Sampler/SCSI Questions
 What is SCSI doing on my Sampler. I have several Samplers, do I need to buy several hard drives or CDRoms?  Can I use my computer's internal CD-ROM drive or hard drive with my sampler?  Isn't true that softtware samplers are just as good as hardware samplers?

Back to MIDIGuy Main Page

Home   Catalog   ShowRoom   SecureOrder    SpecialEvents     Clients Page     Links




Q: What is SCSI (Pronounced SCUZZY) doing on my Sampler.
A: SCSI stands for Small Computer Systems Interface. It is a high speed parallel interface for hard disks, CDRoms Scanners, etc. There are several types: SCSI I (5 Mps -megs per second throughput possible), SCSI II (10Mps), SCSI Ultra or III (20 Mps), SCSI Ultra Wide (40Mps). Mac computers usually use SCSI I. IBM Compatibles PCs usually use IDE which isn't SCSI and isn't compatible with SCSI. It is a different way of interfacing hard drives and CDRoms. While it is cheaper to make IDE drives than SCSI, IDE drives have a slower throughput of 2-3Mps. EIDE is faster than IDE with rates up to 4-8Mps. Also IDE/EIDE drives may have buffer problems where they can bottle neck the transfer of data causing a loss of data.You can add any type SCSI to a PC and upgrade Mac SCSI by adding a SCSI Card . Most samplers use SCSI I. Why? Because most professional muscians use Macs which have a standard SCSI Interface built in making it easy to develope software with SCSI tranfer ability and SCSI has been a  standard since 1986.
Q: I have several Samplers, do I need to buy several hard drives or CDRoms?
A: Not necessarily. If you have several of the same brand like Emu, Roland, Peavey. etc you can share your hard drives, etc. It's not a good idea to hook them up in a single daisy-chain, but you may get by if you have only two samplers and they can be set to different SCSI IDs/addresses. Otherwise You should get a SCSI switcher. It's a little box that could save you from crashes and the hassle of constantly reaching behind your rack to change cables. You need to make sure the box you get is SCSI not serial and has the correct number and type of connections. This switcher allows multiple samplers to access a single array of hard drives or CD-ROM drives on the same SCSI bus. The SCSI bus was never meant to host more than one operating system at a time, so when daisy-chaining works at all, consider it a happy accident.
A SCSI switcher sets up your gear in a "star" or "hub" system where each sampler becomes a separate spoke on a wheel. By switching the knob on front of the box you're selecting which sampler has access to your hard drives, etc at that time. You can't switch while the hard drives are saving or loading sounds. If you want to switch samplers on the fly, you need to make sure the switcher is an active one. This allows you to safely change from one sampler to another without having to reboot the system after you have flipped the switch.While more expensive they will save you from crashing or causing you to lose valuable sounds or data. Passive switchers can be used but it recommended to power off then switch the SCSI bus then power on, doing it on the fly is dangerous to the hardware in your system.
Q: Can I use my computer's internal CD-ROM drive or hard drive with my sampler?
A: Yes, maybe,no. If you have a Mac or PC with SCSI you can use the CDRom (if it's campatible with the sampler) but it's not a good idea. The computer doesn't recognize most sampler CDs because they are in their native format which usually isn't a Mac or PC format. Unless you're using a program like Transfer Station, Digital Performer, Osmosis on the Mac or PC which is written to negotiate SCSI connections between your sampler and computer, using your internal CD-ROM drive could cause problems with your data and may even lock-up your system. For example, if you insert a sampler CDRom into your  CD drive on a Mac, you'll get a message asking if you want to format the CD disk you just inserted. Untill you select eject or format, the Mac just sits there not doing anything. If you then go to your sampler and load the CD into it then go back to the Mac and tell it to eject the CD, you can use the CDRom for your sampler. During this time however,  you have lost the use of your Mac so don't have your sequencer playing! 
Using your computers hard drive doesn't work for two reasons. The first reason is that unles you have a SCSI drive it just won't begin to work at all. The second reason is that unless you have a program that knows how to store the samples and program information (Where do the samples go? What filter setting, ADSR setting, LFO setting, etc) and convert them on the fly or if your operating system lets you partition your hard drive so the sampler can see it as it's own, it's not going to work. Except for editing samples with a program like Bias(Mac) or Sound Forge (Win),  there's no such software that does all that. Neither the Mac OS or Win 95/NT know how to partition a drive so it can share it with a sampler.Tho EMU is going to ship a Software Version of their Ultra Series Samplers which will allow you to use the CDRom, HDs connected to your Ultra to load sounds into either the Soft ware Ultra or Hardware Ultra. When this ships (in 2-3rd Qtr 2002 for both the Mac and PC), It will be the first true Network System for Samplers. It also does more than this so check Emu's site for more info.
On the other hand, if you install the sampler into your computer; ie Digidesign Samplecell or Emagic EXS24, you then have complete freedom to use all your computer's hard drives, CDRoms, etc. You also can have your sequencer playing while loading a sound, editng the parameters of it, etc because the sampler is now part of your computer. 
The MIDI Guy recommends a dedicated CD-ROM drive and hard drive for your external sampler(s).
Be aware that not all CDRom and hard drives are compatible with all samplers. The CDRoms and hard drive we sell at The Electronic Music Box are compatible with the samplers we say they are. If you go shopping at computer store make sure you know what drives the sampler maker says to use and get those exact models, a different letter or number  in the model number could make it incompatible with your sampler. Save your time and hassle by getting your CDRom and hard drives from us or someone like us.
Q. Isn't true that softtware samplers are just as good as hardware samplers?
A. There reasons for both. Hardware Samplers offer guarrenteed performance and portability. Software Samplers offer lower cost and convenience. Software Samplers like the GigiStudio which are dedicated to single computer and not running other programs can bridge the difference as can DSP cards like Creamware's Pulsar which runs a software sampler on it's DSP not the main processor of the computer. EMU's new software Ultra sampler offers a different take, It can run as a stand alone like the GigaStudio or as a plugIn like the EXS24 and NETWORK your Hardware Ultra with the Computer to load either the hardware or software from the EOS drives or Computer HDs and it can edit the hardware parameter from the computer or edti the sofware Ultra..
Sound Quality can suffer with software samplers or synths because the CPU load. For Example check out THE MIDIGuy's test of the EXS24 vs Pulsar's ST3000 software sampler. Both used the same Akai CDRom, were set up on a Mac G4 Dual 533 with 512megs of RAM runining OS9.1 (using 158.6megs of ram)., LogicAudio Platinum 4.73 (using 99.5megs of ram, Multiprocessor enabled), EXS24, Pulsar's ST3000 (16megs of ram). While the Timing didn't get effected, the sound does. The NO LOAD TEST is 2 tracks of the same one note (1/32th C4) for 16 bars (tempo 100). Both samplers are playing the same Ilio SR Piano (C9SUSPDL SV1) The Pulsar was triggered thru a Opcode Studio 4 not using OMS (Also tested with Internal OMS Creamware connection, there was no improvement in timing verses Logic internal drivers,to Pulsar's MIDI IN Could Emagic please make direct internal MIDI drivers for the Pulsar? That could improve timing. The Pulsar was 3-4ms later than the EXS24 because of no direct to hardware drivers).The LOAD TEST was 8 EXS24s (including the test track), one Pulsar track, two MIDI tracks (tempo 95). There were no efx plugins used in the test. The screens were set to the same zoom level.
In the screenshot below you can see that the waveform is not the same between the NO LOAD and bar 16 (Sample number 1671200 in the top window, 1587600 in bottom)
In the screenshot below you can see very little difference between the NO LOAD and bar 1 (Sample number 0 in the top window, 0 in bottom). The reason is Logic is prepared to play the first notes, as the sequence progresses, it gets busy and can't keep up.
Compare the LOAD Bar 1 with NO LOAD Bar 16 above and you see even better the effect the CPU Load has on software samplers.
Below is the Pulsar at Bar One. Notice the waveform is better defined. There's also no difference between them.
Here's the Pulsar at Bar 16. Notice there's very little difference between Bar One and Bar 16 with or without a Load.
As you can see, there is a difference with just a little load, a higher use of CPU would cause the sound to degrade more.While it isn't much with just one track, add the mixing of the other tracks (in the LOAD Test they were assigned to different outputs on the Pulsar card), efxs and other synths are, the overall sound becomes less defined. BTW this same problem also occurs in hardware synths as well, the more channels that are played, the less defined the sound.. A work around is to have seperate outs and mix externally to the sampler/synth. (It also explains why there are multiples of the same syntn in pro rigs.) This isn't to say the EXS or other software samplers/synths sound bad or will sound bad as more CPU is used. It's show that a single/dual processor can't effectively process data as well as multiple processors, ie DSP cards or Hardware samplers,/synths. It's also why the waveform is more defined on the Pulsar card, the DSP is just being a sampler.
Sound is subjective and limited to your experience. What sounds top notch this week may not next week after you heard better reproduction, ie that mic preamp you bought to replace the mic pres on your mixer that you used to think was great until you hear your voice and mic thru the new mic pre which blew you away.
BTW, this test hasn't been done on Pro Tools for audio quality, it has been tested for timing with the same results, the EXS24 was faster than the Pulsar by the same 3-4ms using EBS/TDM. I'd like to see how well Pro Tools does with audio quality compared to Pulsar since you can run the same software samper as Host or TDM. Trying this test with a hardware sampler would be more difficult because the convertors on the audio card would be different from the convertors on the hardware sampler making it harder to hear and see the effect the CPU would have the sound. Being able to use the same convertors for software sampler and DSP card (Pulsar or Pro Tools) sampler shows the effect very clearly.