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Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

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Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

Postby MMensch » Thu May 10, 2012 1:07 am

Hi all, I'm having timing issues with my Yamaha A3000 v2 sampler - those of you who have owned one know about them all too well I suspect. I've read and followed every possible advice on the issue, and while the timing is OK most of the time, it's just not tight enough, especially for drums. What's really driving me crazy is the inconsistency - I simply cannot perfect a groove with sequenced drums and bass because on every playback, the sampled parts are timed slightly differently. My issue is also definitely not sequencer-related - I'm using the Yamaha RM1x, and when I reduce the number of samples loaded into the A3k ad absurdum (to about 10), the timing problem goes away even though the RM1x is still running under the same MIDI data load.

The *only* thing I haven't tried yet with my A3000 is installing replacement RAMs. Can they truly affect the timing, has anyone resolved their problem in this way, or is it a red herring? And finally, can you even ever completely resolve the issue with the timing, either in the A300 v2, or the A4000/A5000? I'm asking about the latter two because I'd be more than willing to upgrade because I love the workflow of the Ax000 samplers.

If not, can you recommend another sampler - which are known to be the really good in terms of timing? I'm only interested in samplers with similar or better capabilities to the A3000 v2, which means 64 poly, 128 megs of RAM etc. I'd be particularly interested to hear from people who work with music for which timing is critical, and who tend to notice even small inconsistencies in the timing.

Thanks in advance for your help.
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Re: Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

Postby Chevytraveller » Thu May 10, 2012 4:21 am

I've not really used the Yamaha samplers but for tight drums I always used to go for Akai(As did most of the industry).. you can either pick up a second-hand S5000 or S6000 dirt cheap (they go for about £200-£300 these days) or maybe consider stepping up to an MPC to handle the drums and the sequencing duties.
The MPCs have a unbeatable reputation for rhythm production in terms of timing accuracy and creative workflow.


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Re: Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

Postby MMensch » Thu May 10, 2012 8:23 am

Hi, I really don't want to switch sequencers, I like the RM1x very much, and since it's not part of the problem, I need to sort that out first anyway. I have heard about Akai's reputation, but I've done a bit of research lately and some people are unhappy with S5000's timing as well, which obviously got me wary of just going for Akai and finding out there are timing issues there as well.
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Re: Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

Postby Richie Royale » Thu May 10, 2012 9:50 am

There are other Akai options. I picked up a 3000XL for £30 the other day. Or there is the E-Mu EOS range, which are very good. I used to use one as my principle workstation sequenced from Cubase, before DAWs took over.

I've never used any of the Yamaha range though, so I don't know how they compare.
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Re: Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

Postby vinyl_junkie » Thu May 10, 2012 2:12 pm

The non Ultra EMU's had sloppy MIDI timing compared to the Akai's apparently so if I was looking at EMU I'd go for like a E6400 Ultra or similar

Never had issues with MIDI timing on the S-5000 but then I only briefly use my frends when I'm round there.
I have a S-3200XL and MPC-2000XL amongst other samplers (Ensoniq) and the timing is tight on both
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Re: Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

Postby johnny h » Thu May 10, 2012 5:00 pm

Akai was always a strong choice for drums back in the day. Kind of cold and sterile for some sounds though
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Re: Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

Postby DGL. » Thu May 10, 2012 6:12 pm

Why not one of the roland units, i.e. S-7xx has the excellent TVF's, can't vouch for their timing though.
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Re: Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

Postby vinyl_junkie » Thu May 10, 2012 6:21 pm

johnny h wrote:Akai was always a strong choice for drums back in the day. Kind of cold and sterile for some sounds though

Have to agree also compared to the A-3000 they might be a bit lacking in features unless you are looking at the S-5000/6000 or Z series, great solid bread+butter workhorses they are though.

I'd probs just opt for a E-6400 Ultra that's maxed out.
You get the great EMU filters, sound, modulation matrix, fatures and the improved timing/CPU performance from the Ultra line.

Wasn't the A-3000 and it's friends Yamaha's refinement of the Prophet 3000 sampler?
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Re: Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

Postby MMensch » Thu May 10, 2012 6:44 pm

vinyl_junkie wrote:Wasn't the A-3000 and it's friends Yamaha's refinement of the Prophet 3000 sampler?
It's supposed to be, yes - there's even a little-known predecessor to the A3000 called the A7000, released only in Japan, and in very small numbers. I mean, everything else about this sampler that's important to my work process is absolutely brilliant, I'm very reluctant to go Akai and EMU after eight years of A3000 because I've never used them so I would have to learn to think in terms of how stuff is done there, but ever since I began to use it a bit more heavily (drums, vocals, guitar loops, and triggers for various gates and things), it's been noticeably sagging under the load.

Any particular reason you would you go for the E-6400 Ultra instead of the Z4, Vinyl Junkie? Like I said, I don't have any experience with either but to me, the Z4 looked more approachable in terms of its operation, and also better built.

DGL. wrote:Why not one of the roland units, i.e. S-7xx has the excellent TVF's, can't vouch for their timing though.
I don't think I'd like to go to a lower-spec machine. I know old S-7xx users swear by them but I don't think they're for me. They don't have enough outputs for one thing - I use all ten on the A3k AND the digital out separately, and I could use a few more. And I bet I'd find other things as soon as I began to use it. I'm "too old" to still be working around gear limitations. It used to be fun, but I've long known what I like and what I can't be bothered with anymore.

Thanks to everybody offering their suggestions so far!
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Re: Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

Postby vinyl_junkie » Thu May 10, 2012 7:09 pm

MMensch wrote:
vinyl_junkie wrote:
Any particular reason you would you go for the E-6400 Ultra instead of the Z4, Vinyl Junkie? Like I said, I don't have any experience with either but to me, the Z4 looked more approachable in terms of its operation, and also better built.


To be honest not quite sure why, just worried you may be a little underwhelmed by the Akai's coming from the Yammies, I mean they pack in a lot of punch.
My friend had a Z-4 and he hated it, he "downgraded" to a S-5000 which he says is a lot better in almost every way, the only good thing he could say about the Z-4 was the USB port.
I never used the Z-4 when he had it so can't comment.

He also used to have a E-6400 which he loved, great sound, modulation matrix, features etc but he also said the build was iffy.
The 5000 does him fine so no point in going back to the EMU, he's happy with the Akai.

I have never read about timing issues with the Yamaha samplers, main problem I read about them are the rotary encoders on the front.
In the Akai manual it says the RAM can affect the timing if I remember right and suggests certain specs for the ram so I'd give some different RAM a go as a last ditched resort.

Also in my aging 3200XL when you load it up full of samples it reaaallly starts to slow down and if you started doing stuff/editing key groups whilst it's playing it really goes cranky but the timing is ok once you finish editing.
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Re: Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

Postby MMensch » Thu May 10, 2012 8:24 pm

vinyl_junkie wrote: To be honest not quite sure why, just worried you may be a little underwhelmed by the Akai's coming from the Yammies, I mean they pack in a lot of punch.
That's interesting, I've always thought of Akais as "the real deal" - slightly awkward to operate and with various quirks carried over from the 80s through all system revisions (can you imagine Yamaha evolving the TX16W instead of starting with a clean sheet with the A3000) but solid and uncompromising somehow.

vinyl_junkie wrote:My friend had a Z-4 and he hated it, he "downgraded" to a S-5000 which he says is a lot better in almost every way, the only good thing he could say about the Z-4 was the USB port.
I'd be interested to learn about his gripes about it - I'm really drawn to the Z4 for some reason, and I know myself well enough that I might well end up buying it unless I hear about a few sobering faults that it has.

vinyl_junkie wrote:I have never read about timing issues with the Yamaha samplers, main problem I read about them are the rotary encoders on the front.
The timing issues are documented, and they're real, I've experienced them myself some years ago and went looking for a solution. Basically, the thing that gives it the hardest time is lots of samples assigned to a program directly and responding to the same MIDI channel. Say you've got some basic sounds already there and you want to audition 30 snares - the triggering gets very erratic in an instant. A well-known solution is to use sample banks: you group the snares into a bank, assign that to the program and you're much better of. But I guess with the song I'm working on currently, I've pushed the limit of this trick (and you just know that if you have to resort to something like that, something's not right in the code). However, there are lots of other, mostly unverified variables that come into play, such as RAM, program LFO slowing down everything, various MIDI commands bogging down the sampler's processor etc, so it's very difficult to troubleshoot.

As for the encoders, I've learned to live with that - because I'm too stingy to have them replaced if nothing else - and I'd certainly have horrible encoders over even slightly unreliable timing any day.


vinyl_junkie wrote:In the Akai manual it says the RAM can affect the timing if I remember right and suggests certain specs for the ram so I'd give some different RAM a go as a last ditched resort.
I'm already working on it, though that's a real crapshoot - whatever RAM I can get my hands on will be old and without its spec sheet, so I could go through a number of sets without seeing any improvement.
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Re: Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

Postby vinyl_junkie » Thu May 10, 2012 8:58 pm

I think his dislikes were more personal rather than what it did wrong.. I think he prefers the 5000 cos of the big screen/user interface and he prefers the sound of the 5000

Good luck getting one :-D

30 snares I have to say I rarely push my samplers that much (I guess that says a lot about my muzak lol) hence why I'm happy with my 3200XL for all these years. When I want fancy tricks I go to the EPS-16+

I did this the other day using the Akai and EPS http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jK7QnaaPMCE&list=UU0ysg8Om_zET-YzX9lUZhZQ&index=1&feature=plcp

I programed the drums in my Waldorf synths and after I got them how I wanted I sampled them in the 3200XL, then also loaded some Linn high hats and claps from my Zip's.
Also loaded in the Juno strings I sampled in the 3200XL
The bass is one of my old Korg's that I haven't got round to giving CV/gate so sampled it in the EPS... Why the EPS? Cos it's got a nicer low end and better with synth stuff

The rest of the synths etc was sequenced from the MPC-2000XL
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Re: Sampler MIDI timing - can I do better than Yamaha A3000 v2?

Postby MMensch » Thu May 10, 2012 9:27 pm

vinyl_junkie wrote:30 snares I have to say I rarely push my samplers that much (I guess that says a lot about my muzak lol) hence why I'm happy with my 3200XL for all these years. When I want fancy tricks I go to the EPS-16+
Obviously I'm not going waste a sampler's resources for no reason, but if its specs say 64 notes polyphony then I feel that I should be able to load half that number of samples without killing the timing completely.

vinyl_junkie wrote:I did this the other day using the Akai and EPS http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jK7QnaaPMCE&list=UU0ysg8Om_zET-YzX9lUZhZQ&index=1&feature=plcp
I like the beat and the transparent mixing, though it feels quite unfinished, and the transitions are kinda rough. And some more synths, maybe some nice leads or whatever since you've already captured that laid-back electronic feeling, might work better than some random speech. Or if you want to go down that route, have you thought about making the speech less intelligible, maybe cut it and rearrange it around a bit, maybe loop some of the beats (and generally do any or all things that seem to have worked so well for Boards of Canada)?
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