Akai s3000xl
April 10, 2005 10:09 AM   Subscribe

How does one get samples for an Akai s3000xl? Can wav files be downloaded from the web, copied to floppy, and loaded easily? Do normal floppies work, or do they have to be Akai propietary disks?

(This question is partly for my fiancee, who has no MeFi account)

My fiancee inherited this sampler, sans manual, from his older brother who quite hard to get in touch with these days, and we want to try using it for home recording. We both tried downloading some wav files from the web, copying them to a floppy, and loading them to the sampler, but it wouldn't recognize the disk. (Interestingly, in MIDI mode, it did recognize the files, but they're not MIDI files so it couldn't play them, obviously)

Do I need special Akai disks? Does the s3000xl even recognize wavs? Where does one get samples for this unit?

Sorry for the ignorance. Neither of us could find great forums for this kind of thing. VintageSynth is usually good, but the Sampler forum is dead. I'm on my way to downloading the (enormous) Akai manual right now....Any sampling tips for a newbie would be appreciated!
posted by jenleigh to Technology (24 answers total)
You can't use .wav files directly. This device only supports the proprietary Akai sample format. However, you can play your .wav files into the device using the audio in jacks (analog and digital), which will record them into the correct format.

You can use regular floppy disks but they must be formatted using Akai's proprietary format. Again, use the device to do this.

This sampler is pretty old now; newer samplers support more standard formats.

Akai used to sell a library of samples which you could use. Maybe this is available online now...?
posted by Lleyam at 11:46 AM on April 10, 2005

There's some useful information and downloadable samples out there on the web, but it's not great. Have you Googled?
posted by Lleyam at 11:57 AM on April 10, 2005

You can transfer samples over the SCSI port with the MESA software, if it's still available. You can also set up all the sample parameters, LFOs, etc etc. The samples stay in memory untill you restart the sampler. You can also hook up a SCSI CD-ROM or Zip drive to load in samples. I had about 50 sample CDs at one point, there were some very good ones, and I bet you can get them on eBay pretty cheap nowadays.
posted by neustile at 11:59 AM on April 10, 2005

ps there's also a very good mail list, here.
posted by neustile at 12:00 PM on April 10, 2005

Thanks, mates.

Ultimately, I would still like to be able to grab files online, move them to a floppy & load them into the sampler (as opposed to using SCSI, etc). I'm hoping it's not impossible.

First I will try & format some disks with the the device (not sure how to do that yet), and second I might try a program like AkaiDisk to save files in the proper format—would that work? I'm Googling while I'm querying AskMe, but I'm just not finding the answers I'm looking for yet. Wish I was a little more technical.
posted by jenleigh at 12:06 PM on April 10, 2005

The MESA software is available here (scroll down), but I always found it pretty difficult to use.
posted by Lleyam at 12:07 PM on April 10, 2005

The usual way to load samples is from CD-ROM; you'll need a SCSI CD-ROM drive to do this.

The S3000 reads CDs in its own format, and also the S1000/S1100 format. The latter is common for commercial libraries since it's supported by hardware samplers from Emu, Roland, Yamaha and various computer-based software samplers. Take a look at the Time+Space website (search for AKAI S1000 format) to get some idea of what sort of libraries are available and how much they cost.

Incidentally, the machine should have a built-in hard drive for you to store your own samples or to allow quicker loading than from CD-ROM.
posted by arc at 12:09 PM on April 10, 2005

I've got a S3000XL moldering away right now. The answers above are pretty accurate (except that this device never had a built-in hard drive -- apparently you can hack one in, but few people did).

I can't really imagine going to the trouble to use it anymore; modern computers can do just about anything it can do, and are vastly more flexible and easier to integrate into your workflow. It's too difficult to get samples on and off the device, too slow to load it up every time you want to use it, and editing the parameters is a pain on that little screen. The MESA computer integration software helped a bit, but it was still pretty clunky and hasn't been updated in a long time -- plus you'll have to dig up an old SCSI-1 interface. It's just not worth all the trouble, at least in my setup.
posted by xil at 12:12 PM on April 10, 2005

I don't think you'll be able to download, copy to floppy and then load into the Akai because the proprietary floppy disk format will only work in Akai devices, not in your computer. Sorry.

You'll either have to record the audio into the device using the audio inputs, or use MESA to transfer via SCSI (unless AkaiDisk does the trick, I've never heard of it before).

Formatting a floppy disk in the sampler is pretty simple. From the main menu (or possibly under "load" or "save" menus), there should be a "format" option; just press the soft key that relates to that option.

(on preview: you don't need a SCSI CD-ROM drive, you can just copy from your computer if it has a SCSI port, or - more easily - record direct into the device. Also, this device does not come with a built-in hard disk although the previous owner might have added one.)
posted by Lleyam at 12:13 PM on April 10, 2005

Also, I agree with xil, you can likely do what you're trying to achieve with a good digital audio package and hard disk recording. The sampler might be more effort than it's worth, although I always enjoyed using my S3200XL.
posted by Lleyam at 12:17 PM on April 10, 2005

I'm suddenly understanding why my fiancee's brother didn't mind unloading this device on us :>

If the Akai doesn't work out for me, can anyone recommend another brand/model good for a newbie which can enable me to make simple PC -> floppy -> sampler transfers? Also, something that is not too dependent on the PC, which can be just as easily used in a live setting? I'm curious what people here use for their at-home setup: samplers, synths, software, etc
posted by jenleigh at 12:21 PM on April 10, 2005

I've never needed to trigger samples in a live music setting, so I've just used some of the digital audio packages (Pro Tools, Cubase, Logic) to create music on the computer itself.

Maybe a laptop would work for what you're trying to do...?
posted by Lleyam at 12:26 PM on April 10, 2005

Another way to get samples over is the MIDI sample transfer protocol. It has an acronym which I'm blanking on now -- SDI? and I remember that Wavelab could transfer samples this way. SLOOOW. 31,250bps ~ 3KB/sec; a six second Amen break in a little under five minutes.

As for the utility of the device, many producers still use hardware samplers, although I certainly stopped. There is no advantage to an Akai (unless you've added the filter card, yow!) other than freedom from a computer and a tiny bit of stability. The PITA qualities of the device outweigh any advantages it has anymore. You can get a Mac mini and use that instead with Reaktor or Mach Five or EXS24. (EXS even reads Akai CDs!) Some people like to work within limitations though, so I wouldn't give up so easily.

There are other handheld and tabletop samplers that you might like, like Akai's MPC series. I remember Zoom making a popular one 5 years ago as well that took some form of memory card. The S series were meant to be rackmount studio-use samplers, although many people did take them on stage.
posted by neustile at 12:30 PM on April 10, 2005

I asked a friend and, apparently, Reason is software sampler du jour.
posted by Lleyam at 12:35 PM on April 10, 2005

The Akai S5000 and S6000 have USB interface boards availible, making it much, much easier to get data onto them.

Outboard samplers are wonderful devices that software just can't compete with.
posted by cmonkey at 12:39 PM on April 10, 2005

Apologies for the incorrect comment on the internal hard drive - there were so many Akai models and variations....

On the subject of hardware alternatives, Emu's E4 series are capable of reading WAVs from floppy disks, have internal hard drives, good synthesis capabilities and excellent sound quality. The downside is that they're pretty complex to use, although probably not that much worse than the Akai.
posted by arc at 12:49 PM on April 10, 2005

On a PC, Chicken Systems Translator will convert pretty much anything and write it as an Akai S1000/S3000-formatted floppy disk. There's even a free version that claims to be able to do this. Specifically, writing .wav files to an S1000/S3000 disk image is supported.

Oh yeah, here's the documentation for the sampler from Akai's site.
posted by basicchannel at 1:08 PM on April 10, 2005

Sorry, there's a Mac version of Translator Free as well.
posted by basicchannel at 1:13 PM on April 10, 2005

Seems the free version can only browse, not "Translate". Nonetheless... I reckon the price of the real version is worth it to do what you are trying to do. The Special Edition is a bit over half the price of the "Pro" version and will convert any format to a single destination (namely, your belov'd S1000/S3000 format).

Whew! Hope this helps!
posted by basicchannel at 1:23 PM on April 10, 2005

Lastly, the free AkaiDisk allows you to copy .wav files to your Akai floppy disk thusly:

First assemble up to one floppy-disk-full of WAV files in a directory and insert an Akai floppy disk with enough free space for the files. Now from a DOS prompt in that directory type the following command (assuming your ADISK.EXE is in C:\AKAIDISK ):


This command can be kept in a batch file to make it easier to use, but each %f must be replaced with %%f.
posted by basicchannel at 1:47 PM on April 10, 2005

Ok, I was able to get the sampler to format a floppy, presumably creating 'an Akai disk' (though I'm still not precisely sure what that means).

After that, I downloaded AkaiDisk and attempted to move a wav file from my HD to the disk, but I keep getting errors: "This is not an Akai disk". Frustrating. The Chicken Systems thing sounds like what I might need, though probably not for the cost.

To switch gears: If I or my fiancee decided to dabble with Reason, could we use our Juno 106 as a MIDI controller and trigger wav files that way, eliminating the need for this rackmount unit altogether? He also uses ACID to lay out songs.
posted by jenleigh at 5:57 PM on April 10, 2005

jenleigh, you indeed can use any MIDI keyboard to play samples in Reason. If you don't already have one, USB-MIDI adaptors are pretty cheap and work very well.
posted by zsazsa at 6:06 PM on April 10, 2005

Another way to get samples over is the MIDI sample transfer protocol. It has an acronym which I'm blanking on now -- SDI?

posted by cillit bang at 7:24 PM on April 10, 2005

Bear in mind, a Juno-106 is not velocity-sensitive. This means that all every note you play on it will be the same volume.

In the face of Native Instruments' Kontakt, Gigasampler and even Reason... hardware samplers are quite antiquated. The S3k is still useful, but I think you are beginning to see the real world cost/benefit of modern software :).
posted by basicchannel at 11:54 PM on April 10, 2005

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