What can you do with old PCs?
Not a lot?
Well depends what you want to do.
I have a lot of SCSI based equipment, at the moment they connect to my main DAW PC.
This of course is not ideal.
My main SCSI units are my EMU ESI samplers.
And they are also my main reason for this article.
Is it possible to breath life into an antiquated PC?
I believe so.
So I had this idea a week ago, find an old pc and set it up for sending samples to my samplers.
It had to be able to run propellerheads Recycle and maybe an audio editor.
I then decided that if it can run the SCSI card to do the job of communicating with the ESI sampler, then maybe it can also run my SCSI CD burners.
So the PC has to be able to run Recycle, possibly wavosaur or audacity and hopefully Nero burning software.
Software will be kept down to a minimum to save on space and clogging the system.
***DISCLAIMER: Before you go ahead you’ll need some basic knowledge of how to set up networks and how to adjust your bios.
You’ll also be possibly installing software and hardware dependent on what you want to do.
If you’re not sure you’re capable then don’t try it. If you need to understand setting up a network then make sure you’re comfortable with that before you carry on. There is no information about that here.***
Graveyard stuff this, 4.3 gig hard drive installed with Windows 2000.
Weirdly with only 128meg installed it starts up quite fast. Noisy but fast.
Strangely on the day I take ownership from one friend another friend gives me a second ancient desktop which has been in his garage.
Curiosity as always kills the cat and I’m a curious little bugger, I plug it in and it blows. Not big but a pop all the same.
I open it up and see rust all over the inside and on the fan of the processor. Lesson there, if in doubt open it up and take a looksy before you plug it into the mains.
Two sticks of 64 meg and a 10 gig hard drive are salvaged and in working order.
So in they go into the Kayak.
Extra ram from the rusty death trap give me over 240meg of ram in total.
The salvaged hard drive gives me an extra 10gb of storage space.
I install two SCSI cards, an adaptec to communicate with my samplers and a generic one to control the two CD burners I have removed from the DAW.
I’ll install an M-Audio Audiophile 2496 as it’s sound card as that will work with a low spec PC and my EMU 0404 won’t.
The Audiophile 2496 will give me digital, analogue and midi inputs and outputs.
Allowing me to use this desktop as my sampling and editing machine for the samplers.
:::One Keyboard, Mouse and Monitor for two pcs:::
Sharing the keyboard is an issue, KVM switches are quite expensive and space becomes a desktop issue.
So how about using a lan connection?
Apparently a VNC based software program will allow you to do this.
Problem arises with a pc not having a keyboard plugged in it will fail to start.
To fix this we can try and disable keyboard and mouse in bios if you are able to or set it to halt on no errors.
With VNC it will boot without a keyboard if your bios allows it.
The Kayaks Bios does not have that function available. In fact there is nothing regarding the keyboard or mouse.
This presents a problem, to find an update if one is available and wether or not to risk flashing the bios.
Seems there isn’t a bios update, need to find a keyboard.
Had a look around and it looks like I’m going to have to have a spare keyboard at least, no bother though it’ll easily be stored somewhere.
So before I begin again, let’s make that known. A second keyboard will need to be connected in order for the PC to bootup. I’m pretty sure all PCs make ane error noise when no mouse is found but still enter windows.
Before I begin though, installing the EMU ESI sampler and making sure it works is the main reason for this experiment. So best check it does work.
I connect the Syquest Drive and the ESI via the Adaptec Scsi card. Turn on windows. First connection finds the EMU ESI and Syquest but software(recycle) doesn’t see them.
So now I remember, ASPI drivers. Download from here @ chicken systems.
Now the old dog sees the rabbit – the PC sees the Sampler and Syquest. Cushty.
Back to connecting my two pcs.
Setting up a network between the 2 pcs – Old Dog w/Windows 2000 <-> New Dog=Laptop /w XP.
You’ll need a cat 5 crossover cable and both PCs should have LAN cards installed.
I have two 100/10 cards – this should be adequate – if I wanted to I could connect using two 1000/10 cards.
It’s not really an issue for me to do that at the moment but who knows what will happen in the future.
Setting up a network is really quite simple, but if you have no idea you’ll need to do some reading up on that, it’s one of those things that works differently for everyone in my experience.
Also you’ll need to give each of your PCs a static address.
Basically – Control Panel -> Network Connections -> * Local Connection -> Right Click -> Properties
General -> Internet Protocol(TCP/IP) -> Click Properties
Change: ‘Obtain an Ip address automatically’ to ‘Use the following IP Address’
The ‘IP’ address should be different than any already on your network.
The only number that you need to change here is the last number.
In this IP we have ’4′ the rest stay the same this should be changed.
‘Subnet Mask’ – This will update automatically.
You should do this on both PCs – also be aware, if you intend to use a laptop or PC that connect to the internet you may have problems connecting to the web whilst being networked in the above way.
This will fix itself when you disconnect. Or at least it does on my Laptop which connects wirelessly.
Restart each machine and check that they connect to each other.
This is the software I installed, I downloaded it from above site.
Again this being advanced noodling you’ll need to either read the instructions or just go for it.
Restart each PC when it has installed.
On the PC we want to log into we will also need Tweak UI Powertoys – to enable auto login.
When you’ve installed TweakUI you can go to *Control Panel* and TweakUI – with that software change you’re logon option to auto.
To test your system unplug your monitor from the ‘Old Dog’ and restart both pcs wait, go and make a coffee or something – give it enough time.
Then try and logon using TightVNC if no joy then check your pc – you’ll need to reconnect the monitor again.
On the PC we want to log into we will also need Tweak UI Powertoys – to enable auto login.
Hopefully you’ll now be able to control the old dog with the new dog.
As a relative newcomer to synthesizers and samplers it’s become a sideline fascination of mine to understand how they work.
This article is a newbie guide to understanding these instruments written by someone just grasping the information.
Hopefully because of my relative newness to the subject I can shed light on areas that those who have vast experience overlook or overcook.
This particular article will be my introduction to the subject, my thoughts and my directions.
If you will this is the prologue that will spider in different directions that will hopefully gather the correct information and explain how things work in easy to understand bitesize chunks.
Samplers are simple to understand, they sample a sound which can be controlled via midi data or midi comtroller. If needs be you can process them inside a sampler using filters and modulators as you would with anything else.
I’ve always been much more keener on samplers because of they’re more faithful reproduction of ‘real’ instruments.
Samplers though are only as good as the samples they’re given to work with.
Also a realistic instrument needs a lot of time and effort.
If you take a guitar as an example:
A guitar can be strummed and plucked. It can be plucked alterantively – that is up an down – as with strumming.The ‘attack’ can be soft or hard. The ‘release’ can be fast or slow – that is the fingers hold the note or release the notes.
These variations in playing would all need to be sampled to create a convincing instrument.
And they would all need to be created for every pitch/note of the guitar.
Let’s create a scenario in sampling:
You sample a plucked note ‘A’ and record the note for 5 seconds.
This is the only note you record for your ‘sampled’ guitar.
As you play this note higher the length of the note is reduced, this is because the note is speeded up.
If you play this note at the highest end of your keyboard/controller it will sound really odd and unlike a guitar.
Also you’ll find intonation becomes a problem as the note is speeded up.
To combat this you can sample several notes of the the guitar, it’s up to you as to how many notes you sample.
Space is often the enemy here.
I have three samplers, two ESI32s and a ESI4000.
The ESI32 is 32meg and the ESI4000 is 128meg.
This means that I have a limited amount of space to work with. 128 meg being the largest instrumemt I can make.
If you equate that with todays romplers they seem minute in comparison.
Romplers kits/instruments m can be huge well over a gigs worth of samples.
The PC/Laptop based sampler is only restricted by processing power and with the introduction of faster machines every few months it means the rompler can do extraordinary things.
Imagine the ESI4000 – it has a 128meg capacity. Which 10 years ago was huge.
But compared to the practically limitless romplers of today is left standing.
The reason is velocity layers, extreme sampling of notes, articulation etc.
The ESI can do a lot but my sample instruments tend to be split into articulations and have less velocity involved. I also tend to sample less across the range, this can give good results but ultimately a rompler knocks it into a cocked hat.
But I still persist with the ESIs – the reason being the sound of them. They’re hardware based, the sampled instruments get coloured by the connections and hardware that processes them.
The rompler on the other hand doesn’t colour in the same way. Yes you can process them but it’s usually via a VST with in the PC itself.
You can of course Re-Amp the instrument.
But I still persist.
Romplers are great, but they’re expensive.
And the greatest division for me is that the ESI begs to be tinkered with.
I’ve learnt a lot about sound and articulation and how instruments work simply by feeding samples into the sampler.
You get to grips with it’s tone and feel.
I like messing with samplers because eveything you do can lead onto experiments and creative processses.
Sampling something feels more real to me.
A plug and play rompler sound set feels lazy, not that I claim that it is lazy to do, it’s just my head state.
I love to tinker and as I get older and more infatuated with sound I’ve become more intersted in sampling and synthesis.
Anway if you’ve read so far hopefully I’ve shed some light on a few things.
As I said before, this preamble is going to be the top page for my views and ideas on Sampling and Synth creation.
This article will be updated with links to new articles as they are written.
Thanks for reading.
|ESI-32 – 1994 Essentially a cost reduction of the EIIIX sampler (EIII software ported to new hardware), this two rack space sampler broke the price barrier for high-quality sampling. Thirty-two voice polyphony, 32MB of RAM and a huge sound library made this E-MU’s best selling sampler of all time.|
‘The ESI-32 is an excellent polyphonic sampler for any musician at any level. It offers all of the same sampler-type features and goodies that you would find in other Akai and Roland samplers. Its base model is perfect for anybody looking to get into sample-based music and is designed to grow and expand with you into a complete and professional sampler.’ – Taken from Vintage Synth Explorer
I own 2 Esi 32′s both are fully loaded with 32meg. And are fantastic.
They sound great, are fun to use and look cool(yeah I know, geek alert)
*Word of warning and some advice; If you intend buying make sure they have at least OS 3.0 installed – scsi transfer from Pc ‘WILL NOT WORK’ – if you have one you will have to buy discs or get scsi disks already loaded worse still pay for an upgrade ouch.
If you can get an Esi4000 or 2000 instead, they are OS 3.0 as standard.
If you want to transfer samples across you’ll also need a scsi card – adaptec seem to work best.
Be prepared though it can be tiresome work at first, and annoying if you don’t save regularly.
Honestly unless you really dig the idea of this, then don’t bother – stick to PC based sample software.
You’ll save money and time.
That said they do sound better than a software based sampler, warmer if that makes any sense.
And there is something very cool about making your own instruments on these things.
Articles about this sampler -
ESI Win – PC software that allows connection with scsi drives and sampler*
Chicken Systems Translator – Not very good I’m afraid, works occasionally – supports the Emu like jelly supports a one legged man – I paid for it – not happy with the results. – You’ll see in the articles below I used it – but now I don’t – maybe it’s my pc but it blows 80% of the time.
Wavelab and Recycle(no links available- later versions don’t support scsi transfer) – Luckily for me I had old versions of both these software packages, and they work a treat for transferring samples across. Recyle 2.1 is best though allowing you to edit and place samples in desired locations on sampler. It is slow work but in my opinion worth the hassle.