A synth that works similar to a sampler, but lacks the ability to record samples; it can only play them back. Sample playback synths were created in the mid-1980s primarily as a means to inexpensively imitate real instruments, although the genre has evolved far past being merely an imitator. With the sample-recording hardware and software omitted, a sample playback synth can be built for less than the cost of a comparable sampler.

Some sample-playback synths can have their samples augmented or replaced. In older sample playback synths, this was sometimes possible by replacing internal ROM memory ICs with different ones containing new samples. Newer ones can usually have their samples changed out by loading from floppy disk or memory card, or via MIDI or USB interface.

Many drum machines are sample-playback synths.

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