Producer: Datel Ltd
Price: £49.99

We first reviewed the original Datel Sound Sampler way back about June 1985. This is the 1986 upgrade (alas we had only the 48K version), and I’m sorry to report that there really isn’t a large amount of improvement. Okay, it’s not so noisy and the reproduction of the samples is notably better, but I really think that Datel could have also put some effort into the software and presentation of the package, especially as the sampler ‘war’ is hotting up with Cheetah and RAM/Flare getting in on the act.

The on-screen keyboard display from Datel’s sampler — play back your sounds and be moderately amazed...

So what do you get for your 50 notes? The usual hardware box and cheapo microphone plus software. Load up and away we go. Big “oops” here as you’re only told how to plug in the incorrectly labelled hardware at the END of the instructions — and I’m still baffled by the little trim pot on the back. The options are very much the same as the old Datel product and work very much in the same manner — with a few extras.

Record uses an automatic sound sensor that triggers the sampling above a certain threshold of sound. Trouble is, it’s too sensitive by half and is not adjustable. Datel seem to think that you are blessed with three or more appendages as you need to hold down the ‘R’ key during recording. Great for things like guitar, flute and anything percussive where two hands are needed — not to mention one to hold the microphone. As it is so sensitive and awkward to use, you often have great big gaps before and after your sample.

The technical wonder of actual sampling is not so wonderful anymore, and we should now demand easily manipulative facilities from any self-respecting sampler. What ain’t we got? That’s right. You can’t do a damn thing with it as regards editing. The unit will actually show you the wave of the sound sample just like the original version did: this option was useless then, and it still is. The lack of editing really relegates this product to the second division.

Datel’s SOUND SAMPLER: set up and ready to start taking samples... another anonymous black box to plug into the back of your computer

Four Part Sound one ray of hope is the option to record four different sounds and play them back from the numeric keys. This is fine, but you can’t alter the pitch in this mode of operation.

Playback the playback mode proper is quite good in that it displays a static piano keyboard on screen to be played from qwerty keys, and it has an amazing 9 octave range which will defy the human ear. Anything you play is automatically stuffed in a real-time sequencer which will play back your first 100 notes (albeit not quite as faithfully as Datel might claim as the timing alters from your version). I would suspect too generous a quantisation here — that is, the ‘rounding up’ function found on drum machines to correct minor timing errors.

Sounds may be played in reverse or stuffed through some novelty features like ‘Riser’, which replays the sample 8 times at a higher pitch each time, or ‘Chop Play’ which replays the sample 8 times at the same pitch only shortening the length of the sample on each repetition. I’d rather have some editing instead of the digital whoopee cushion provided by these redundant features.

Echo offers nine preset echo effects. You have to return to the main menu each time to change them — rather annoying!

Microphone Level Tester simply routes the signal straight through to the the output and to your amplification.

Load/Save samples can be dumped to tape or Microdrive.

In practice, you have very little control over what the Datel sound sampler does. Sure, it samples and does some party tricks with the sound, but you, the user, are pretty well subservient to some dogmatic software with very little room to manoeuvre. There is no MIDI option or synchronisation facility and in the light of other samplers now available, this package is very bovine indeed. It demands some drastic software rewriting to justify its price in face of the competition.