Akai S950 Memory Upgrade

The Akai S950 is not too hard to upgrade, and there are not too many options. One upgrade that can be important is to increase the amount of memory that your S950 has, since it can triple your sample time. Before you start though, make sure you don’t forget to unplug the Akai S950 from power. You don’t want to accidentally fry your S950 or yourself.

You can get access to the memory ports to install by taking the bottom off. To make life easier I normally draw a small picture and place the screws onto the picture so that I can put the same screw back into the same spot. This helps so that you don’t accidentally put the wrong screw into the wrong spot and accidentally strip out the metal.

Though as you can see in the picture above, I just place the screws by the holes. This was okay, but if you’re worried about dropping a screw inside the electronics then definitely get yourself some paper and a pen and draw it out.

My S950 didn’t have any memory upgrades, so it was running with the default 750kb of memory. In the picture above you can see that I installed two additional memory boards to get memory up to 2.25mb, allowing for a maximum of 63 seconds sampling time at 7.5khz sample frequency. When installing the boards I made an effort to make sure that I aligned the memory card to the port and pushed with some reasonable force, but I was trying to be careful enough to make sure I didn’t bend any pins.

This upgrade is not too hard, so as long as you are handy with a screw driver, and not too clumsy, I would say this is something an average person should be able to do without too much effort.

LoFi Buttery Piano – Akai MPC X Program

Let me start by explaining the patch a bit, and how I got here…

Life started off on the Akai S950, using piano multi samples from G1 through C4, every sixth note… My goal was to get some of that S950 12-bit grit and artifacts, but still keep it relatively free of the crazy stretching artifacts you can get by just sampling a single note and stretching it across the entire keyboard. This way, it maintains a lot of the characteristics of a piano, instead of heading into the field of creating what sounds like a more synthetic instrument.

From here, I routed the audio output into my guitar pedal board. The output on the S950 was a bit hot coming out of the mix channel though, requiring me to get the output level down to about halfway so that I wasn’t hearing any clipping or distortion on the output signal from the S950. A little bit of strategic EQ’ing helped to round out the sound through Brothers, I wanted to get a bit of that old school Casio sound, though I don’t have one handy any more for reference, so I was going from memory what of “that sound” was.

Once I settled into how I wanted to EQ the audio, I routed it to the Generation Loss. You’ll definitely hear the Flutter the most, but there is some Wow in the background as well. I also switched on the Noise, I really wanted it to sound like the piano was recorded from an old school tape that had been played quite a bit, and the tape player was about to fall apart. This definitely shines through in the samples recorded.

Everything was sampled in through the Autosampler on the MPC X, and here I recorded every note, as I didn’t want the Wow or Flutter distortion to get further distorted through the sampling engine on the MPC. Although the noise exists in the samples, I decided to tame it a bit by adding a low pass filter into the program. It helps pass through that strained sound without the piano sounding so harsh. If you want to add the noise back in just go into program mode and modify KeyGround->All and open that filter up.

Anyway, feel free to play around with this program, I had fun sampling it, and may end up adding some variations as I play around with it. I’m not sure you can tune anything to it or with it, but it definitely has a vibe all its own.

Old School Cinema for Akai MPC X/Live

The patch Old School Cinema started life on the Pocket Operator Tonic. I recorded the hits into the Akai S950 at 10khz, because I was afraid that some of the longer bass notes would exhaust the sample memory, and honestly I didn’t want to be chopping on the S950 for an hour. I was able to squeeze everything into the roughly 60 seconds of sample time I had available at the 10khz sampling rate. Honestly, I could have probably squeezed it in a bit better, but I was trying to let some of the longer notes ring out.

I played the samples pitched down a bit in the S950 to get a bit more grit and deepen the kick drum and bass notes. I’m pretty happy with the patch as it is, though you’ll notice that the bongo sounding hit has a lot of noise in it. I had normalized all the notes together, but you could still barely notice the bongo, particularly in a mix. I ended up normalizing the bongo, but this also amplified the line noise. It could probably use some filtering, but for anybody who likes having dirtier samples, that bongo is for you.

I’ve gone through and color coded the pads just for my visual preference so I can get a sense for what different sounds are on different pads. You’ll find the bottom row is drums, the two middle rows are bass, which I converted to note on instead of one shots, and I set all of the bass notes on a mute group so that you don’t drown out the bass. That leaves the top row with some glass bell type sounds.

If you’re looking for a quick demo of the patch I’ve uploaded a video here.

Akai S950 Tape Grand Piano for MPC X/Live

Here is my next patch for my MPC X Tape Grand Piano. I started with a multisample Grand Piano sampled into the Akai S950 at C/F note intervals. So samples a bit stretched, but it sounds pleasant enough, and certainly a bit more realistic than the strings a made recently.

The patch was again routed through a tape effect to give it some not so subtle tape warble. A pretty big problem that I had making this patch, is that it is over 60 samples, and while the auto sampler in the MPC X/Live is nice, it isn’t a complete solution. So I ended up spending a fair amount of time trimming the samples, only to remember that there is still a bug that if you record the content through a single input, it still records the sample as stereo.

I ended up using Fission as my rescue, since it has the ability to batch convert files, allowing me to get the samples halved in size from about 50mb down to 24mb or so. There was no stereo content so it wasn’t really a loss, and more of a productive savings. I’m going to have to keep auto recording patches though so I can get a better workflow established. Once things settle down I’ll definitely make sure I take some better notes.

I haven’t played with the patch too much, I’ll need to see how stable (or unstable) chords sound. I’ve considered normalizing all the samples, but for now they are at a fairly quiet level. I was hearing clipping coming in from some part of the input chain, so I’ll definitely need to spend some more time and figure out where I am going wrong. I bet it is both simple and obvious.

As before, the Program file is MPC X/Live, but the .wav files can be used anywhere. If you end up using the patch in anything, please feel free to drop a link in the comments!

Akai S950 String Program For MPC Live/X

Hey everybody!

Today I spent some time trimming recording in a string sample into the Akai S950.  It was about 20 seconds or so long.  The idea was to make something that could be pitched up reasonably high and still have a reasonable length to it.

Once I completed sampling into the S950, I used my Akai MPC Live to create a mono sampled key group patch from the content.  The auto sampler tried to put in loop points, but they were completed busted, so I disabled sample looping.  I have to say, I do like some of the sounds in the lower keys (C0-C1), as the stretching from the S950 sounds pretty heavy and dark.

You can download the content at S950 Strings and extract the .zip file into your media of choice on the MPC Live/X.  The samples are .wav format, so you can load them into your sampler of choice even if you don’t have an MPC Live/X.  If you end up using the sound in anything you create drop it in the comments below!