Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality craft

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Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality craft

Post by Andrei Popa » Sun Nov 01, 2015 5:17 am

I am totally awed by the sound quality of Emulators, Synclaviers, and Fairlight CMI's.

There is nothing like them today, and I came to realise that most of the 80's sound and memorable music comes from this machines and not from Yamaha's, Roland, Korgs, etc…

There are several aspects to this:

#1 The sound design

These are samplers, so obviously someone has to make/build these samples.
I have a feeling this was done by a small group of elite people, even if they were working for different companies, plus some of them used to work for artists, and made custom patches for them.

Who are these people?

How did they make the samples? What kind of workflow/hardware did they use to get those results.

#2 The hardware

I think the most important element for these sounds were the people making them, the sound designers.

However another question is, how important is/was the hardware? Filters, amps, eq's, envelopes, converters, how important and how irreplaceable is the quality and the uniqueness of the hardware?

Thanks

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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by moremagic » Tue Nov 03, 2015 10:53 pm

youre citing what was then cutting edge technology and then asking about sample libraries. that doesnt quite follow , though.

a lot of these artists made samples themselves, whether from live recording into the sampler or from someones discography. i remember a documentary on continental tv from the 80s where peter gabriel and some engineers went up to the roof of the studio and recorded themselves breaking all kinda stuff and taping it to feed the fairlight later. they had a h**l of a time getting this little bitty tv set to bust, im sure that sample ended up on the album somewhere cuz of all the blood sweat and tears it took to get it!

be your own sample librarian if you want to have original sounds. read about the mirage and what people did with it cuz that was what opened sampling up to a whole lot more folks so theres a lot more ideas. keep your ears up for everyday sounds with musical potential. the reason earlier sampler music sounded so forward and innovative was because there were no conventions, no rules, and few sample libraries to fall back on for guidance

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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by tim gueguen » Wed Nov 04, 2015 1:25 am

But a lot of what you heard from the early samplers was in fact from the libraries for those machines. One of the more notorious examples was the Emulator II shakuhachi sample, which seemed to be on every second record in '85 and '86. including the intro of Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer." The Fairlight CMI ORCH5 orchestra hit sample is another early sample sound that was heard everywhere for a time.
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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by Ashe37 » Wed Nov 04, 2015 1:34 am

But its not just the sample library. Most of those samples don't sound the same when played back through Kontakt, or my Korg M3.

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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by Andrei Popa » Wed Nov 04, 2015 6:05 am

@moremagic

I don't see where the problem is with the samplers & libraries that you mention at the beginning of your post, and I don't think you really read my question.

I am not asking about sample libraries, I am asking about the engineers that made them, and their workflow.

There is real skill involved here that you're not going to duplicate with a zoom recorder, kontakt, 2 plugins, no rules and "open mindness"

I do know artists made sample themselves, but more than that, they hired these engineers that specialized in making samples on the emulator, fairlight, etc, it was a job it itself, it's these people I'm interested in.

no offense, but it does seem you're not so familiar with the subject, and still you're giving out generic advice, that anyone could give on any subject: "be your own librarian, keep your ears open, no rules".

As I said I'm asking about the craft not about the sample libraries (which a lot of them you can find online), and you'd be surprised how anal and knowledgeable engineers were in those days, much more so than these days..

btw the documentary with peter gabriel is easily accessible on youtube.

@tim guengue

that's exactly what I'm talking about, who are these people that made those samples both factory engineers and hired hands by artists?

@Ashe37

that is another thing I'm guessing at, I've never touched an Emulator, Fairlight or Synclavier, but my hunch is that they do not sound like nothing else.

I hear Synclaviers are still in use in studios

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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by Ashe37 » Wed Nov 04, 2015 6:19 am

my point was, they all have very specific filters...

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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by HideawayStudio » Wed Nov 04, 2015 10:37 am

Arguably one of the best EII libraries was OMI's "Universe of Sounds" and is historically important as it was one of the first hardware sampler libraries to be distributed on CDROM. Although its something we all take for granted now, OMI, led by Allen Adkins, pioneered the development of affordable systems that could prepare digital masters using desktop computers in less than 24 hours. By 1987 they had a fully demonstrable desktop computer based mastering system.

The library itself was recorded and programmed by Doug Morton (now of Q Up Arts). Still the copyright holder of the original samples, he worked back in the 80s for artists like Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Tears for Fears, Eurythmics, Thomas Dolby, Pet Shop Boys, Philip Glass & Vangelis.

My late friend Stephen Howell was responsible for a good chunk of the factory library for the early AKAI sampler range and was also involved in the user interface design of a number of members of the "S" series. He was even a colleague of David Cockerell for a while. Its perhaps less well known that, as well as the infamous VCS3 and EHX pedals, he had a strong hand in the design of the S612, S900 and S1000 for AKAI. I believe Stephen also worked on the 3000 series with Chris Huggett.

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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by madtheory » Wed Nov 04, 2015 5:45 pm

First off, having collected a lot of these sounds from the original disks, what you end up with in Kontakt is usually a lot closer to how it sounded carefully arranged and balanced in the mix with a ton of outboard processing to make up for the gnarly playback of the CMI IIx, which programmer Paul Wiffen (add him to your list, did a lot of amazing stuff) once described as "nasal honk". The EII was a little less coloured but it makes everything sound dull, basically. I did a comparison a few years ago with the EII Marcato Strings playing the intro to West End Girls. Compared to the output of an EII, the Kontakt playback with no processing was very close to the brightness of the record, without the low mid hump exhibited by the EII playback:
http://madtheory.com/site/?p=616

Some of my friends will kill me for saying this, but even a Fairlight III has got some "sonic issues" to work around. The factory glockenspiel sound (great test of a converter) has horrible harmonics caused by the anti-aliasing filter, which was world class at the time. It's also amazing how your ear will ignore nasties in a sample, if the arrangement is done right.

Not to say modern ADAs are flawless. In their supplied form, most of the chips have a surprisingly gentle roll off in the anti-aliasing filter, which most definitely causes digital nasties.

A lot of the great sounding records were made by teams. It's not just the programmers, it's the mix engineer, arranger, producer, song writing, performance, room acoustics etc. etc... all working together for great sound. the best way to see that for yourself is to get the original discs and play with them.

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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by meatballfulton » Wed Nov 04, 2015 9:12 pm

Andrei Popa wrote:I am asking about the engineers that made them, and their workflow.
Although the Synclavier and Fairlight had CRT displays, the Emulator didn't. PCs were still in their infancy, sample editing programs were expensive when they did become available...I think Sound Designer by Digidesign which was Mac only was the first, the computer and SD software probably cost close to $2000. So the samples were made on the machines themselves.

Paul Wiffen who writes for Sound On Sound has written articles about his experiences as a Prophet 2000 programmer here and as an Emulator II programmer here and here.
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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by synthroom » Wed Nov 04, 2015 9:51 pm

HideawayStudio wrote:Arguably one of the best EII libraries was OMI's "Universe of Sounds" and is historically important as it was one of the first hardware sampler libraries to be distributed on CDROM.
I think the 3rd disk in the "Universe of Sounds" Emax Library was made by Northstar Productions, right here in my home town. They have a short blurb about how they got started here: http://www.northstarsamples.com/about.html

The EII floppy library was a combination of E-mu engineers like Kevin Monahan and musicians that used the EII submitting samples to E-mu. There used to be a pdf on the long-gone Emulator Archive site listing the source of all the 100 floppies in the original EII library. I can only remember Chris Franke of Tangerine Dream and Kerry Livgren of Kansas off hand, but many more names were on it.

Check this out - EII Disk Swap Party 1986 video:


Peter Wielk of Fairlight put together their sound library. Look at the link here for the original IIx library list: http://dvdborn.blogspot.com/2008/06/sam ... s-ago.html
It often says is a sound was from a source other than the factory in Australia - Syco_London, Fairlight USA, and several other sources are listed.

I can't find it online now, but there was a paper written by the guy that made the SARARR/ARR1 Fairlight sample where he discusses how he created it.

I have an EII and a Fairlight IIx if you're ever near Portlandia and want to check them out.
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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by Ashe37 » Wed Nov 04, 2015 11:59 pm

synthroom wrote: The EII floppy library was a combination of E-mu engineers like Kevin Monahan and musicians that used the EII submitting samples to E-mu. There used to be a pdf on the long-gone Emulator Archive site listing the source of all the 100 floppies in the original EII library. I can only remember Chris Franke of Tangerine Dream and Kerry Livgren of Kansas off hand, but many more names were on it.
the Emulator Archive site is reproduced here:

http://synthark.com/synthesizer-museum/ ... r-archive/

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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by synthroom » Thu Nov 05, 2015 1:37 am

Ashe37 wrote: the Emulator Archive site is reproduced here:

http://synthark.com/synthesizer-museum/ ... r-archive/
I looked there today and the link they have for the Factory Sample Listing was dead... Hopefully they will fully recreate it someday.
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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by Andrei Popa » Thu Nov 05, 2015 3:01 am

@Ashe37

Exactly!… :)


@hideawaystudio

Wow, nice insights


@madtheory

Yes I read about Paul Wiffen in a Sound On Sound article on the Emulator 2, he used to work for used to work for Asia and Paul McCartney

I also found another one, Casey Young, who used to work for Michael Jackson and Vince DiCola.

Listened to your samples, I do prefer the Emulator.. :)


@meatballfulton thanks for the Prophet link, didn't know that one…


@synthroom Wow, thanks for the invite, but I'm not even in the US, will write if I'll ever be near Portlandia :)


So much info guys…

Thanks! I wouldn't have thought I would've get so much info and feedback...

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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by synthroom » Thu Nov 05, 2015 9:45 pm

Here's a link to the middle of a really good interview with Dave Rossum talking about the history of E-mu. On this page, he talks about the Emulator I library and how it was made:
https://www.amazona.de/interview-dave-r ... ersion/11/

And more on sampling at E-mu:
https://www.amazona.de/interview-dave-r ... version/6/
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Re: Emulators, Synclaviers, Fairlight CMI's sound quality cr

Post by Andrei Popa » Fri Nov 06, 2015 12:10 am

Thanks again Synthroom! :)

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