14 Jun 2008

Sampling the sampler

About 10 years ago Heavenly Music Productions released a Fairlight Series IIx Sample CD-ROM (HM-SBK Vol.2) with all the samples from the original IIx library (PDF) as SoundFonts on it. I found this very interesting since it was the only way to listen to Fairlight samples and use them. But when I used the samples, at the time in my Akai S900, they lacked depth and only offered 1 sampled pitch/preset sound. In other words they didn't sound authentic enough.

Now that I have a working Series IIx in my possession. I can try once again to emulate the Fairlight sound but with greater precision.

So, I did a little experiment. I loaded the famous sample Sararr in the IIx, also know as Arr1, and sampled it like it was an acoustic instrument, sampling every 3th note up the scale.

The Sararr sample was made by Tom Stewart with the voice of Sarah Cohen. Click here >> to read what he had to say about recording this sound (you'll have to scroll down to the bottom of the page). This sample has been used on numerous records. It was even one of the preset sounds in Roland synths in the 90's (U-10, U-220, ...)

I made 2 different sample sets. One with the anti-aliasing filter in its original position as defined by the sample settings on Page 7 of the IIx and one with the anti-aliasing filter wide open (value = 127).

So now I present you with 2 different sample sets in NI Kontakt format. These sets also contain the Wav files (24 bit/44.1 kHz).
1. Sararr Filter_20 (12.2 MB) - This is the sound with the original IIx settings except for the Attack/damping and pitch LFO. You can add this in Kontakt.
2. Sararr Filter_127 (12.4MB) - This is the sound without the anti-aliasing filter. I tried to recreate the sound of the IIx's anti-aliasing filter in Kontakt. (And I came rather close).

All looping was done in Kontakt. I kept the IIx looping points. Also, I didn't perform any normalizing on the samples keeping the original volume differences when you play lower/higher on the keyboard.

When I played the 2nd sample set in my Emulator III and used the EIII's own analogue filter I couldn't here a difference between the EIII and IIx. Though, I did have to tweak the filter settings of every note because the filtering on the IIx has key tracking, making the filter more open when you play higher up on the keyboard.

Of course there's more to the sound of the Fairlight than just creating a multi sample set. Sampling a sound in the IIx is what gives it the most character. To make a perfect cloned preset sound you also need to count in the fact that each voice card has it's own different sound and filter calibration (I used the same voice card to create the above sample sets). There's also the sound of the VCA when you play a sample louder or softer. Also, Page R, the sequencer that forces you to be creative with only 8 samples has a certain groove to it.

update 12 march 09: Corrected the name Sarah Conor to Sarah Cohen. Thanks to Joe for the correction.
update 28/08/2011: corrected broken download links.

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Anonymous madtheory said...

Cool, I'm just in the midst of transferring my Emu library to Kontakt, I'll try your samples now. Fun! ;)

11:32 pm  
Anonymous madtheory said...

The bottom end is amazing, but both need processing to get that "fairlight on a record" sound. Mainly a wide bell boost in the top end to bring out the breath.

11:25 am  
Blogger dvdborn said...

Hi Madtheory,

I'm also amazed by the bottom end of the Fairlight. It's also possible to transpose sounds into very high, almost unhearable, frequencies.

I've converted the Emulator II library a few years ago to wave format. That took me lots of days doing nothing else than MIDI dumping every single samples. In the end it was well worth it.

1:23 pm  
Anonymous madtheory said...

Hi dvdborn,

Yes, the EII factory library is cool. I converted it last year using the SD for EII format files, and that PC program that converts them to WAVs. It didn't take long :)

BTW, on your Fairlight, do you have a better vesion of this string sound:

11:20 pm  
Blogger Mars said...

Your blog is drugs. I love you.

7:24 am  
Blogger Mars said...

Hello again.
I justed wanted to let you know that there is a possibility that a Fairlight / Synclavier style VSTi may be in the works if I can garner enough interest / help. The programmer of the 'Oddy-Free' ARP Odyssey and 'Prophanity' Prophet 5 clones, Chris Roberson, has expressed interest in doing it if I can garner enough outside demand. David, your insight on what you think would be essential versus what you think would be redundant would be a huge, HUGE help. If you want to help those of us unfortunate enough to not have a Fairlight - please let Chris know you can answer a few questions here
blu_gruv (a) lycos (dot) com
(no spaces and an '@' to replace the (a))

any help is greatly appreciated!

6:07 pm  
Anonymous Jesper said...

Sorry for my bad English but i must comment on this one…

In the wait for an acceptable Fairlight VST. Its important that the creators of the plug-in really understand that the Fairlight has a special sound. And that the sound is the challenge. A stock sounding soft sampler with an emulation of the page R is insipid and are not going to sell (because the argument is only: look here kids, an sampler with an funny funkey old sequenser. The kids have heard it before… And after the have found it on piratebay its not sure they even going to bother installing it. Features and grapichs are not selling or creates demand any more.

It’s the SOUND and the features, (inc PAGE R and its specific timing), that makes the Fairlight worth to emulate.

The multisamples off “sararr” in this blogg remind us all about an old favourite sound and the marvellous character of the old CMI when you “transpose” the sound. And its presented in glorious "wav", not MP3 format. One million thanks! As we all know, if you put a single sample (orginal C4, on Sararr?) in an “modern” sampler, for example Akai S-6000 or Gigasampler or Kontakt the “soul” of the sampled sound is lost as soon you “transpose”. This is if anything is a case when you come to sounds like Sararr.

´The multisamples of “Sararr” sounds fantastic even in the modest Kontakt. I can tell that your samples and programming are many miles closer than any previous attempts on this specific sound. Among far better sound quality you can hear the little “tumb” in the very beginning of the samples who is a often missed in other librarys and humble sound modules (saying that, I was using the Roland U-220 in many years for this sound only)!

I have myself tried to emulate the Sararr “or Arr1” over the years (in the real world). I was using the two single samples from “Pro-Rec” and put it in soft samplers, (Kontakt, Gigasampler). No way it sounds like a Fairlight! I have also test this specific sample on the Ensoniq Mirage, Korg Dss-1, and Akai S-1100. The Mirage is cool in the aliasing area and the Korg have analog filters and transpose artefacts similar to the CMI, but seems to lack in the low end among some other things. Interesting (but no surprise) that the old EMU is better in this area.) My Akai S-1100 sounds a bit better “grainier and to some extent smother” than other “later” Akais and soft samplers, but far from exiting because the “better” transpose algorithms. One of the problem with Pro -Rec samples is that it seems to be recorded with the aliasing on. That make a dull sampler sounds even “duller” in the low register.

Your multisamples are important for me in the (real world) simulation the Fairlight. Now i have some guide about the CMI:s filter tracking, amount of aliasing and some amplitude behaviour at least. Very interesting! In the future im going to try an old DBX filter “the silencer” and make multisamples simulating the keyboard tracking. As source sampler I vil use a combination of the Mirage and the Korg (for the aliasing). Im also going to experiment with the Roland S-760 (bit reducing and emphasis, that sound “fair”.)

Can we ask for some more multisamples where the aliasing filter is off. For me at last, if your time is limited, Pure wavs (no aliasing filter) in thirds C0- C5? are almost as god as full Kontakt programs as we now have the “rough” guide of the filter keyboard tracking in the Kontakt “Sararr” program .

I don’t beg for many things in my life, but this time I can not resist. What are you other lurkers saying? Any favourite CMI sound that you “must” preserve (not only collect for the god sake). Madhtheorys asked for that “stringy” sound? I vote and beg for my heart for the “oohhzz”. It’s a pad sound, reminds of Sararr but a bit softer. I don’t really now the name, maybe its only “voices”? Someone who knows?.

Or/and why not "Swanee" a pan flute “breathy” sound . Those sounds aren’t only nice, can be used in a lot of music, its also god because they are filling the frequency spectra so that we all can hear all the beauty aliasing, other noises, digital birds and other nice artefacts who seem to give the old CMI the unique character. Also a sound like "marimba" or “bar” are nice for demonstrating the "middle" and the "bottom end", I think…

- god comment Madtheory, about the "record sound". There was more to it. SSL,s or Neves, analog tape, Quantic Simulators, Eventides, Lexicons, Dimension D:s etc. But one thing is for sure.., faithfully, lovely multisamples is a good start…

(Sorry again for my bad English, Im working on it…)

Jesper Kjellberg

12:37 am  
Blogger dvdborn said...

Hi Jesper,

I hope to find some time in the near future to put up more multi samples from the IIx library.

I have planned to convert all the IIx Library samples to multi sample sets for archival purposes and for use in my other samplers (EIII, Kontakt). But this is just for my personal use.


4:56 pm  
Anonymous Jesper said...

Thanks David! And thanks for your wonderfull bloog about your CMI. Its so intresting to follow your steps in the investigating of this classic sampler.

There are so many classic sounds from the CMI IIx. As told before my favorite among them are the softer "voices".

Happy sampling the orginal sampler...


4:14 pm  
Anonymous Jesper said...

David, a question:

I know that the CMI has individual voice cards for each "voice". Can you spot any significant differences in the audio quality from the “mix out” versus from the individual channels, when you are playing back one sound (not layering)? I presume there are some analog mixsumming in the “mix out”. If there is a differences, can you describe it? “Muddier”, “lighter”, “fatter”, thinner? etc.

I wonder this because i have some nice “CMI only” backing tracks from Mike Oldfields "Discovery" tour (1984) where i can spot some minor differences in fidelity. (I know that the aliasing filter was on, in all passes…)

This sort information is also interesting when we sampling the sampler. Perhaps this is all a question about eq or analog tape alignment etc. But I must ask because im genuine interested in all about the Fairlights sonic character…


9:29 am  
Blogger Jeremy Campbell said...

wow, great to find these sarr multi-samples. dvdborn or madtheory, would either of you consider sharing your eII wav libraries?

captainjc (at) gmail (dot) com

12:03 am  
Blogger Ralph said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



5:46 am  
Blogger Christian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:53 pm  
Blogger Christian said...

Sorry the last post was in complete

Kontakt 3 Factory Libary - Instrument Script
Fairlight Sarrar
Author : BruteForce SoftWare
Written by: Christian Andersen

on init

declare const $grp_idx := 0

_set_skin_offset(2 * 225)

declare const $hp_slot := 2
declare const $lp_slot := 3

declare ui_knob $Knob_1 (0,876600,1)
set_knob_unit ($Knob_1,$KNOB_UNIT_MS)
set_text ($Knob_1, "Attack")
set_knob_defval ($Knob_1,0)
move_control ($Knob_1,1,1)
make_persistent ($Knob_1)
set_control_help ($Knob_1,"Attack: Sets the attack time of the volume envelope.")

declare ui_knob $Knob_2 (400000,776000,1)
set_knob_unit ($Knob_2,$KNOB_UNIT_MS)
set_text ($Knob_2, "Decay")
set_knob_defval ($Knob_2,400000)
move_control ($Knob_2,2,1)
make_persistent ($Knob_2)
set_control_help ($Knob_2,"Decay: Sets the release time of the volume envelope.")

declare ui_knob $Knob_3 (400000,999999,1)
set_knob_unit ($Knob_3,$KNOB_UNIT_DB)
set_text ($Knob_3, "Sustain")
set_knob_defval ($Knob_3,400000)
move_control ($Knob_3,3,1)
make_persistent ($Knob_3)
set_control_help ($Knob_3,"Sustain: Sets the release time of the volume envelope.")

declare ui_knob $Knob_4 (400000,876000,1)
set_knob_unit ($Knob_4,$KNOB_UNIT_MS)
set_text ($Knob_4, "Release")
set_knob_defval ($Knob_4,400000)
move_control ($Knob_4,4,1)
make_persistent ($Knob_4)
set_control_help ($Knob_4,"Release: Sets the release time of the volume envelope.")

set_knob_label ($Knob_1,_get_engine_par_disp($ENGINE_PAR_ATTACK,0,0,-1))
set_knob_label ($Knob_2,_get_engine_par_disp($ENGINE_PAR_DECAY,0,0,-1))
set_knob_label ($Knob_3,_get_engine_par_disp($ENGINE_PAR_SUSTAIN,0,0,-1))
set_knob_label ($Knob_4,_get_engine_par_disp($ENGINE_PAR_RELEASE,0,0,-1))

end on

on ui_control ($Knob_1)
_set_engine_par ($ENGINE_PAR_ATTACK,$Knob_1,0,0,-1)
set_knob_label ($Knob_1,_get_engine_par_disp($ENGINE_PAR_ATTACK,0,0,-1))
end on

on ui_control ($Knob_2)
_set_engine_par ($ENGINE_PAR_DECAY,$Knob_2,0,0,-1)
set_knob_label ($Knob_2,_get_engine_par_disp($ENGINE_PAR_DECAY,0,0,-1))
end on

on ui_control ($Knob_3)
_set_engine_par ($ENGINE_PAR_SUSTAIN,$Knob_3,0,0,-1)
set_knob_label ($Knob_3,_get_engine_par_disp($ENGINE_PAR_SUSTAIN,0,0,-1))
end on

on ui_control ($Knob_4)
_set_engine_par ($ENGINE_PAR_RELEASE,$Knob_4,0,0,-1)
set_knob_label ($Knob_4,_get_engine_par_disp($ENGINE_PAR_RELEASE,0,0,-1))
end on

2:57 pm  
Blogger Christian said...

the above post is a simple performance view script for you patch

Christian Andersen

3:00 pm  
Anonymous secondhanddaylight said...

hello dvdborn,

i just found your two beautiful Sarrar banks while i was digging infos about the dreamy machine the Fairlight seems to be.
Never had the chance to play one but comparing to ALL the bad "not multi sampled" Fairlight sounds banks, your banks are a real pleasure to play with and i ger very inspired after 2 minutes i play with it.
i feel the essence of the machine and that's a great pleasure.
thank you for this very good work.
Hope to see more one day

1:27 pm  

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