Akai S-900 Midi Digital Sampler

Akai S900 Sampler
Akai S900 Sampler

Last week I bought an Akai S900 along with an Akai S3000XL for $50 bucks at the second hand music shop in Nagano, Japan. I didn’t need the S3000XL as I already had one, but since it came with the S900 I thought I might find some use for it. Sometimes if I find a double, I put one in a rack next to my office computer and run the other in my studio room. That way I can just shuttle a floppy disk back and forth, rather than moving the entire deck.

The Akai S900 is new to me and although I’ve heard great things about the S950 version, I thought the S900 might be fun to use with some waveform samples that I have from synths like the Waldorf PPG, Fairlight, and Synclavier. The S900 did not come with a system disk, but I did find out that it had the 1.2 OS chip inside. I have an old windows 98 laptop that I use for creating OS disks and found it relatively easy to find the OS 4.0 disk image on the web. The main problem was getting Teledisk to play nice and copy the image to a 720KB DD disk. I found that only Teledisk v2.16 worked. So after wasting an hour with 2.11 and 2.12, I found a 2.16 version and all copied well. The S900 loaded up the V4.0 just fine.

I also used Akaidisk v2.2 in order to transfer the waveform files over to a floppy disk formatted by the S900. It all worked flawlessly. I then loaded up the floppy and with using the Roland A-800 Pro as a controller, I had fun playing some nice PPG 2 sounds on it. I was able to squeeze about 28 sounds onto the floppy which all sounded fantastic. I now have to find a fix for the LCD screen as it’s rather hard to see. Or I might try to find an editor to work with the sampler if possible. I haven’t found out if MESA works with the S900 yet. I know in Japan you can buy an LCD so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

The Akai S3000XL also works great and whoever brought these samplers in probably used both of them together. Unfortunately neither came with any effects on board, but that’s ok as I usually use external effects.

I strongly recommend thought having a good working Windows 98 machine around for use with the old Akai samplers. Yes, you can use Windows XP, but I have found Windows 98 to be much more useful in my experience thus far, especially when working with floppy disk transfers and conversions. Teledisk for example only works when rebooted in DOS mode, so win98 seems to be the only machine to do that.

In any event, the 1986 Akai S900 has been a nice addition to the studio.

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3 thoughts on “Akai S-900 Midi Digital Sampler

  1. rich wirth

    Hi Jim, I have worked on several A950’s which seems to have display problems fading out, RS232 interface board issues, but the main problem are the large multipin connectors which join the two main boards together. You have to re-solder every pin to cure these strange problems.

    I have two small videos or startup and selector button tests.

  2. henk

    So this does help the display as well? Sounds great, I still have my S950 but with a very faint display. Put a few cheap usb-fed lcd’sin front of it. Sort of helps.
    By the way Jim, there is a good editor in case you have the famous Atari 1040 (ST STE or alike). Although it’s horribly slow (at least that’s what I thought of it more than 20 years ago), that’s a con.

  3. Dom

    Hi jim, very interesting thread concerning the s900 – thanks a lot! how did you find out that your box is version 1.2? i’d really like to get to know the lpf caus there’s a defect s900 unit in my place with the following serial 11075-01441..best regards, dom

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