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Samplers with Analog Filters: Get the Best of 2 Worlds


Samplers with analog filters  · 

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Elektron

Pairing digital samples with analog filters can yield some creamy and delicious results. Here are the top samplers and sample players with analog filters.

Samplers with Analog Filters

One of my favorite pairings in the world of music production is the sampler and analog filter. There’s just something about the combination of digital sound and analog tone shaping. More common in the early days of sampling, it’s made something of a comeback in recent years – although it isn’t nearly as prevalent as I would like.

Before we get into it, I’d like to address some nomenclature. A sampler is by definition an instrument that can record audio and turn it into a sample for playback. Many of the instruments on this list – particularly the modern ones – are not samplers in the strictest sense but sample players. I’ll be sure to identify which one a product is..

The History of Samplers with Analog Filters

Analog filters were common in samplers almost from the start. Along with envelopes, a filter helped shape the sound. It also took some of the edge off the originally low-bit results.

Fairlight CMI samplers with analog filters
Samplers with analog filters. · Source: Arturia

The Fairlight CMI, the first commercially available polyphonic sampler, had an analog filter.  You could find them in the E-mu Emulator II and III and the first Emax. Ensoniq put one in the Mirage. Sequential was fond of them too, using them in its Prophet 2000 and Studio 440. Akai’s early S-series machines had them, including the S612, S900, S950 and the keyboard-equipped X7000.

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However, as digital technology improved, companies began equipping their samplers with digital rather than analog filters. While these could certainly be impressive (one of my all-time favorites is the digital filter in the Casio FZ-1), there’s still something to be said for tempering a digital audio file with an analog filter circuit.

Thankfully, manufacturers are coming back around to analog filters, with a number of them appearing in modern samplers and sample players.

Samplers with Analog Filters: Sequential Prophet X 

In 2018, Sequential debuted the Prophet X. An ambitious instrument, it combines digital oscillators with sample playback engines with two 24dB/Oct analog lowpass filters. Not a sampler per se (you can’t record in like the Prophet 2000) it nevertheless involves samples in its architecture – and ones supplied by professional sample house 8Dio no less.

Sequential Prophet X
Sequential Prophet X · Source: Sequential

Sequential announced this year that it’s discontinuing the Prophet X – although it’s still available while supplies last.

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Samplers with Analog Filters: Roland Fantom & Fantom EX Series

The Roland Fantom-6/7/8 and new Fantom EX-6/7/8 are very capable machines. Along with all of the different things they can do, there is also sampling. This is not just import (it can do that too) but true sampling from an external source. And, although the Fantoms are primarily digital, they also have a separate routable analog filter on board.

Roland Fantom EX lead
Roland Fantom EX · Source: Roland

If all you want is sampling, the Fantoms may be overkill. But if you’re in the market for something that can do it all – including sampling and analog filtering – then check out a Fantom EX.

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Samplers with Analog Filters: Arturia MicroFreak 

The Arturia MicroFreak is the little digital synth that could. It’s had a number of firmware updates over the years, including one (firmware 5.0) that added sample and granular engines. It can’t sample like the Fantom EX but it can play imported samples, with editing of start, end and loop points available. It sounds wonderfully gritty and pairs perfectly with the MicroFreak’s smooth analog SEM filter.

Arturia MicroFreak
Arturia MicroFreak · Source: Arturia

Unfortunately, the more generally capable MiniFreak hasn’t got the sample update yet so for now, your sample and SEM options are confined to the paraphonic Micro. 

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Samplers with Analog Filters: Elektron Analog Rytm MKII

The recently released Digitakt MKII from Elektron is getting the lion’s share of the attention lately. (Even I called it one of the best standalone beat makers you can get.) However, it doesn’t have an analog filter. For that, you’ll need an Analog Rytm MKII.

The Elektron Analog RYTM OS 1.70 Update: 5 New Machines and more!
The Elektron Analog RYTM OS 1.70 Update: 5 New Machines and more! · Source: Elektron

Twinning an analog synth with true sampling, Analog Rytm MKII lets you smush it all through an analog filter and overdrive. It sounds amazing and truly is the best of both worlds.

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Samplers with Analog Filters: Rossum Electro-Music SP-1200 

E-mu’s original SP-12 and SP-1200 sampler/drum machines are stone-cold classics. Although they also featured sampling with analog filters, the filters themselves were set on the outputs. Dave Rossum’s re-release of the SP-1200 under the moniker Rossum Electro-Music gives you control over the cutoff and resonance settings of the SS1214 analog filters on channels one and two via four sliders over the edge of the front panel. Nice. 

Rossum SP-1200
Rossum SP-1200 · Source: Rossum

If you’d rather have an Isla Instruments S2400, you’ll need to hang on for the planned analog filter boards as it currently supports digital filtering only.

Samplers with Analog Filters: Waldorf Quantum MK2

When Wolfgang Palm made his first wavetable synth, he didn’t bother to put a filter in it. It was a digital instrument after all. However, some people found it harsh so he put a 24dB/Oct lowpass filter in the first official PPG Wave. With the Waveterm A in 1982, he added sampling to its capabilities.

Waldorf Quantum Mk2
Waldorf Quantum Mk2

With the Quantum, Walforf has finally brought an analog filter back to the wavetable lineage. It also does sampling, although only internally. External sounds must be imported. However, once they’re inside, you can – like the Prophet X (above) – use them in combination with other synthesis types. It’s an incredibly powerful machine, with the MK2 now boasting 59GB of internal storage, 16 voices of polyphony and MPE

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Samplers with Analog Filters: Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave

One of my favorite synths of recent years has to be the Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave. With its combination of Wave-style wavetables, virtual analog oscillators and Dave Rossum-designed analog lowpass filter, it’s an incredibly capable and beautiful-sounding instrument.

Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave
Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave · Source: Groove Synthesis

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. This piece is all about sampling and, thanks to a recent firmware update, the 3rd Wave now does sampling as well. Well, internal sampling. You can also import sounds via USB. You can then play these back as new oscillator types. Excellent.

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Samplers with analog filters

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John Smith

My John Smith is a seasoned technology writer with a passion for unraveling the complexities of the digital world. With a background in computer science and a keen interest in emerging trends, John has become a sought-after voice in translating intricate technological concepts into accessible and engaging articles.

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