Sample Playback Emerges

Roland-U220

The DX7 had done it…recreated “real” sounding instruments in a synth (Seinfeld” slap bass,anyone?). And the trickle down of sampling technology from Fairlight and Synclavier had made high quality sampling affordable (relatively speaking) for many musicians.

My first “Sample Playback” synth was the Roland U220. It was a 1Unit rack space (ie.very small) with a front panel interface that can kindly be described as “spartan”. This “multi-menu” layer of button pushing would be the new interface design for most manufacturers in the coming years. Some functions were so many button presses away that it was next to impossible to locate certain functions. But this new design paradigm enabled synth manufacturers to offer their units at an amazingly low price point.

My first encounter with this unit took place in a music store in NYC where I came away less than impressed..but something made me take a second look and it soon found a happy home in my rack. There were two card slots in the front that could accommodate proprietary sound cards from Roland, some of which were quite good. I had a few, including the strings and the exotic instrument ones. You can hear me playing the fretless bass from this unit on “The Pursuit Of Happiness” by Procol Harum. I tried to use the organ from it for some of the demos but the Procol crew was (quite rightly) not having it..so in came the Hammond b3 and Leslie cabinet. Some sounds are just not made for sample playback.