Zoë Blade's notebook

S1000 guide

Akai S1000
Akai S1000

The menu

The S1000's menu has an initially daunting 45 pages, by my count, so the first thing to do is flip through them to familiarise yourself with the layout. I made a handy map, so you can find the more obscure pages a bit easier.

Note that the tabs for some pages didn't quite fit on the screen, so to access sample page 3 you need to press F8 twice, and to access the digital interface backup you need to press F5 twice. The rest are always visible from the right section or subsection, so should be easier to spot when you're near them.

Don't worry about trying to memorise every page's location. It's likely you'll use some more than others, so before long, muscle memory should set in. Then you'll remember, for example, to press EDIT SAMPLE, then ED.2 (F5), then TIME (F3) to timestretch a sample. And in the meantime, you can search the map.

One quirk of the S1000 that you'll need to bear in mind is that the section you're in affects how the sampler responds to MIDI:

The sample editing section has no concept of subtractive synthesis, merely playing back the raw sample, albeit still at different pitches and polyphonically. In effect, while in this section, the S1000 acts like a much simpler sampler, while still retaining its high fidelity and large, friendly display.

When actually recording the S1000, remember to keep it in the appropriate section, usually SELECT PROG. Don't go wandering off through the menu, or you'll likely have to re-record it.

Making samples

Although the S1000 can do lots of things, you don't have to learn them all at once. I'd suggest starting by learning to make, save, and reload samples. Once you're comfortable with that, you can move on to the more advanced options provided by programs.


Turn on the machine, without a disk in the drive (otherwise it'll automatically load everything on the disk). Press EDIT SAMPLE on the bottom row of keys to go to that section.

By default, you can edit some simple periodic waveforms stored in ROM: sine, square, sawtooth, and pulse. But we want to record a new one, which you do by copying one of these.

One of the few things about the S1000 I find counterintuitive is naming things, whether renaming them or copying them. You have to type in the new name first, then say what you're going to use it for. (I believe this is because in Japanese, the sentence is less like "rename A to B", and more like "Aの名前をBに変更", literally "A's name B change to".) So press the NAME button to start entering a new name. Each button doubles up as a letter of the alphabet, so you can now use them to enter a name. Then press ENT/PLAY to finish entering the new name, then COPY (F6) to copy the existing sample to this new name. (The function keys serve page-specific purposes shown at the bottom of the screen.) Now you have a newly named sample you can record to.

Next, press REC1 (F2) and use the CURSOR and DATA wheels to ensure the settings are to your liking. Finally, press REC2 (F3) to go to the recording page within the sample editing section, and press ARM (F8) to arm the sampler for recording. Make some noise, adjust the record level (note the switch as well as the knob), and take as many attempts as you need to record a clean, loud sample. It should be loud enough to start recording when the sound starts, and to have a high signal-to-noise ratio, yet not so loud that it clips. Digital distortion is pretty harsh.

You can play the sample back by pressing ENT/PLAY, or playing an external keyboard. Once you're happy with it, it's time to save it.


Pop in a floppy disk, press DISK to go to that section, then press SAVE (F2) to go to the saving page.

Another thing that can easily trip you up is that by default the S1000 is set to load and save everything, not just what you've selected. Set the TYPE OF SAVE to just CURSOR ITEM ONLY. Select your sample, and press GO (F8) to go ahead and save it.

There are lots of ways you can modify the sample, but there's no undo feature, so it's always best to save early and often. If you want to be on the paranoid side, now's the time to turn the sampler off and on again to make sure it really does load OK. If it doesn't, at least you still have everything to hand to rerecord the sample.

While this is barely scratching the surface of the S1000's abilities, I find it's good to get to the point that you're doing something fun as early as possible, so take your time sampling things and playing melodies and rhythms on those samples.


To save resources (disk space, memory space, polyphony), it's good practrice to trim the silence off the end of your samples. This is reasonably straightforward:

Press EDIT SAMPLE to go to that section, and select the sample to trim with the DATA wheel. Press ED 1 (F4) to go to the first sample editing page.

Use the CURSOR wheel to select the end of the sample, and enter a new value for it. You can select any digit of the value and use the DATA wheel to increase or decrease it, or you can use the numbered buttons to simply overwrite that digit onwards. As you'd expect, this applies to changing any other number too.

You can press ENT/PLAY or play your keyboard to hear the changes as you're going. You generally want to preserve as much of the sample as you can reasonably hear, then trim off the silence.

If you need a closer look at the waveform, you can use F7 to toggle between the start and end of the sample, then ZIN (F5) and ZOUT (F6) to zoom in and out.

Once you're happy with the new length, press CUT (F8) to go ahead and trim the sample in memory. Then save it to disk as before, to free up some space.


The problem with the Akais is that they're for the Japanese brain. Take looping: if you want to edit the beginning of the sample, you have to start at the end. It's mad, like somebody who reads right-to-left trying to read left-to-right.

— Jean-Michel Jarre, 1993[1]

This whole page can seem pretty counterintuitive at first, but once you get used to it, it becomes clear that it's both compact and useful.

First, select a LOOP (personally, I've only ever needed one). You can specify a time that it lasts for, between 0 and 9999 miliseconds. (Remember, you can use the number pad instead of the DATA wheel to save time.) 0 turns it OFF entirely, and 9999 will HOLD it, looping indefinitely. Next, you can select which sample you're looping, so if you want to loop lots of samples, this saves you a lot of menu diving.

As with trimming, you can press ENT/PLAY or play your keyboard to hear the changes as you're going, and you can edit the loop points even while the sample's still playing.

The waveform display is split into two halves. The left half shows the whole waveform, and the loop start and stop points within it. The right half, which lets you zoom in and out via ZIN (F5) and ZOUT (F6), shows the very end then very start of the loop. In contrast to the trimming page, it zooms in and out of both ends together. This helps you make the loop seamless, as in addition to the usual listening out for the click to disappear, you can also see whether the start and end values line up on the screen.

You can change where the loop is at, and its lng (length). The former changes where it ends, not where it begins (although changing it will move both), and the latter changes its length by keeping the end stationary and moving the beginning.

Pressing FIND (F7) changes the length (again, keeping the end still while moving the beginning), automatically finding another match for you. As far as I can tell, this finds a matching value and direction. Very useful!

If all else fails, you can apply a sneaky crossfade. Just set the Xf time, and press X-FD (F8). Remember, there is no undo feature, so make sure you save your sample before doing this.

Making programs

As long as you stay in the EDIT SAMPLE section, the S1000 works as a polyphonic but monotimbral instrument (capable of playing several notes at once, but only one patch). If you only want to play one sound at a time, that might be all you need. But if you want it to, the S1000 can do a lot more, as the centrepiece of your studio.

If you plan on using the S1000 to play several different samples at once, you need to use programs. This allows you to, for instance, have a classic home studio consisting of an Atari ST (presumably running Creator or Cubase), an Akai S1000, and a mixing desk.

What makes the S1000 a bit odd (in my opinion, at least) is this: I'd expect to be able to tell each MIDI channel which single program I want it to play. That is, I believe, how most multitimbral equipment works. "Whatever's on channel 1, please play program 24. Whatever's on channel 2, please play program 36." And so on.

Instead, with the S1000, each program has a MIDI channel number saved as part of the program itself. So when you change the program, it changes which channel it's receiving notes on. This allows each channel to play multiple programs at once, to layer up multiple sounds.

To further complicate things, multiple programs can share the same program number, so when you tell the S1000 to "please play program 24", this will load all the programs numbered 24.

I think it's designed so you don't group your samples together by type ("here's all my distorted drums, here's all my biscuit tin clangs"), but rather by song ("here's all the programs and samples this particular song uses"). So you could use a program number per song, and by switching to another program number over MIDI, load up all the programs and samples it needs, on all the appropriate channels, in one fell swoop.

If you have your heart set on grouping your samples by type, you should probably do that as well as grouping them by song, preferably on a separate partition.

Advanced options


You can install a SCSI board into the S1000, allowing you to access an internal drive, and up to four external ones.

Every device on the SCSI bus has a number, 0 through to 7. The S1000 itself is 6; its internal drive, if it has one, is 5. Each external drive should therefore be numbered 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 7.

I recommend the SCSI2SD drive, which writes to a microSD card. It simultaneously emulates four external SCSI drives, numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4.

When you turn on your S1000 with a SCSI card installed, but no internal drive, it will wait a while for the missing hard disk to get ready. Go ahead and press SKIP (F7) if you don't want to wait.

Press DISK to go to that section, then HDSK (F5).

There are a few options on this page, most of which you can leave alone. It's the second option we want to change. Set SCSI drive ID to the ID of whichever SCSI device you want to access. Then press LOAD (F1) to commit to the change and go back to the loading page.

Finally, to actually load data from the SCSI drive, use the DATA wheel to change the LOAD FROM DISK target from the default FLOPPYL to HARD-:A.

If it worked, you'll see a list of the files on the disk's first partition, partition A. If it didn't, you'll get another warning that the disk drive's not ready.

Alas, because the S1000 has no non-volatile memory, it will forget which drive ID you want to access when you next turn it off and on again. You'll probably get pretty quick at entering F7, DISK, F5, selecting ID 1, F1, selecting the hard disk.

(If you prefer, you can complete these steps in a different order, selecting HARD-:A as the drive to load from before selecting the SCSI ID to access. It makes no real difference which error message you get along the way, out of a missing floppy disk or a missing hard disk.)

While it may be a little tedious to select the drive upon bootup, you get 512MB to play with per SCSI drive. It's a perfect speed for sampling: slow enough to assure you it actually saved your data, but fast enough to not bother you. If you're saving to an SD card, it's also silent.


Sampling technique

The general consensus seems to suggest the following: you should sample loud things, then tweak the programs and samples so that you can fake quieter versions by skipping over the start of the sample, having a longer (softer) attack on the volume envelope, and dulling the sound with the filter, all based on the note velocity.

Similarly, when it comes to long, sustained sounds, you can loop a short snippet, maybe vary the pitch slightly with the LFO, and use the volume envelope (and perhaps filter envelope) to achieve the requested note lengths.

Note that the S1000's filters are digital and have no resonance. This is fine for making duller versions of bright sounds, but if you want screaming acidlines, you'll have to sample a resonant analogue filter on the way in, or run the sample through a resonant analogue filter on the way out.


Like the S900 before it, the S1000 thinks in terms of programs, keygroups, and samples. Each program can have 1-99 keygroups, which in turn each have 1-4 samples.

I find it easist to visualise like this: samples can be stacked vertically (based on which velocities they respond to) into a keygroup; and in turn, those keygroups can be combined horizontally (based on which pitches they respond to) into a program.

Each of these items has its own attributes:


* This affects each sample independently, but is still stored with the rest of the program data, not with the individual samples. If a given sample is used in multiple programs, these settings can be different in each one.

Multiple programs can have the same MIDI program number, allowing you to select several at once.


Samples can also be timestretched, but this isn't an attribute, so much as a process that changes the sample's data.

Hard disk and CD-ROM format

SCSI-based data consists of disks, partitions, volumes, and files. Each disk can have several partitions, which in turn each have 1-128 volumes, which in turn each have 1-64 files. The two kinds of files are samples and programs. (Keygroups are stored as part of the program they belong to.)


Files are measured in blocks. 1 block = 8 KB.


  1. "Sound And Vision" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Aug 1993, pp. 50—54

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