The SP1200 is one of the only samplers that can actually make the 909 sound better - or at least, different, in a way that may suit your productions better. Originally, I sampled my 909 as a means of having more control over it for my own productions - but I immediately fell in love with the grit, warmth and punch it added.
So, after using these sounds for the past year, I thought it'd be great to create a really minimal, excellent sounding sample pack out of this combo, recorded through our API console and ready for your productions.
The SP1200 is the best sounding drum sampler I have ever heard - Its crunchy conversion, low bit rate, harmonic overdrive and aliased pitching can provide cutting, midrange grit, hardening your samples so they punch through a mix. This drive can then be smoothed out to varying degrees by beautiful sounding, analog SSM filters.
Sampling a drum machine into a sampler will undoubtedly add many benefits (ease of use, portability, cost-effective) but with almost all samplers, your sampled sounds will be sonically inferior to the original drum machine. But sampling into the SP, transforms your sounds into a new drum machine that is on the same level sonically (although completely different sounding) than the drum machine you sampled.
There's a reason the 909 has been sampled so many times - it sounds organic and alive, and its iconic sounds have defined dance music for decades.
But the 909 on its own can require a lot of processing, and sound a bit too familiar for many of us. Sampling into the SP, the 909 assumes a grimier character that requires less processing, and, thanks to the strangest tuning algorithm I've ever hard, suddenly becomes capable of more left-field 909 sounds.
With so many analog controls and such little memory on the SP, sampling the 909 might seem overwhelming at first. But it isn't, if you keep in mind this basic concept: tune the 909 so that all of its drum sounds play well together (so the toms go with the snare, the ride and crash work together, etc), before sampling them. Make sure to add a couple variations of attack, decay, tone and snappy while you're at it - but keep it simple.
Next, determine how hot you want to run into the SP. Taking the direct outs of the 909, we slightly clipped the inputs - just enough for a touch of harmonic overdrive, without losing any punch.
Finally, we assign the filters for each voice. The SP 1200 has different lowpass filters on each output, and a pair of outputs with no filters. We opted to use the dynamic low pass on the Bass Drums, which meant the gritty attack cuts through in the mid range, but the sustain (which would otherwise sound dirty) is lowpassed, so it becomes smoother and more analog sounding.
For other voices, it was as simple as using anything that sounded good on a certain voice - leaving a lot of things un-filtered (the snare, and hi hats, for example).
Sampling the SP was straightforward: I wanted to use the exact same process sampling the SP 909 as I do using it in my productions - straight into the API 1608 console, a bit hot. Because it sounds so, so good. No compression, EQ, or any subtractive processing - just a great signal path, through Apogee Symphony Conversion into Pro Tools.
You'll get 16 SP pitches for every 909 sound, so you have access to any tuning you'd ever need. In Ableton, an SP Tune macro will select these pitches for you. In Kontakt, Logic, Reason & SFZ, the pitches for each voice are mapped out chromatically.
If you prefer to keep things simple, you can load pre-made (8) 16x Hit kits of sounds that play really well together. These kits are included in all formats, and are a great way to get started playing the SP 909 quickly. They include a standard 909 kit (un-tuned), a bunch of tuned kits, a bass drum kit and a hi hat kit.
All of this makes for a simple but powerful SP 909 instrument, ready for your next production!