In essence, ROMplers are ROM-based sample players. People use this term to refer to software sample players that involve a fixed group of waveforms. It comes from a slang term 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.

ROMplers: Some Characteristics

Usually, ROMplers don’t have either in-depth synthesis technology, nor sampling abilities. They became famous and popular in the 90s with the evolution of the E-MU Proteus series sound module. At first, ROMplers provided quick access to high-quality sounds and voices. In turn, this meant that artists, musicians, composers, and songwriters could lack experience in synth programming. In short, they did not have to be sampling geniuses to achieve their individual musical goals.

The ROM in ROMplers

Some people consider ROMplers 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. These 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 you can use the same sample set with a variety of patches.

Nowadays, the term ROMpler describes sample-based software instruments like VSTs. VSTs are sample-based software instruments that do not to record new samples. For this reason, the user needs to load these samples to computer RAM—and then replay it. You can only consider software instrument a ROMpler if it limits the player to specific sounds and restricts him/her from loading customized and personal samples. Some popular examples of software ROMplers are IK Multimedia Sample Tank and reFX Nexus.

Experts do not consider ROMplers as hardware synths unless they involve a sampled waveform. These hardware synthesizers are PCM-based synths. On the one hand, a sampler or ROMpler tends to play large samples that are several cycles long. In contrast, on the other, a PCM waveform is a fraction of a second in length, made of a single full cycle of the wave. Piano notes and recorded drum hits are examples of PCM waveforms.

Some Usage

ROMplers are common in live performances. This is due to the fact that they provide a variety of sounds, several sampled instruments, and a diversity of synth sounds all in one keyboard.