E-MU Systems ESI-2000 by Catonator
ESI-2000 is the second sampler in E-mu's ESI sampler lineup, a successor to the ESI-32 and a basis for the ESI-4000. Released in 1999, it features 64 notes of polyphony, 4MB of RAM which can easily be expanded up to 128MB and 16 MIDI channels for multitimbral playback.
The sound of the sampler is pretty standard, if a little lacking in personality. Samples are 16-bit and can be up to 44.1KHz in quality, with the sample rate defaulting to half that at 22.05KHz. The sound engine does a great job at interpolating the samples, so even at half the rate and several full tones below the intended pitch the samples still sound crystal clear. Additionally the ESI series samplers feature digital 6-pole filters. There are 19 types of them in total, and they all sound pretty great.
Another great feature of the ESI are the keyboard splits. You can map a primary and secondary sample to each key on your keyboard, and you can assign custom functionality to every single key in your preset if you so desire.
The dealbreaker to some is the pretty confusing menu layout. The device is only blessed with a pretty basic 4-line LCD display, which does not lend itself to the most efficient editing. A lot of the features on the machine are buried under numerous submenus, which can be somewhat difficult to navigate. The menus can be navigated faster by using shortcuts on the numpad, but getting efficient with the menus requires a lot of rote memorization on the layout.
Additionally, some of the processing will take its sweet time. Compressing or adjusting the gain of a longish or high quality sample will take a few minutes. You also cannot preview the changes the tools will make to your sample, which means that rapid editing is a pretty arduous back and forth between a few menus, interspersed with waiting for a progress bar to complete its task for a few minutes. But that is mainly with the digital tools included on the device. Most of the simpler sample editing tools will work within a couple of seconds.
But I think despite the issues, for a hardware sampler it's pretty good. Non-upgraded devices go around for pretty much peanuts nowadays, and the optional Turbo Expansion Kit with S/PDIF ports and the effects unit are not really necessary for a studio sampler such as this. It does not sound as distinctive as the Akai samplers of its time, but it was a budget device even then. For about 100€, I think it's a pretty good entry-level rack sampler on a budget.