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Downloadable Samples & Online Sampling Resources

SZero is an essential resource for Akai sampler owners.SZero is an essential resource for Akai sampler owners.

Downloading samples and other resources from the Internet can be a valuable alternative to buying expensive sample CDs and CD‑ROMs. Paul Sellars unearths some of the best sites.

This month's Net Notes will look at online resources aimed at musicians who rely on sampling to get the job done. The proliferation of ever cheaper and more powerful samplers has probably ensured that there are now very few of us who don't to some extent make use of sampling in our music. However, a brief search of the Net will demonstrate that, whilst there is no shortage of web sites carrying downloadable sample files, many of these are not aimed at musicians at all, but rather at people intent on filling their office PCs with 'amusing' soundbites in order to drive their co‑workers insane. This article aims to draw your attention to a few of the sites dedicated to more creative, musical uses of sampling...

Akai The New

Deepsound World's JavaScript sample calculators are invaluable for working out time‑stretch and pitch‑shift amounts.Deepsound World's JavaScript sample calculators are invaluable for working out time‑stretch and pitch‑shift amounts.

SZero (, run by Jim Purbrick and based at the University of Nottingham, is a prime example. It's a visually striking site (see screenshot), which makes clever use of HTML in order to create a page that imitates the design of Akai's S5000 and S6000 samplers. The site is home to a large and constantly‑expanding archive of sounds, the majority of which have been provided by members of Scott Evans' Akai samplers mailing list ( Sounds donated by S5000 and S6000 users are presented in 'WAV+AKP' format (as WAV samples together with Akai program files), whereas sounds from users of earlier Akai samplers are presented as 'TD0' files. TD0s are disk images created by Teledisk, a DOS/Windows program (available for free download from SZero) which can be used to write Akai‑format floppies from TD0 files or vice versa. I asked Jim why he had chosen TD0 as a format: "Because a TD0 file is a disk image it allows you to share any type of Akai file — Samples, Programs, Multis, effects settings, the lot. There are loads of really good sample sites full of WAV files, but anyone who has spent an evening looping and mapping multisamples knows that the actual samples are only half the story. Having programs as well as samples is much more useful. I think the reason most of the sounds on SZero are pitched instruments has a lot to do with TD0s including programs. If people want loops they can download WAVs and use them with little hassle: with pitched instruments you save loads of time having the programs already built.

"There are some problems with the format, the main one being that Mac users can't make disks from TD0s, but I intend to make the sounds available on Akai CD which will let people with Macs, Gigasampler or Unity use them. Chickensys, the makers of Translator, have also talked about developing a new cross‑platform Internet format for Akai sounds, so that could be an option in the future."

SZero is clearly essential surfing for Akai users, and would equally be worth a visit for owners of Yamaha's A3000 sampler, which is also capable of reading the Akai‑format floppies that Teledisk creates.

Mello Gold

J P Hovercraft's Mellotron samples page at uses the practically universal WAV file format, and (as the title suggests) is an extended homage to his beloved Mellotron. There's a good selection of samples here, enabling anybody to recreate those unique string, flute, choir and brass sounds with comparative ease. The sound quality of these samples is excellent, and they are made all the more usable by the thoughtful inclusion of a text file in each Zip‑compressed archive detailing loop points (in numbers of samples), and giving helpful suggestions for creating programs to most effectively showcase the sounds. This attention to detail is highly commendable, and speaks volumes about Mr Hovercraft's love of sampling.

KenFen Productions ( is still a relatively young company, but has wasted no time in making a big impression on the online sampling community. Their web site is home to what must be the largest free sample library for the Akai MPC2000 to be found anywhere — 64 disks at the time of writing, with more being added on an almost weekly basis! I asked Ken Fennell, the company's founder, what had inspired such unusual generosity: "When I bought my MPC, I looked and looked for stuff on the web and saw nothing! That was a drag. You'd think you could at least get an 808 kit for free. Here in my hometown, Atlanta, everybody has an MPC, and everybody is always looking for more sounds. I saw a great need out there for a free site just for the MPC. And it's a great way to promote our commercial libraries as well."

Ken currently has two sample libraries for sale: one a large collection of disks for the MPC, the other The Zip O' Drums — a 100Mb library of immaculately recorded acoustic drum hits, analogue drum machine sounds and more besides, available in WAV, AIFF, Gigasampler, Akai and Kurzweil formats, on either CD‑R or Iomega Zip disk (hence the name). Ken's original line of business was (and is) running a professional recording and editing studio in Atlanta, and so unsurprisingly the sound quality of his sample libraries is excellent. They are made all the more attractive by being very competitively‑priced: the MPC library costs $10 per disk ($8 if you buy five or more), and The Zip O' Drums costs just $40 for a full 100Mb!

A Good Vintage

There are categorically no prizes for guessing what can be found at (found at, er, Suffice to say that if you're a fan of analogue synthesizers, you will like this site a lot! There are literally hundreds of samples, taken from a broad selection of more or less well‑known vintage analogue synths, as well as some sounds from more contemporary machines such as the Access Virus. The samples themselves are Zipped WAVs, but RealAudio previewing is used to make choosing your downloads easier. There is also a handy feature allowing you to post your comments about a given sample set, and read the comments of other users — which might save you from wasting time downloading sounds that are not really what you're after. The site is generally very professionally run and well presented, and includes a number of nice features, such as a chat room for synth‑related discussions, and a regularly updated news page carrying a variety of stories from the world of music technology. One to revisit regularly.

Also deserving of repeated visits is Music Machines (, a veritable gold mine of resources, including sample‑related software for all the major computer platforms, and a huge collection of samples. The site includes a useful search engine to help you find what you are looking for in its archives. A brief search through the samples section brought up a number of famous names (such as the ARP Odyssey, the Minimoog, the Roland SH101, TR505, TR606, TR707, TR727, TR808 and TR909), and a few not‑so‑famous names (the Siel DK600, the Rhodes Polaris, the Korg KPR77 and the 'Micro‑Rythmer‑12', to name but a few). All the downloads are free of charge, and the quality of the samples is generally very high, ensuring that time spent downloading from Music Machines will not be time wasted.

At ( 'Adam S' takes us on a guided tour through some of the weirder and (arguably) more wonderful samples on his hard drive. All the sounds are Zip‑compressed 16‑bit, 44.1 kHz WAV files, and include a collection of 'looped‑step sequences' from an Oberheim 4‑Voice synthesizer, various phrases from a Casio CZ100, and looped rhythms and preset voices from Casio's diminutive VL‑Tone 'toy' keyboard. My favourites, however, were to be found in the 'Misc EFX' section, which is home to Adam's more imaginative creations, such as '5 seconds of a kid speaking through an MXR pitch transposer', '7.8 seconds of repeating/decaying CZ100 through a RE301 Roland Space Echo' and '17.6 seconds of swelling Doppler‑effect type ambience'. Quirky, but enjoyable.

Soundloops Inc ( describes itself as both 'pure Flemish export from Harelbeke, a city in Belgium', and 'the largest sound sample site on the web'. I am unable to confirm or deny either assertion, but I can report that when I was visiting the site, the front page advertised no less than 10738 samples available for free download. Whilst this does not necessarily make Soundloops Inc the largest site of its kind on the web, it surely must make it a contender for that title. Of course, size is no guarantee of quality, and I cannot personally vouch for the usability of every single sample available. However I will say that the few drum & bass loops that I downloaded seemed to be of an acceptable, if somewhat unremarkable, quality. If you don't feel like dying of old age whilst attempting to download all the samples on the site, Soundloops Inc will sell you them on CD‑R.

Fans of Ensoniq's EPS and ASR samplers such as the EPS16+ and ASR10 would do well to visit the Ensoniq pages at Soundcentral (, which play host to a large collection of samples and other useful files (such as OS updates) for these often underrated machines. The samples on offer cover various kinds of percussion, a number of well‑known synths (Roland D50, Yamaha DX7, Juno 60, Korg M1, and so on), selected orchestral sounds, and other miscellaneous noises and effects. The site is also home to the EPSARTS mailing list, for all Ensoniq‑related discussions. In addition to this wealth of Ensoniq resources, Soundcentral also has a good selection of WAVs, MIDI files, software, and more besides, and is well worth exploring. When you have finished at Soundcentral, still more EPS and ASR sounds are available at The Inhuman Logic (

Finally, Loopasonic ( is an enthusiastically maintained site based in the UK, which boasts a collection of over 150 guitar, bass and drum loops, all of which are original creations, and all of which are available free of charge. The site also keeps links to software and hardware manufacturers, and runs a mailing list to inform its members of new samples and other updates. If you're looking for alternatives to certain well‑known and over‑used loops, this might be a good place to start.

Calculating Benefits

Not strictly a sample site but useful nonetheless is Deepsound World's Sample Calculators (, a collection of nine JavaScripts designed to tackle some common problems faced by anyone who uses samples on a regular basis. The calculators can be downloaded as a single HTML document, which can then be viewed in a web browser such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer. Each calculator appears as a box containing the required text fields and buttons for its particular calculation (see screenshot). By filling in the appropriate text fields and clicking the appropriate buttons, you can perform a number of complex and useful tasks with ease. For example, one calculator will tell you what effect changing the pitch of a sample will have on its tempo. Another calculator will tell you the amount of time‑stretching required to change a sample from its original tempo to a new one, another calculates the tempo of a loop from its time signature and length in milliseconds, and so on.

The use of HTML and JavaScript to create the calculators brings a number of benefits, the most obvious being true cross‑platform compatibility: the calculators will work in any browser that supports JavaScript, regardless of whether it is on a Mac or a PC. Also, because the scripts rely on the 'mechanics' of the browser program itself to do a lot of the work, the scripts themselves can be quite small: a complete download of all nine calculators is just 12k! An invaluable addition to any samplist's desktop!