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The Box Sampling Project

SampleRobot - The Box Sampling Project 1Hope you had a good start in 2023. We would like to share a story about a very special sampling project by one of our users. It all started when John Bunge reached out to us asking if SampleRobot could capture sounds from a unique instrument he built about 40 years ago. He called it 'The Box' and described it as a hand-wired synthesizer based on a video game sound chip in a box with 2 joysticks and lots of switches and controls. John had just rediscovered it, not knowing if it was working at all. Of course, that instantly caught our attention.

We're glad we could help during the sampling process. So the answer was: Yes, SampleRobot could capture these unique sounds. John even created a special sample pack available as a free download via the pianobook site.

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Here's the project in his own words:

'In the early 1980s I built a series of synthesizers based on the Texas Instruments SN76477 video game sound chip. I had forgotten about them but recently a friend revealed that he had kept them in his basement all this time, and he sent them to me. Only the original prototype, known as “The Box”, survived well enough to be sampled. Thanks to Christian Halten’s invaluable help and encouragement I was able to use SampleRobot to create six sampled instruments from The Box, four pitched (with varying degrees of modulation) and two non-pitched (one noise-based and one from joystick “performances”). The full story is here, and the complete sample pack is now available on pianobook. Thank you SampleRobot!

Upon reflection I would say that the most valuable thing for this project in terms of SampleRobot was … the tuning oscillator! I had to tune every single one of the pitched samples, listening for phasing/beats, and even then I had to go back and re-take some. Interestingly sometimes the square or sawtooth waves worked better for that and sometimes the sine wave did, I couldn’t determine a rule. But of course all of the other features were useful too, in particular the auto-looping, which I used pretty much as default (I did try tweaking it but couldn’t improve on the defaults). The only thing I’d say about that is that I took 20-second samples which then looped, and even though they chose their own loop points they were usually pretty long (some right up to 20 seconds).  That’s great except that there are some really nice sounds in the later times (5-10-15 seconds) of some of those samples and the typical user or superficial listener won’t discover those unless they get into them more deeply. A serious “samplist” could cut them up of course and use later sections, or even multiply the sample sets - I’m talking mainly about the non-pitched ones here - but dividing them up into 5-second sections or whatever. But that’s for some downstream user not me 😎'

Thank you John for sharing your experience and also for taking the time to rediscover the sound worlds of this lost instrument. Marvelous!

Images copyright John Bunge, used with kind permisson.

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