The Akai s950 has been around since the late ‘80s and still hasn't lost any of its shine.
The thing operates on floppy disks and yet sampling enthusiasts start a bidding war whenever there's an s950 up for grabs.
There's plenty of reasons for this. The first among them is that the s950 is a classic piece of hip-hop gear and holds a lot of sentimental value for a lot of people.
This version of the Akai was the starting point for a lot of producers and it is what they used to create loops, beats, and all that fun stuff.
Another reason for its unceasing popularity is the authentic vintage sound one can achieve by using it.
Putting your samples through a retro filter on your DAW sounds amateurish when compared to using samples that were created on the s950.
Back in '88, when the s950 was first launched, it didn't see instant popularity like its predecessor, the s900, did.
All eyes were, instead, on the s1000, which was quite the newsworthy sampler and for good reason.
But it didn't take long for people to recognize the exceptional quality of the s950.
For starters, the s950 boasts a 48 kHz sampling rate and a maximum 2.25 MB of RAM along with a 750 KB standard.
These numbers might make you wonder with amazement at how not-powerful samplers were back in the day, but for the time, this was cutting-edge stuff and they still hold their own today.
Akai s950 Features
There are tons of features on this sampler that allow you to create better, more creative samples and sounds.
Here is a couple:
One of the features that defined the s950 back when it was released was its ability to stretch a sample without altering its pitch.
This feature, although not new, was quite rare at the time, only being available in high-end samplers.
The time stretch feature works by altering the sample length proportionally.
The original sample is taken to be as 100%, and so, reducing the sample to 50% will halve the time and speed up the sample.
Alternatively, increasing it to 200% will double the time taken for the sample to play, and hence, will slow it down.
There are also a few additional effects that you can play around with such as the delay factor and the mono/poly effects.
These features affect the sound and quality of the stretched sample.
Although using Auto-D is your best bet if you don’t want your sample to change too much, manually setting the delay will help you find new sounds with different timbres.
For example, slowing the sample down drastically will result in a tinny sound.
Time stretching can also help you loop your samples better.
Another interesting thing that s950 users have noticed is the machine’s ability to load both double density and high-density disks.
Double density disks are far less expensive than high-density disks but there is a way to work around this and get the quality of the high-density disk for the price of a double density one.
The only difference between the two disks is an extra cut out opposite the write protection cut-oat.
By making an extra hole on the double density disk you can make it work as an HD one.
This, of course, comes with the risk of data loss and corruption, but many users have tried this method and it has worked for them.
Akai s900 Vs s950:
What Are The Differences?
The s900 and s950 are very similar devices but there are a few key differences that give the latter an edge over the former.
Although both devices sport very similar looks, there are a few subtle changes such as the feel of the keypad and the backlight on the s950 which makes its external appearance more refined.
The first significant, noticeable change is the s950’s expandable memory, from the standard 512 Kwords up to 536 Kwords.
This can be done by adding two EXMOO6 chips, each containing 6 RAM chips.
This memory expansion allows you to add up to 99 samples to the device, as opposed to the original 32.
While the s900’s software updates were required to be booted off the disk, with the s950 this exists in memory when you turn on the sampler.
The disk drive also has a few key changes.
It is capable of reading to and from double and high-density disks (as mentioned before) and makes far less noise as compared to the s900 when in use.
The s950 can also read the s1000’s 16-bit disks, even though it is a 12-bit disk reading machine in itself.
This is done, presumably, by ignoring the last few bits of information.
This translates quite well and the samples sound just as good as on the s1000.
The sampling rate has also been increased to 48kHz which helps you obtain better sounding, clearer samples.
The increase in sampling rate is also coupled with a design improvement of the input filters which ensure that any audio input above half the sampling rate is rolled back in order to avoid aliasing, which is a term used for the echoing of frequencies.
Another improvement on the s950 is its ability to continue playback while loading new samples.
This makes for seamless producing and doesn’t break your flow when you’re making music.
Akai has also made the s950 capable of reading s900 disks, in case one wants to switch from the latter to the former.
Akai s950 Price – Updated 2021
The Akai s950 goes for $2500 brand new, and $500-700 when bought second hand.
These things are a little hard to come by though since it’s a classic sampler that everyone wants to get their hands on.
If looking to purchase one, your best bet would be eBay.