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Emu Systems E64

Digital Sampler By Paul Wiffen
Published July 1995

Hot on the heels of the ESI32 and EIV samplers comes Emu's latest mid‑price unit. We sent Paul Wiffen to find out how the e64 differs from its siblings.

At first glance, the e64 looks just like an EIV. In fact, the only thing on the front panel that gives away the fact that it is not an EIV is the 'e64' logo. The e64's operating system software is identical to that of the EIV, which I waxed so lyrical about back in SOS April. Without going into too much detail here, it utilises a hierarchical menu system very reminiscent of Mac or Atari computers, enabling you to get around the system and edit parameters quickly and intuitively. It is without doubt the easiest operating system I have ever come across on a sampler. (For more details, see the full EIV review.)

Half An EIV

The main differences between the e64 and the EIV are in the internal hardware. Whereas the EIV has 128 voices and 8Mb of RAM (expandable to 128Mb), the e64 is 64‑voice polyphonic with 2Mb of RAM as standard (expandable to 64Mb, using SIMMs). This makes perfect sense, as these days polyphony and RAM capacity are the two principle factors which determine the price of a sampler (and with an RRP of £2650, the e64 costs about half the price of an EIV). In fact, Emu's maths is impeccable, as it costs twice as much as the ESI32, which offers 32‑voice polyphony and is expandable to 32Mb

Looking at the back panel, there are a few more visible differences. Although the e64 keeps the two 50‑pin SCSI connectors; MIDI In, Out and Thru; the ASCII keyboard input; stereo sample inputs; the eight polyphonic jack outputs and the XLR digital in and out; it does not have the EIV's alternative main outputs (on balanced XLRs) and the three expansions slots. I have never had much time for balanced outputs (invented just to give studio engineers something to drone on about!), but the e64's lack of expansion slots might cause someone who needs the second MIDI buss (for 32‑part multitimbral operation), the Alesis ADAT interface, or the other forthcoming EIV options to opt for the more expensive big brother, which was designed to completely fulfill the studio professional's needs after all. Of course, if you just want 32‑part multitimbrality, 128 voices and 128Mb of sample data, then you could always add a second fully expanded e64 for the same total cost as an EIV.

Voice Architecture

Each 'voice' in the e64 has exactly the same architecture as its EIV counterpart, with G‑chip sample transposition (giving a 10 octave range) and H‑chip filtering; the latter has all the warmth and character of traditional analogue filters but all the precision and flexibility of digital processing. Real‑time processing of samples during playback is unrivalled on any competitor's sampler, thanks to Emu's versatile modulation structure, which includes three 6‑stage envelopes and two multi‑wave LFOs with sources and destinations galore. All the non‑real‑time digital processing is there too, with unique algorithms like Transform Multiplication and Doppler Shift, as well as the staple diet of Timestretch, Compression, and Sample Rate Conversion.

Doing justice to this voice architecture in the space available is simply not possible (it took 6,000 words in my April EIV review, which is where I suggest those who want more details should look), but I must take time to talk about all 17 filter types on the e64, simply because there were only three on the EIV that I reviewed. EIV owners (actual or prospective) need have no fear of missing out, however, as exactly the same set of 17 filter types is now implemented in software version 1.10f (contact Emu Systems if you don't have this software yet).

In additional to the EIV's traditional 2, 4 and 6‑pole Low‑pass filter types (giving 12, 24 and 36dB/oct cutoffs respectively), there are now two High‑pass filters (12 or 24dB/oct cutoff) and two Band‑pass filters (6dB or 12dB/oct cutoff either side). These are particularly useful if your source sample is taken from an analogue synth, as they can faithfully recreate traditional synthesizer timbre and movement.

Then we come on to the more experimental filter types. Contrary Band‑pass (which I suspect we would call Band Reject) gives a very novel sweep effect, where the movement is obvious but without exaggerating a single frequency. There are three Swept EQ filters acting over one, two, or three octaves at the bottom end of the audio spectrum but all over one octave at the top. These are essentially 24dB cut or boost parametric equalisers, giving extremely precise tonal alterations.

Morphing Filters

The final six filter types use the Z‑Plane techniques (multiple notch/peak filtering) first introduced on the Morpheus and UltraProteus: three Phaser algorithms use comb filtering to produce phase‑shifting effects with fully adjustable notches/peaks; Flanger Lite gives a more pronounced effect with three more severe notches; the remaining two Vocal filters produce human vowel approximations sweeping from 'Oo' to 'Ah' or 'Ah' through 'Ay' to 'Ee' repectively (well how else are you going to define vowel sounds, I ask you?). Using a single source sample from a synth, you could easily spend years unsuccessfully trying to exhaust the possibilities of these innovative filter types, and create some unique sounds in the process.


Drive disparities was really the only area where I could find any fault with the e64 at all. It seems to be too good to be true that you can get so much of the EIV's power and flexibility for half the price, so soon after the EIV's launch. Of course, some professional users will not settle for anything less than the 128 voices and expandability of that machine, but for those who cannot afford the £4,800 price tag all in one go, the e64 is a perfect way to split the cost in two (and end up with 16 polyphonic outputs). And if your budget for a sampler is never going to exceed two and a half grand, then the e64 currently represents the best value for your money by a long chalk. It is difficult to see how competing manufacturers can respond to this one. The polyphony is double anything else available; the sound quality equal to anything at any price; and the warmth, character, and flexibility of the filters only equalled by other Emu machines. Any questions?

SCSI (In)Compatability?

This was the only blot on the e64's copybook (just like the EIV and ESI32 before it). Whilst the sampler worked first time with my current all‑purpose favourite SCSI device, a SyQuest 270Mb drive, it was the devil's own job to find many CD‑ROM drives which would work satisfactorily. Of course, most of the Apple drives work (I used the Sc and CD300 models for my tests, which I suspect are what American sampler manufacturers use to write their SCSI drivers), but few other mechanisms seemed to want to mount, or if they did mount, they would not transfer full data banks properly.

I spoke with George Bell, Emu's European Service Manager, about this anomaly and he assured me that the imminent Version 2 software for the ESI32 will broaden the range of samplers which will work with that machine, so let's hope that similar code will soon be available for the e64. In the meantime, the golden rule is always try any CD‑ROM you plan to use with an Emu sampler before you buy.


  • Incorporates best features of EIV for half the cost.
  • 64‑voice polyphony.
  • Easiest‑to‑use operating system of any sampler (except EIV).
  • Unrivalled real‑time processing of samples during playback.
  • 17 types of filtering available (including morphing).


  • Only 2Mb RAM on basic model.
  • Niggling problems with some non‑Apple SCSI drives.


Features‑wise, currently the best value for money sampler around. Superb sonic quality with a mouth‑watering range of usable filter types.