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Q. How do I backup my Akai 3200XL library?

By Steve Howell
Published August 2006

Akai's digital output-equipped sampler range featured a DAT backup and restore function.Akai's digital output-equipped sampler range featured a DAT backup and restore function.

I've been thinking about using the DAT backup/restore function to back up my Akai 3200XL sample library. I've tried using my Sony CD-writer instead of a DAT machine and, although this records the data, it does not activate the restore procedure in the sampler when I play it back in. Could it be that the converters inside the CD-writer are 24-bit? If so, are there any 16-bit machines out there that you could recommend, as DAT machines seem to be unavailable?

Ian Tanner

SOS contributor Steve Howell replies: The only backup option available at the time of the S3200XL (and other Akai samplers of the era) was DAT, which was a more popular format then than it is now, of course. Via the sampler's digital out, the DAT backup function would send digital data — the programs and sample headers — and then the raw sample data (audio), so if you were to listen to the backup of, say, a choir sound, it would typically go 'blip blip blip thhhhrrrrrp blip blip thhhrrrrp aaaaaah aaaaaah aaaaaah aaaaaah aaaaaah' and so on, like a digital version of early cassette backups. If you wanted to put your samples back on the sampler's disk, the DAT restore function would feed the data back into the machine in the same format as it came out. By today's standards it was clunky and primitive, but it usually worked well.

Most significantly for this case, the sampler had no knowledge of the recording medium. At the time it was usually DAT because that was the only affordable digital recordable media available, but if the digital output of the 3200XL was fed to the digital input of a CD recorder, there is no reason why data wouldn't be backed up in the same way. And if the DAT restore function is invoked, it will wait for data — if that happens to come from a CD, the sampler won't know and couldn't care less; all it's concerned with is receiving a stream of digital data, which the CD will duly provide. After all, many Akai sound-library CD-ROMs of the era offered this facility — to effectively 'load' sounds from the CD-ROM using the DAT restore function.

The fact that you've mentioned D-A converters makes me think that you're recording an analogue version of digital backup, using the CD recorder's analogue inputs. You may as well do that to a cassette recorder — I'm afraid it simply won't work! To solve your problem, plug your sampler's digital output into your CD recorder's digital input. This should record the data just as Akai would wish!

Not long ago, Sound On Sound featured a series on sampling, called 'Forgotten Science — The Lost Art Of Sampling', which ran from August 2005 until February 2006. This may be of interest to you.