E-mu Systems Emulator

The Emulator is nothing short of a fantastic instrument – historically and technically speaking.
The sound is amazing its components considered, and still today would make a lo-fi nerd fall in love instantly – I know I did.
I bought mine of eBay a couple of years ago and it came with a lot of floppies.
I remember when I picked her up in the airport – heavy as few and it would barely fit in my car – aah; those memories.
So a warning to all potential buyers – have a friend (perferably a strong male) help you pick it up – it is beyond heavy but it is worth it; its simple OS and easy to use sampling features makes this instrument as cool to use today as it was 30-some years ago.

Emulator Archive said

The Emulator Dawn
The original Emulator was developed as a complete change in direction by the analog modular synthesizer company, E-mu Systems. The initial idea came about after the E-mu team saw the first Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument (CMI) at the AES show in 1980. Development of a cheaper competitor version to the famous Fairlight started in May 1980, and the Emulator was released into full production in January 1981.

Slow Sales
By the end of 1981 sales had really slowed down, mainly due to the lack of any kind of VCA/ADSR to handle different envelopes. Fortunately there was enough spare space on the circuit boards to rapidly sort the problem, and the upgrade was made to all Emulators. A revised “mark 2 “ Emulator with a lower price, VCA’s, and a cool software sequencer was launched at NAMM 1982 in Chicago. It went on to sell 25 units per month for the next two years. The production run was closed down in the Fall of 1983, rather too early, because the Emulator II was late, and did not arrive for another six months. Marketing had got it wrong again . . .and E-mu Systems nearly went bust as a result. That’s a different story though !!

What’s in a Name
The code name for this new musical instrument was the sampler. However it was Ed Rudnick that came up with a better name – Emulator, after searching the Thesaurus. The name was a perfect match with E-mu Systems, and it has remained as the name for high quality sampling to this very day.

The 2 voice model was quickly discontinued due to the lack of customer demand. The 4 and 8 voice remained in production, although the 8 voice was the most practical.

What no VCF ?
The Emulator has just a simple low pass filter on each voice with just one control – cutoff ! There is no traditional filter envelope or Q control. So JLCooper designed a retro fit for a 24dB filter and dual ADSR envelope’s. This was known as the Generator Modulator or Gen Mod. It was fitted on to the top surface of the casing, on the right hand side of the disk tray.

Success or Failure
The Emulator was a ground breaking instrument at a new lower price point. However, whilst it signalled a new and productive direction for E-mu Systems, it did not sell in sufficient volumes to guarantee E-mu’s future. This was left to the Drumulator and Emulator II, which were both based on the original Emulator, but sold in much higher numbers. The Emulator II became the professional musicians chosen sampler for the mid – late 1980’s. Whilst the Emulator I rapidly became outdated, and it is now a collectors item, rather than a practical instrument. However it still cooks !

1981 Sampling
To quote Dave Rossum and Marco Alpert from the Emulator Operations Manual – “ Most of all, use your imagination and don’t be afraid to experiment. The Emulator can be very powerful tool for the creative artist. If enough people take advantage of its capability we are going to make one hell of a lot of money.”

The Emulator had a number of hardware upgrades during its lifespan.

Famous Samples
The Emulator sample library was used on many famous tracks in 1981 – 83, perhaps the most unusual is the Mexican radio sample which was used in both the bar scene of BladeRunner the film, and forms the basis of the OMD track “Junk Culture”


Just a picture of the back
of my Emulator.

Here you see the left hand side
of my Emulator.

And the mid section.

And – believe it or not – the
right hand section.

Here you see the floppies I
received with the unit.
More than 350 in there.

The nice logo on the back.

The original retail store I

The output section.

And the model and serial