There’s an old thread on this topic, dominated by talk of ancient Akai and Roland rack-mount gear. But for someone stepping into 2021, what’s the best hardware sampler to pair with Pyramid? Key requirements: multi-timbral, compact, capable of streaming long stereo files. Preferably multiple audio outs.
Most samplers are also sequencers and performance machines. But since my desktop space is limited, I don’t want more control surfaces. That rules out Akai MPC and the Pioneer DJ series (incuding Toraiz). Korg Electribes hold only about 4 minutes of music, which won’t do.
I have an Octatrack that’s a pain to work with so don’t favour anything from Elektron… besides a Digitakt supports only mono samples.
Currently I have a Korg Volca Sample, which is fun for what it is, but obviously limited.
Is the 1010 Music Blackbox truly the only choice? I’d like to hear form those who have paired this with a Pyramid. Any obvious limitations?
check out the rample by squarp. i think its a great compliment to the pyramid.
Id echo @Greyscale’s comment re: Rample. Brilliant device and the audio quality is amazing. Edit to add: and amazingly easy to integrate with the Pyramid and an extremely resilient OS
That being said, regarding your comments in the OT: i tried many many times to integrate the OT to my rig but it just didnt work until the latest OS.
I find the OT and the Rample now occupy complementary but separate niches in my rig
I bought an MC-101 recently so I can make tracks when I’m not at home. You can load samples and play them polyphonically, and it has the usual stuff like loop points, envelope and filter (although not really many options for modulating the samples beyond a pitch envelope) it is pretty cool for the size.
You can also load up to 16 different samples into a drum track to play them as one-hit ones.
Bit expensive new, but second hand market seems to be around £100 cheaper than new most of the time.
Also a lot of the other sounds on it are really nice sounding, if limited in our control over them (apparently the MC-707 gives you full control, but is bigger and doesn’t run on batteries) plus the new “random preset” functionality (which dials in a random patch) does generate some really nice stuff, but again, very limited control over the sounds once they’re done (essentially filter and envelope modifiers - you cannot use it to create a sound ‘from scratch’ just on the 101)
I bought the blackbox a month ago and very happy with. Simple, portable, 6 mono outs, clock.
Thanks for these suggestions.
I had looked at the Roland MC-101, which is nice and compact. It has four tracks, high polyphony count, stereo out, and a six minute stereo file limit. By comparison, the Blackbox has six output channels, and a 4GB streaming limit, which would be about six hours! But I am not clear on how the track count and polyphony work. The docs say the unit has “16 samples, 16 sequences and 16 song sections per preset”. How can I interpret this in terms of concurrent tracks?
I hadn’t considered the Rample since I am wary of getting sucked into Eurorack. But thanks for the suggestion. With four voices and 16 samples each, it seems more oriented towards one-hit usage, which I will be using for drums and percussion. But I also need longer sample triggering. Perhaps someone can speak to that functionality?
In a couple of monthes, I should receive a Pipes sampler from Synesthesia (2 years in the making!) : https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pipes/the-ultimate-music-performance-machine-for-studio/description
At the moment, I can’t tell about the availability outside the Kickstarter campaign, but the machine meets some of your requierement (long audio files with immediate access without loading time, multitimbral, relatively compact) but not all (no separate outputs). Maybe it’s worth you give it a look.
I hear you on being wary of being sucked into Eurorack. I got a bit overzealous with designs over on ModularGrid, but I’m happy to be using a simple lunchbox which houses my single Rample, a panner, and an output module. I plan on a second Rample. (In my lunchbox there’s room for 3 Ramples and a simple panner like Nearness (2hp) along with space for 1u tiles)
I would agree the Rample is probably more suited to shorter mono samples possibly due to my inability to regard device flexibility in my creative process, but I use mine regularly for samples that develop over several measures and stereo - generally on my single Rample I’m using SPs 3&4 for Stereo and 1&2 for singles, mostly perc & perc like stuff. Your mileage may vary.
With the OT OS 1.40 I’ve re-integrated that device into my rig to focus on those. No shade on Rample doing stereo and longer samples, just that dividing up tasks by device helps my creative process.
However the Rample is EASILY controlled via MIDI and that is probably the biggest selling point for me. I find that grooveboxes tend to want to be the Master and the Rample is happy to be controlled. Also being able to select kits via MIDI is nice.
Re: limited samples per SP - There are 4 SP’s, each with 12 layers, and each layer can have 64 slices. If you are into manipulating MIDI data and can handle the extra prep time to make slices and organise layers, that means that theoretically there are 768 samples available for each SP. I have yet to put this to serious testing for latency and/or accuracy (and I may never get around to it).
I wish I could speak of the BlackBox from experience. It looks like an amazing device and was on my radar until the Rample came out. Honestly I was looking at 1010music’s Eurorack version before the desktop variant came out. Also the cost of picking up a case, powersupply, etc for Rample might be prohibitive. I’d love to hear about experiences/suggestions from people who use it as a Slaved device.
Thanks for the detailed response. I know that ultimately it’s difficult to know what exact tool suits which precise person. I am spoiled because for many years I’ve developed my own custom toolkit in Reaktor. Of course I’m not expecting the same flexibility in software, since with hardware someone else has made many of the core decisions. I ponder these matters as I await my Pyramid, which seems stuck in transit limbo!
My reason to go with hardware is a) to get a different experience, b) to work more fluidly with certain performers who prefer “instruments” as opposed to “computers”. I don’t really see the difference, myself, but there’s an image thing that I know can be important.
For quite a while I was considering a Deluge but I’m an old-school engineer who thinks all those flashing lights looks stupid. Actually, what sold me on the Pyramid are the generative tools and all the external connections. I have a soundcard with two MIDI ports so I am looking forward to using 32 channels in various imaginative ways.
Your point is a good one about MIDI implementation. That’s undersold these days. I have a couple of the Volcas and they are pretty strange and limited when it comes to MIDI control. I know they are cheap but I can’t think of an excuse to implement velocity in a non-standard way!
Never heard of it! Thanks for the head up. Am so glad I started this thread… learning all the time.
I think Pyramid pairs really well with BlackBox. Super easy to set up, the BB powers the Pyramid through the host port. The LFO’s on the Pyramid speak to the BB really well. A lot of the issues I see on the BB forums are non-issues for me with the Pyramid. Before BB I was looking at the Elektron Model Samples and something small like a Korg Volca Keys but BB gives me a lot more in less desk space.
I support the Blackbox too. Great combo with Pyramid as @JROZ said, plus you can use it as a really portable standalone device.
Having checked out Pipes, I wonder if it is trying to solve the problems that actually need solving. The focus is very much on latency and the ability to quickly load samples. But in every case I have ever encountered, once a sample bank is loaded, you simply play your sampler as an instrument. So long as the RAM is large enough, there’s never an issue. It appears the designers come from a drummer background, which might partially explain. This is why there are only stereo outputs (much like the Nord Drum), since the Pipes is meant to be a discrete instrument. But this contradicts the multitimbral nature of the device. Seems like an Achilles heel.
I do hope you soon get your unit, since the Kickstarter project looks (from the surface) to have failed. There aren’t many backers and no public updates in months. Though i see now that there are some locked updates (visible only to backers) so perhaps you have had good news? Fingers crossed!
Zynthian should be added to this thread. It’s a low-latency, multi-timbral synth engine based on Raspberry Pi 3. It has stereo in/out, several USB connectors (can act as host), and MIDI in/out/thru on DIN. It’s WiFi enabled, so you can configure it through a web app. The interface matches a touch screen with several mapped encoders.
Zynthian can basically host any sound engine that can run on ARM. This includes a custom additive and subtractive synth engine, Dexed for FM, Pianoteq for piano/organ emulation (though that requires a commercial license), and many others. Plus PureData and LV2 plugins.
On the sampling side there’s LinuxSampler. Though this supports only GIG and SFZ formats, it does stream from disk. There’s also FluidSynth for SoundFont format. Not sure if there’s a more complete way to use the device as a sampler (to gather sounds) and sample playback engine. Loading is from SD card, so a lot slower than Pipes claims.
I was never too tempted due to the hodgepodge nature of the software. I have a computer for that! And it’s unclear how MIDI would be mapped in a consistent fashion, so that Pyramid could act as brain.
But I could see a Zynthian acting as a stand-alone piano (or whatever) engine. The 8GB kit is only €335, which is compelling.
Actually the Pipes campaign worked, and even if the final product took something like one year more than expected to be completed, there was regular updates (monthly this year : there was a post last month and another one is coming soon). The covid crisis didn’t help but Pipes is really in the final stage of completion.
I think the multiple outputs was the main lacking feature, but I wasn’t after that personally. You are right, Synesthesia was more drummer oriented before, but this one is more melodic instruments oriented. The immediate sample access wasn’t a seller for me neither, but is apealling to musicians who need to switch from a large sample to another one immediatly on stage, without loading time. With 32 or 128 giga of storage, you can jump form a big multi sampled grand piano to a Rhodes, in immediatly.
For people looking for more experimental tools, the main feature is the ability to run custom Pure Data patches (it seems a lot of patches will be provided with the machine), that could drive the machine into unexpected territory. It was originally included to run midi effects in the box, called tweakers, but it should be able to run anything Pure Data can do.
And it was also announced that it can load Linux audio effect format. So there is a lot of things that i didn’t see elsewhere.
Big plus for me on the Blackbox too - great UI, no sample limit. you can hit some walls with multitimbrality if you push it too hard but when I was looking to buy, most of the samplers around were monophonic.
I also have a Zynthian but as a synth emulator. As a sampler the UI just never seemed to work for me, nor the sample engines - but that could have changed as its been a little while. (I’m running a RP4) I find soundfonts a real pain to work with.
Blackbox is very quick to edit samples, scroll around, slice things up. You can run it off one midi channel on the Pyramid and span samples across the keys, or use and entire bank of 16 channels, one per sample - loads of fun with the Euclidian mode.
I’m curious as to why no one mentions the SP 404.
I’m not sure if I’ve seriously looked at it, but I was curious if anyone was using this device with Pyramid and what their impressions were. I had assumed it would be a contender.
I did look at that and it’s supposed to have some really good features and FX.
However for me, it was a bit big and just has a number display - I wanted visual wave editing.
I guess another option if you’re good with DIY gear is the Tsunami WAV Trigger.
Takes basic soldering skills, but you’re on your own with an enclosure (and I suck at that part, so mine remains…nekkid).
Very basic, configurable with 8 mono or 4 stereo outputs - 4096 samples - MIDI access.
I don’t think I tested mine with Pyramid, but MIDI is MIDI…?
There’s also a Eurorack version somewhere - basically a unit that an existing Tsunami plugs into if I remember correctly (which I don’t quite often because: bad brain). YMMV
I want to try a rample, or maybe tiptop one, or plonk but I’m using a blackbox.
I also plug a launchpad x into the blackbox usb host and then control the squarp with the launchpad for velocity sensitivity.
Many things work but sometimes the blackbox crashes when I’m live looping, routing the midi back and forth gets weird, I ordered a kenton usb midi host so I can run the launchpad straight to the pyramid hopefully.