Hardware samplers may never make a comeback…but I’m ready.

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One thing I kind of miss in this information age is the random pawn shop score. Ebay has almost ruined the secondhand market for gear, causing folks to inflate prices or overvalue. I guess the same holds true for most collectibles. The last frontier seems to craigslist or the good old yard sale. Basically “the game done changed”. It’s not enough to search for deals on stuff that people already consider valuable, nowadays you have to stay ahead of the curve and search for things that no one’s really checking for. Case-in-point…rackmount hardware samplers.

Last year I found a guy selling an Emu ESI-4000 on craigslist for only 10 bucks. He said it wasn’t triggering and perhaps someone could use it for parts instead of just putting it in garbage. I figured what the heck, perhaps it’s user error. As I’m picking up the Emu I ask him, “What else you trying to get rid of?” and he shows me another sampler. This time it was an Akai Z4 in a road case. I remembered this was basically a MPC 4000 without the pads or sequencer. He said that it wasn’t working right either, but I could take it off his hands $25?!?!

The case itself was worth more than that.  I felt guilty so I gave him 40 or 50 bucks.Sure enough once I made it home I had them both running perfectly in less than an hour. The Emu was just set to an odd MIDI channel and the Akai just had bad stick of RAM installed. Score!!! The Z4 being one of the last samplers Akai made addresses nearly all the downsides of dealing with hardware in a modern studio. You can use USB to transfer sounds or program it directly from a computer. It has an large internal hard drive and can autoload sound on boot. It sounds incredibly pristine and tight. I’m currently transfer a bunch of old Akai libraries over to it just to use as an extra sound module. I haven’t really found a use for the other one, so the ESI-4000 is basically collecting dust.

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