Akai S2800 and S3000 Digital Samplers (part 1)
Power to the people, thats what I say. The power, I mean, to tell manufacturers how they should improve their products to make them better and more usable. As can easily be seen in any dealers high tech showroom, many new products seem to be more operationally complex (that means fiddly) than their predecessors and the value of any increase in capabilities is often lessened by the difficulty of actually using it. Not so with Akai products. Since they first got into musical instruments and samplers they have consistently produced fully usable gear. Everything is done for the convenience of the user and what they dont get right this time they probably will the next. If there is any slight drawback, its that their design team work on a higher level of brain function to most humans and they still sometimes dont realise how simple we would like our equipment to be. But they are getting there, and the two samplers I have in front of me - the S2800 and S3000 - demonstrate this quite clearly. (Experienced Akai users will particularly appreciate the fact that the inputs are now on the back and the headphone socket is on the front!).
The first question you are asking, I should imagine, is whether the S3000 (on which I am going to concentrate) is a totally new and revolutionary device, one which will change the face of sampling forever. No its not - and thats not a bad thing at all because what we samplists need is a machine that will fulfil a particular niche in our activities, and Akais incremental improvements are sensibly moving closer and closer to perfection. The S3000 is very much a development of the S1000 and in virtually every feature you can see the evolution of something good into something better. In May or thereabouts there will come the S3200 which will replace the S1100 for those who need that little bit extra, and I would expect to see incremental improvements in a similar way.
As far as the outward appearance of the S3000 goes, the colour is the same - thank goodness they havent changed to hifi black yet. Strangely however, the legending is less clear than the older models because Akai have chosen to use grey print on a metal finished control panel. Users will spend a lot of time here and the legend really does need to be absolutely as clear as possible. A major change involves the replacement of the cursor wheel with a four section keypad. Its difficult to assess the impact of something like this without a few weeks serious use so I am reluctant to comment. I do miss the old positioning of the data wheel and Mark and Jump keys (which are used for swapping back and forth between two cursor positions, perhaps on different pages). On my S1100 I can set up a program very quickly with one hand, changing between operating the cursor wheel and then using my fingers on the data wheel and thumb on the Mark/Jump keys. To achieve the same speed with the S3000 was a two hand job, which is twice as tiring when you are working on material in bulk.