We’ve selected some of the best samplers for both creating music and incorporating into your live setup. We’ll discuss sampling briefly, and find out why you should choose one sampler over another.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, instruments like the Synclavier and Fairlight CMI samplers brought about new flexible ways to approach digital audio. Rather than being a finite recording, any piece of audio could be repurposed to fit an entirely new context.
This concept caught on quickly, and with innovation throughout the 1980s from companies like E-mu Systems and AKAI Professional, sampling became the creative music production platform that we know today.
The best samplers for music production
Although every DAW system comes standard with extensive sampling capabilities, there is still something about using a standalone sampling instrument with its own sequencer that produces unexpected and desirable results.
Beyond the sound, possibly the most important aspect is the workflow. If the process of sampling or loading new sounds onto the device and creating your ideas doesn’t suit your music production style, the features almost don’t matter.
Sonicware LIVEN Lofi-12
The LIVEN Lofi-12 is a compact 16-bit sampler that allows 12kHz and 24kHz, as well as 12-bit sampling. With its 4-track pattern sequencer, you can do basic editing of each sample and you have a selection of 11 effects per track.
This includes chorus, flanger, tremolo, delay, distortion, bit crusher, low pass filter, high pass filter, isolator, tilt EQ, and compression. In addition, you have 8 master effects: Reverb, Room, Arena, Plate, Tunnel, Infinity, Cassette Tape Simulator, and Vinyl Simulator.
Sonicware LIVEN Lofi-12
Roland SP-404 MKII
With the SP-404 MKII, you get an instrument that has gradually evolved over more than 20 years. The design began as a DJ sampler and effects unit, but now it’s a fully-fledged beat-making tool with 32-voice polyphony.
The 16 bankable pads provide access to up to 160 samples per project and there is 16 GB of onboard storage as well as an SDHC-compatible SD card slot. Also, the SP-404 MKII has a range of 37 effects and a pattern sequencer with real-time input.
The popular Digitakt is an 8-track mono sampler that offers a multimode filter, EQ, overdrive, and 2 LFOs per track, as well as delay and reverb send effects. In addition, there are 8 MIDI tracks with which to sequence additional hardware.
The Digitakt is also Overbridge compatible, so you can control it within your DAW and the sequencer features a Song mode for turning your patterns into fully-fledged compositions that you can tweak on-the-fly.
AKAI MPC Live II
The MPC Live II is one of the most versatile mobile production stations available. It can function in standalone mode, with its own connectivity and resources, as well as a lithium-ion battery that offers up to 5 hours of use.
Meanwhile, it can also act as an interface for the MPC 2 software which extends the functionality with your PC or Mac. Besides, the 4 aux outputs, you also get MIDI and CV I/O and a Phono input, which is great for sampling directly from vinyl.
AKAI Professional MPC Live II
The Octatrack is an 8-track stereo sampler with a performance-orientated workflow and real-time time-stretching and pitch shifting. With each of the 8 audio tracks, you get two insert effects and 3 LFOs to shape the sound.
What’s more, there are 8 MIDI tracks to sequence additional hardware. Overall, with the sophistication of its sequencer, the Octatrack is designed to become the center of your live rig, but it also shines as a simple one-shot drum machine sampler.
Elektron Octatrack MKII Black
More samplers worth checking out:
More about the best samplers:
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- Sonicware LIVEN LoFi-12: Sonicware
- SP-404 MKII: Roland
- Elektron Digitakt: Elektron
- MPC Live II: AKAI Professional
- The Elektron Octatrak MK II is one of the most popular performance-based samplers around today.: Elektron