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Sonic ramifications of moving sample data between platforms

What happens when sample data gets converted to other formats?

“Does converting samples to multiple formats like from Akai to Soundfount then to Giga reduce the quality of the final sample? I am using CdXtract to convert from Roland format to Soundfount than exporting the waves to reinsert them in Gigasampler. I am forced to do this process because there is not a direct convert from Roland to Giga sampler, but I’d like to know if I’m losing information along the way.”

In principle, and in general practice, sample data is not “lost” merely by converting it from one format to another. It’s typically only the headers and other information around the sample data that changes for different formats. But there are some other things that can occur to make a sample work in a different machine. For example, if the source sampler uses 48kHz files, but the destination unit can only work with 44.1kHz files then a sample rate conversion may have to occur as part of the process, though they’ll often work anyway, just playing at the wrong speed/pitch. So in some cases, yes, sample data is altered, and there is no way to ever get back to the original. Even if the third machine also supports 48kHz samples you are stuck having to sample convert the 44.1kHz data back up to 48kHz. The same kinds of problems can exist with bit depth as well. If you put a 20 bit sample into a 16 bit machine the four LSB’s get truncated. These kinds of gyrations aren’t that common though. In general if you start with high quality samples, by the time the data ends up in the destination machine it usually sounds on par with data native to that machine. Your ears will be the final judge of this. Of course if you start with low quality samples and put them in a machine with a very high quality playback engine it is going to reveal the deficiencies in the sample. Move a 12 bit sample into a 24 bit environment and it’s still going to sound like a 12 bit sample.

That’s the story for the sample data only, but keep in mind that a lot of what makes the Roland samples sound so fantastic in Roland hardware is the programming around them (also true for many other samples and samplers). This programming is often lost or severely altered in transfer processes so the final results can vary dramatically. The sample data itself may arrive fully in tact, but once the programming is lost it may sound terrible. Now you’ve got to go in and recreate all the loops, keymaps, and filters, which can be a ton of work.

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