If you keep your samples small, you can go a long way with a 3.5” HD floppy disk, but as your sample library grows, you may begin to want something faster and more spacious. After all, a HD floppy disk can only hold 1.4 megabytes of sample data, while hard disks reached multi-gigabyte status already in the mid-1990s, and soon did also sample libraries.
The Yamaha A4000 Professional Sampler sales package originally included a sample library comprising eight CD-ROMs filled with orchestral, brass, percussion and keyboard samples.
My new old Yamaha A4000 sampler had only the factory default random access memory of four megabytes, which translates to about 48 seconds of monaural sound at a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz at 16-bit depth. Yes, we’re talking megabytes, not gigabytes. Obviously a memory upgrade was in order, and that also gave me a good excuse to have a look inside the unit. After removing the 16 (!) screws in the case holding the cover in place, I found that it looked much like a PC – and in fact, it is a PC, although a special-purpose one.
In 1994 – 25 years ago at the time of this writing – the eminent synthesizer manufacturer Roland brought to market a sound module that was to become an enduring powerhouse for studios all over the world, and used by film composers and pop music producers. The JV-1080 is a rack-mountable synthesizer with no keyboard or other control mechanism, but controllable with any MIDI-capable device. Because it essentially played back samples from Read-Only Memory (ROM), it is often classified as a “ROMpler”, as opposed to a “sampler”, and not in a nice way.
Recently I bought a Yamaha A4000 sampler on eBay, and since then I’ve been slowly building it up from its basic configuration. This acquisition is part of master plan that will be revealed in time…
This unit was really very bare bones, with no expansions, default 16 GB of RAM, and no hard disk, just a 3.5” floppy drive. Most importantly, it didn’t come with the original content (the CD-ROM library) or accessories (power cables for future expansions).
The Kawai K4 was my first synth, and that’s why it has a special place in my heart and in my studio.
Actually my K4 (pictured below) is not the one I originally bought and sold, but is instead a cheap find on eBay,
nearly 15 years after the first one, and almost 15 years ago as of this writing. (Time flies!)