E-mu Systems Emulator III

The Emulator III is a fantastic sampler. The sound is marvelous, the filters are wonderful, the feature set is magic, the build quality is – well – less than perfect.

A lot of issues were encountered due to bad molex connectors. They made the unit behave weird. Other than that this is the sampler to get if you’re looking for a CD quality stereo sampler with analog filters. I can only think of the SCI Prophet 3000 that has those features – and it is even rarer.

An issue with the Emulator III is the fan noise it produces. I have exchanged my two 80mm fans with some new ones pushing the same air but being virtually silent and it is definetely worth it.
I also took out the old 40MB HDD and put in a SCSI to IDE to Compact Flash converter which works perfectly and immits NO noise what so ever. So I believe I have the Emulator III with the lowest mechanical noise level possible.

The sound library for the Emulator III is HUGE and extremely good sounding.
I recently had to sell my Emulator III Rack to buy some new (old) gear, but I am NEVER selling my Emulator III keyboard – never.

Emulator Archive said

Three years after the launch of the legendary EII, Emu Systems began work on a new mega sampler – the Emulator III. Released in 1988, the Digital Sound Production System was a major leap forward in sampling technology. CD quality at 16 bits (oversampled), 16 separate voices, huge RAM, an internal hard drive, external SCSI and a brand new operating system. The engineering quality and the sound were (and still are!) awesome.

CD Revolution
The Emulator III not only matched CD quality with 16 bits, but harnessed the CD revolution by using the new CDROM players to load sample libraries. This provided the EIII with a massive library of high quality sounds, which could be rapidly and easily accessed. The EIII took centre stage in studios and post production suites across the world.

The F Chip
The Emulator III kept with the overall Emulator II design, but with a faster main processor and a revolutionary Digital Oversampling Filter chip – custom built by Emu Systems. This was the start of a long line of custom chips which have been at the core of E-mu Systems sample designs ever since. The F chip ensured a pristine quality of sound output – and a 96dB signal to noise ratio. The EIII is much quieter and free from any digital artefacts – unlike the EII.

The Emulator III Keyboard version has a 5 octave keyboard with aftertouch and velocity. It came with a 16 track sequencer and full SMPTE/MIDI sync. Rather surprisingly the EIII only has unbalanced outputs, but it does have a 25 pin SCSI connector and 16 individual voice outputs.

The Mystery Emulator III
The EIII rack was announced at the same time as the EIII keyboard was launched, and it appeared in the marketing material. EIII racks were available from May 1988, however they seem to have been in limited supply, and only a few were actually sold. They are hard to find second-hand, and therefore command higher prices.

The EIII Rack uses the same engineering design as the keyboard version. The existing card frame is mounted vertically (which is how it was designed), it has the same hard disk drive, power supply, and floppy disk. A new control panel was fitted into a deep (at least 20”) 4U rack unit. Two fans were installed to keep the Emulator cool. The rack has exactly the same functionality as the keyboard version.

The Emulator III was available in two memory sizes, either 4 MB or 8MB. The 4 MB model can be service upgraded to 8 MB by replacing all 16 SIMM’s.

The Hard Disk
All models came with an internal 5.25” 40 MB Hard Disk. The actual size of the drive was 52.1 MB, which when formatted became 43 MB. This enables 32 or 16 banks of sound to be stored, depending on the RAM size.

Analog Filters
The EIII kept with analog filters for the voice channels, using Curtis CEM3387’s. Real-time digital filtering was still too expensive, and the EIII was pushing the price limit already. (the hard disk and 4 MB of memory added up to $2500 alone)