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E-mu Emulator II Sampling Synthesizer

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    The Emulator II is a responsive, surprisingly easy-to-use musical instrument with staggering creative possibilities. It's also a sound effects designer's dream come true, a composer's personal orchestra, a recording studio's chance to have hundreds of acoustic and electronic instruments on call at any time, a university's research tool...but most of all, it provides the means for some truly special musical experiences. To give you a better idea of its capabilities, here are just some of the Emulator II's highlights.

    Rather than synthesizing sounds, the Emulator II digitally records (samples) real-world sounds into its memory. If you want the Emulator II to sound like a piano, sample a piano; if you want it to sound like a barking dog, sample a dog.These sounds may then be modified with the Emulator II's analog synthesizer processors and/or state-of-the-art digital processors. The analog-type processors include:

    + Lowpass voltage-controlled filter (VCF) with ADSR envelope generator.
    + Voltage-controlled amplifier (VCA) with ADSR envelope generator.
    + LFO with adjustable rate, delay, and speed variation.
    + Two programmable modulation wheels for real-time control over pitch, filter cutoff, ADSR attack rate, level, LFO modulation, etc.
    + Two programmable footswitches for real-time control over sustain, release, sustenuto, patch change, and Sequencer.
    + Velocity-sensitive keyboard, where keyboard dynamics can control any or all of the following: VCA level, VCA attack, VCF cutoff, VCF attack, and VCF Q.

    The keyboard can play up to eight notes simultaneously. Like standard analog synthesizers, there is a complete set of modifiers for each note; so, when we refer to the filter or we are really talking about eight filters and VCA's.

    Digital processing techniques include:

    + Truncation (shortening the beginning and/or end of the sample)
    + Looping the sample (or any portion thereof)
    + Digitally combining (mixing) two samples
    + Sound reversal (backwards tape effects)
    + Splicing two samples together (imagine a soprano voice changing into a guitar note...)
    + Advanced split capabilities -- assign a different sample to each note of the keyboard, or split in more conventional ways (i.e. cellos in lower octaves, violins in upper octaves).
    + Easy doubling, plus velocity-controlled cross-fading and switching between doubled samples
    + Individual tuning and attenuation for each sample
    + Ultra-flexible, programmable arpeggiation
    + Eight channel sequencer with (among other features) auto correct, track bounce, cuing, punch-in/punch out, and the ability to drive eight MIDI instruments. It also responds to dynamics and remembers modulation wheel settings.

    Sounds are stored on commonly available double-sided, double-density (DS/DD) 5.25" floppy disks (as used with many personal computers). Thanks to sophisticated disk management techniques, it's easy to save, organize, retrieve, rename, and catalog various sounds. In fact, if the Emulator II was just a computer it would be pretty impressive: There's almost four times more RAM (memory) than a basic IBM PC, and the two disk drives store as much data as fourteen Commodore-64s!

    For outside-world interfacing, the built-in eight-track sequencer (and the arpeggiator) can sync up to a 24, 48, or 96 pulses-per-quarter note click track, SMPTE time code, or MIDI; there's also a complete complement of MIDI functions, as well as an RS-422 port for control via external computer.

    Despite all this flexibility the Emulator II is nonetheless not that hard to learn...as you will see during the course of this manual.
    Type: Digital
    Synthesis: Sampling
    Oscillators: 1
    Osc Modulation: Envelope, Keyboard, LFO, Mod Wheel, Pitch Wheel
    Sampling: 8 bit, Loop
    Sampling Notes:
    27.7 khz sample rate
    512k RAM Max
    20 MB HD
    Envelopes: 2
    Evelope Paramerters: Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release 2
    Envelope Notes::
    Filter and VCA
    Filters: 1
    Types: 12dB Slope (2-pole), Low Pass
    Filter Modulation: Envelope, Keyboard, Knob, LFO, Mod Wheel, Oscillator
    LFO: 1
    LFO Parameters: Sine
    LFO Notes::
    LFO variation changes the LFO speed for each voice.
    Polyphony & Tuning
    Polyphony: 8
    Timbrality: 1
    Tuning: Standard
    Modes: Polyphonic
    Patches RAM: 1
    Storage: Tape
    Editing: MIDI
    Up, Down, Up/Down, Random, and Held Keys modes. Each preset can have its own setting saved with it.
    Case: Keyboard
    Keyboard: 49 keys, Non-weighted, Plastic
    Controls: Buttons, Knobs, Sliders
    Display Type: LCD, LED, Backlit
    Display Count H: 16
    Display Count V: 2
    Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, Mono Out
    Audio Output Count: 1
    Inputs: 1/4" Mono
    DAC Bits: 8
    DAC Frequency Rate: 32
    Year Released: 1984
    Used By
    Stevie Wonder, Depeche Mode, Constance Demby, New Order, Talking Heads, ABC, A-ha, Tears for Fears, Genesis, Marillion, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Herbie Hancock, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, Jean-Michel Jarre, Yes, Whitesnake, OMD, Dire Straits, Stevie Nicks, Mr. Mister, Ultravox, Visage, Residents, YMO.
    Design Notes:

    Several highly respected OEM and 3rd party sample libraries were developed for the Emulator II including a multitude of superb orchestral sounds. Many of the EIIs original library sounds were sampled from the more expensive Fairlight and Synclavier workstations (the Fairlight's famous "Sarrar/Arr1" choir sample is called "DigiVcs" in the Emu library). This can cause confusion when trying to determine which sampler hardware was actually used on a certain song.

    Famous samples include the Shakuhachi flute used by Peter Gabriel in "Sledgehammer", and on Enigma MCMXC a.D. Also, the Marcato Strings heard on so many 80's records including Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls". Rumour has it, every single sound on that track, with the obvious exception of the singers' voices, was made with an Emulator II (ref: Pet Shop Boys interview on "Synth Britannia" BBC4, 16 Oct 2009.) This is not undisputed as in the BBC Interview only the word "Emulator" (this might refer to the EIIs predecessor, the original Emulator) is mentioned unrelated to the song and the Emulator II became available only after the Single "West End Girls" was first released. The EII might have been used on the later rerelease of the single.

    It was used for a number of film scores too such as the Terminator 2: Judgment Day score by Brad Fiedel, also used by Michael Kamen on a lot of his film scores such as Lethal Weapon and Highlander and John Carpenter used it for his films too in the 1980s. It even featured in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, we see Ferris using the Emulator II to play sounds of coughing, then vomiting, in order to feign illness on the phone.

    In the 2000s the Emulator II has risen in popularity due to the 80's pop culture resurgence and new artists wishing to revive the 80's Emulator-based sound. Prices for rare functioning units have gone up, and websites selling the original floppies have emerged.
    Manuals & Documents
    MSRP List Price: $9,995 - convert
    YouTube Videos
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