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Emu ESi32

16-Bit Sampler (Preview) By Derek Johnson
Published November 1994

Emu took the opportunity of a whistle‑stop Autumn press tour to announce new products — including their lowest‑priced sampler to date — which set the company's agenda for the coming months. Derek Johnson previews the new kit on the block.

In a move which is surely destined to shake up the sampler market, and designed to establish the company who pioneered sampling as a force to be reckoned with in the mid‑price category, Emu are about to launch the ESi32, a powerful, 16‑bit sampler boasting functionality and audio quality comparable to that of an EIIIx for a UK price of little more than £1200.

The new sampler has been designed as an entry‑level machine price‑wise, yet without compromising what is essentially a repackaged Emulator III. When it reaches these shores this month, the ESI32 will offer the following facilities:

  • 32‑voice polyphony
  • 2Mb internal RAM
  • Four polyphonic outputs
  • Comprehensive DSP functions
  • Compatibility with EIIIx, Emax II and Akai S1000/1100 sound libraries
  • Two channels of 128X oversampling sigma/delta A/D conversion
  • 32 4‑pole digital resonant filters
  • Time compression/expansion
  • "Virtually distortionless" pitch transposition over a 10‑octave range
  • Discrete 18‑bit D/A converters per channel
  • 3.5‑inch floppy drive
  • 'Sample playback' keys, allowing the user to trigger up to 10 samples from the front panel of the ESI32 without the use of a MIDI keyboard, a la Akai S01.

The ESI32 is by no means a closed system, having the benefit of a range of expansion options, including an internal 3.5‑inch Syquest removable drive, up to 32Mb RAM using standard SIMMs, a SCSI port, and digital inputs and outputs to the SP/DIF format. Its features and audio quality are being hailed by Emu as "superior to any other similarly‑priced sampler on the market"; indeed, the RRP of the base unit is such that even if filled with all the available options, the ESI32 still retains a very good price to performance ratio, lacking only the four additional outputs available on the EIII. The new sampler will put the cat amongst the pigeons in the sub‑£2000 sampler price category, where Akai currently have two units, the entry‑level, easy‑to‑use SO1 (£800), and the £1999 S2800, and where Roland's S760, at around £1800, is gaining popularity. It also leaves us wondering what will become of the EIII — but you can rest assured that Emu are not a company known for standing still.

Emu's other new launch, Classic Keys, was introduced to SOS readers last month in the pages of Shape of Things to Come, but when Emu's Rob Faulkner and Dave Bristow visited the SOS HQ recently, they brought along not only a unit for us to look at, but also some additonal spec. Classic Keys offers all the basic waveforms of the company's popular Vintage Keys at a more user‑friendly price — how does £647 sound? The main points of interest of the new module are:

  • 8Mb of samples in ROM
  • 256 preset and 256 user patches
  • 32‑voice polyphony
  • 24 programmable effects
  • 16‑part multitimbral operation
  • Stereo outputs
  • Alternate tuning capability
  • Emu's MIDIPatch realtime modulation system

Classic Keys offers a comprehensive collection of the most popular analogue synth and keyboard instrument sounds from the '60s, '70s and '80s; the 249 waveforms in ROM include Hammond B3, Fender Rhodes, Clavinet, MiniMoog, ARP 2600, Prophet 5, Matrix 12, Farfisa organ, and many more. Particular attention has been paid to B3 harmonic drawbar settings, to allow for a wide range of variation, and a useful selection of percussion and bass sounds are also included, along with a variety of single‑cycle waveforms. The Classic Keys loses the resonant filter of the Vintage Keys, unfortunately, but does add effects, which are not present on the Vintage Keys. Look out for a review in the near future.