Yamaha A3000 Editing and Importing Sounds

Yamaha A3000 Sampler
Yamaha A3000 Sampler

Recently I installed a new internal SCSI Flash Card Reader into my Yamaha A3000 Sampler Version 2. You can find the card info here: SCSI Card Readers

The SCSI Card Reader works very well and I have it currently set to SCSI 0. I have also removed the original Floppy Drive and have not needed to use a Floppy since the removal. I also have attached a made in Japan I-O Data CD-RW Drive to SCSI ID 4. This also works excellent for loading up Sample CDs. I found Akai and of course Yamaha CDs to load up well. EMU CDs are difficult and I first need to convert them to Akai format to work.

I have had this Sampler since 1998 or 1999 and really didn’t find much use for it at the time although it was very popular to have here in Japan. I found a great deal on a used A3000 V2 and had to pick one up. Adding the CF Card Reader and finding an effective CD-Rom drive have really opened doors now with the Sampler and I’m finding some renewed interest with it. I particularly like the framework of Partitions, Volumes, Banks, and Samples when working with the A3000. The effects or reasonably good and I find the memory to be ample when working with Multisamples especially with Synth and Drum sounds. For straight up piano and rhodes sounds I continue to use my Fantom XR or Yamaha ES Samplers. I think for Analog Synth Emulations for example, the Yamaha A3000 works very well. Sonically it’s pretty powerful and easy to trigger.

I started out using the popular software bZone 1.0 for editing programs, banks, and samples on the A3000. I also used Adisky for importing Wav files and creating Yamaha A3000 CD-Roms. These programs were installed and running on my trusty old Windows 98 computer which works great. I was able to setup everything and it ran “reasonably” well, but ultimately the setup had too many bugs and froze on me way to much to really get anything done on the Yamaha A3000. SCSI on the A3000 is slow, but my goodness nothing is slower than buggy software and frozen computers. So I researched other solutions and found an alternative that works far better “for me”.

Basically now, I use Extreme Sample Converter (ESC) to convert other format Sample CDs such EMU into Akai format. I then use Translator to import the converted Akai files and create an Akai Disk Image. Nero is then used to burn an Akai S1000/S2000 disk to later import into the A3000. It works very well! I then simply do my editing on the Yamaha A3000 itself because quite frankly it’s faster than using any software editor solution I’ve found. When I say faster I also mean it’s 100% bug free and never freezes.

I also use Awave for identifying the Root Notes, Pitch Values, and Key Ranges of the original patches from other Sample CDs as well for reference. It works great. I also use ESC ( Extreme Sample Converter ) to audition sounds directly from the computer. When I find EMU sample programs I want, I simply create a new custom Akai converted disk. So, using the computer to audition multisamples and find what’s worth tweaking on the A3000 saves time as well. Unfortunately there is no “all in one” software solution. ESC is good for auditioning and converting between formats. Translator is good for burning to a particular CD-Rom Format. Awave is good at providing quick details of how a multisample is mapped, plus it provides great tools for resampling if required.

Below are some brief notes of how I import various program/voice files such as Akai, Roland, and EMU into the Yamaha A3000 V2 Sampler.

Importing EMU Disks of all kinds.

1. Load EMU III Disk into Extreme Sampler Converter.
Source Format = EMU 3/4, ESI, Emulator
Destination Format = Akai S5000, S6000

2. Create an Akai S1000/S2000 Virtual Disk in Translator and add the presets From ESC.

3. Burn the Akai img to CD-Rom with Nero.

4. Turn on your Yamaha A3000 and load up the CD-Rom. It should show you the Partitions and you can select the programs from within.

5. Import the programs/voices you would like which will import the samples into banks and map them.

In the case of EMU Sample Disks I always have to tweak the following for each sample:

a) Key Mapping ( Use Awave or ESC to determine original key ranges )
b) Root Note ( Usually correct )
c) Pitch adjustment occasionally. I turn fine to “0” and adjust coarse as needed.
d) Loop Points may need to be adjust on a sample or two. It’s easy actually and off only by a fraction.

6. Add 1-3 effect blocks depending on what you think the multsample needs. I usually add EQ first.

7. Save the Program to a partition/volume on your CF Card.

Importing Akai Disks of all kinds.

I find “unlike” with EMU disks, I can pretty much import Akai disks without any problems. If I do encounter a problem, I just run through the steps I wrote above. Importing Akai disks into the Yamaha A3000 V2 is pretty easy and trouble free. Note that if you “convert” from another format to Akai it can cause more problems such as with EMU to Akai as mentioned above.

Importing WAV Files.

With WAV files I found burning them into Akai format to work the best. I could import them into a bank very quickly in bulk and then assign key ranges on the A3000. It found it to be very fast and effective. Way better than bZone … waaay better!!

I know there are other Sampler Hardware Solutions out there. I also have a Roland W-30, S-330, S-760 Sp-606, Sp-808, and Fantom XR Samplers. Plus I have a couple of Korg Triton and even a Yamaha RS7000. I primarily am into MultiSample hardware units rather than loop phrase samplers though.

I find the Yamaha A3000 pretty intuitive, easy, and fun sampler to work with ONCE you figure out your own best workflow. For me, I think using the conversion software packages out there along with good ole’ fashion manual button programing to work very well with the Yamaha A3000.

I’ll update this article with more info as I dive in further to the Yamaha A3000 V2.

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Boss BX-16 16 Channel Stereo Mixer

Boss BX-16 16 Channel Stereo Mixer
Boss BX-16 16 Channel Stereo Mixer

Today I found a used Boss BX-16 16 Channel Stereo Mixer in excellent condition at the local used music shop. Everything on the unit itself is in perfect working order with very little cosmetic scratches. All of the 16 channels work fantastic and there is virtually no noise with the mixer which is nice. I have heard that the Boss BX-16 can be somewhat noisy or distorted, but my unit is perfectly quiet thus far. On a few knobs you get a bit of static sound when moving them which is normal for the age of the BX-16 Mixer, but once settings are in place it works just fine.

All in all, the Boss BX-16 16 Channel Stereo Mixer is a great mixer due mainly to it’s small size. I also like the fact that it has two effect loops that can be controlled across all 16 channels. Each channel has a Panpot, Effect 1, Effect 2, Bass, Treble, Gain, and Overload. Plus there is an RCA out section and Phone input jack. To get the Stereo effect you have to use two channels, so with regards to stereo, the mixer effectively becomes an 8 channel mixer when maxed out. Running an out from a Yamaha DX-7 for example to one of the channels will result in only Left Speaker Output. Thus I had to use a Y Split Chord to connect the one output jack from the Yamaha DX-7 to two channels on the Boss BX-16.

The Boss BX-16 16 Channel Stereo Mixer is a pretty cool device and I’m sure I’ll get quite a bit of use out of it.

Yamaha A3000 Multisampling Fun

Yamaha A3000 Sampler
Yamaha A3000 Sampler

Last week I dusted off my old Yamaha A3000 version 1 sampler and was surprised to find out how well it worked with multisampling. I remember shelving the unit a while back namely because I had issues with looping, midi, and a few other things that happened to be fixed or improved with Version 2. I never got around to upgrading it, but I recently discovered that despite the fact that it’s a version 1 Yamaha A3000, it actually works extremely well with multisampling. Nowadays I say leave looping to the likes of the newer Akai MPCs, Roland SP Groove boxes, Soft Samplers, or anything current. However, with multisampling, I think the Yamaha A3000 still has a lot of life left even if it’s still version one. Something tells me also that multisampling was probably the A3000’s primary function in the first place. and unless you were interested in that, you pretty much sold or moth balled the sampler.

Currently I have the Yamaha A3000 V1 maxed out at 128MB of memory which is plenty for most multisampling tasks. Attached to the rear SCSI is a zip drive which works to store the samples from memory and loads them rather quickly. I usually import my WAV files from the PC and using either the Floppy Drive or Zip drive works well with for this. I use Sony Soundforge to save my WAV files to Microsoft PCM format for easy importing. The on board effects are decent and applying the samples to the keys is easy enough. Triggering the samples via a midi controller works perfectly and you can do velocity cross fades and some layering as well. In fact with regards to multisamples, the Yamaha A3000 is actually pretty easy to use. Looping on the other hand is best done “from” version 2 and upward although it still can be done with Version 1.

Lately I’ve enjoyed using such hardware samplers as the Roland W-30, S-330, and S-760. When you compare the Yamaha A3000 version 1 to those samplers you start finding out that the A3000 is pretty competitive. In fact in some cases it’s an upgrade so it’s been really fun. I also have a Roland SP-606 which works fine for working with loops. It syncs well with the Yamaha A3000 if required. Honestly, I’m not into that much looping really so some hard core loopers may require more in features than what I currently use.

It’s always good to hold on to old gear as you never know when you might need it again in the future. Actually if I think about it, I don’t think I was able to sell the A3000 version one in the first place so perhaps that is why I really kept it…laugh. However, with my recent interest in working with multisampled instruments and synthesizers, I’ve found the Yamaha A3000 version 1 to be a more than capable and rewarding hardware sampler. So far, it has been getting the job done beautifully. Perhaps one of these days I’ll upgrade to either the A4000 or A5000 when I see one, but for now, my A3000 has a new life with multisampling and it’s super cheap on Ebay right now!!

Boss RC-50 Synthesizer Loop Station

Boss Roland RC-50 RC50
Boss RC-50 Loop Station

Today I picked up a mint conditioned Boss RC-50 Loop Station at a nearby used music shop for $250. The only thing missing in the package was the CD-Rom and manual which is the reason why the salesman knocked off quite a bit from the original price. It’s amazing they do that because anyone can simply log onto the internet and find that information. They really reduce the price greatly no matter what’s missing it seems. Of course thats great for getting a reduced price on some nice music gear.

For a while I’ve had the urge to get a Boss RC-50. I’m a big fan of looping, originally with my guitar, but lately with sythesizers and keyboards. I’ve worked with the Boss RC-2, RC-20, Gibson Echoplex, Lexicon Jamman, and most recently the Digitech Jamman Solo. Both the Jamman Solo and Boss RC-50 are stereo. In Japan, the Boss RC-50 has always been very hard to find for anything except paying the retail price of $500. I figured when I saw this unit for half that I realized it was probably now or never.

The Boss RC-50 has lots of problems I’ve heard, namely with midi sync and any sort of tempo adjustment. With my experience using the Gibson Echoplex, I find that you most likely will have to use the Boss RC-50 as master in order to resolve most sync or midi issues. The ONLY looper I have ever used that worked flawlessly with midi sync as both slave or master was the Lexicon Jamman. The Lexicon Jamman is “the best” with regards to midi sync as far as I’m concerned. However, linking all my synthesizers up to midi is not what I am interested in right now.

The main reasons for acquiring the Boss RC-50 were several.

1. I like the fact that it’s stereo and that the sound quality is very good sonically.
2. I think the 24 minutes of loop/sample time is adequate for my live looping situations.
3. It’s relatively easy to transfer WAV files to/from the computer via USB.
4. Surprisingly, the footprint of this pedal board is smaller than expected. It’s not bad.
5. Using the Boss RC-50 in multimode with three tracks playing simultaneously is fantastic and probably the main reason why I bought it.

With regards to midi and adjusting tempo, I don’t really need to worry about that. I also do not have any issues with timing when playing by myself or with others. I don’t know why, but I don’t seem to have timing issues in or outside a band like some people do.

Finally, I have heard great things about looping with Ableton Live. It’s probably the best way to loop “IF” you are into computers and are they type that doesn’t mind lugging your computer gear on stage and configuring it. Some people really have a system down. I am old school perhaps and I also work everyday with computers on the job, so I prefer to work with dedicated hardware at the moment. I don’t deny though that Ableton is likely the best solution if you want a ton of looping features. The Gibson Echoplex is great too by the way if you can still find one. It’s a mono looper though.

For small footprint guitar pedals, the Digitech Jamman Solo and Boss RC-2 Looper are great devices. I have both and they are great tools. I haven’t tried the Line6 M9 or M13, but I’ve heard they are great basic loopers as well. Roland I noticed has a countdown happening on their website, so maybe we’ll see an update to the Roland Looper line within the year or early next. For now though, I’m having a blast with the Boss RC-50 Loop Station with my Synth and keyboard gear. It’s easy to loop a quick drum track and throw a bass line on top of that. Then it’s great fun to kick in with a rhodes sound and practice away.

I practice a lot of jazz, funk, rnb, and gospel progressions on the keys, so it’s fun to lay down a groove to practice my chords, runs, and movements with each style. While sequencing is certainly possible, I sometimes just prefer to loop sections using the Boss RC-50 now and jam on that for a while. I can also save the WAV phrase files for later if I happen to like the groove and wish to develop it further into a song. It’s great fun.

What’s your favorite looper?

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Roland SH-201 versus SH-01 Gaia

Roland SH-201 Synthesizer
Roland SH-201 Synthesizer
Roland SH-01 GAIA Japan
Roland SH-01 GAIA

Roland SH-201 versus SH-01 Gaia.  I own both of these synthesizers and here’s what I think.

First, I bought the Roland SH-201 used for $500 bucks over a year ago, so I definitely got it much cheaper than paying full price for the Roland SH-01 Gaia.  Personally, for what you get, I think the price should have been the other way around to a certain degree.

For my purposes, I actually prefer the Roland SH-201 over the SH-01.  Here are my reasons.

1.  The Roland SH-201 has software that fully supports the creation and catalog of sounds on the computer.  The software is really good.

2.  Via the software, you can split the keyboard any way you like.  This makes it great to play a bass sound on the lower part of the synth, while cranking out a lead solo on top.

3.  If you plug in an iPod with backtracks, you can more easily create a sort of one man band using the Sh-201 since you can split the keyboard better.

4.  You also can save your own created arpeggios to the user slots on the SH-201.  This is what the SH-01 should have had and I’m mystified as to why they dropped it.  User arps is a must for me.

5.  You get an extra octave over the 37 keys on the GAIA.  Yes, it’s longer but the synth is really not that much bigger and the SH-201 is still light weight.

6.  If you only use two layers of sounds ( which most people will I’m guessing initially ), then the SH-201 will get you close to the great sound of the Gaia.  Sonically, the Gaia is better, but not by a wide margin in my opinion.  I also think the SH-201 is a bit grittier which I personally like for Rock oriented synth stuff I sometimes like to play.  Some think basses are slightly better sounding on the SH-201 as well, but that is subjective I know.

7.  You still get the D-Beam, Ext In, Phrase Recorder, and all the other bells and whistles that the Gaia has with the exception of the effects.  Most will probably just plug in an external effects processor to compensate.

8.  The Roland SH-201 can be found at blow-out prices if you act quickly.  Later on, the demand might hike it up once people realize that “perhaps” it is a nice synthesizer after all.

While I slightly prefer and recommend the SH-201 over the SH-01, the GAIA does have some notable pluses.  The sound is better by most accounts, you get the three tone layers and effects palette, plus it definitely is more portable if you need to hike around with it.  It’s also arguably better looking.  You also get the USB stick connection and it’s new, so support may blossom, although Roland so far has been very weak and slow with marketing this product.

All in all, if I could only choose one synth to buy, it would be the Roland SH-201.  There’s just more functionality to it and sonically, not that much off the Gaia so far.  Perhaps my view may change later on.  Stay tuned..

Fun with the Roland Sh-01 Gaia

Roland SH-01 Gaia Synthesizer
Roland SH-01 Gaia Synthesizer

A little over a month ago I picked up a brand new Roland SH-01 Gaia Synthesizer at Shimamura Music Store in Nagano City Japan.  It was the very first model they received and the owner whom I know well was kind enough to hold it for me.  Why did I buy it and what do I think?  Here are some initial thoughts.

PROS:

1.  The Sh-01 is compact, lightweight, sleek, and battery powered which means it will be the synth I pack with me to my daughter’s dance and skating events.  I can sit on the bleachers and jam away for a couple of hours.

2.  You can save all your work on a USB stick plugged into the back of the unit.  Data can be transferred to and from the computer.  This is great.

3.  There are knobs and sliders for everything on this synth.  Much like my Juno-6 and Juno-106, I’ll be able to adjust all the needed parameters three fold!

4.  The three tone layers are fantastic.  I can layer motion sounds over static synth pads and then even have a third layer for additional elements over that.  Getting a nice thick and layered sound should be easy.

5.  The on board effects are outstanding thus far, especially the Bit Crusher effect which I use quite a bit.  There are reports that Chorus is missing, but I should be able to create that by other means.

6.  The sound DOES live up to the hype.  It’s a great sounding synth which is why I’ll definitely be keeping it despite the many CONS written below.

7.  Has an audio Ext In which is great for attaching my iPod with backtracks and audio tutorials.

8.  The D-Beam Controller is surprisingly good and usable on the Gaia.  I really like it so far, especially when use with effects.

9.  Easy to shift the keys down an octave or two, so having only 37 keys is not that bad.  The keys are full size and great by the way.  You can definitely “run” fast when soloing.

CONS:

1.  The SH-01 is Polyphonic BUT not multitimbral.  This sucks in that I really wish I had at least two to split sounds with.

2.  There is no way to split the keyboard probably due to point #1 above.

3.  You cannot create user arpeggios or save them as there are no user slots.

4.  You can create and save real time phrases using the built-in recorder, BUT, once you change the patch, the sound in the phrase changes too.  This really sucks because it means you can’t layer a solo over a background patch.

5.  USB storage capacity is fixed which means you can’t go any higher than 1GB.  This is ok, but you would think it would be possible for more, but nope!

6.  Roland still has not released the CB-37SY case for this synth yet.  They’re late!!  I have one on order at Shimamura but no word yet on it’s release.

7.  No software available for the Roland SH-01 Gaia yet.  Is there one in the works?  Not sure, but I think a librarian will be needed with how easy it is to create new sounds on the Gaia.

8.  Some might not like that fact that the board is only 37 keys.  See my “Pro” point #9 though.

9.  Despite the nice feel and sound, I do think Roland over priced this unit a little bit.

Overall, I am happy I purchased the Roland SH-01 Gaia.  It is hard to get one where I live and not many appear to be arriving in stores.  I would like to see Roland support it more with software, extra sounds, and perhaps some additional sound creation tutorials.  In the end though, I am very happy with the board for the main reason of being able to carry it around and playing it while on the go.  Ultimately, the Roland SH-01 Gaia makes for an excellent synth to create new sounds, but also as a lead solo synth on top of your other gear.

Roland Juno 6 Synthesizer in Japan

Roland Juno 6 with Case
Roland Juno 6 with Case

This week I picked up an excellent condition Roland Juno 6 for $90 bucks at a local second hand shop here in Nagano City, Japan. What a fantastic deal! The Juno 6 powered up just fine and absolutely everything worked like a charm. No problems at all! I also was able to get the case, manual, and some connection cords as well. I think somebody had this tucked away in their home for a long time and decided to sell it. I saw it sitting up on a shelf and instantly grabbed it to check out the condition. I brought some headphones and just rolled over at the price tag. I new then I was going home with a fantastic Roland Juno 6.

The sound of the Juno 6 is awesome in my opinion and it’s been a blast jamming on it for the last couple of days. I find the Juno 6 to be so much more reliable and stable than the Juno 106. Which sounds better? I think they both sound great in their own way in case anyone asks. I love the LFO trigger on the Juno 6, plus the arpeggiator is awesome as well. In fact, in my next post I’ll explain how I got it to sync with my drum machines. Indeed the Juno 6 does not have midi nor patch storage, but that is not a problem. I found a way to sync the arpeggiator and because I can play keyboards and program synths well, the patch storage is only a minor issue if at all. It’s definitely a fun machine.

Cool video found on youtube.
http://www.youtube.com/user/elfferichfour