What is the best hardware sampler? prices and opinions

What is the best hardware sampler? prices and opinions

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Not long ago the hardware sampler market was in life support, with software alternatives apparently set to make hardware units obsolete.

Just like with synths, however, producers and artists have realized that there are advantages to owning a hardware sampler also because many of the current products allow you to create music without the need for a computer. In this article, you will find some of the best hardware samplers, from pocket modules to full production platforms.

Roland SPD-SX Sampler – See price or buy

SPD-SX has inherited many features of the SPD-S offering an infinite amount of sample memory, USB sockets, a larger display with on-screen wave editing functions, improved audio routing, responsive pads, intuitive menus, innovative sampling and a number of design improvements. The SPD-SX has nine playable pads with two dual input jacks, allowing connection of up to 4 external pads, drum triggers, or a combination of both. Thanks to the user-addressable audio outputs the SPD-SX can be used both on stage and in the studio.

A great product for drummers and producers, then.

Korg KP3 Sampler + – See price or buy

Korg has revamped the KP3 effects / sampler unit with the new KP3 + version which is based on the same technology, but with new combinations of effects and features. The Kaoss Pad series is famous for its intuitive touch-pad interface. The sounds that drive EDM dance and musical movements, and the effects used to create them, have evolved significantly over the past seven years. The KP3 + based on the KP3 is able to offer a combination of effects that have become a staple in numerous genres and applications have been taken to a new cutting edge level. Using the touchpad you can control effects in real time thanks to 150 effects ideal for DJ and sound design; including 42 new types. The Vinyl Break which simulates a turntable, the Ducking compressor underlines the Backbeats, the new Looper allows you to freely manipulate the loops while the effects can be used for game interruptions.

Numerous functions to make the performance even more expressive, for example you can control the reverb to produce a more natural decay. The Mute function cuts the input signal and outputs only the effect sound. Eight program memories allow you to instantly switch to effects. The Hold function sustains the effect sound. You can set the tempo with auto BPM, tap tempo or the BPM knob. The LED Pads ensure high visibility even in the dark. Thanks to USB MIDI connectivity it can be used as a powerful MIDI controller. It is possible to store data on an SD / SDHC card. Finally, a dedicated software editor allows centralized management of samples and settings.

Korg Kaossilator Pro + – See price or buy

Korg Kaossilator Pro + is once again, a synth / loop phrase recorder, but it comes with sounds, including additional drum programs. This synth lets you play and multi-layered music in any style with the touch of a finger. Features include 250 sound programs (including rhythm program) covering a wide range of styles, including 62 new programs, Loop recording function, Scale / Key settings, Note Range function that allows you to specify the horizontal pitch range of the touchpad, the Arpeggiator gate function that allows you to easily control phrases with the cursor, the Pad LEDs that ensure excellent visibility even in the dark, the USB MIDI port that allows you to use it as a MIDI controller and SD / SDHC card slot that allows you to store recorded data of WAV loops. It is offered with the dedicated software editor for centralized management of samples and settings and is compatible with the Kaossilator 2

Elektron Octatrack DPS-1 – See price or buy

The Elektron Octatrack DPS-1 is an eight-track sampler and offers dynamic and sequencer performance. Many no longer use hardware samplers just because software is less laborious and easier to use. Octatrack takes a different approach than anything currently on the market. Perhaps the most important question is not whether Elektron can reinvent sampling, but whether it can convince the average sampling producer that dedicated hardware is still relevant in the age of plug-ins, gigabytes of RAM and infinite number of tracks. . The Octatrack is much more than a sampler. With the row of 16 keys along the bottom of the front panel the Octatrack follows in the footsteps of a Drummachine and Monomachine with the inclusion of a sequencer. Furthermore, the Octatrack processing engine is radically more advanced than most hardware currently on the market and offers complete freedom when handling loops and samples. The Octatrack offers eight stereo tracks plus eight MIDI tracks. Samples are stored on a Compact Flash card with a maximum capacity of 64GB. It is also possible to process external audio through effects.

In use the Octatrack’s audio quality is clean and highly usable with sample handling options. It is possible to use options such as the retrigger for Beat Repeat effects on each track. Tracks can be routed through two effects (or more with the use of other machines) chosen from a range including filters, equalizers, compressors and reverbs. For each channel of this contraption we find three LFOs. The build quality of the Octatrack is exceptional. The various parameters offer different levels of accuracy, with some requiring multiple encoders taking them from minimum values to maximum values. Micro-timing settings allow for notes pushed forward and backward in 1 / 384th steps, while a time multiplier allows the track to play various speeds from 1 / 8x to 2 times the global setting. Parameter lock functions known as Machinedrum and Monomachine allow you to set parameters independently for each sample trigger. This is a really complex machine and it will take some time to get to know all its features.

Each MIDI machine allows only one note per step although the tracks are not strictly monophonic as up to four notes can be triggered simultaneously by each Elektron Octatrack DPS-1 MIDI machine. The only real weakness of the Octatrack is that it tries to do everything. This is not a problem if a piece of hardware works better than any alternative, but in some cases this penalizes in terms of flexibility. The only major limitation of the hardware itself is the absence of individual outputs. The absence of an editor does not limit the potential of the Octatrack but makes the workflow less efficient. Programming the Octatrack involves editing up to 16 individual tracks, each of which can contain multiple scenes. Consequently, scheduling an entire project for a live set or studio session can take a significant amount of time.

Akai MPC Studio Sampler – See price or buy

 

The Akai MPC Studio is now available. It uses the same MPC software controlled by more compact and portable hardware. The hardware of the MPC studio is quite sturdy at one inch thick. There are eight pad banks (four of which are accessible via the shift key function) with 64 notes of polyphony, each of the pad lights turning yellow, orange, green or red to show velocity levels, note events and other features . Since there is no numeric keypad so the pads can be used numerically to enter data. To keep things compact and the lowest price there is no tilting display or audio interface, just four Q-Links, instead of 16, without the ring LEDs. The main drawback for us is the fixed screen, as its readability is often compromised unless you are looking directly from above. So, there is still no way to turn off the display to extend the backlight or to control the overall volume on the hardware.

Akai did a good job with the studio hardware balancing functionality with compactness. The panel layout is conducive to quick workflow. The jog wheel is large and flat and allows you to exert some pressure. Moving on to connectivity, there is a power button, powered by the USB bus (for connecting to the computer) and MIDI in and out by means of included breakout cables for connecting external MIDI hardware. There is no audio interface, but this does not really affect general use, although of course it is very useful to have dedicated inputs and outputs on the MPC for sampling and splitting elements through a mixer. OS 1.3 is a major update, addressing many of the major user concerns, and thankfully Akai seems to be listening. The MPC software only works on Mac OS X 10.6 upwards with Akai MPC hardware connected (as opposed to machine) although it is possible to map the other controllers to the software.

We hope Akai removes this unnecessary restriction. Overall, OS 1.2 is stable, but there are some missing bugs and features. Some bugs have been fixed. The latency is fortunately negligible in general, but it does not depend on the complexity. Let’s not forget that there are still various versatile filter modes, plus amps / envelopes, FX, mute, pad and a programmable mixer, but still no event edit list like the old MPC. Overall, the basics are in place. For the traveling or studio musician this is a practical solution offered at reasonable prices.

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