Home > beat making, varie > Getting the Most out of the Akai S900

Getting the Most out of the Akai S900

July 15th, 2009
fonte: http://www.textfiles.com/music/samplers.txt 
(The following article is reprinted with permission of the 
publishers from the December 1986 issue of Electronic Musician 
magazine. For more information on Electronic Musician, or for on-
line subscriptions, check out the "magazines" area of PAN's Synth 
& MIDI section.) 
Getting the Most out of the Akai S900
The arrival of affordable samplers has opened up previously 
unavailable sound textures to musicians, and Akai's recent 
offering--the S900 Professional MIDI Digital Sampler--is a cost-
effective rack-mount expander module (retail $2999.95) for the 
musician who wants to jump on the sampling bandwagon without 
blowing the budget.
The S900 is a beautifully designed machine; its level of 
sophistication demands spending a little time in study and 
experimentation in order to get the most out of your investment. 
Good habits, in the form of proper computer and recording 
procedures, will make it easier to develop a library of samples 
that are as personal as your own fingerprints.
This article assumes you already own an S900 and have started to 
understand its possibilities via the operations guide disk and 
practical examples in the manual. However, those who don't own 
S900s can nonetheless apply some of these tips to any sampler. If 
you are already familiar with personal computers in general, so 
much the better; to a certain extent, all computers are similar 
in concept and design. The S900 is simply a *dedicated computer* 
designed to perform the task of digital manipulation of sound 
(and related tasking). Like all computers, the S900 has an 
*operating system* that ties together all the system elements, 
and understanding how this operating system works will give you 
maximum control of the instrument.
After power-up, the S900 dutifully identifies itself and gives 
the version number of the operating system ROMs (read only 
memory) installed within. When this article was written, 1.2 was 
the current version; there's a revised manual to go along with 
this version.
If you do not have version 1.2 software, then by all means obtain 
it from your dealer. The earlier version, 1.0, is missing some 
vital features (such as being able to turn MIDI program changes 
on or off). Version 1.2 also displays the audio bandwidth of 
existing samples in memory, something you had no way of knowing 
before; and when switching from program to program, version 1.2 
can sustain one program while switching to another (up to the 
limits of the 8 voices). After having to put up with the "klunk" 
that many synthesizers make when you change patches, it is 
wonderful to hear one program gently fade into (or sustain under) 
the next without "glitches."
By far the biggest new feature is the S900's newly acquired 
ability to be played from drum machines. The note duration of 
most, if not all, drum machines is much too short to allow the 
attack, sustain, decay, release (ADSR) curve of the S900's 
envelopes to "kick in." The new One Shot Mode, on page 14 of the 
edit program section, insures that the sampler will respond to a 
trigger of *any* duration by playing the entire length of the 
sample (including ADSR, filter, warp, and so on). Thus, the S900 
can now be triggered from virtually any MIDI device.
Of all the electronic instruments you will ever play, the sampler 
alone offers a grip on reality. It can not only sound like a 
string section but in a very real sense it *is* those strings. It 
is a near-perfect aural imitator and modifier--the ultimate 
The ability to recognize a good potential sample when you hear it 
is a technique that improves rapidly with practice. Take the time 
to experiment with gathering new samples; this will teach you 
more about the nature and structure of sound as well as expand 
your library.
When on a sampling safari, always try to capture more sound 
length than you need, then edit later by using the S900's ability 
to discard unwanted portions of a sample. It is also a good idea 
to *save your memory to disk* before making drastic or 
irreversible changes to programs and samples. As you forge ahead 
and experiment, you don't want to burn your bridges behind you.
One way to get started is to take samples from existing 
recordings. This may not be the most original route, but it 
provides excellent training in the art of sampling. While the CD 
player is the medium of choice due to both sound quality and ease 
of cueing, phonograph records or even high quality cassette tapes 
will do almost as well. The libraries of most colleges and large 
metropolitan areas carry a selection of classical music CDs and 
phonograph records that are available for rental at very modest 
fees. (Note: the copyright implications of sampling from existing 
recordings are not clear; *EM* does not endorse sampling or 
recording any copyrighted material. You should consider the moral 
and ethical implications of taking sounds from others' recordings 
regardless of whether or not you apply creative input to them.)
When sampling complex sounds such as loud, full orchestral 
textures from pre-recorded material, the quality of the playback 
medium is not so important. However, delicate textures (such as 
light strings, oboes, etc.) almost *require* that the actual 
instruments be played directly to the sampler, or sampled from a 
CD, due to the inherent noise levels of tape and vinyl.
When it's time to hook your system's stereo output to the S900's 
mono line input, adjust your mixer or balance controls for a 3 dB 
(or greater) difference between the left and right channels. This 
prevents phase cancellation from messing around with your high 
end and/or hollowing out the bottom. Also, watch your recording 
level very closely. If your meter reaches those six dots at the 
far right of the LCD record display, you have introduced digital 
distortion into the signal. You may not notice anything amiss at 
first; however, if you listen to the sample played an octave or 
more below its original frequency, the "garbage" will become 
I've found the best single instruments to sample are those with a 
fairly linear and consistent attack and decay envelope. The 
amplitude envelope for a flute or piano doesn't have to change 
with every note to still sound natural to the ear, even in a 
solo. But guitars or saxes exhibit a high degree of fluctuation 
in sound, especially in their attack, and they tend to sound much 
less natural when played from a sampler--especially when used "up 
front" in a mix. It can be amazing how much a perfectly sampled 
recording of a sax can sound just like an accordion when you try 
to work with it on some ranges of the keyboard. That effect could 
be good, but only if you're after an accordion sound! (What works 
for me is to record the guitar or sax sound as "straight" as 
possible--no pitch bend or vibrato--then add modulation and 
pitch-bending with real time controls such as wheels--Ed.)
For great orchestral samples, check the point of climax in a 
phrase or section of music. Endings are also excellent places to 
find chords and "hits." Besides classical selections, soundtrack 
recordings are often ripe with musical textures that sample well 
and loop easily. And keep in mind that students of traditional 
instruments at nearby colleges and universities are often 
available for sampling sessions; sometimes all you need to do is 
put a notice on a music department bulletin board. There are no 
rules on where to look, only suggestions.
Drums and related percussion samples are everywhere! Beyond the 
obvious capability of sampling traditional drum sounds, 
practically *anything* can be used percussively if handled 
creatively. For example, sampling the sound of a screwdriver 
tapping a table with gated reverb produces an incredible 
explosive punch. Played an octave or so below the sampled pitch, 
the effect sounds huge! Coughs, chair squeaks, firecrackers, door 
slams, grunts, animal noises and even laughter can effectively 
"dress up" an otherwise routine drum kit. (Incidentally, a gated 
reverb effect is simplicity itself: sample the drum sound with 
reverb, then truncate the end to suit--Ed.)
With the 11.878 seconds of memory available at its maximum 
bandwidth of 16 kHz, the S900 can even be used for simple 
manipulation of vocal or instrumental parts within a song. Just 
sing or play that difficult phrase into memory and "presto," from 
then on you perform the entire phrase at the press of a single 
key whenever you need it in the song. Totally acceptable guitar 
samples can also be made with the bandwidth narrowed to around 9 
or 10 kHz, thus providing over 21 seconds of sampling time.
First and foremost, *be very careful!* The S900 (version 1.2) has 
no "double checking" to see if you really want to erase that 
file, memory, or disk, and that could spell trouble if you push 
buttons first and ask questions later. The advantage, of course, 
is that veteran samplers can save time by not having to answer 
those "Are You Sure?"-type questions. But always think before you 
act, since many pages in the S900 put you just one keystroke away 
from some form of annihilation.
You *can* avoid most serious mishaps by getting into the practice 
of consistently making backup disks of your most treasured 
samples, and write-protecting your "keeper" disks. Remember, a 
disk never fails until the most important session or performance 
of your life--so keep backups handy.
Another S900 disk operation quirk concerns the "return to home" 
error response. For example, if an error occurs when trying to 
save to a write-protected disk, the machine "locks up," blinks 
all its LEDs, and tells you the problem (and its solution) with a 
cute little message "OOPS! Disk is write protected. Take it out 
and close the switch in the corner." What the LCD *doesn't* 
mention is that upon recovering from the error by pressing the 
Disk button to unfreeze the machine, you are now in the Load From 
Disk option on page 1 (the exact opposite of what you wanted). 
Pressing the enter key at this point would cause the unit to 
*erase its memory* and attempt to load from the disk, thus 
throwing your hard work from memory into data oblivion! Always 
check that you have selected the right function before attempting 
to re-save.
Also note that in version 1.2, the S900 does not verify data 
after writing to the disk. If by chance you do save to a 
defective disk, you have no way of knowing that until you try 
unsuccessfully to load it back into memory at some later time. 
Hopefully, a verify feature will be available as a later upgrade 
(hint, hint), but meanwhile, once again the solution is to make a 
backup any time you dump memory to disk. The odds against two bad 
disks in a row are pretty great, unless you spilled coke on them 
or something equally as devastating!
Speaking of devastating, I recommend that you don't even think 
about using Single Sided/Double Density (SS/DD) disks! They mess 
up regularly--and when you least expect it--when used in a 
double-sided disk drive like the S900. You are not saving money 
by buying SS/DD disks, you are buying aggravation and 
frustration. Use *only* Double Sided/Double Density disks 
The S900 allows up to ten characters for program and sample 
filenames. Take advantage of this and give your samples 
descriptive names; this will make it much easier to locate them 
and swap sounds around from disk to disk. Naming the original 
sample pitch within the filename (e.g. FLUTE D3, TAH DAH C1, 
etc.) can also be a big help, especially when constructing 
multiple samples of the same instrument. It makes it much easier 
to assign the split points later when working within the program 
edit section, and also gives the sample an identity independent 
of the program that plays it.
Akai was faced with the traditional "cart before the horse" 
quandry when they made the big decision to release the S900 
*before* developing their own extensive library of sampled 
sounds. However, the factory collection already has some 
breathtaking selections and it is still growing. Get in touch 
with your dealer every now and then, because new factory disks 
are expected to be released periodically. 
I feel software support is very important. In fact, I attribute 
much of the staying power of E-mu's famous Emulator line of 
samplers to the vast amount of user-generated samples generated 
by the factory, and also by their very active users group. E-mu's 
support of their users goes so far as sponsoring sound swap 
parties. In my opinion, if the Akai S900 Digital Sampler is to 
thrive in today's hyper-competitive "here today and gone 
tommorrow" electronic music marketplace, it will need the support 
of its own users group actively backed by none other than Akai 
itself. Meanwhile, the S900 is quite a machine--especially once 
you learn its operating system well enough for it to do your 
[end of phile]
 immagine da: 
Akai S900 resource page -- http://www.xfader.com/akai/ 
video how-to:
AKAI S900 VIDEO MAN.zip - 486.69MB -- http://www.zshare.net/download/562917677ccbf54e/
s950 video tutorial -- http://writers-connection.noblogs.org/...eo-manual 
Akai S-series samplers website -- http://akai.brothelowner.com/jules/
Categories: beat making, varie Tags:
Comments are closed.