See for me, one of the revelations came about 1999 (11 years ago) when I picked up an Audity 2000. It was basically just another ROM-based rack unit in the EMU Proteus 2000 series, and had a 2-line LCD display, and four knobs and a few buttons.
So... you just select preset and play it, right? There are a huge number of presets in that thing.
Wrong. Each preset consists of a number of samples, from 2-4, if I recall, and each of those samples has an almost endless series of parameters you can scroll through and play with.
At first, I would just do simple things, like take all the different filter models available and try them all out on a particular preset. Since the Audity embraced the legacy derived from the E-Mu Morpheus, among other things, with the variety of Z-Plane filters debuted in same, there were some very interesting filter options, most of which I have not seen since, anywhere, in software or hardware.
Then, there were the multiple numbers of LFOs -- per sample, in a preset using multiple samples. So you're working before you even start with, potentially, _8_ LFOs on one preset. And guess what, I discovered, you can set those LFO's to modulate almost _anything_ in the preset. Each one. And again, the variety of LFO waveforms, some of which are virtually mini-arpeggiators in and of themselves, provide some quite incredible and unusual modulation possibilities, apiece, not to mention all combined together.
Oh and wait, there were like... 4? .... envelopes available, a couple hard-wired, but at least one -- per sample -- assignable again to almost anything.
And then, hmmm.... I'd had a Waldorf Xt for a number of years, and really loved its math options in its modulation matrix, and lo and behold! The Audity 2000 while not having the same set, had things like a lag processor, etc. that were almost equivalent -- and guess what? You could, like the Waldorf XT, work with modulators on modulators -- meta-modulators, if you will, so that, say, you have one LFO, routed thru a lag processor, to another LFO that is controlling.....
oh wait! Even though you can't _edit_ the samples in the Audity 2000, you _can_ control where in the sample the playback starts, and stops, and what parts of the sample loop. h**l. And oh wait! You can control that looping with, yes.... an LFO run thru a lag processor modulating the assignable envelope which is assigned to the looping part of the sample. Per sample. In a preset which consists of four samples.
Hmmm. What a lousy "preset playback box."
I forgot to mention the built-in arpeggiator, as well, which yes, you can assign separately to different parts of the preset, and use, yes, to modulate different things.
Hmmm! This little damn box is comparable to a full-scale, room-sized analogue modular synthesizer with all $15,000 of the options! And it's like 3,000 of those in one little box, since each preset is like a totally different modular synthesizer to work with. Man! I just picked up a multi-million dollar synthesizer, and it doesn't even take up much more space than an issue of Keyboard magazine. What kind of idiot am I, I say......
Well, that was eleven years ago, and of course, nobody's done nothing since then.... er....
Seriously, though, E-Mu was the king of sample-based synthesis back then, prior to their acquisition by Creative (they've done a good job of converting their legacy into softare, btw... no, I have nothing to do with E-Mu or Creative), and they packed an amazing amount of knowledge from their E4 R&D and development into this, and multiple other, pint-sized boxes. They even translated the Audity 2000 basically into the XL-1 "groove machine/sequencer" that combined basically an Audity with the soundsets from some of their previously popular Hip-Hop P2K rack units as well, and gave it an Akai-like interface.
They did all this, and were rewarded with an audience that preferred something far simpler and never grokked or got into a fraction of all that, for the most part, since none of these things sold well enough to keep E-Mu alive, I would assume.
Just as an example of one little "preset playback machine" from a long time ago.
Yeah, the reverb built-in wasn't Lexicon 480 quality, but then again.... I wasn't busy recording a Stradivarius violin doing Bach's Partitas for Deutsche Grammophon, either.