My Favorite Sampler! - B(L)og 003
You wanna hear another story? Alright here we go!
HISTORY I’m plotting and scheming on a plan to come up with $3500. Why? Because I want an ASR-10. I knew I’d be really good at making music if I somehow got my hands on a sampler. I was so convinced of it. I would make detailed notes of all the records I would sample. I was a DJ and I found myself making these layered mixes with 5-6 songs playing at once instead of the regular mixed tapes that DJ’s were supposed to make. Looking at it now, that was the origin of my style today.
Continuing on. As I crunched numbers and calculated the work hours that it would take to come up with the money for an ASR-10 it became clear that it wasn’t looking hopeful. I worked and saved but could only come up with $1000. I needed another solution. I began to look in the used musical instruments section of every newspaper publication I could find.
It was a good thing I did because one day in a regular local paper I found an ad for a used Ensoniq EPS16+. For $500. A crazy cheap price. I was already holding that! I called up the number on the ad and found out that the seller already had an Original EPS that he wanted to hold onto. He brought over the EPS16+ to where I was (pre-internet days). Gave me a rundown of the layout of it, and even included a whole set of disks.
Well it was on at that point! People really didn’t see me around the place too much after that. I spent most of my time educating myself about sampling, digital audio, synthesis, recording, MIDI, Film scoring and anything that I could. I got an internship at a studio and learned how to make cables. My appetite for learning was insatiable. Still is to be transparent.
Musical ideas would come to me in my sleep and I’d either remember them, write them down in the dark or get up and do them. I picked everyone’s brain and read all the books I could. Music began to sound different to me. I began to analyze it pick it apart, put it back together and figure it out. I did this to Pete Rock & CL Smooths albums the most. As I understood what was going on I began to experiment with other things. That’s when the idea of modulation caught hold of me.
MODULATION & MORE DISAPPOINTMENT
There were so many things about the EPS16+ that I glossed over for lack of understanding. Modulation was one of them. I just didn’t see a point to it. I wasn’t hearing it in the music that I listened to, so with my naive logic I concluded that it was of little interest me. It’s really astounding at how easily you can program yourself. You gotta be careful with that.
The day I figured out that I could control the cutoff of a filter with the modulation wheel on the EPS16+ was a great day! I was trying for a while to figure out how to do it but that day it worked out for me. I couldn’t figure out why everyone wasn’t doing it in their music.
It dawned on me that the reason was because; just like me in the past, most didn’t know or care about the concept of it. I was kinda done with any type of music that didn’t push samplers to the edge at that point. And that ruled out Hip-Hop. I saw it as too easy and to simple. I also saw those who weren’t interested in pushing music forward in the same light (simple minded) and simply kept away from them.
I found all kinds of music that explored the things that interested me. I even contacted people on the back of album covers to ask them questions about their thoughts on music. This was when email was just getting started and some tech savvy people would actually leave an email contact on their CD album liner notes. Some would reply and some wouldn’t.
None the less there was a sub genre called Trip-Hop that used samples a little differently than I had experienced in Boom Bap. I had so many questions. Samples were drenched in FX. Filters were moving slowly throughout the music. Sample memory seemed to be a non-issue to the people who made these songs. I just couldn’t figure out how it was happening. It was crazy to me!
I dug more into the EPS16+ for answers. I had to make sense of what I was hearing. Spent days and years figuring things out and learning. On a side note; It never occurred to me that the samples could have been multi-tracked or better yet maybe there was more than one sampler involved in the music I was listening to.
However, when I did I was really disappointed. I really thought there was more to it. In my ignorance I was doing all kinds of crazy things with the EPS16+ to stretch it and match the level of production in the music that I was studying. So again I was at a point where I was like
“I better stop looking up to these Trip-Hop artists and start doing my own thing!”
In my view they were taking shortcuts. All of these outer experiences happened when I began to pick apart the inner workings of a complex sampler. The Ensoniq EPS16+.
I GOTTA KNOW...WHAT IS IT?
Man I’ve been writing all this time and haven’t even thanked you for being here or explain what the EPS16+ is! Thanks a million for being here. I’m pleased that you’ve gotten this far! Now, the EPS16+ is a digital sampler made by Ensoniq which is an American electronic instrument company. It’s the third sampler made by the company and their first 16bit sampler with onboard with FX. Those two last little tidbits are super key! For 1991 those were two incredible features to have on a sampler.
16bits didn’t matter too much to me personally; but you see those FX?!!! Good grief! I can’t even tell you how important that was to me. I think Reverb and Delay are my two favorite FX. When done right (which they are on the EPS16+) it’s hard for me not to use them on everything I do.
BREAKDOWN JOB GONE!
Now I just can’t sit here and rattle on about the EPS16+ without letting you know how buggy it can be when it feels like it. So here are some potential negative realities it can impose on your life if you choose to see it that way.
1. It can crash whenever if decides to.
2. It can overheat (and then crash) whenever it decides to.
3. It requires an Operating System disk that it must reference during use.
4. It's heavy.
5. It’s got 2MB of RAM when upgraded.
6. It only samples in mono.
7. It’s upgrade-able features (like RAM and SCSI) kinda aren’t available anymore.
8. It saves to 720k floppy disks.
9. You will have to open it up and clean it up every now and then.
WHY THE EPS16+ AFTER ALL THESE YEARS?
Yeah! Why on earth do I still regard it as a favorite after all these years? Especially when there’s the ASR-10 out there! A lot of it is straight experience recall I’d say. It’s what I’m most familiar with. The majority of it however, is the performance features. It’s got the right amount of power and efficiency in the right places I think. It’s not sluggish and it’s got that crazy open architecture that allows you to connect things together that end up being amazing! The sound quality of it is pretty versatile! It can sound so may ways depending on what’s sampled into it. I generally think it sounds cold. Like if you strike a block of ice with a hammer. That also means that it can sound kind of dense in away. I’d call that it’s default sound. That sound can change based on whether there’s a filter engaged or if the sample rate is altered or anything number of things that can be adjusted on it.
With all of that in place I’ve found over the years that the EPS16+ doesn’t inhibit what I want to do with the sounds that I put in there. In fact, it enhances them!
Thanks for hanging out with me!