Synth: Sampler: Roland S770, Hexfix93’s take.

May 29th, 2009 by Hexfix93


WOW. After really messing about with it over the last couple of weeks, I have pure love in my heart for this beast. And yes, it is a beast. Sampling with it is the bomb. Easy to use, I have only 16mb, but I can easily sample at every octave for like 10 to 20 seconds no problem. This thing plays back what is put in, with a slight color that adds life and oooomph to the sound. I just can’t get enough. I seriously think this really adds more to the sound. It’s like my high end fx, my lexicon pcm 96 and ksp8, those fx units will add to the sounds and spit out something better than you put in. I am amazed. Seriously. I tried so hard to love software samplers, used halion, emu x, kontakt, and exs24. Nothing on those ever sounded like this. Nothing. I mean I would sample my analogs and they would sound digital. This thing still sounds analog even after its in the sampler. At first, I thought it ruined my drums, because when you first import sounds into this thing, it sets the attack on the TVA(amp env) to 1 instead of 0, so the first part of my kicks would get cut off. I figured out how to edit it. They kick the crap out of battery and kontakt for drums, everything is hot, loud and punches like it should, as compared to the limp more faint sound of these software samplers. But I did find a huge problem for drums, this is from another user on the gear sluts forums “Roland S-sampler: the envelopes regularly “mis-fire” — don’t know how else to explain it, but occasional hits will sound flabby, which is especially noticeable and problematic on drums… like let’s say you have set DCA Attack @ 0, and Release @ 3 for a really tight drum sound, it’s like occassionally it will hit where it sounds more like Attack @ 3, Release @ 50 …… myself and 2 of my friends all owned S-750s and it was the same on all of ours”. So I have to deduct some points here, this is not good for drums.

What do I really like about this most of all? Inputs are on the front, the converters on this are amazing, I think they are apogee from the late 80s, I read that on some forum some where, too lazy to open it up and check. They really capture the sounds just right. I had to get my head around the complex sound structure, sample then that becomes a partial(layer up to 4 sounds as the osc, 4 mono, or 2 stereo pairs) which contains the filter and amp envs and settings like that, then the patch section where you can assign the partials to the keyboard any way you want(if you have a lot of partials, and want to edit the filter or the tva on each, there is a way to hit command then edit partials, then select global, so you can edit all the partials under the patch at once, so the settings on the filter and amp envs etc will effect all the sounds in the patch, this took me a while to get my head around. Then the performance where you assign patches to midi channels. The file system is really good(it intelligently will use the same samples over and over in different sounds with out making you save them over and over, unless you do physical edits on the samples themselves, so if you have a drum kit and one kit uses the same kick as another, it will know this, and only save the one kick but load the same one for both kits, so space isn’t wasted saving the same files over and over.), even though there is a 540 mb limit to how big a hd can be :(. You can use a mouse and external screen to use this unit. But you don’t need it, my screen is super dim, so I had to get a long composite video cable to reach my TV, then, neato. Easy to see everything. I have no problem editing stuff with the arrows and the big wheel. I also think this sampler can sync the osc(samples) like osc sync on analogs. I haven’t tried that yet.

Sampling is easy, I learned some stuff from the manuals and from some cool people over on gear sluts about how to edit stuff easier. So in partial mode, hit the command button, then sample, and it will create a partial with the sample real easy, same can be done in patch mode to make patches easy. Sampling is cool, although, when making any patch, partial, or sample, you have to name them, but once you do it will remember the name you entered again so you can just add 2 3 4 etc to the end of it easy. I remember sampling with the asrx, asr10, and emu e6400, I seriously prefer the s770 over those in sound and editing, when I sample a sound in, it automatically find the right start and end points to truncate, so it is good at saving space, and i don’t have to manually truncate myself. There are no FX, good, cause i usually hate internal fx. 24 voice poly. 8 outputs! Flopy disk, and a built in 40mb, yes MB :( HD. Without the HD you would have to load the OS of floppy every time you booted it up. So I am thankful there is one in there even though it’s only 40mb.

So it sounds amazing with low aliasing, really musical. So lush. The filters are digital, but they sound analog, the resonance is really wet if you set it just right, and the band pass and high pass are spot on and can sound really organic and analog. Todd and I compared some crumar string machine akai samples to kontakt 3, loaded them in via chicken systems translator on a zip disk. Loaded it in, played both and A and B them over and over, and we noticed that the s770 sounded fuller, more musical, had more harmonics in the sound, louder, smoother, punchier, present, warm and fat. VS the software which was more distant, thin, cold, had horrid aliasing distortions, the filters were like sand paper compared to the smooth organic filters in the s770. It was a joke. To think people are selling these things to buy software that sounds 10 times worse is an outrage.

I never used my software samplers in my music much, because it never would fit. Never matched my real analogs. The s770 does match and fit my other gear. Sits nice in the mix. So much easier to mix actually. I really wanted to get my hands on the ultimate sampler, the emu e3, the depeche mode violator sampler, but i couldn’t find one that was affordable. I picked this thing up for 200 plus shipping and i had to buy a power chord. It was mission the top of one of the knobs, but it all works. Samplers are a lot of work, but well worth the effort when you get one of these great old ones. Not all samplers are great. This thing kicks the crap out of the emu e4 i had, the sound quality of this, the bass end especially is magical, warm and fat, so analog, more than any other sampler i had. The ensoniq samplers sound musty and dirty compared to this. This is lush, big warm and analog. So is the E3. 16 bit sound in the s770 as well. 20 bit internal processes. Todd bought the big huge e3 rack from Danny Elfman’s studio! yes, and it is amazing. Real analog filters. But mine are good usable and i have multi mode, so i am really happy. Don’t get me wrong, the e4, and old asr samplers are better than the new hardware samplers from akai, and the software. But seriously, the e3, the s770 are like the ultimate in sound character, they sound analog and not digital. This is the best piece of gear I have bought in a longtime. Rock solid midi timing too.

Ok, I made a patch for you to hear. This is me, making my sh2 sound like a jupiter 8. With 24 voice poly, and resonant multimode filter :) This is a pad sound, i love the resonance on the higher notes, so lush. And the sampler still makes it sound like real analog. Amazing. Click here To listen to it. I sampled my s770 through my mackie onyx mixer with no eq, into the rme fireface 800. I am sure it would sound better if i went directly into the fireface 800. I give this a 7 out of 10. Awsome sampler!!!!!!

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12 Responses

  1. magenticka Says:

    That’s very impressive.

  2. phobos Says:

    im so glad u brought back the synth reviews.thank you soooooo much

  3. Ludovic Says:

    The sound is very warm !
    Thxs for your reviews Brian, please, continue !

  4. The Silence (End) Says:


  5. Roger Says:

    The S-770 is arguably the best instrument that Roland EVER built.

    It was 8k when it came out (in 1990); and unbelieveably good in it’s pitch-shifting scheme.

    The only real negative comment that can be made of it (and the S-750), is that it’s best to either lift the ground of the rgb cable, or unhook it entirely when sampling (if not, a 15k spike can be introduced into the sample).

    I own a S-770 as well as a couple of S-750’s; they are world-class samplers.

    Glad that you are enjoying yours!


  6. franklin Says:

    the s770 definately adds a flavor to the sound makes it stand out, library is awesome and the synthesis structure allows creation of sounds never heard before, I have converted the library to sample tank which overcomes the 16 mb limit. ssd technologu and software by chicken systems complete this wonderful and timeless instrument.

  7. robert gorman Says:

    I want this sampler. I can’t pay you til the 3e\rd though. if u can hold onto it for me I would appreciate that. thanks!!!!!

  8. hugh Says:

    hey i like this! i do shows out in cleveland, i would be very very very interested in purchasing this wonderful peice of equipment, please contact me via email and id be happy to purchase!!!

  9. Alex Says:

    I have one of these and it is awesome. It’s true it samples transparent, what you put in is exactly what comes out, but because its “vintage digital” it does add some character to the sound which makes this thing sound better than most samplers and soft samplers, its in the components, converters, proprietary software and high quality parts that make this sampler a high end sonic beast. Its like having a fairlight in a box. I would rather use this older gear than new soft samplers any day, having all the latest computer software is NOT going to make you a better song writer, sure it takes longer to assemble songs and sample and edit things on the S-770 but it SOUNDS much better than anything else out there so its worth the work. Its just way more fun to use hardware over software, who cares that I only have 32 megs and 40 gig of hard disc, just use a Zip disc to save files and or an SCSI drive, for the most part you can do alot with 32 megs, you just have to be more creative about sound length. Cheers.

  10. Hexfix93 Says:

    Yeah, I recently went with the emu e6400 ultra, it doesn’t sound as good, but it handles drums way better, and sound way better than software.

  11. mutron3k Says:

    Very cool, good review. I just picked one up, ready to re-learn the art of the sample!

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