Kim-TAL 2

For me, it goes back to Lil’ Kim.

Let me back up. Much as we take it for granted in 2015, once upon a time in a far-gone decade called the 80s, sampling was a new technology. Groundbreaking (and expensive) instruments such as the Fairlight CMI and Synclavier brought new possibilities for playing with recorded audio. Suddenly, sounds and sequences which used to take days of work from skilled tape manipulators became keyboard-mapped.

Here’s Herbie Hancock demonstrating sampling on Sesame Street with a Fairlight CMI (watch for guest appearance from a very young Tatyana Ali):

[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKoisNv1ftw[/youtube]

Into the late 80s and early 90s, samplers got smaller and more affordable. But sampling still wasn’t “perfect”. Most samplers were 8- or 12-bit, with noticeably low sample rates. This bit and sample rate crunch – in addition to digital hiss and other jittery ghosts in the machines – is part of what continues to make artifacts like the Emulator, Linndrum, and SP-1200 so desirable to this day.

And here’s where Lil’ Kim comes in. Check out “Rain Dance”, by Jeff Lorber Fusion:

[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNqfnZ24pSg[/youtube]

Now, listen to Lil’ Kim & Lil’ Cease’s “Crush on You”, a classic 90s Bad Boy production from Fanatic of the 3 Boyz from Newark collective (watch for an Aaliyah cameo):

[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWC79TcWWsI[/youtube]

While “Rain Dance” is clearly the sample source, it doesn’t sound so much like a jazz fusion combo on “Crush on You” as it does like a fuzzy flute synthesizer. That’s the magic of old samplers – that digital grit which could truly transform a sample and apply a unique stamp of imperfection. Pitch- and time-shifting also served to exaggerate these artifacts.

In 2015, our sampling options are many – most DAWs have samplers built-in, and hardware samplers are at or above CD-quality audio – the Elektron Octatrack, for example, samples audio at 24-bit / 44.1 KHz, with sophisticated algorithms for time and pitch stretching (to be fair, there are also bit crushing effects on the Octatrack). There’s still the curiosity of that digital charm that’s the default in an old sampler, however; in fact, for many musicians making music that celebrates the digital past (e.g. vaporwave or anyone releasing on Death of Rave), we want it more than ever.

 

TAL-Sampler CDM

 

That’s where TAL-Sampler comes in. Coming from TAL – a company renown for its free plugins, as well as its excellent models of the Juno 60 and SH-101 – this isn’t just another software sampler. The plugin emulates a few digital/analog convertors, including those of the Linndrum series and Oberheim DMX (via the AM6070 8-bit PCM DAC), the E-mu Emulator II, the flexible “sample hold” mode, and the straightforward (and less vintage) “linear” mode. With controls specified by DAC model, you generally get the self-explanatory sample rate, hiss, and saturation, plus some added nonlinearity in “jitter” (sample clock) and “offset” (table scaling – just trust us, it sounds more vintage) controls. As a trip back in time, TAL-Sampler is a pretty sweet experience – and the flexible control routing isn’t bad either (see GUI shot above).

Check out some of what TAL-Sampler can do in our audio demos:

In these examples, you can hear a demonstration of the “Crush on You” sample, a wildly time-stretched beat, and some classic jungle-style pads and breaks – here’s an example of the original article in A Guy Called Gerald’s “So Many Dreams”:

[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BD-0hScHwc8[/youtube]

TAL Sampler isn’t the first plugin to do this – 112db’s Morgana is another option – but the specific controls for each model are particularly nice. While there are plenty of other options for getting the sound of old samplers – there are more than enough bit-crusher plugins out there – TAL Sampler does have a special feel to it. It’s also, like most TAL plugins, on the cheaper end of things, at 60 USD.

So, the problems of the 80s and 90s have become carefully modeled features in the 2010s. This Brian Eno quote has recently been making the rounds, and seems to sum up how imperfections turn into desirable qualities:

Eno quote

Good food for thought. In the mean time, TAL Sampler, borrowing from Biggie: I gotta let you know that I got a (bit) crush on you.

  • ted kocher

    Soulive totally copied that Jeff Lorber groove too. Check it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdGe0BsbEt8#t=4m06s

  • ted kocher

    Soulive totally copied that Jeff Lorber groove too. Check it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdGe0BsbEt8#t=4m06s

  • STFUDonnie

    Huh, and all this time I thought Crush On You sounded like that cause it was sampled from an MP3

    • dabravanel

      haha – think that would have been difficult making the beat in 95/96, well before MP3s were widespread. Most likely an MPC60 or SP-1200. Crunch crunch!

  • STFUDonnie

    Huh, and all this time I thought Crush On You sounded like that cause it was sampled from an MP3

    • dabravanel

      haha – think that would have been difficult making the beat in 95/96, well before MP3s were widespread. Most likely an MPC60 or SP-1200. Crunch crunch!

  • misksound

    mmmmmm jungle…..

    EDIT: Renoise.

  • misksound

    mmmmmm jungle…..

    EDIT: Renoise.

  • Tekknovator

    In Steinbergs Groove Agent 4 you can find a “Vinyl” mode for your sample playback among the usual bit and sample rate reduction. It plays the sample as if the vinyl had been sped up for sampling, which was done back in the days save memory. After recording the sample was played back slowed down, adding a grainy texture to the sound.

  • Tekknovator

    In Steinbergs Groove Agent 4 you can find a “Vinyl” mode for your sample playback among the usual bit and sample rate reduction. It plays the sample as if the vinyl had been sped up for sampling, which was done back in the days save memory. After recording the sample was played back slowed down, adding a grainy texture to the sound.

  • Paolo

    In Lil’Kim video they’re dancing on Ableton Push 🙂

  • Paolo

    In Lil’Kim video they’re dancing on Ableton Push 🙂

  • johnny

    Yep, in the not too distant future everybody will be pining for youtube to bring back grungy 240p music videos x

  • johnny

    Yep, in the not too distant future everybody will be pining for youtube to bring back grungy 240p music videos x

  • chaircrusher

    There’s a whole genre of this kind of distortion, going back to that Steinberg vinyl sound plugin that everyone was using 15 years ago. NI Kontakt lets you pick out which sampler DAC to emulate, but the effect is so subtle I mostly don’t bother.

    All the software options are no match for the actual analog techniques, like when Portishead had dub plates cut of their rhythm tracks and resampled them, or the Chemical Brothers ran their sampler through a guitar amp and mic’ed it to pick up room noise.

    I for one am lusting after old Akai samplers, that made everything sound more live. The Akai S20 is amazing.

    • Ian

      dunno, in my experience the workflow on the Akai S20 isn’t great…and then your power supply breaks, and storage on floppies is a bit like going back to the stone age. It can be a laborious way of getting a grittier sound. Build quality is good though!

      • DPrty

        Yeah but you cant beat the sound and you should really own a Soldering Iron.

  • chaircrusher

    There’s a whole genre of this kind of distortion, going back to that Steinberg vinyl sound plugin that everyone was using 15 years ago. NI Kontakt lets you pick out which sampler DAC to emulate, but the effect is so subtle I mostly don’t bother.

    All the software options are no match for the actual analog techniques, like when Portishead had dub plates cut of their rhythm tracks and resampled them, or the Chemical Brothers ran their sampler through a guitar amp and mic’ed it to pick up room noise.

    I for one am lusting after old Akai samplers, that made everything sound more live. The Akai S20 is amazing.

    • Ian

      dunno, in my experience the workflow on the Akai S20 isn’t great…and then your power supply breaks, and storage on floppies is a bit like going back to the stone age. It can be a laborious way of getting a grittier sound. Build quality is good though!

      • DPrty

        Yeah but you cant beat the sound and you should really own a Soldering Iron.

  • heinrichz

    That is a truely charming device and review !

  • heinrichz

    That is a truely charming device and review !

  • DPrty

    We do need more vst samplers that can actually sample so that’s a real positive but I have yet to find a plugin that lives up to the sound of the actual hardware. I will definitely try the Tal plugin and have no opinion on it yet but I collect old samplers and its not just the converters that make them special its the matched amp’s filters etc. I use the Asr-10 for drums, Emu e64 for orchestral stuff and even more modern samplers have there own niche like the Roland VP-9000 has a really smooth plastic sound. You can even choose your sound by generation of sampler within the same company take for instance the Emu E64 has a dark buttery brooding sound while the Emu E6400 also sounds excellent but has more clarity in the high-end frequency’s. The one thing plugins have is a modern and convenient workflow. The question remains, why don’t more developers put an actual sample function in their vst sampler?

    (Edit .. I just looked at the Tal plugin website and couldn’t see anywhere that says it actually samples?)

    • That’s right, it doesn’t actually sample (like most software “samplers”).

      • DPrty

        I never understand the thinking behind leaving out the very thing that makes it a sampler … the sample function. I created my own Vst sampler with with Flowstone http://www.dsprobotics.com/index.html and it has a sample function. I am by no means a pro developer but I can tell you its not that hard to put in.

  • DPrty

    We do need more vst samplers that can actually sample so that’s a real positive but I have yet to find a plugin that lives up to the sound of the actual hardware. I will definitely try the Tal plugin and have no opinion on it yet but I collect old samplers and its not just the converters that make them special its the matched amp’s filters etc. I use the Asr-10 for drums, Emu e64 for orchestral stuff and even more modern samplers have there own niche like the Roland VP-9000 has a really smooth plastic sound. You can even choose your sound by generation of sampler within the same company take for instance the Emu E64 has a dark buttery brooding sound while the Emu E6400 also sounds excellent but has more clarity in the high-end frequency’s. The one thing plugins have is a modern and convenient workflow. The question remains, why don’t more developers put an actual sample function in their vst sampler?

    (Edit .. I just looked at the Tal plugin website and couldn’t see anywhere that says it actually samples?)

    • That’s right, it doesn’t actually sample (like most software “samplers”).

      • DPrty

        I never understand the thinking behind leaving out the very thing that makes it a sampler … the sample function. I created my own Vst sampler with with Flowstone http://www.dsprobotics.com/index.html and it has a sample function. I am by no means a pro developer but I can tell you its not that hard to put in.

        • foljs

          “””I never understand the thinking behind leaving out the very thing that makes it a sampler … the sample function.”””

          The thinking being that there are tons of dedicated tools for the job (sampling = audio recording), which tons more features and maturity, and everybody has at least 3 at his disposal…

  • feel study

    haha, well played article Peter. and i love when you cover hip hop, it is indeed Digital Music!

    i came up using the ASR-X. now i have an MPC 60II and an MPC 1000. the 60II sounds absolutely fantastic, it takes a ton of work to use though, gives me so much respect for Primo (who i already loved and respected) he just annihilated that machine. i LOVE the MPC 1000, to me its the perfect balance of the classic sound and feel with modern enough enhancements that give it fun ease of use. but all this to say, i just picked up Push 2, and i have not had this much fun sampling in a long time. i know its software, but i don’t care, it’s so intuitive and fun. so not to put an Ableton ad in the comments of this sick looking piece which i’ll probably pick up too (you can’t have too many samplers) but just fun to see some beat making talk going on around here, would love more of it!

    • feel study

      oh Sh*t! well played David! Peter must be off rocking a techno set or talking with TED. 🙂

  • feel study

    haha, well played article Peter. and i love when you cover hip hop, it is indeed Digital Music!

    i came up using the ASR-X. now i have an MPC 60II and an MPC 1000. the 60II sounds absolutely fantastic, it takes a ton of work to use though, gives me so much respect for Primo (who i already loved and respected) he just annihilated that machine. i LOVE the MPC 1000, to me its the perfect balance of the classic sound and feel with modern enough enhancements that give it fun ease of use. but all this to say, i just picked up Push 2, and i have not had this much fun sampling in a long time. i know its software, but i don’t care, it’s so intuitive and fun. so not to put an Ableton ad in the comments of this sick looking piece which i’ll probably pick up too (you can’t have too many samplers) but just fun to see some beat making talk going on around here, would love more of it!

    • feel study

      oh Sh*t! well played David! Peter must be off rocking a techno set or talking with TED. 🙂

  • Edison

    Damn this thing is fresh! Bit crush, filter and stretch are really impressive.

  • Edison

    Damn this thing is fresh! Bit crush, filter and stretch are really impressive.

  • Dubby Labby

    World needs new sampling machines (more than Volca and Tribes) but affordable.

    Roland what’s going on? Wake up!

  • Dubby Labby

    World needs new sampling machines (more than Volca and Tribes) but affordable.

    Roland what’s going on? Wake up!

  • Jason C

    you just sampled squarepusher drums in that “jungle” example.

  • Jason C

    you just sampled squarepusher drums in that “jungle” example.