E-mu Emulator

E-mu Emulator Image

The Emulator is a very old and classic keyboard sampler from E-mu that rocked the world in 1980 as it was truly the first affordable compact modern sampler. After E-mu flopped with its grossly expensive Audity analog polysynth, they sought to design a sampler, loosely inspired by the Fairlight CMI but much more affordable. The Emulator I debuted in 1981 with a price taag of $10,000! Still pretty expensive, but E-mu reduced its price to $8,000 a year later.

The Emulator is very big, it's not very pretty and it uses big 5" floppy diskettes! Its look was designed by the same people that designed the Apple II computer. The Emulator has eight voices of polyphony and some may have MIDI retro-fitted as well although they never originally came with MIDI. It had very primitive controls by today's standards. Only real-time looping and trimming was possible, for example. And sample memory is really slim with its tiny 128 KB good for about two seconds of sampling time...and that's with its lo-fi 8-bit 27 kHz sampling specs.

The Emulator was soon surpassed by the Emulator II which added far better controls, a data display and memory space. The Emulator is most responsible for E-mu's longevity and success, and the Emulator makes a great collector's item even though it does not cut it as a usable machine these days. The Emulator has been used by David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Herbie Hancock, Genesis, New Order, OMD, Jean-Michel Jarre, Kitaro, Vangelis, Yes, Philip Glass, filmaker/composer John Carpenter, and Stevie Wonder who bought the very first one!

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22 Visitor comments
September 21, 2011 @ 4:02 pm
Tony Banks of Genesis used one up until after the Mama tour(then, he got an EII)
And New Order used an EI and EII on 'Blue Monday'
kriss bell
July 5, 2011 @ 10:48 am
Kraftwerk also used an Emulator sampler on 'Electric Cafe / Techno Pop' album.
March 14, 2011 @ 5:38 am
Used by The Residents during the Mole show in 1983.
April 18, 2010 @ 4:14 pm
Nope, that's definitely a Fairlight CMI on Kate Bush's "Never Forever". The album was recorded during the first half of 1980, over a year before the Emulator was released.
February 16, 2010 @ 5:29 pm
And I'm certain it featured on Kate Bush's 1980 Hit Babooshka - the bit where you hear glass breaking in tune! - although it could have been a Fairlight. And I think a lot of the Bladerunner soundtrack by Vangelis (as mentioned above) was on an Emulator.
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  • 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 (4 voice models rare)
  • Sampler - 27 KHz, 8-Bit
  • LFO - Vibrato
  • Filter - simple VCF via JL Cooper retrofit kit
  • Sequencer - Real-time digital sequencer added to later models from 1982 on.
  • Keyboard - 49 Keys
  • Memory - 128 Kbyte (about 2 seconds)
  • Control - MIDI (on some models via retrofits)
  • Date Produced - 1981-83

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