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The hardware sampler is, alas, dead. Well, just about, anyway. The sampler was one of the first victims of the computer music revolution, and understandably so. The whole point of sampling is to convert an audio snippet into a bit of computer code that can then be manipulated as necessary. It’s a job for software, and samplers have always been little more than dedicated computers designed around such software.
However, once upon a time, the sampler was a technological marvel; a cutting-edge production tool afforded only by those whose names featured somewhere near the single digits of the pop charts. The introduction of affordable sampling kick-started a musical revolution that was equally (if not even more) paradigm-shattering than hard disk recording (which in itself is an outgrowth of sampling technology).
It’s almost impossible to put together a 'best of' list describing samplers. If we were to do that, the most recent, high fidelity jobs would top the list, while historically more significant entrants wouldn’t make the cut. Instead, we’ve compiled a list of what we reckon to be the most important samplers of the last three decades (give or take). These instruments made (or attempted to make) an important cultural impact, changing the way music Is played and produced.