Zoë Blade's notebook


The word rompler is a portmanteau of ROM (read-only memory) and sampler. A rompler is a digital sound module that can play back prerecorded samples stored in ROM, but that can't record new samples into RAM.

For musicians who only bought a sampler in order to access its manufacturer's existing sample library — they cared about making music, not making sounds — romplers made samplers obsolete. They did away with all the unnecessary and costly electronics (not to mention menu diving) required to create new samples. They even beat samplers at playing back existing samples, when it came to sheer speed. As soon as you turn a rompler on, all its sounds are ready to play. No tedious loading from floppy disks, CD-ROMs, or, worst of all, SysEx dumps.

For musicians who bought samplers to experiment with sound design, turning anything into an instrument — and musicians who bought samplers to sample other people's records, chiefly their breakbeats — romplers were less useful, being by their nature filled with clichéd bread-and-butter sounds designed to appeal to a broad audience. Still, they were useful if you needed the odd memory-hungry piano or strings, relieving the sampler from the burden of playing the ordinary alongside the extraordinary, freeing up its precious RAM and polyphony.

In short, the more you used popular sounds, the more useful a rompler was.

In hindsight, the Mellotron and Orchestron were analogue precursors to romplers... and anything else exclusively offering preset sounds wasn't far off, from drum machines to string machines.

Example implementations

Romplers: Carnaval | JV-1080 | Orbit 9090 | Planet Phatt | R-8 | U-110 | Vintage Keys