Zoë Blade's notebook

Akai S900

S900 tech specs

Akai S900
Akai S900

  • Released: 1986
  • Company: Akai
  • Type: Sampler
  • Polyphony: 8 voices
  • Timbrality: Multitimbral
  • Sample rates: 7.5 kHz — 40 kHz
  • Sample resolution: 12-bit
  • Audio out: 8 + stereo pair
  • Control: MIDI
  • RAM: 750 KB
  • Storage: 2DD 3.5" floppy disk
  • Display: 40×2 character LCD
  • Features: Pingpong looping
  • Size: 3U

The S900 was a sampler released by Akai in 1986.

For most musicians in the 1980s, the Akai S900 was the first remotely affordable multitimbral sampler. It wasn't just another instrument you'd add to the mix, it was something you'd combine with a MIDI sequencer and mixing desk to make an entire studio in its own right. Combined with an Atari ST running Creator or Cubase, this was the start of the sound-first workflow. It helped house and hip hop producers segue from DJing and turntablism to creating full remixes and collages.

On a technical level, the S900 occupies an interesting middle ground: recent enough to be multitimbral and thus the cornerstone of a studio; yet old enough to actually change the playback sample rate in the DAC, rather than faking it in software while keeping the DAC at a steady rate.

S950

Put it through the S950 then stretch it, to create the great type of shit to fit

— Large Professor, "The Mad Scientist", 1996

S950 tech specs

Akai S950
Akai S950

  • Released: 1989
  • Company: Akai
  • Type: Sampler
  • Polyphony: 8 voices
  • Timbrality: Multitimbral
  • Sample rates: 7.5 kHz — 48 kHz
  • Sample resolution: 12-bit
  • Audio out: 8 + stereo pair
  • Control: MIDI
  • RAM: 750 KB — 2.25 MB (750 KB ×3)
  • Storage: 2HD/2DD 3.5" floppy disk, ACSI (optional), 60 MB SCSI (optional, (£89[1])
  • Display: 40×2 character LCD
  • Features: Pingpong looping, timestretching
  • Size: 3U

Three years later, Akai released the S950. This was a minor improvement on the S900, bringing it cosmetically inline with the then-new S1000. Its memory could be increased to a more comfortable amount, and it gained the S1000's most prominent feature: timestretching. Like the S900, it can still perform pingpong loops, something the flagship S1000 can't do. It also improved upon the S900's sample rate, although that was already more than sufficient to begin with.

Accessories

RAM
Interface boards

Quotes

S950

On "Voodoo [Ray]", you can hear a girl called Nicola singing. We went into a studio in Manchester called Jonny Roadhouse and she sang everything normally and I put her voice into the S950 and reversed it.

— Gerald Simpson (A Guy Called Gerald), 1989[5]

As far as sampling's concerned, there's an Akai S900 for the sequencer sounds — that is, all the shorter samples that are rhythmical or have to be triggered repeatedly by the sequencer: percussive sounds and sampled basslines, things like that. Then we have the S950 which is used for all the keyboard triggered parts, which are the most prominent samples on the record. And that's it, really, but I'm very happy with what we've got. The samplers in particular have been brilliant. Everything's so easy on them, even the S950. They have some brilliant functions, and it's all, basically, pretty obvious. They seem to work in the same way that people's minds work.

— Mike Edwards, Jesus Jones, 1990[6]

The vocal sample on "Playing With Knives" is timestretched — about 83%, I think.

— Carl Turner, Bizarre Inc, 1991[7]

If you want drums tight then get an S950, S900, or any Akai sampler. The S1000 isn't as tight as the 950, but it's still good.

— Gamble, Rhythmatic, 1992[8]

There's even an argument about Akai S950s and S1000s: some people think that when you play a 950 sample in the S1000 it loses its character. That's why a lot of people do a basic loop on the S1000, and when it comes to the bass drum and snare, they put them over the top on a 950. It has a snappier, brighter quality.

— Jimi Goodwin, Sub Sub, 1993[9]

The S900 was fairly rudimentary. The S950 you could and still can do pretty much anything you want.

— Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), 2017[10]

One of the reasons I stuck with the 950 rather than moving onto an S1000 was it had reverse loop and it was much easier to get a smooth loop because it becomes like a vibrato warble rather than a click click click. You could just move the loop point fractionally by millionths of a second until it sounded right.

— Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), 2017[10]

My two favorite instruments in the '90s were the samplers from Akai: S950 followed by S3000. I could use these almost blindly. The lowpass filter on the S950 is so unique that I acquired another S950 on the used market this week. The filters are the most important part of all the instruments for me.

— Biosphere, 2021[11]

Notable users

S900

S950

References

  1. "Turnkey" Turnkey (Vendor), Sound On Sound, Nov 1989
  2. "Akai Professional Musical Instruments Catalogue 1988-1989" Akai, 1988
  3. "Akai Professional Sampler Catalogue 1989" Akai, 1989
  4. "Solving Akai Sampler SCSI & CD-ROM Compatibility Problems" Paul Farrer, Sound On Sound, Nov 1997
  5. "A Guy Called Gerald" Vie Marshall, Micro Music, Oct 1989
  6. "The Gospel According to Jesus Jones" Nigel Lord, Music Technology, Jan 1990
  7. "Strange Changes" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Dec 1991
  8. "The Rhythm Method" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Jan 1992
  9. "Sub Culture" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Jul 1993
  10. "Classic Tracks: Fatboy Slim 'Praise You'" Tom Doyle, Sound On Sound, Jan 2017
  11. "In the Studio With Biosphere" Headphone Commute, Jan 2021
  12. "45 Kingdom" Simon Trask, Music Technology, May 1989
  13. "Future Shock" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Dec 1988
  14. "Beat Generation" Tim Goodyer, Music Technology, Jul 1989
  15. "Ian Boddy" David Hughes, Sound On Sound, Dec 1989
  16. "Bass Studies" Tim Goodyer, Music Technology, Oct 1988
  17. "Enya - Watermark" Mike Collins, Sound On Sound, Mar 1989
  18. "Front Line" David Bradwell, Music Technology, Jun 1989
  19. "Past, Present and Future" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Aug 1992
  20. "Future Talk" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Jan 1994
  21. "Inside The KLF" Mark Prendergast, Sound On Sound, Apr 1991
  22. "Synths and Stuff" Danny Wolfers
  23. "Techno Rhythim" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Nov 1990
  24. "Under New Orders" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Apr 1994
  25. "Renegade Action" Stephen Hillier, Music Technology, Jan 1989
  26. "A Night In The Studio" Tim Goodyer, Music Technology, Feb 1989
  27. "Dream State" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Jan 1991
  28. "Age of Chance" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Jun 1990
  29. "Voodoo Chile" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Apr 1990
  30. Everything Is Wrong Moby, 1995
  31. "Recording Moby's 'Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?'" Tom Flint, Sound On Sound, Feb 2000
  32. "Waxing Lyrical" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Sep 1991

Reviews

S900

S950

Tips

Downloads

Documentation

Samplers: Akai S900 | Akai S1000 | Casio FZ-1 | Roland W-30 | Sequential Circuits Studio 440