The S-50 was Roland's first professional keyboard sampler from the mid-eighties, which also came in the rackmount S-550 form. The S-330 is a compact, 1-unit rack-module with most of the features of the S-550 slimmed down into a more affordable package! By today's standards the S-330 would be considered limited and lo-fi, however for its time it was a powerful instrument which can still prove useful for many music applications today.
Sample memory here is the same as the S-50: 750Kb which yields up to 28.8 seconds at 15kHz. That is half the sample memory available in the S-550. Sampling specs are unchanged, with variable sample-rates from 30kHz down to 15kHz at a 12-bit resolution. The S-330 has room for 32 samples or "tones" and 16 patches in 2 banks. Roland has a vast S-50 compatible sample library of sounds ready to be loaded via the built in 3.5 inch disk drive. Samples of your own can also be saved to disk.
When used with an external CRT monitor, editing samples is a breeze and quite sophisticated. You get waveform drawing and smoothing, auto-looping, tuning, multi-stage envelopes and you can quickly adjust loops and samples. There's an RC-100 Remote Controller with an Alpha Juno type alpha-dial for easier programming control. And the DT-100 Digitizer Tablet from the S-50 for drawing waveforms is also compatible when connected through the RC-100 controller. There is also the SYS-333 sequencing software which offers basic drum machine type sequencing.
New to the S-550 were the realtime Time-Variant filters as used by the LAS-type Roland synths. These filters (and amps) are more digital, more in-depth, more precise and were included in the S-330.
While there are hundreds of modern samplers that will give you precise crystal clear perfect sounds these days, something like the S-330 can give you the audio equivalent of Sepia tone to your samples, coloring them with its unique mid-eighties technology from a time when affordable sampling was coming of age.
Demos & Media
Websites of Interest
Images from a Roland product brochure and Perfect Circuit Audio.