Wow, I've sparked a heated debate. I'm proud of myself.
I don't mind using the computer to manipulate the samples, but honestly I feel it a waste to have to spend $1000+ on a laptop fast enough to handle the overhead of realtime playback, $200+ on a software sampler for it, $200+ on an audio/MIDI interface, and $200 for a decent 61 key controller, just to play the it live, when a keyboard that would probably retail for $700-$800 could do the same thing. Now of course it could be argued that the you could use the laptops for other things....though in my experience you have to have a seperate computer dedicated to music and nothing but music in order to get any sort of stability.
So basically, at this point we've dropped $1600 or more on our "hardware sampler". An Alesis Fusion 6HD costs a grand, and you could probably shave off a significant portion if you remove everything but the sampling (especially if you remove the internal hard drive and all the hardware necessary for the Fusion to interface with that).
Now, I am figuring most of you people who use softsamplers and are saying that everybody should just use softsamplers because your ways are superior are in bands that consist of 2 or 3 people or are solo artists, and your projects are all very focused around the computer. Therefore, you're justified in using a softsampler because you probably already have a computer that's dedicated for music. Good for you.
Let's say you're in a rock band that consists of you (the keyboardist), two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer, and the music is always completely live and there is some amount of improvisation going on, so really at the whim of one of the band members a section can go longer, and your music has always been played live, so you aren't using Ableton Live. Your rig consists of an 88 key digital piano, an organ, and some flavor of synthesizer (let's just say an Ion). Let's say one day you want to add something new to your rig, so you decide you want to get a sampler. You want to be able to swap to this sampler just as fast as you can swap keyboards between your existing keyboard, so you need a keyboard dedicated to the sampler. Also, since your group never has done anything with automated backing before and really doesn't intend on it, you have no need for sequencing. Finally, your band always goes into a professional studio to record, therefore you don't need recording capabilities either. Basically all you need is a keyboard that plays samples, and you want to be able to load your own samples into the keyboard.
So basically, if you're wanting to buy something new, probably your best bet for a decent hardware sampler is an Alesis Fusion, which is going to cost you $1000, and while you may eventually use the synthesizers in it as well, you'll most certainly never find a use for the sequencing and recording. So basically that 40 gig hard drive is going almost completely to waste since you don't use ridiculous sample libraries, therefore you could have just used a compactflash card.
Or of course you could go for a softsampler, which based on the math at the start of this post is going to run you $1,600.00, unless of course you decide to upgrade your home computer you mostly just use to look at myspace and p**n to run the softsampler, which would be a $300 dump if you take the easy route and get Emulator X, though you may also have to upgrade your RAM, processor, or motherboard, and even then you may have IRQ conflicts with existing hardware (network cards, SATA cards, etc.).
So basically, in our current state, you have to buy used (which usually means floppy drives that are 720K only and/or dead, SCSI CD-ROM drives, memory that's rare as rocking horse s**t, etc.), or spend $1000 on a Fusion which does far more than you need, or you'll have to shell out $1600 for a laptop and accessories you'll be sure that will actually work, or spend $300 on your computer, have to carry your computer to gigs (and your computer is generally far less forgiving than your keyboards about vibration), and your current computer may not necessarily work.
Welcome to most of the keyboardists in the world. We aren't all making techno.[/list]