E-MU Emulator II Omi Universe of Sounds Library Volumes 1-3

E-EMU Emulator II
E-EMU Emulator II

The E-MU Emulator II Omi “Universe of Sounds” Libraries are some of the BEST 80’s samples I have ever heard. What’s great about the 3 volume library is that it covers just about every sound imaginable for that 80’s synthpop sampler sound.

Last week I found a used E-MU Emulator II here in Japan that unlike other gear I have found is in pretty rough shape. It’s currently not working but the good news is that it has potential and hopefully very soon I’ll have it back into shape. Luckily I found 3 brand new boxes of 5.25 floppy disks as well to feed this beast. I never thought I’d be using those disks ever again…laugh.

OMI EII Universe of Sounds Volume 1 – Fantastic collection of samples in this volume.
OMI EII Universe of Sounds Volume 2 – Superb!
OMI/Northstar EII Universe of Sounds Volume 3 – Lots of great SFX in this one.

For now I am collecting both E-MU Emulator II and EMAX II sounds ( another great sampler ) for later use in my newly acquired Emulator II. I also have been extracting some of the WAV files for importing into one of my favorite samplers, the Roland S-760. From there I can then sample sounds into either the Roland S-50 or S-330. Of course the samples are not identical sounding as you would get out of the Emulator II, but it does allow me to use the samples and explore them while I get the Emulator repaired.

I really like these old hardware samplers. I find the limitations they have to be quite challenging but at the same time very rewarding. I also find tinkering with these old samplers to be quite nostalgic as I grew up in the 80’s attending elementary, junior high, and high school during that decade. When I listen to the old samples, they really remind of that time and a great time it certainly was. At the same time it will be fun to try and create new ideas and songs out of these samples as well. After all, these vintage samplers cost a fortune back in the 80’s and it’s only taken me 20 plus years to get my hands on a few…laugh.

Hopefully I’ll have my newly acquired E-MU Emulator II up and running soon. For now though, I’m having fun sifting through all these great sounds of the past and enjoying what they have to offer now and into the future. Note that the E-MU Emulator II had some great presets as well as some other great libraries that I’m currently checking out. I’m not up to speed with all the past releases and producers of the E-Mu Emulator II Sample Series Libraries, but I’m learning really quick thanks to some great forums and of course the Yahoo Groups. Lots of reading!

Here is a demo video found on Youtube of the E-MU Emulator Sampler in action.

Korg ES-1 Electribe Electro Hip-Hop Sampler

Korg ES-1 Electribe Sampler
Korg ES-1 Electribe Sampler

I love this little sampler. I also have the Korg ES-1 MKII which is the same except for the color and one of the effects has changed. These samplers are fantastic for creating vintage drum kits and early 80s/90s grooves as in the video link below. The Korg ES-1 was quite often found in Japan but lately it’s getting more scarce. The one I found today was at a rock bottom price and so I couldn’t pass it up. The step sequencer and motion sequencer are also classic on this and I really enjoy how it programs. If you ever come across one of these at a good price, I seriously would pick it up. It’s so simple to use. I believe the sound quality is at 32kHz if correct which is great for those vintage sounds.

Samples are pretty easy to get into the machine and there are enough slots for some good kits and variety. I tend to put my old school samples in the ES-1 from E-MU, Roland, Ensoniq, and Akai. These work great but you will need to convert them to WAV first before dumping them onto a 3.3V Smart Media card. In addition you will name to rename the samples numerically for them to work. The Korg ES-1 makes a fabulous drum machine and percussion back drop to almost any sort of music project. I highly recommend it!!

Roland S-50 Sampling Tips and Tricks

Roland S-50 Tips and Tricks
Roland S-50 Tips and Tricks

I have been working with my newly rejuvenated Roland S-50 sampler lately and thought I would create an article here about things I’ve encountered while sampling. These may or may not be tips or techniques of a special nature, but they may help those in trying to figure out a good workflow when using the Roland S-50 Sampler. I’ll start by writing some random thoughts about my experiences thus far with Sampling on the S-50. Please comment if you have any tips or experiences of your own that may be of use for either practice or in thought.

Lately, I have been skipping the WAV import using the computer directly to the Roland S-50. I find this to be time consuming and there doesn’t seem to be any software that works all that great. What works for me is to use one of my old Roland SP-808 samplers to store “one shot” sounds of various analog synths. For example, I have one 100MB Zip disk divided in banks with MOOG sounds. Each bank is title something like A-B-F#-G# where each letter represents a row of SP-808 pads with MOOG one shot key samples. This helps me to set the correct root key on the S-50. I then run the SP-808 out to the input of the S-50 and record direct. You could use virtually any sampler, but I have found my trusty old SP-808 to work well. Of course I have to use the WAV converter for the SP-808 to initially store samples, but then I can really fast play a pad and record onto the S-50. Note I don’t wish to tether a computer to the S-50 at this time.

Another thing I do a lot is record with 15kHz instead of 30. Beside getting more sampling time, I find the sound difference to be minimal quite frankly. This allows me to record lots of samples into the S-50 no problem. Of course I can use 30kHz or vary the sample lengths but I have found lowering the frequency to be very helpful. Also, since I mainly record one shots I don’t have to worry about looping or recording longer samples that much.

I usually set the gain and rec level as high as possible. When I dedicate my SP-808 to the S-50 I can keep all the volume settings the same which allows me to keep the samples similar in volume. I then just pop out the zip disk run to the computer and load more samples for recording if need be. I also find I like to record and create construction kits on the S-50. Thus I may have a series of zip disks categorized by drums, basses, guitars, synths, etc and then record the instruments I want to use for a particular construction kit or song. Basically I prefer S-50 disks to contain construction kits and my SP-808 zip disks to contain specific instruments. I find it takes me about 30 minutes to fully sample a new construction kit for creating a new song. I then save that kit onto a floppy disk for later use if needed.

I have found setting loop points on the S-50 to be rather difficult. I do find the auto loop function can work pretty well at times, but it’s often time consuming to bang out perfect loops so I mainly use the S-50 for one shots and then use the envelopes for tweaking. I first figure out whether a song instrument will require a long decay or not and then sample accordingly. If my Moog sound will be short and staccato like then I’ll sample 0.4 or 0.8 (x2 @15) and then just play my bass line. If I require a long decay I’ll simply record at .8 or 1.6 (x2 @15 ) instead of looping the sound. I have found that looping the end of a sound can also lower the tone or quality of the main sample for some reason. Thus if I don’t tamper with the sample and just play it, the sound is awesome. I do like to layer or use envelopes which works very well.

Sometimes I get the message “Not Execute” which took me a while to figure out that I was either missing a parameter under record or had an incorrect value. I found my sampling time was most often written incorrectly. If you get this error it simply means “carefully” check your entered values and correct the one that is not right.

All in all, I find sampling directly to the Roland S-50 to be rather painless and quite fun. If you sample to create a song construction kit then likely you’ll be able to enjoy the S-50 right away after you finished sampling your initial samples for the song. You can then quickly create your patches and then use Director-S to record the song. Then save the song and sound kit onto an S-50 disk and you can later use it for other songs. As mentioned I also find using an external sampler for storing samples to be very useful. You can then just hit record on the S-50 and press a pad on your external sampler with tons of samples available at your fingertips. On the computer I find myself “thinking” in terms of construction kits rather than filling up an S-50 disk with MOOG bass samples. It then becomes a fun and a rewarding challenge to use that sample construction kit to create a song.

I remember back in the day people having contests where a each person would have a floppy with the same construction kit on it. They then had a month to create a song and then everyone would vote on the song they liked. That used to be really fun because it put the song writing back into music rather than nowadays where people seem to want massive sample collections. The Roland S-50 is limited by today’s standard samplers, but I personally find these limitations inspire me more to create and play songs. The Roland S-50 “can” have plenty of polyphony and memory if you accept the limitations and just get down to writing a song with what you have. The old cliche “Simple is Best” can be true sometimes.

Soon I’ll be creating some videos based on constructions kits that I sampled for the S-50 and how I use these to create fun songs or sketchpad ideas. The Roland S-50 sounds fantastic and is really fun to play. I also find that any sound I sample into the Roland S-50, I can easily convert to any other format such as the S-550, S-330, W-30, or S-760. That’s not always the case the other way around.

Stay tuned for more thoughts and updates as I dive deeper into the Roland S-50.

Roland S-760 Sampler with OP-760-1 Video Output and MU-1 Mouse

Roland OP-760-1 and MU-1 Mouse
Roland OP-760-1 and MU-1 Mouse

Last weekend I struck GOLD finding “two” mint condition Roland S-760 samplers for $20 each! One of the Roland S-760 samplers had the Roland OP-S760-1 Video Output expansion board installed. When I walked up to the counter to purchase the two S-760 Samplers, the sales clerk went into the back room and came out with a plastic package. Inside were two original Roland OS V2.0 disks, power cords, manuals, and a mint condition Roland MU-1 Mouse!! I couldn’t believe it. The ever elusive MSX MU-1 Mouse was a part of the package. I had been looking for this Roland Mouse for ages and never could find one. I currently own a Roland S-50, S330, and W30 but always had trouble finding a MU-1 compatible mouse that had a “reasonable” price tag on it. So for $40 bucks I found two Roland S-760 samplers and all the goodies included. It was obvious the sales staff had no idea about how much accessories can run for these old vintage Roland Samplers. I brought home the Samplers, plugged them in, and they both worked beautifully. The Roland MU-1 mouse was a dream to use and if you don’t have one already, they are extremely useful.

About a month ago, I bought a used Sotec computer in Japan with Windows XP SP2 installed. The Sotec computer had an S-Video and regular RCA Video input jack in the back. I was able to easily connect the Roland S-330, S50, or S-760 to the computer and get a really nice looking display of what’s going on inside these samplers. Attached is a video found on Youtube of another gentleman doing something similar with the Roland S-760. The catch though is that you need the Roland MU-1 mouse to really navigate more easily through the menus. Plus the Roland S-760 does not have the Video Output or the Mouse Jack without the OP-760-1 expansion board installed. The Roland S-330 and S-50 have it by default but you still kind of need the mouse for easier navigation.

I also picked up an old casio portable analog LCD TV that had video-S and regular video connections. Portable analog LCD TVs are very cheap in Japan since they converted 100% to digital in 2011. Now is a great time to find and buy these TVs as many are dumping them in used stores. They work great for small portable screens that can be connected to these samplers. They are just big and clear enough to view the data perfectly. Plus they are rechargeable and easy to carry with you or put in a gig bag. I use one especially for the Roland S-50 and it’s awesome.

The Roland S-series samplers are really fun to work with despite some of their drawbacks. Finding that MU-1 mouse was huge for me because it now makes working with these samplers on computers much easier. I’m now on the lookout for a Roland DT-100 and RC-100 controller. I also have the Roland S-330 SYS-333 Director-S software, but am in need of the Roland S-50 SYS-503 Director-S. If anyone out there has one they’d like to sell, please contact me. I’d be very interested in buying it if possible. Thanks! I also may pick up a Roland S-550 one of these days if I ever find one in Japan.

Korg ESX-1 Sampler – Back in the 80’s Groove

Korg ESX-1
Korg ESX-1

This week I found a great deal on a used red Korg ESX-1 Sampler. After watching a few videos on Youtube from “harlemnightsmusic” using the ESX-1 for creating those retro 80’s drum classics I became pretty intrigued by the possibilities of this retro red device. I also bought a Korg EMX-1 ( the blue one ) which has been fantastic with creating drum patterns and using to drive my Roland MKS-50. You can checkout the video below of “harlemnightsmusic” playing some beats along with Roland Juno 106 for some synth parts.

The Korg EXS-1 I bought was the original “SmartMedia” version. To my knowledge there is no difference between the SmartMedia and the SD Card version of the Korg ESX-1. I picked up the Korg ESX-1 Smartmedia version for $150 which is substantially less than the SD card one. I already have a sizable collection of Smartmedia cards so I figured the ESX-1 SM version would work well. My blue Korg EMX-1 also uses Smartmedia cards. In Japan they are quite cheap on the used market. I run across them quite often. I also still have the original tubes in the ESX-1 and may elect to upgrade them but for now it’s a great sampler with a lot of possibilities. I personally feel the Korg EMX-1 and ESX-1 are great little gems and along with my analog gear will use them quite a bit.

You can check out my article on the Korg EMX-1 here:

I also have the Korg ES1 MKII Sampler with an article here:

This is a great Youtube video of the Korg ESX-1 and Roland Juno 106 together in action. Great stuff!

SOS Band – Just be Good to Me (kick = LinnDrum)
Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing
Loose Ends – Hangin’ on a String
Klein & MBO – Dirty Talk
My Mine – Hypnotic Tango (solo clap = Oberheim DMX)
Yazoo (Yaz) – Situation
Yazoo – Don’t Go
Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force – Planet Rock
2 Live Crew – Me so Horny
Ice-T – Reckless