1Native Instruments Kontakt 6
NI has steadily built Kontakt into an awesome powerhouse of a sampler and its latest iteration is one of the most powerful sample-based instruments that’s ever existed. Its flexible sampling stage is linked to an equally flexible synthesis stage and incorporates powerful DSP abilities and great-sounding effects.
2Steinberg HALion 6
Steinberg’s flagship sampling instrument is a state-of-the-art sound design system. While its featureset and abilities are similar to that of NI Kontakt, HALion has a more synth-like look and feel. It also comes with a hefty 40GB sample library to get you started.
3Akai MPC X
The MPC X is the latest and greatest addition to Akai’s legendary MPC series. At heart, the MPCs have always been a combination of sampler and sequencer and their tabletop form factor, bank of trigger buttons and hands-on nature has proved an enduringly popular approach to music-making, especially among rap and R&B producers.
The Mirage’s 32kHz, 8-bit sampling and 128kb RAM were pretty basic, but it made up for this with a fully analogue synthesis stage that really brought the lo-fi samples to life. Immediate and satisfying, and packed with character, the Mirage is a unique and affordable vintage sampler.
Price circa £350 (used)
The D-50 was one of the first ROMplers in town and remains one of the best ever made. Its popularity means many of its sounds are instantly recognisable, but they still have a quality and clarity that’s eminently usable in a modern context. Look out for the much rarer rackmount D-550, too.
Price circa £400-550 (used)
The M1 was launched as a direct competitor to the D-50. Although sonically not as warm and delicate as the D-50, its bright, sometimes brash, sound proved very popular. It was also one of the first synths to have a convincing acoustic-piano sound and which ended up all over the house tunes of the day.
Price circa £300 for original (used); $50 for Korg Collection plug-in version