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Making The Most Of Your Emu Proteus: Part 1

Making The Most Of Your Emu Proteus, Part 1

In the first of a short series, Paul Farrer offers some hints and tips for improving the sounds you can coax from Emu's popular Proteus range.

It's astonishing to realise that Emu's original Proteus/1 has been around for over six years now. Of course, one of the reasons for its continuing success is that it can utilise up to 8Mb of very high‑quality ROM samples, which are sourced from the legendary Emulator sample series. These samples still sound just as fresh and exciting today, which is why you find relatively few Proteus modules on the used gear market.

The success of the Proteus/1 led to the development of the Proteus/2 (Orchestral) and Proteus/3 (World) modules, as well as spawning a host of other incarnations, such as the Proteus MPS keyboard, Proformance piano modules, Emu Morpheus Z‑Plane synth, and, more recently, the Emu Classic Keys and Vintage Keys. Two 'best of' modules have recently joined the series, in the form of the Proteus FX and UltraProteus, the latter boasting a massive 16Mb of ready‑to‑use, high‑quality samples, as well as the Z‑plane filters from the Morpheus.

One of the greatest endearments of the Proteus family is that the original design is alive and well, and has remained virtually unchanged from the first module, so much so that the owner's manual is exactly the same for all of the first three Proteuses (or should that be Protei?). As a result, anyone familiar with the operational aspects of one Proteus can easily navigate their way around any of the others. Even more complex machines like the Morpheus follow the same basic menu structure.

A brief flick through the SOS Reader's Ads shows just how well these modules hold their value. This can be partially explained by the vast editing potential that lies within the entire Proteus range, for despite the simple operating system and the lack of resonant filters in the basic Proteus modules, the machines are surprisingly flexible when it comes to both preset tweaking and original sound construction.

Proteus Sound Basics

All Proteus presets can be made up of a single sample or two individual samples playing at the same time, and Emu refer to these as Primary and Secondary instruments. In most respects, the edit pages treat them as two distinct samples, each with its own ADSR envelope parameters, start and end points, volume and pan settings, and so on. Of course, many of the ROM samples sound great in their 'natural' state (such as the acoustic guitar, piano and hammond organ) and don't need additional work to enhance them, but the ability to layer sounds is very useful for creating either non‑imitative sounds, or for thickening ensemble sounds like strings or brass.

Fattening That Sample

Chorus is the only true effect that is readily usable within the first three Proteus modules, but creating 'virtual effects' within a preset is possible to a limited degree. On the Proteus/1, the chorus can only be set to either 'on' or 'off', whereas in subsequent models you can specify a level of chorus effect between 1 and 15. This effect certainly helps to fatten a sample, and is very effective with synth sounds, but can make some instruments sound a little unnatural (particularly when used with guitar sounds).

One way to avoid this is to simulate a stereo ADT (Automatic Double Tracking) effect by setting both Primary and Secondary instruments to the same sample (such as 032 Ac.Guit). By panning the two samples left and right, and adding a little detuning, say ‑02 for the Primary and +02 for the Secondary, the illusion starts to take shape. Now all that remains is to add a hint of delay to the secondary instrument — a setting of about 002 is quite sufficient. This patch creates a wide stereo image, and may be used as a template for other ADT‑type patches simply by changing the samples. Try using it with '057 Snare Drums', or even better, in the Proteus/2, '015 Solo Cello'. Remember, though, that any doubling up of sounds also reduces your available polyphony.

Despite having no internal reverb, factory preset '001 Hall Strings' gives the impression of ambience. Two identical string samples run alongside each other, and as with the ADT effect, the secondary instrument is very slightly delayed, but here, it is given a longer release time and effected further by applying top‑cut via the Tone parameter. The Tone filter is accessed via the Keyboard and Velocity Modulation Control Page. Try setting your Primary instrument as follows, and you'll notice a considerable warming of the sound:


1 K>ToneP + 127

This is especially effective when used in conjunction with the chorus effect to thicken the bottom end of bass samples, or add depth to some of the brass sounds.

Morph For Your Money

While the Morpheus is capable of seriously mangling audio with its 14‑pole filters, the process of 'morphing' one sound into another by means of careful crossfading is something that you shouldn't be afraid to attempt in the first three Proteus modules. Indeed, the Proteus World includes a preset entitled 'Flute Transform' in which the 'Ney flute' sample gently crossfades into a waterphone harmonic. This is achieved quite simply by delaying the start time of the Secondary instrument to coincide with the apparent ending of the Primary. It then remains to adjust the fade out of the first sound and the fade in of the second to achieve a smooth transition. Again, your finished patch can serve as a template for almost any two‑sample crossfade preset; see the 'Morphing Template' box for an example. The two samples can also be panned, so that the sound sweeps across the audio image as it changes.

Strictly speaking, of course, this is crossfading rather than true morphing, but nevertheless, the transition can be made to feel very smooth and natural. However, some sounds 'morph' in this way more convincingly than others — I find that reeds turn into voices, and strings into choirs extremely convincingly.

...the key to creativity is experimentation and, fortunately, Proteus is a very friendly instrument to edit which can only encourage you to experiment further.

Be A Real‑Time Control Freak!

The MIDIPatch System is the Proteus's sophisticated way of allowing continuous controllers such as pitch bend, modulation, aftertouch and so on to be assigned to do a number of different, specific jobs. The practical result of this is that you can control things like crossfade amounts with the modulation wheel, or lengthen the release time of the samples using aftertouch. One very effective application is to assign a controller to the LFO amounts and rates. The Proteus/1 factory preset '009 B3 Mod>Lesl' uses the modulation wheel to trigger a stereo Leslie effect in this way, but it's equally simple to use the pitch wheel as an 'expression' controller, by adjusting the settings as follows:


1 PWhl > Volume

This is great for adding realism, particularly when playing string parts, or any other instruments that need to swell and diminish over the course of a single note.

Data Dumping

Hidden away in the upper ranges of the 'Master Menu' pages is the 'Send MIDI Data' page. This is the Proteus's way of talking to the rest of the world, via SysEx dumps. The design of the Proteus is such that instead of having a number of song 'patches' in which you can store setup data, the Proteus has, in effect, only one setup patch which runs continuously. Whenever we select a preset or change a MIDI channel volume level, this setup patch is altered. In real life, each song you compose on your sequencer is likely to require a completely different set of presets, pan settings and so on, so 'Master Settings' is the Proteus's way of reminding itself what it was doing the last time you used it.

To store the Master Settings for any given song in your sequencer, connect the MIDI Out of your Proteus into your sequencer's MIDI In, and select a spare sequencer recording track, preferably right at the beginning of the song. Place the Proteus cursor under 'Master Settings', put your sequencer into record, and press Enter on the Proteus. The setup data is stored on the sequencer as a short burst of SysEx information. When played back into the Proteus, this causes the master settings to revert instantly back to the state they were in when the SysEx data dump was sent.

The 'Send MIDI Data' page can also be used for storing banks of presets in an external MIDI device, so you can make backups of your edited sounds. You can send the entire bank or individual presets this way, and as with the Master Settings, playing back the data into the Proteus is a destructive process, insofar as it instantly overwrites the preset information previously stored in those memory locations. Dumping onto your sequencer is a great way of building up banks of preset data onto floppy disks, which you can then swap with your friends for digeridoo construction tips. Once you get into the habit of storing 'Master' data at the start of each song, you'll wonder how you managed for so long without it.

In Part 2, I'll be providing a few tips on how to achieve convincing orchestration with your Proteus.

Pitching It Right

Pitch‑shifting is another side to sample treatment that can easily be overlooked. The Proteus's internal samples often take on a new life when they are dropped by a few octaves and start to rattle around the grainy sub‑bass range. Sample '042 Bass Synth 1' is a good example of a such a sound.

Start by dropping the pitch by 24 points (to two octaves below normal), then try trimming the 'sound start' time. A setting of 025 will be just enough to take the edge off the front, giving the sample a much smoother, almost Moog‑ish feel. Alternatively, trimming the start point by 050 and using the Key/Velocity tone control level evokes a much more 'analogue sub‑bass' sound. Likewise, the percussive attack to the Proteus/2 Glockenspiel sample can be used to emulate your favourite Javanese Gamelan orchestra simply by tuning the whole sample down by 36 semitones!

Proteus Morphing Template





012 SynthFlute

009 Voices







Alt Env


























Xfade Mode


Xfade Direction

Primary > Secondary

Xfade Balance


Xfade Amount


More Simple Tweaks

Even though the Proteus range is stocked with (on the whole) recognisable instrument samples, you can still produce a broad spectrum of abstract sounds, simply by using and combining familiar sounds in an unfamiliar way.

For example, take the percussive attack off a piano sample by setting up a longish attack, and you end up a bowed sound most unlike a piano, which can be used as it is, or layered with something else. Take the attack of a bass guitar and crossfade that into the decay of a piano, and you have a new bass sound. On the other hand, put a slow attack on a tubular bell, and you obtain the haunting church bell‑like timbre reminiscent of so many horror films. There are literally thousands of sounds you can create using this simple technique, and if you take the time to set up a couple of basic template patches, you can run through a lot of possibilities in just a few minutes, simply by switching samples.

Another trick you can use to add movement to a sound is to utilise the LFO to modulate the level of the two samples, but set a negative modulation amount on one of the samples. What this does is make the LFO modulate the balance of the two sounds — as one goes down in level the other comes up. By choosing something like two different string or pad sounds as your basic samples, you can introduce a useful degree of tonal movement without making the sound unnatural.

Proteus does allow you to reverse samples, but once they're reversed, they become one‑shot sounds — the loops no longer work. Even so, a reversed percussive sound can make an interesting contribution to the attack portion of otherwise familiar sounds.

As is so often said in these pages, the key to creativity is experimentation and, fortunately, Proteus is a very friendly instrument to edit which can only encourage you to experiment further.