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Hollow Sun: AKAI Years

This is part two of a series on Stephen Howell, founder of Hollow Sun. Known for his unique ability to connect the seemingly disconnected, he achieved professional success through a chance meeting with an AKAI executive, leading to a long-term collaboration and the development of an innovative sound library.

PART TWO of this exclusive series on Stephen Howell only at

In part one of this six-part exclusive series on Hollow Sun founder Stephen Howell we looked at his ability to innovate. his ability to make connections from the seemingly disconnected, and make something unique from them.

As luck would have it

It was the chance meeting with an AKAI Japan executive that saw Stephen enter the pro ranks designing sounds for the AKAI S900. Which was their 1986 foray into “box” samplers, incentivising buyers away from the more expensive and much larger likes of the Emulator II and Fairlight CMI. Further info about which can be found in an article here The Art of Discovery.

Image shows an Alesis 8HD workstation from the article Hollow Sun: AKAI Years courtesy of

Here’s Stephen in his own words:

I was closely involved with Akai Japan’s sampler development since the early days, developing sound library with them from the S900 onwards and also designing the UI for the S2000, S3000XL, S5/6000 and ak.Sys. I was also involved in the design of several of their disk recorders such as the DD1000, DD1500 and DPS24. I continued to work with the ‘new’ Akai and with its sister company, Alesis, having contributed sound library to Akai’s recent MPCs and Alesis’ ‘Fusion’, SR18 drum machine and DM10 electronic drum kit but decided to extricate myself from all the corporate politics and nonsense.”

On a side note: the Swiss based software company TAL Software GmbH released their simply named TAL Sampler. This includes a comprehensive AKAI library originating from the very work which Stephen did with them all those years ago.

TAL have kindly made the library available from their website as a separate and free download

The sampler itself has recently received an update which now includes a grain engine.

TAL sampler version 4.5.3

In a sincere tribute attached as a PDF to this downloadable library Fernando Manuel Rodrigues describes the provenance of the library in his own words:

This library is based on libraries of Akai sample instruments that were available for free at the Hollow Sun site in the early 2000s…. The libraries aren’t available anymore, but I still had the files collecting dust in my hard-drive…. These libraries are like a museum of old electronic instruments. We have a little of everything there. Fairlight, Emulator, PPG Wave, Moog, ARP, Sequential Circuits, Korg, Roland, Yamaha, Alesis, lots, of drum machines, even the old vintage keyboards, like the Fender Rhodes, the Hammond organs, the Hohner Clavinet and Pianet, the ARP Solina, the Eminent and some others that I would never thought in [sic] sample, or even knew they existed.

Porta 19th of July 2015

Stephen Howell worked with AKAI for at least 20 years. Seeing their last flagship product, the Fusion Workstation released in 2005. Since then, AKAI Professional has released a successive line of all-in-one music production systems which continue to this day.

By all accounts Stephen found his time with AKAI interesting, rewarding if not sometimes a frustrating partnership. Perhaps twenty years of travel, sound and product development for big business was just the experience and funds he needed to branch out on his own…

Come back for part 3 in September: High Noon

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