Old school sampler

What do you think about old school sampler rack, like EMU 6400 series, or Akai S7000, etc…
Still worth in 2019?

1 Like

They can be a fun reminder of the level of effort once required to use sampling. Have you used any of these before? You could be in for a shock if you have not.

I would say that Emu and Kurzweil units are great from a synthesis standpoint and that may be of interest. I enjoy VAST synthesis even without loading samples as part of the patch. Look into SCSI2SD because storage and transfer head aches are not uncommon with SCSI devices at this point.


I sometimes think about this…

this is cheaper and less frustrating I suspect, although obviously you will be a FRAUD for not using the original hardware


there’s also this…


I have a e6400 and a k2000. I got the scsi2sd so I could load sample CD sets to the Emu, but it’s not that fun as the sample sets are usually set up as ‘finished’ sounds with lots of multisampling, so messing with the waves isn’t really that useful. The filters on the Emus sound good, and there is an extensive modulation matrix. It doesn’t time stretch though which you might or might not find to be a problem. The manual is very well written so would recommend having a read. The menus are easy to navigate and the screen good, but the buttons get worn out.

The k2000 (or any other K series) is an amazing synth without loading any of your own sounds, and overall I would say the more interesting purchase in 2019.


I own quite a few of the classics(sp1200, mpc60, mpc3000, etc) and really for me its fun to use them, but also frustrating. I know the old school purists will get annoyed with this statement, but just use decimort or the Tal Sampler plugin (my personal fave) for that old school sound. I think if you are used to modern sampling, old school sampling will eventually just make you frustrated with the slow speed. They are also very cost prohibitive compared to a DT or OT. If you must get an old school sampler, look at the Zoom Sampletrak, its considered the way cheap version of the sp1200 and does sound pretty good for that vintage sound. Usually around $200 on ebay. Or get a Roland MS1, its has a cool feature of letting you use it like a plugin by running audio through it and its uses its converters to get you that sound. They go for around $150 on ebay.
If you want to invest a bit more, look at the Isla Instruments sp2400. Its a perfect clone of the sp1200 with modern OS updates. Its being produced now and ready in December for about $1000.


Thank you for your feedback.
I never used thoses old school sampler, I just own a DT and it’s my first sampler, so I think I will be disapointed with theses old rack units.
I got many synth since 15 years, always resell it, and discover sampling last year with DT and that is what I like: sampling.
But the market don’t offer so much choice in sampler today, I will look into the software and hardware you said.

If you want old skool crunch, hardware and not having to deal with zip disks, go down the sp 202/303/404/555/808 route


I own way too much old samplers, but thats mainly because I started producing music doing mostly sample-based (boombap) hiphop on an mpc 15 years ago, and I’m still kind of a sucker for the sound and workflow of these oldschool samplers. To me there’s a couple of reasons to own and use them in 2019:

-Most oldschool samplers have a sound which is of ‘low’ quality (in bitrate, or because of bad converters) in a very pleasant sounding way. If you’re into 90’s hiphop, using some old samplers will sound very recognisable. They change the sound of samples in a way people might describe as adding “warmth” or “punch”
-The workflow on some of these samplers is slow but very nice. I own some Mpc’s and an ASR-10, all of which feel like real, playable instruments with their own character, and to me are way more inspiring than using a software sampler, even thought that might be 10x as fast. In a way the limitations make you more creative, and it also feels kind of special to use the same equipment some of the classics were made on.

If you want to go the route of using an oldschool sampler next to the DT, I suggest you dont get a rackmount version, but one which can be played in some way (keys or pads), is fairly simple to use, and imparts a lot of character to the sound. You could look into something like an sp303 (great effects, very playable) , or a zoom sampletrak (really boombap-sounding, simple to use). Both work great in combination with a DT as a sequencer. The most important factor in actually making it a usefull addition to your setup is setting it up in a way that makes the bar for using it very low.


I still like my Roland s330. 8 indivual outs. Variable sample rates (all low). Filters that go extreme. LFOs. Envelopes. inbuilt sequencer (if you get the Director-s software). Sample layering with velocity crossfade. Easy key mapping.

You can draw your own waveforms too so it’s also a synth.

It’s these odd little things about ancient gear that can make it worth acquiring

1 Like

The volca sample also has a grit and a punch very reminiscent of the golden age samplers. Use the good ol’ pitch up when importing / pitch back down when in the sampler for lofi grit heaven. Problem is: it’s a sample player, not a sampler… :neutral_face:

I’ve tried to bid on an SP303 several times but to no avail… And that might be a good thing because: 1/ I’m pretty sure you can emulate its sound with careful resampling on an SP404SX. 2/ I should focus on my OT a bit more.

Edit: I might buy a PO33 for some pocket old school grit, tho… It sounds pretty good from what I’ve heard. And I’m pretty sure it can sound even better with everything sampled pitched up.


Ot and 404 are a lovely combo.

The 303 has its own special sauce. 404 is close enough, but its not perfect. Ricky Tinez did a comparison video of the fx on YouTube.

1 Like

Decimort is a good clone of the Lo-fi sound.

I own many classics but would rather work in ableton / maschine / MPC software nowadays. So much faster.

Think about it like this when I turn on a classic sampler these are the things I worry about

  1. Are my levels right of my sample source? If I run it hot then my mixes will suffer later on.
  2. Ok my levels are good but my output level is too low. How much input gain to I use from my recording hardware or analog channel before it goes to crap.
  3. I don’t worry too much about sample time as long as I have about 10 seconds. I just need to put it through for DA conversion then AD conversion.
  4. How much do I want to edit and change this in the sampler versus fixing in the DAW.
  5. Sometimes I sample high frequency instruments like a crash, cymbal, or guitar and realise that the loss of dynamic range on a LoFi sampler has messed up those samples. Using something like Decimort I can fine tune the sound more so the high frequency sounds clearer while balancing a Lo fi sound.
1 Like

Yeah, I think I’ve seen all the videos under the sun comparing the various SP :grin:

With the 202, 303 and OG 404, more than the fx, there’s also the fact that they convert the sound in a compressed format… and the reduced sample rate as well.

There is a 202 for cheap near me. Might buy as well. I’m quite fond of its lofi mode. :heart_eyes:

Even if I have the mighty OT, I sometimes think about the joy of a much simpler setup composed of an SP or two, a Circuit to sequence it, and a armful of cheap synths and noisemakers. Even if I’m not a great fan of the whole lofi hip hop scene, there’s something that seems really liberating about the simpler setups these guys have. Turn it on, sample some shit, make a beat in 5 minutes, boom done!


Yeah, a SP303 sound cool with nice lofi character. What I really want from a sampler, is the possibility to chop a sample and play it from different note, and a new note cancel the last one.
I can’t do it with the DT, because can’t change start point in live, and if I assign the same sample on multiple track, there is no sound cancel.
SP family should do the job.

1 Like

*Boom Bap done

Ftfy :laughing:

1 Like

love my s900. just snatched a dell laptop from a friend that runs XP, there is a program that can xfer samples over usb to the AKAI’s serial port that only works with XP!

i like samplers with polyphony and keygroups!


The Zoom sampletrack look very cool and cheaper than SPs

1 Like

@NUoldNu Haha :laughing:

In all seriousness, golden age boom bap is not that easy to make… the quest for the perfect neckbreaking groove is my lifelong quest.

@blaize Beware, the SPs have no mute group (there’s the “danger mode” workaround where you put one SP in delete mode, where it acts in a mono way, and you record with another device while playing your beat live, but…). What you’re looking for might be an MPC.

That’s well crunchy, that particular sampler.

I actually like the old school workflow. Being forced to use solely numbers to edit has a few benefits, for one it forces you to use your ears, and another it gets REALLY fast once you get used to the workflow and your brain starts making the connections between all those numbers.

So if you can commit to it its rewarding, but also a little masochistic at first.

1 Like