My father bought me my first keyboard, a Roland S-50 sampler. I remember he took me to Sam Ash in Teaneck, New Jersey. He worked nearby as a College Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. It was 1986 and I was lost in Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration album. I was 16 years old. Today, my father is now the president at FDU and that Sam Ash store is long gone.
The Roland S-50 was a futuristic looking black metal monolith with a fluorescent screen. It felt long and had 61 keys. Compare that with the measly cheap feeling two octave Oxygen 8 I use now! You could hook it up to an external monitor. I had mine hooked up to a 13″ green CRT poised on a three tier Ultimate Keyboard Rack. It also came with a digitizing tablet and pen similar to a Wacom tablet. This allowed you to draw waveforms but it was more gimmick than useful.
It was 4 part multitimbral and 16 voice polyphonic. It had a 3.5″ disc drive and 750k internal memory. You could sample at 12-bit at 15-30kHz. I remember actually using the different variable rates to save memory. You could even get some weird cool effects by sampling at the lower rate. Looking back I realize the discs of sounds that came with it were very good. Mostly they were rip off’s of Fairlight sounds. You had choirs, big 80’s drum kits and awesome nature sounds. I used to sit for hours playing with the rain and thunder sounds.
I would sequence it using an Atari 520ST and Cubase. All the multitimbral parts, voices and sample memory were always used. Back then we all dreamed of a day when we would have unlimited sample time (yay today!). However, using a machine to it’s fullest capacity for several years has a certain gratification to it.
The S-50 together with an extern CRT-screen and digitizer tablet – besides from looking real awesome – allowed a lot of cool things to be achieved. The S-50 is a breeze to use, and the sampling quality is nice and free from distortion, even if the bandwidth is somewhat crippled (due to the 30KHz sampling frequency). – sonicstate.com
Next time your staring at your 24″ Cinema Display, pirated copies of Kontakt or Halion and 30GB of sounds think of my father on a teacher’s salary spending over $2500 to give his son 28 seconds of sampling time. Now tell me you can’t make music with the technology you have. I dare you.