[linux-audio-user] Linux and hardware samplers

James Greenwood jamesg at ukshells.co.uk
Thu Apr 17 15:15:01 EDT 2003


I want to get Linux and a hardware sampler talking to each other more
effectively.  Specifically the following:

  1. Transfer individual samples between the PC and sampler
  2. Access and back up project files saved by the sampler
  3. Possibly create a hard-disk partition in the PC which the sampler
     sees as a SCSI drive

The sampler is an Emu ESI-2000 and the interfacing would probably have to
be via SCSI because that's all it offers.

For the 1st aim, I did find out that the sampler supports SMDI, a protocol
for transferring samples over SCSI supported by various sampler
manufacturers including Emu and Yamaha.  Is there any Linux end-user
software that implements this protocol?  Or another way of doing it?

The only Linux software I have found so far that supports SMDI is
OpenSMDI, which implements the SMDI protocol as a free shared library for
Linux and Windows.  From what I can see there is no front-end on the Linux


If there is no alternative, I wonder how hard it would be to create a
simple command-line interface using this?

For the 2nd aim I want to read ESI's file system to access individual
projects or 'banks'.  Currently, all I've managed to do is save banks to
Zip disks, and then use the Unix 'dd' command to make images of entire Zip
disks.  But I can't mount the Zip disks (or disk image files) from Linux,
or access individual files or 'banks' within them, because the sampler
uses a propietary file system.

I believe aims 1 and 2 are both necessary because the SMDI protocol is
fairly limited in the sample parameters it supports, so in order to
capture all parameters (such as filter settings) and cleanly save whole
projects in one go, you have to use the sampler's 'Save Bank' facility
rather than transferring individual samples.

So is there any Linux software that can read this proprietary file system?
The only free (as in beer) software I have found is a Windows program
called ESi-Win.  Apparently it lets you transfer individual samples over
SCSI to and from ESI samplers as well.


This software actually solves both aims 1 and 2, but it's Windows-only.  I
briefly tried to run it under Wine, but it didn't work straight away.  Has
anyone got it working under Wine?  Has anyone seen it running at all?

Both OpenSMDI and ESi-Win seem to be projects that progressed to a
reasonably functional alpha or beta level but are no longer maintained -
presumably because their authors sold their samplers.  I'm beginning to
reluctantly wonder if I should do the same... although it seems a shame to
do so purely because of issues with file formats etc.

Anyway the final problem arises because, even if I solved all the above, I
am still reliant on the Zip drive to save and restore banks directly from
and to the sampler.  This is not good from the point of view of
reliablility and cost, especially as I undertand Iomega don't make the
SCSI version of the Zip drive any more.

To solve this without buying an expensive SCSI hard drive, I wondered if
it is possible to create a partition on an IDE drive in the PC that the
sampler sees as an external SCSI drive?  (Preferably with no possibility
of the sampler overwriting other partitions on the drive ;-)

The sampler has an option "Ignore SCSI device with ID x", which according
to its manual is intended to allow both a PC and the sampler to be masters
on the same SCSI chain and share a SCSI drive.  But in the setup they
describe, the shared drive is a separate box in the middle - can it be
done without this?

>From what I understand about SCSI, doing this would at least require a
SCSI card that has the capability to be 'SCSI target' to another master
device, as well as being a master device itself.  So, for what it's worth,
my SCSI card is an Adaptec 2906 and I'm not sure if it has that capability
or not.

What about other options?  I could get rid of the sampler altogether -
then to get the same number of outputs I'd need to upgrade my soundcard -
but anyway, what Linux software is there that could replace a hardware
sampler while probably retaining a sampler-like way of working?

Finally, I suppose I could upgrade the hardware sampler.  I guess that
more modern hardware samplers integrate better with PCs in general.  But
are their protocols and file formats any more open and therefore
potentially more inter-operable with Linux, or are you just as locked in
by proprietary formats and protocols as before?

Any thoughts, suggestions, ideas welcome.  I can't be the only person
who's wants to do this!


James Greenwood | jamesg at ukshells.co.uk

If you put in the work, the results will look after themselves
        -- Nick Leeson's mother

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