Sunday, November 23, 2014

Akai S1000


Akai S1000 sampler

The mighty Akai S1000. When it arrived in 1988, it was the first affordable 16 Bit, 44.1kHz Sampler, making it a highly desirable studio tool. By today's standards, its stock 2MB RAM configuration and 3.5" Floppy drive seem really low-spec and outdated, but back then it was the bee's knees. This was high-tech that cost thousands of dollars! Today these machines can be had for really cheap. Well, why would anyone want to have one in the first place? Why go through the hassle of getting this clunky 3U machine to work with your studio setup, to learn its operating system, to go about buying sampling disks, to take care of SCSI storage, cabling, termination etc.? When you can have a super duper software sampler for free?
Well, the answer is simple: because it sounds great and it is FUN! And it is a reliable machine with tight MIDI timing. Once you figure out how to sample and to create programs it becomes second nature. I sampled quite a few drummachines with it and built my own little library. The S1000 is an excellent drum sampler.

When I got mine on eBay, the seller had advertised it as having 4MB of RAM, so it came as a pleasant surprise when I discovered that it actually had 8MB fitted (The S1000 displays RAM as MWord, and 1MWord = 2MByte!). 8MByte really is a lot when you are using the S1000 as a drum sampler. I might top up the RAM to 32MB some day if I find a good opportunity but so far I am very happy with the amount of RAM installed. It also has the latest OS installed (4.4). However the OS version history is poorly documented so I am not entirely sure what has changed since Version 2.0. My S1000 also has the Digital I/O and SCSI Expansion cards installed (the ones by Mutec, DIB-01 and DIB-02). You really want to use a SCSI drive with the S1000!

I recently got my hands on a mint-in-the-box 2x SCSI drive enclosure which had obviously never been used before. A look inside the case revealed that it was manufactured in 1988, a genuine time capsule! Nice.


New old stock SCSI case from 1988

I took an old internal SCSI Iomega Zip drive (100MB) along with a 5.25" adapter frame and installed it in the enclosure. I also disconnected the fan power connector as the fan was pretty loud. I figure it should not be a problem since the ZIP drive does not really get that warm. Although there are ways of installing a SCSI drive inside an S1000 (which can be quite a complicated undertaking for various reasons) it seems a good idea to have an external enclosure with a convenient power button in the front. Whenever you are done loading or saving your stuff simply turn the enclosure off and it will stay cool and quiet.


External SCSI enclosure with internal 100MB Iomega Zip Drive

Unfortunately the S1000 does not store your external drive's SCSI ID. When you turn the S1000 off and on again, the drive's ID is reset to 5 which is the default ID. Actually that's pretty logical since the S1000 doesn't have a battery for data storage. I guess one could store the config to a floppy disk along with the OS and have the S1000 boot from that disk. Rather impractical. I would recommended you set your drive's ID to 5 and you are all set. 

Things to look out for if you want to buy an Akai S1000:
1. Which OS version? You want to have at least V. 2.0.
2. How much RAM inside? Remember, 1MW=2MB!
3. Any expansions installed? Think Digital I/O and SCSI.
4. Floppy drive functional?
5. Display background illumination: Still fresh or dim?
6. High-pitched display whine? LED inverter could be bad.
7. High-pitched power transformer whine? Could be due to vibrating transformer windings.

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