I recently decided to build a small Eurorack case which would provide as much flexibility as possible. The objective was to be able to create musical performances independently, or accompanied by my 0-Coast or Korg Minilogue XD. The case I used is a 6U 70HP prototype made by Jim at Five12 which I have written about here.
You can think of this system as my "Friday night at home drinking wine and annoying the neighbours" rack. After many beats, and more wine, I stumbled into demos of the 14HP Squarp Rample sample module.
Fresh out of the box
THE SMALL RACK PROJECT
Prior to acquiring the Rample, I had built the rack with an mBrane to perform MIDI to CV duties, four TipTop modules and a 2hp Hats module. It worked great and sounded fantastic, but the TipTop modules don't allow flexibility for sound shaping and I wanted more. A sampler seemed to be a good option, but which one?
I run an Assimil8or in my main rack, but due to cost and size a second Assimil8or was out of the question. Even an ALM Squid at 21HP was a bit big for this small rack. Additionally, the Assimil8or and the Squid do not accept midi inputs, so I would need to keep the mBrane as well, consuming even more space in a small environment.
The original percussion setup for the 6U 70HP rack
EXIT ANALOG / ENTER RAMPLE
You can see from the photo below that taking out the mBrane and CV controlled drum modules has given me room for the Rample, as well as freed up another 10HP. The space is currently filled by a uDervish (8HP) made by Roni Velvet in Melbourne and an Intellijel buffered mult (2HP). I will likely put the uDervish back into my main rig, and install a Happy Nerding FXAid which will give me back 4HP for something else.
The completed mini eurorack with the Squarp Rample.
The main difference between the Rample as a sample player, and the Squid and Assimil8or as samplers, is that the Rample can not record samples from an external input. You get sounds into the Rample via the SD Card and your computer. So if you need a sample module that can record sounds for playback, this unit is not for you.
INS AND OUTS
- 4x CV inputs for sample control/modulation
- 4x Gate inputs for sample triggering
- 4x Individual voice outputs
- 1x MIX output
- 1x TRS TYPE A 3.5mm MIDI IN
- 1x TRS TYPE A 3.5mm MIDI THRU
- SD CARD slot on the front face of the unit
The fact that the Rample provides 1:1 audio outs per voice was exactly what I wanted, and the TRS MIDI IN and THRU mean it is very easy to use this module in a hybrid environment where you have a number of devices to control from a single point. Further, the Vector Sequencer has great MIDI sequencing capabilities, so the fact the Rample has MIDI natively was a big selling point.
I am using firmware RampleOS version 1.21 as I write this article. I believe this is the second update since the module was released, and it enables some new features including stereo samples (which consume 2 channels each) and many bug fixes. Squarp have been on the ball with updates based on user feedback I have seen online.
The firmware update process is simple. Download the file, drag it to the SD Card, insert the SD Card into the Rample and power it on with the main encoder held down. The product manual can be found here.
The Rample hosts MIDI IN and THRU jacks which use 3.5mm TRS MIDI TYPE A. The Rample ships with a TRS MIDI TYPE A to 5 PIN adapter, as well as a standard 3.5mm TRS (short) cable. These are the same as standard headphone cables with TRS jacks at each end.
Five12 Vector to Rample via MIDI
I am connecting my Vector Sequencer via MIDI OUT 1 to the Rample. The Vector uses TRS MIDI TYPE B, so that means I need to use
- TRS TYPE B to 5 PIN adapter connected from the Vector
- A 5 PIN to TRS TYPE A adapter connected to the Rample
- A standard MIDI cable in between.
It is easy and works great, but I am also looking at sourcing a couple of TRS 3.5mm cables with the wiring swapped at one end to provide MIDI TYPE A to B conversion in one cable. That would be neat!
Standard MIDI cable with a TYPE A and TYPE B 5 PIN to TRS adapter on each end
The Rample responds to MIDI notes on a single MIDI channel for all four voices. The MIDI implementation allows for kits to be changed via external midi program changes, something I look forward to trying using the Vector. The Rample also provides a decent quantity of parameter manipulation options for many of the effect and playback modes. You can read about all that in the manual.
AUDIO FILES AND MANAGEMENT
File Format and Stereo Samples
Samples playable using the Rample may be 16 or 8 bit at 44100Hz. Interestingly, there are no size limits for samples, assuming you have infinite storage. Stereo samples require two mono voices. You can use a free program like Audacity to modify any of your samples to fit the Rample. Using four voices in a kit you could configure:
- 4 mono samples (4 voices)
- 1 stereo sample and 2 mono samples (3 voices)
- 2 stereo samples (2 voices)
The SD Card and File Naming Conventions
- Folders on your Rample SD CARD are presented as LETTER/NUMBER starting with A0 and progressing through to U8.
- Each of these folders is called a kit. Example - C3 refers to BANK C, KIT 3.
- Within each kit you have 4 voices, and you can apply multiple sample files per voice within a kit.
- Each folder may host a range of kits and there is no maximum as far as I can see.
Naming wav files to use on the Rample is pretty simple. Files must be named with a number (referring to voices 1, 2, 3 or 4) and then the unique sample name. It is all in the manual and clearly outlined with some nice graphics. I have provided some examples below.
Samples and Multi Layering
Squarp have designed an intuitive way to apply multiple samples to a kit voice. Remember, a voice from within a kit is what is played when you trigger a sample via MIDI or gate input. Multi-layer kits mean you can assign a number of sample files to the same voice within a kit. As an example, I created the following kit (four mono voices) with multiple samples per voice. It is a basic set of 606 and 808 samples.
Folder "C3" - Bank C, Kit 3
The above kit provides 9 samples spread across 4 voices. This approach allows me to do things like modulate which closed hi-hat sample will play every time voice 4 receives a trigger. I applaud for Squarp for thinking a bit differently on sample management. This implementation is very easy to use. Super cool.
You can select which sample will be triggered via the following methods:
- Manually as a single sample per voice.
- Round robin cycles where multiple samples are played equally.
- Via CV modulation input where an external source will help the Rample decide which file to play.
The Rample screen is a bit like a car racing computer game my parents bought me in the late 1970s, probably made my Bandai. The Rample has that red LED look about it but remains, for the most part, very effective. Once you get used to it the screen is a suitable interface which probably meets a design price point in the best way possible.
As long as you note which buttons you are pressing, you can pretty easily keep track of what the screen is trying to communicate. Some people will love it and some wont. I think it has mecahnistic charm, and should not get in the way of you seriously considering this module for your system. Overall, the user interface is well implemented. I have used other modules far more advanced screens, but which have less well thought out workflows.
SOUND AND MANIPULATION
The sound produced by the Rample is really quite wonderful, and based on price, punches well above it's weight. The samples supplied on the module are fantastic and range from interesting percussion one shots to various loops and melodic and ambient sounds. However, it was not until I loaded the SD Card with samples I had made myself that I realised just how stunningly musical the Rample sounds.
Time passed disturbingly quickly as I sat modulating pitch, filter, freeze and bit crush effects by hand and via CV. This module is an absolute winner for sound experience. We can talk about sample rate and resolution all day but the real proof is in how it sounds, and it sounds great.
Audio levels per voice are easily set by pressing and holding ASSIGN, and then pressing LISTEN. As with most other parameters, the four black knobs under the LED screen become controllers for voices one through four. If you dial the levels below the middle point, you will be reducing volume. If you dial levels above the middle point you are not only increasing volume, but also engaging an analog modelling algorithm that provides some really useful saturation. A very nice touch!
One of the main reasons I considered the Rample was the fact it has a 1:1 ratio for voices and outputs. I route my mini rack to a small Yamaha mixer in my lounge room setup, and also to individual inputs in my MOTU in the studio room. The audio from the individual outs fills the room with a dynamic and punchy sound that mixes well with synth voices and whatever else you might have going on.
The aggregate mix out does what it needs to do but is not my personal preference. If you want to route your kit to a filter or effects unit, or if you have limited mixer or audio interface inputs, it will serve you well.
The effects are a really nice touch in the Rample. They are pretty simple but sound great!
- Pitch - provides pitch control from -1 to +1 octave.
- Bits - provides two different bit crushing algorithms. I love these, they're really musically useful.
- Filter - DJ style low resonance filter providing a low or high pass curve.
- Freeze - samples and loops a fraction of your sample wave form. This can also be engaged via CV input.
The effects provide minimal controls but are musically appropriate. The Freeze mode wont give you deep granular synthesis, but it is a quick way to get some glitchy beats happening. The +1/-1 Octave pitch control is really nicely executed, and very usable depending upon the pitch character of your samples.
The filter is a real surprise and sounds great across the entire kit, or an individual voice. The bit crusher actually reminds me in tone of the implementation within the Rossum, but your mileage may vary. The real fun starts of course once you plug in external modulation. So good!
One thing I adore about the Rample is the ability to modulate all sample channels simultaneously using a single input. So, if you have a beat going and you want to filter all four channels from a single CV input, it is very easy to do so. This is a great way to create interest in your audio in a very efficient manner.
Momentary effects are also possible where you can mess with something like bitrate or pitch, and then have it return to the standard setting once you release the assigned keys on the Rample. That is a nice touch, and something more sample players should allow you to do during performance.
The Rample comes with a 5 PIN to TRS TYPE A Midi Adatper, as well as a 3.5MM TRS cable
Sample Slicing and Envelope
You can slice samples in free mode which allows you to dial in start and end points as you see fit. Alternatively, you may slice based on various fractions from /8 to /48 enabling quick and easy sample division.
You can also add a basic Attack and Decay envelope to your sample audio. It is during these processes that the limited graphic presentation will be most apparent, however it is worth keeping in mind that the Rample user interface is meant to be used without overthinking what you are doing. So just get on with it!
Samples can be played back in three ways being:
- One shot (a trigger or gate causes the entire sample to play)
- Gate High - plays the sample only when a gate is being received
- Toggle Loop - the sample will loop until you tell it to stop
Mute groups are also available which allow you to easily do things like cause open and closed hi-hat samples to silence each other as they would via a real drum kit. Voice muting on the Rample is really simple and is something I wish the Assimil8or made a lot easier. It is also very well implemented on the ALM Squid Salmple. Take note Rossum!
A fun feature is the ability to select RANDOMISE from the main menu. Doing so applies a bunch of voice related settings to your KIT that fairly frequently create musically interesting versions of your KIT. Usually randomise features are terrible, but this one works well.
CV INPUT AND CONTROL
There are not too many options for modulation within the Rample but those that exist are easily applied and provide musically useful outcomes. You can point any of the CV Inputs (1 to 4) to any of your voices within a kit. You can then manipulate various processes including pitch, bit crush, filter, trig freeze and so on. Clearly something like the Assimil8or will give you a lot more options, for a price, but also take more effort to configure.
If you can accept a sample module that does not record audio (and at this price, you really should) there is nothing bad to say about the Rample. Squarp have made excellent design and user interface choices within a very small format.
I feel that the Rample has a bit of personality in look, feel and sound. Squarp have a really solid aesthetic in their design choices, and it is one that I enjoy. The build quality is also excellent and everything feels firmly mounted.
The Rample doesn't do anything new. But what it does extremely well is provide an easy to use tool which will not get in the way of making music (or R2D2 noises, if that is your thing). This purchase definitely achieved the objectives I was seeking through bringing a sampler into my smaller Eurorack case.
Further, I would not hesitate to use the Rample for recording, regardless of the audio specifications compared to my Rossum. There is so much more to music than technical specs. In fact, I’m seriously considering buying a second module to put in my large system. It is simply that good.
The mini rack mounted on a laptop stand for ergonomic access
- Great features, small size, great price.
- Effects are musically appropriate.
- Provides MIDI or CV control and versatility.
- Stereo samples, if you want it.
- Chain two Ramples for eight voices.
- Can not record inbound audio to create samples.
- Can not edit a kit and save it to a new location.
- Wont do things like time stretching and seems not to play samples in reverse.
- Screen is fine and clear for most functions but requires a bit of learning.
If you want more information the product manual is here. Further, the Squarp team are super responsive to email queries, so hit them up!