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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Are you looking to buy or sell a E-mu Emax? Post an ad in Gear For Sale or a request in Gear Wanted. For spare parts and repair services check out Gear Services & Other Goods. Our forums also has a Buyer’s Guide section where you can ask for advice on buying synthesizers.

41 Visitor comments
May 6, 2011 @ 11:08 am
Also used by Faith No More's Roddy Bottum. There are many videos from their concerts that show Roddy with two Emax II's.
June 28, 2010 @ 11:39 pm
I have 3 Emax II, I have just been buying them to build a perfect one. The last Emax II I got came with a bunch of discs. The reality is that the Emax II sounds weak. At least the discs I tested. I have some sounds in another Emax II that are huge. I believe that you need to sample your own stuff. But again, the sound hmmmm... The Emax I has more to give.

Still, the architecture of the Emax II is awesome, is fun to play with, specially because the entire menu is printed on top. I will keep one of them. But for serious work I would go for the Ensoniq ASR 10, THAT is machinery.
The Ghoul
February 20, 2010 @ 4:12 am
In these days of computer based sequencing and recording, my laptop has pretty much replaced samplers. That said, I have an Emax 1 in the studio and I refuse to part with it.
February 13, 2010 @ 8:43 pm
A true classic with a great crunchy sound. Contrary to popular belief, the Emax is actually an 8-bit sampler that used 12 bit converters. It is essentially an Emulator 2 with slightly better audio specs and converters. An analog filter and synthesis functions gave it incredible sound capabilities, but was very limited by the non- expandable 512k memory. Although Depeche Mode used the E1 thru E3, their use of the Emax was for live shows, sampling directly from their Synclavier. They chose the Emax because it was fairly cheap, reliable, had a built in hard drive, and was portable.
January 13, 2010 @ 6:19 am
i second the comments here: sound put through the emax will have more warmth and punch, so you can even use it just as a sort of complicated effect box. which would be quite a waste of its other features. i especially like the simple truncating function, with which you have quite odd sampling effects on hand if you play around with the fader to change the start point...

also: i'm looking for hd modification help. i know this is not the place, but mine has some strange modification already, which is not scsi related. i have pictures from the inside i would like to show it to someone with the skills.... pretty hard to get around info for that.
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User Rating

Rated 4.13 (448 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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