E-mu Emax

E-mu Emax Image

The Emax is a classic sampler workstation from E-mu. It is sort of a next generation Emulator II, it's not as good as an Emulator III but it's more powerful than previous EII's. The Emax can be found in several forms: the Emax, the Emax Rack, the Emax HD (built-in 20MB hard disk), the Emax HD Rack and the Emax SE (Synthesis Enhanced) with a built-in synthesizer section. The Emax's editing system will be familiar to users of E-mu's excellent ESI series.

The Emax has an extensive library collection of samples that can be loaded via the built-in 3.5" hard drive. Or you can sample your own sounds. The Sampler is powerful, but lo-fi. It samples at 12-bit resolution with variable sample-rates up to 42kHz. The built-in memory is 512K which only gives you a few good seconds really. Sampling and editing is easy, complete and intuitive with auto sample placement, auto-looping, truncating, reversing, velocity cross-fade, etc. The Emax also features individual channel outputs and stereo outputs and extensive MIDI implementation.

E-mu Emax II Rack Image

The Emax features many common analog synth-type controls for easily shaping your samples. Tune, filter and shape the envelope or use LFO's and chorus to liven up your samples. There's also an on-board sequencer section. A real-time only 16-track, non-quantizable sequencer for basic scratch-pad use or simple arpeggios or patterns. The SE and SE Plus models, the most advanced of the 12-bit Emax's, add a synthesizer section, newer advanced digital signal processors for sample editing and a SCSI port (standard on the SE Plus). The Emax instruments were the most advanced of the classic keyboard samplers of the late 1980's.

E-mu Emax II Image

The Emax II which was released in 1989 brought the Emax series up to modern specs with 16-bit sampling, 16-voice polyphony, 16 MIDI channels, stereo samples, 1MB RAM expandable to 8MB, SCSI, 8 assignable outputs and the SE's synthesis functions. And finally, the Emax II Turbo came with 4MB RAM standard and a 4MB hard disk. Whichever Emax you choose, they're all classic machines still capable of professional quality results when used in making the music of today. It has been used by U2, Orbital, Astral Projection, Skinny Puppy, Meat Beat Manifesto, Nine Inch Nails, Mouse on Mars, Alphaville, Beastie Boys, Clock DVA, Die Krupps, Faith No More, Richard H Kirk, KMFDM, Steve Roach, Richard Barbieri, Wolfgang Gartner and Depeche Mode.

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41 Visitor comments
8 bit 12 bit
February 11, 2009 @ 6:33 pm
some more things worth noting about the Emax:

1) the Emax adds character to whatever you sample. the sound is big and there is deeper bass than with you'll find with modern samplers. the sound is also somewhat dark and compressed (great for chunky snare hits). the VCF's are capable of putting out a fair amount of resonance and can be modulated by velocity or mod wheel.

2) the E chip is proprietary and if it goes bad it cannot be replaced without gutting out another Emax. pretty much most anything else can be replaced.

3) the main processor is a bit slow, and MIDI timing on the Emax isn't the best, especially for lots of drums or percussion (fast sequences especially).
8 bit 12 bit
February 11, 2009 @ 3:02 pm
In response to the last post: the Emax was not the last E-mu sampler with analog filters, the Emulator III was the last. Also, any floppy drive can be used in the Emax so long as you can set the ID to 0.
January 13, 2009 @ 12:16 pm
The emax 1 is defenitely my favourite sampler regarding vintage units.
The sound is amazing and special like the sp-12 [ it nearly got the same filters ! ]. This thing is still fun beginning from the nice manual ending up with the sound. It`s today of course more a way of getting creativ than to use the thing for advanced sampling. It`s like a vintagesynth - the sound is as unique as the way of use. It`s by the way the last emu sys sampler with analogue filters ( the emax II got digital filters - more performance but less sound )
I searched a long time for a nice one with se + hd and now I`m really happy with mine. If you own one you should place a disc in the floppy while not using it - because the floppy will give up function without !!! & it`s a bit difficult today to find a floppy to replace.
November 16, 2008 @ 9:00 am
I still Love my E II+ better than all others.
they ve got own characteristics and the filter sections just the best so far as i considerned.Alan Wilder still use it E II on hes pevious Subhuman Album.BTW E II museum piece already
Dan Wilson
October 29, 2008 @ 5:54 pm
I have an EMAX II which was owned by DM and was passed down by a band member's friend. Although the analog filters on the original EMAX are great the EMAX II is superb at making the simplest of single shot samples sound great across the keyboard due to it's brilliant transposition filters. The digital resonant filters on the II are lovely too.
The two versions are very different beasts.

The EMAX II will work with SCSI Magneto Optical drives eg. Olympus 230II which makes storing and backing up samples much more convenient/quiet than old hard drives. Although an old technology MO disks have a reputation for superb data retention - quite unlike SCSI ZIP drives!!!

Dan, Hideaway Studio.
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User Rating

Rated 4.13 (449 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 8 voices (32 channels configured as 16 stereo voices or 16 mono voices w/ stereo chorus in the Emax II)
  • Sampler - Emax HD/SE: 12-bit, 10kHz to 42kHz variable (52 seconds at 10kHz);
    Emax II: 16-bit
  • Memory - Emax HD/SE: 512K memory;
    Emax II: 1MB (expandable to 8MB)
  • LFO - Yes
  • Arpeg/Seq - 16-track sequencer; arpeggiator
  • Keyboard - 61 notes (with velocity and poly pressure messages)
  • Effects - Chorus
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - Emax: 1986, Emax II: 1989
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from E-mu and

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