In essence, ROMplers are ROM-based sample players. The term ROMpler is often used to refer to software sample players that involve a fixed group of waveforms. The term ROMpler comes from a slang term that is given to sound modules that feature stock presets that are based on samples stored in ROM. The term ROMpler is a combination of ROM and Sampler.
Usually, ROMplers don’t have in-depth synthesis technology nor sampling abilities. ROMplers became famous and popular in the ’90s with the evolution of the E-MU Proteus series sound module. In the beginning, ROMplers provided quick access to high-quality sounds and voices, which meant that artists, musicians, composers, and songwriters could lack experience in synth programming and did not have to be sampling geniuses to achieve their individual musical goals.
As mentioned before, ROMplers are simply ROM-based sample players that became popular in the early ’90s. Several ROMplers are considered hardware synthesizers and samplers. Some synthesizers and modules allow the user to buy new ROM cards in order to modify the samples in the ROMpler. ROM cards offer extra samples for the specific system and they have program information to make the samples available as a patch. It’s worth mentioning that the same sample set can be used by a variety of patches.
Years have passed and so has the evolution of the term ROMpler. Nowadays, the term ROMpler describes sample-based software instruments like VSTs. VSTs are sample-based software instruments that are not able to record new samples, so samples are loaded to computer RAM and replayed. It’s worth mentioning that a software instrument can only be considered a ROMpler if it limits the player to specific sounds and it restricts him from loading customized and personal samples. Some popular examples of software ROMplers are IK Multimedia Sample Tank and reFX Nexus.
Hardware synths are not considered ROMplers unless they involve a sampled waveform. Hardware synthesizers are PCM-based synths. A sampler or rompler tends to play large samples that are several cycles long. Whereas a PCM waveform is a fraction of a second in length and it is made of a single full cycle of the wave. Piano notes and recorded drum hits are examples of PCM waveforms.
ROMplers are commonly used in live performances since they provide a variety of sounds, several sampled instruments and a diversity of synth sounds all in one keyboard.