Sampleplayer should not to be confused with samplers. The main difference is, sampleplayer can only play back samples that are somehow stored inside the module. Sometimes this storage is an internal memory that is more or less fixed and you have to work with the samples from the memory. However, some sampleplayers have an exchangeable memory, either a chip, a USB connection or an SD card. When using sampleplayers with exchangeable sample memory you are free to create your own samples from any source, whether it is your synthesizer, field recording or basically anything else … and some of you might have heard of the concept of sample libraries. There are rumors that some of these exist somewhere in the internet.
The other type of sampleplayer is equipped with fixed samples, so you can’t change them. What first seems like a drawback often is due to the fact that the other aspects of the module are tailored to work best with these type of samples. (One of) the first sample based instrument ever produced was the Mellotron, which used this exact principle of fixed samples and a tailored interface to create specific sounds. The first module to be discussed in this text is one of these specialized sampleplayers.
The WMD Chimera comes with preloaded samples from metallic surfaces and objects. These samples are processed in a granular way to create metallic, industrial and futuristic soundscapes, WMD calls the processed samples surfaces. The controls and parameters of this module are all tailored to create sound of a specific granular type, while giving you a lot of possibilities to bend these samples to your likings. The result is a unique module with lots of possible applications. As it already features morph and density parameters, two envelopes, a multi effects processor and a dedicated button to play the it’s sounds directly, the Chimera is instant fun and doesn’t need much more to sound interesting. Nevertheless there are eleven inputs to fill the Chimera with life.
The Tiptop Audio One is a small sampleplayer with exchangeable SD cards that function as sample memory. In contrast to Chimera the One follows a totally different concept. While Chimera has eleven fixed samples preloaded that are also granualised, the One comes with an SD-card slot that is even hot-swapable, this means you can change the SD cards while your synthesizer is turned on. This is a really helpful feature, for example for playing live. Even samples with more than one hour are no problem for the One. Technically the One is built to provide excellent audio quality and ultra-low latency – two very important aspects if you want unaltered sound and the feel of an analog circuit. The only way and the most important way to change the sound of a sample is to change the speed at which it is played back. Therefor the one features a CV input that can be used in different modes that change the behaviour of the input. The same applies to the gate input. This is the perfect sampleplayer for all those who are looking for the best audio performance and simplicity in exchanging samples.
The Pico Drums by Erica Synths is a basic sampleplayer with the ability to trigger and play two samples at the same time while outputing these at a shared output jack. The audio quality is 12bit / 44kHz – the 12bit is very common for many vintage samplers and provides you with a direct and pronounced sound. To get your own samples onto the Pico Drums you have to connect it via USB to a computer and use a google app in the Chrome browser to transfer them to the module. The samples can then be modified from the user interface, you get independent control over Pitch, Decay and Level for each drum. Also the CV input can be configured to take care of these parameters and the sample select. A very versatile and hp-saving module for a very good price.
The GMO follows a totally different approach. Sound quality is also a very important point if you want to describe the characteristics of this special module. But this time it is not about high fidelity but dirt and noise. Møffenzeef Mødular created a module that is based on a 12bit audio resolution just as the Pico Drums. BUT it plays the samples at only 16384 Hz, therefor it has a way more lo-fi character! The module uses the best elements of granular and wavetable technologies and is entirely voltage controllable. Eight samples are on board and your own ones can be uploaded. To play with these samples you can manipulate the playback speed in a huge range from 0.01% to 300%, by what the sound can range from arcade style noises at low speeds to odd order harmonics, distortion and side-band modulation at very high rates. And you can determine the start and endpoint of the sample, by hand or by the dedicated CV input.
All these sampleplayers are perfect for playing percussion sounds and drumsamples. But due to their modulation capabilities or their maximum playback time they can also be used in very different ways and create entirely new and unheard soundscapes. Whether you are into high fidelity and low latency or harsh and lo-fi sounds that can be mangled until the original sound turns into something completely new there is a variaty of diffenrent concepts available in eurorack-world – it is great to have so many different choices these days.
This is by no means a complete overview of the available modules or a full review of the modules discussed. The What about… texts are here to give you new ideas and maybe another perspective on things. All these modules offer more features than we have talked about in this post. For further information please click the provided links or – even better – visit the shop and ask the SchneidersLaden experts in the showroom.