The Akai S-5000 was in its time, with its big brother the S-6000 model, the top of the top on samplers market. Unbeatable sound quality combined with an extremely advanced set of functions, 24 filter types, interesting routing possibilities and, above all, a very large graphical screen allowing access to an extremely well designed and thought interface! This interface also makes it possible to display graphics and thus to visualize the waveforms of the samples.
The S-5000, like generally all the « serie S » Akai samplers, does not color the sound. The sample is therefore neutral, which is a « proof of concept », from a technical point of view, the excellence of the electronic design of the A / D converters. The default samples format used is the .WAV format used in the computer industry. Indeed Akai had abandoned its proprietary audio formats, which allowed us to read native .wav files previously recorded and processed on a computer for instance. The samples specifications use 16 bits, 44.1khz or 48khz mono or stereo.
The range of connections and I/O is complete for exchanging files … There is an internal SCSI slot (50 pins) to install an internal SCSI hard disk, and 2 external SCSI ports (CD-ROM, HDD, …) . Unfortunately, the USB port is not built-in and an expansion board will needed (and purchased) to facilitate the data exchange with a PC / MAC using a USB connection.
The machine can be loaded up to 256MB of RAM (it’s 512x more than what you can get on a EMU Emax SE) and has 8 separate outputs (expandable to 16 outputs) as well as 2 MIDI buses (Midi-A, Midi-B) allowing to use 32 MIDI channels simultaneously. The polyphony is 64 notes and may be increased to 128 thank to a DSP expansion card.
But beware, this sampler is not just a sampler, it is equipped with a very advanced sound synthesis offering no less than 24 different filter types (HPF, LPF, NOTCH, …), with dedicated envelopes. There is also a large range of possibilities about routing the two LFO to various functionalities (pan / filters / pitch / …).
It can therefore be used as a synthesizer. Of course purists will always claim that these are digital filters that do not have the warmth of old analog circuits, but I must say that the rendering of the Akai S-5000 is really amazing!
As an added bonus, the CPU is an Intel 80386EX that allows you to perform heavy processing tasks in a minimum amount of time (regarding 1999). There is a whole range of classic digital processings related to time-stretch, pitch, splice, chomp, looping, triming, …
All those features are extremely well detailed on the screen, it’ impossible to get lost.
The possibilities offered by this machine were enormous, back in 1999, and still remain true today! I especially appreciate the programming interface, the sound quality and the construction « made to last » of this machine. We are far from contemporary machines made only of cheap plastic and tiny screens. The « S » series was designed for the professional environment.
Once again, there are lots of debates on the topic « Virtual Samplers versus Hardware Samplers » … We all know that virtual samplers are, by their nature, infinitely more powerful (since they are related to the computer characteristics) and with a high quality sound card, one will obtain a sampling very superior, able to use 32bit/192khz audio specifications.
Nevertheless, as I repeat very often, infinite possibilities doesn’t help so much to be cleverly creative but dealing with constraints and limits would do. That’s what makes us creative !!!
The electronic guts:
On the audio card, there are quality components such as the AKM 4324VF 24-bit 96khz (105dB) D / A converter and the Mutsubishi 5220 low-noise amplifiers. The A/D converter (input), used is a high quality AK5340-VS (18bit, dual channel).