It offered a handful of sampled
instrumental sounds stored in ROM but its main appeal was its ability
to sample. Of course, with such poor sample quality, it was another
of those novelty 'toys' like the Stylophone and Casio's own VL-Tone.
There was little you could do with the sound once you'd
sampled it but there were thirteen preset envelope shapes you could
apply to the sample along with portamento and vibrato. Interpolation
was also poor and so sounds (preset or sampled) didn't transpose
well but that only added to their 'character'. There was no way
to store your sample which was lost when you switched the SK1 off!
Naturally, the keyboard was not velocity sensitive but
neither was there was any MIDI to play the sounds with velocity
from an external keyboard to overcome that limitation.
The SK1 also came with 'drum' sounds in ROM which were
required for the auto-accompaniment function.
The SK1 is used by Fatboy Slim, Beck, Autechre, Portishead
and Blur (amongst other lo-fi enthusiasts) who favour it even today,
presumably for its lo-fi, crusty sound quality.
Louis van Dompselaar has kindly donated the entire soundset
from his own SK1. The samples were taken from the line out and Louis
deliberately powered the thing off batteries to eliminate mains
hum. There is a distinct DC 'thump' at the start of each of the
preset instruments but this is apparently a 'feature' of the real
thing! There are eight presets and all but one are presented 'authentically'.
However, the 'Voice' preset has been run through Antares Infinity
looping software to create quite a beautiful and ethereal pad sound
which, despite its humble origins, sounds quite classy and 'expensive'.
The SK1's drum samples are also included in Nostalgia
which Louis has extracted from the patterns. Most bear little or
no relationship to their acoustic counterparts but they are interesting
metallic electronic percussion sounds nonetheless that could find
a place in any number of musical genres.
A big "thank you" to Louis for yet another
curious contribution from music technology's lo-fi history!