AKAI S612: Voices of the Dead


This was completely, utterly, an impulse and I was punished for it. I was one of the first people in the world to use one of these, as I happened to be in London when a demo unit arrived at one of those old gear magazines (Autistic Music Maker or Electronic Dork or something). And I used another all over the Come Visit The Big Bigot album. So I thought, hell, I’ll buy a lost dog.


The dog turns out have been owned by an art college somewhere and every student has pissed into it at some point. The main unit itself works fine, even though a fair few knobs are replacements that the AV department have found over the years (n.b. that’s my one in the picture). The QuickDisc drive however had died long long ago and left rotting in the sun. I learned that day that if an eBay seller doesn’t specifically say it works, it doesn’t.


QuickDisc of course being an abomination that should never have been birthed.


The one I used in the UK had no drive because that hadn’t been finished yet. For Bigot I had only a single disc to play with. So all up I’ve never thought too much about storage – until very recently, as we shall see.


The interest is that the sampler is a unique bit of engineering. Two of the guys from EMS developed some digital echo that they then took to Electro-Harmonix, where it became the basis of the Memory Man and later on a simple monophonic sampler. When Electro-Harmonix died, the technology was picked up by AKAI who simply put six guitar pedals in a box, added a MIDI port, trademarked the word ‘sampler’ and advertised the hell out of it.


As it says – 12 bit, 32K, so long as you use the shortest length. One sound at a time and always velocity sensitive. There is a low pass filter, it’s not bad. But what everybody loves is the start/end sliders – taken straight from the guitar pedal – and the tearing, glitching mess of noise that comes from dragging them back and forth. AKAI soon fixed that with the S700. Fools.


Now – storage – I was trying to find a way to dump a sample to the Roland xv5080, which seems to hate anything I try to send it. In doing so I stumbled across Sample Wrench, which I vaguely remember from the Amiga. And lo – an S612 sample dump. To my amazement it works and you can send noise to and from this antique to your current computer. Nice.


One problem. When you call a sample from the S612, it shows up mangled. Save it, load it, and it is un-mangled. I don’t know why. But I guess it has something to do with 12 bit audio being confused with 16 bits. Never mind, I can send noises to the box that I made 25 years ago and do to them what to I did back then.


Could come in handy.








It was either this or a red car and I think I chose wisely.