I’ve done this sort of mods before but to get my old Edirol UM1 and UM3-EX to work on Win10 64bit which are not supported, the method should work for 32bit drivers as well). Otherwise to load samples you’d indeed need Floppies, SCSI, or the SCSI2SD card mod.

What about some of the products on samplerzone.com?

also will it work on xp pro? i heard the usb port on s5k is finicky is that true? anyway i scored an xp laptop…

also could u use the OT or betstep pro to sequence them?

Everything I read made me think the USB as overrated even at thetime but it could have been conventient for file transfer before the SCSI2SD was around. I don’t know, I’ve never had the USB board and don’t feel like I’m missing anything I need.

The SCSI2SD is easy to install and it’s worth doing because you can record to it or stream audio from it, so its not just for storage/transfer it also opens up more possibilities for long sample times.

I wouldn’t worry about finding a USB card personally but unless the price has gone up a lot in the last two years, that seems like a high price - I got mine in the spring of 2018 and it was a bit under $350 on eBay (I think it was around $275 but the shipping was kind of pricey) with the polyphony expansion, output expansion and maximum RAM, and is in basically like new condition (I had to clean the encoder because it was a little jittery, but it looks like new inside and out). For $600 CAD it should have all of the standard addons including the effects board, and maybe even the USB board, IMO. Again, unless the prices blew up since 2018.

I’ve tried using the SamplerZone stuff to convert a bunch of S3000 CD-Roms to s5000 and it had trouble with all of them, but converting directly on the MPC5000 is as flawless as a translation can get given the completely different structure - and none of the random bad sector errors (even from mounted ISOs) that the SamplerZone stuff gave me. I tried Extreme Sample Converter too, similar problems (IIRC it didn’t give me bad sectors but there would be missing audio files, and they would be different files every time I tried). Maybe it was just my setup, but I wouldn’t recommend spending money on that stuff unless you can’t convert them any other way.

That said, I honestly can’t remember how I got the s5000 to convert s3000 ISOs without having a SCSI CD-rom drive or anything, but I did it somehow because they’re all on the SD card now.

EDIT: checking the sold s5000s on eBay for the last month it looks like the prices are all over the lace right now, they’ve gone for everything from $150-$500 in the past couple weeks, when I was shopping for mine I did’t see much evidence of them going below $250 or above $400, and $400 was on the high side.

If the size and fan noise aren’t an issue you might want to look for an s6000, since it’s guaranteed to have all the addons (except USB) installed, unless someone pulled them out and sold them separately.

Can you just use your PC to copy the ISO directly to a partition on the SD card, then on the Akai copy individual files from that partition to another partition on the SD card? (Where the Akai sees each partition as a different SCSI drive).

I haven’t installed my scsi2sd card in my cd3000xl yet, but I think that’s how it’s supposed to work.

1 Like

Umm…it’s a bit “homebuilt”, but i have a Tsunami WAV board that i use with static samples when i need lots available. No onboard FX, but if youre creative with outputs, you have 4 stereo outputs and 4096 directly addressable samples from a micro SD card.

1 Like

SCSI is not SEXY at all.

I’d be more interested in those. I have a pretty limited MPC500, but I think I’ll keed it.