Test Drive: The Dynacord ADS

by Michael R. Lee, Ph.D.

What was once distant thunder is now a reality for digital sampling. Everything you always wanted but were afraid you couldn't afford is now available at a modest cost in an unprecedented new unit, the Dynacord ADS.

The first generation of samplers gave us functional but sonically inferior machines -- a glimpse into the future but no more. Second generation samplers gave us impressive performance at an astronomical price.

Now we have entered the third generation of digital sampling, first with the Emulator III and Akai S1000 and more recently with the Dynacord ADS and Roland S-770. Of all the machines in the third generation, none has more sonic integrity or functional flexibility than the Dynacord ADS. And none come close to its surprisingly low price (suggested list for the 2 megabyte rack version is $4,995).

Sixteen bit sampling has become the single most important criterion upon which to judge samplers. Anything less than 16 bits sounds downright dull. But even 16 bit digital-to-analog conversion is not enough. When triggering multiple sounds or using 16 voice polyphony, the signal-to-noise ratio drops from 96 db to 72 db. This is as unacceptable as 8 bit sampling. The Dynacord ADS gets around this with 20 bit D-to-A conversion for a constant 96 db signal-to-noise ratio.

One other thing that's constant is the sampling rate of 44.1 KHz (which can be cut in half). This eliminates audio anomalies caused by speed variations when you go up or down from the original sample. That's exactly how Waveframe has taken on New England Digital's Synclavier, and it definitely works for Dynacord with the ADS -- great signal-to-noise and unsurpassed sonic quality.

All that having been said, it's still not as important as figuring out what you can accomplish with a digital sampler and which one serves your needs best at the lowest cost. Unlike other samplers that are created almost solely for the musical instrument market, the Dynacord ADS is a decidedly slick and easily operable tool for the broadcast market.

For instance, voice manipulation is insignificant to most bands, save for rappers. However, in radio it provides production people with a chance to do the intriguing. The Dynacord ADS puts virtually limitless effects at your fingertips: arpeggiation (for that "helicopter" sound), looping (for repeats that may be overlaid with each other and separately panned) and digital splicing (computer programs allow you to do it visually) are a few examples.