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Alesis SampleRack

Ok, so two things you need to know about this review - 

1. Simon recently looked at the Alesis Sample Pad Pro which is the sibling/built in pad version using the same basic design features so I’m not going to go over the same things he did (and you can read about that HERE), and

2. this is actually my own unit which I’ve bought, it’s not something we were given to review as such.

Physically, the unit is mostly made of metal. The cursor keys and Aux knob feel like rubber which means they’re soft and comfortable to use and the volume knobs are plastic which were, for me, a little underwhelming but I guess they keeps costs down.

At the front of the Sample Rack, Alesis have kept things fairly clean and simple. You’ve got the power button, main volume, SD card slot, headphone volume, an Aux in (min jack) port for an mp3 player and then the main bits, the screen and the cursor buttons.

On the back of the unit you have eight 1/4 inch dual-input jacks for pads (which are labelled) plus separate inputs for kick and hihat pedals (which are both switchable between ‘switch’ and variable/trigger). You also get an input for a foot switch.

In terms of outputs, you get a pair of main outs, and midi in and midi out ports. For data transfer, you have a USB port.

The unit comes with over 200 samples and 10 pre-set kits. If you want more, you can  also use an SD card (up to 32GB) to store an additional 512 sounds or 89 custom kits. These sounds can be edited in pitch, panning, and reverb within the unit.

My requirement of this unit was two-fold: one, it needed to be rack mountable, and two, it needed to play my own samples. 

The Sample Rack is (I don’t know if it’s officially or unofficially) the natural to successor to the Alesis DM5. The DM5 has been for a long time a favourite with metal drummers who trigger their kick drums. I’m not a metal drummer myself, but I do also have a DM5 which I originally bought to trigger my bass drum to bolster my live sound a bit.

However, the biggest downside to the DM5 (although to be fair, it was around way before SD cards and using your own samples became as popular as it has become) was that short of using midi to trigger your own samples, you were pretty much stuck with what was available in the box sound-wise. Obviously, modern times have changed all of this.

What Alesis has done with the Sample Rack is basically update the DM5 and simplify the controls and overall look. Gone are the different menus/pages and now everything is essentially on the same page and all you have to do is scroll up or down to access the aspect you want and then edit it. However, while the flexibility to edit your samples in the unit is nice, the real benefit is being able to get any sample just how you want it before it goes into the module.

Changing between patches is, as you’ll see from the video, very easy but not the fastest. Not that’s really a problem, particularly if like me you’re only using samples for sound reinforcement rather than as a full kit because I don’t want to change my sound particularly between songs.

All in all, I’m quite happy with the Sample Rack. 

It’s simple to use and allows me to use my own samples over the stock ones. The stock sounds are just fine though. 

Setting up the unit in terms of using it with triggers (in this case the ddrum Acoustic Pro models) involved next to no effort on my part, I quite literally just plugged the cable into the unit and that was it, it triggered just fine straight away.

The DM5 did have two pairs of main outputs (as opposed to the one pair on on the Sample Rack) which I miss a little - I could route the kick drum to one channel on my mixer and anything else to another channel for a little more flexibility in the volume control - as well as two more inputs, but I don’t think it noticeably suffers for this and is probably only something you’d notice if you were using this as a brain for a full kit. It’s still very useable though and the refined and sleeker look works well for me. 

On top of that, it’s reasonably priced too, so overall, a winner so far in the time I’ve spent with it.

More at - www.alesis.com/products/view/samplerack

David Bateman

September 2016


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