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AKAI Z8 Review

Anyone needing to load up a lot of big samples, or have a lot of samples available right on the hard drive will be very happy with this machine, especially if they do not want the worry of dealing with a soft synth.

The Z8 is one of Akai’s newest offerings in the sampler market. Based on a new sample engine capable of recording and playing 24 bit or 16 bit samples at 44.1k, 48k, or 96k sampling rates. The Z8 comes ready to work right out of the box. Currently the Z8 ships with 272MB of RAM, expandable to 512 MB, and a 60 GB hard drive preloaded with a Gigabyte of sounds. For its internal parts, it uses industry standard parts that make upgrading or replacing convenient. The internal hard drive is an IDE drive, and the RAM is industry standard PC100, so you can load it up with RAM as inexpensively as your PC or Mac.

Also included with these newer samplers is USB ports. You can use these in many ways. For example you can attach a keyboard to name your samples/programs, or storage devices. But don’t worry it still has a standard SCSI II port on the back as well. Also can also connect to your Mac or PC via the USB port and use the AK.SYS software to gain full control of the sampler, including pulling samples from the Z8 to your computer, and back. Double click on a sample in AK.SYS and it is downloaded and opened in your default sample editor.

Another feature on the Z8 is 8 real-time control knobs. These can be programmed to control program and effect parameters, and as standard MIDI controllers as well. With S/PDIF digital I/O onboard along with a Word Clock input, and an optional ADAT lighpipe I/O card it can easily be interfaced with any digital studio. I interfaced the Z8 into my Digidesign DIGI001 system via S/PDIF within no time and without any hassles.

I found recording samples into the Z8 felt very straight forward and basic editing was easy to do as well. Most tools were readily available with very few requiring using the window button. Setting up Programs and Multi’s was simple, and using the AK.SYS software for these functions made it that much simpler.

The Z8 also includes Akai’s effect card, capable of up to 4 stereo effects. The effects sounded very good, and were easy to work with. One issue that I had is that I could not edit effects settings from AK.SYS, I had to use the front panel.

The strengths of this unit are definitely in its storage capacity. Anyone needing to load up a lot of big samples, or have a lot of samples available right on the hard drive will be very happy with this machine, especially if they do not want the worry of dealing with a soft synth. Touring musicians that use samplers can now use their zip/jaz disks as backup instead of having to worry about hooking them up and loading everything before the gig.

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