E-mu Systems Emax SE

Introduction  I first bought an Emax rack sampler back in 1989 for £1200 and spent a lot of time making samples and trying to find the factory samples on diskette, which were really expensive in those days. In 1991 I visited the Emu Systems factory in California and tried to get a SCSI upgrade for the Emax, but of course I had an early model and the upgrade was impossible. I did get to go round the factory though!

I then moved onto using Emulator II and III samplers in the 1990’s, whilst also finding an Emax SE HD keyboard which I used with a SCSI ZIP100 in 2001 with the factory library before I had to sell all my studio gear in 2003.

Emax 2018 Fast forward nearly 30 years from my original purchase and I found an Emax keyboard for sale at a reasonable price in Portsmouth and in good condition. I upgraded the LCD to a very nice blue OLED display that is an exact replacement, as well as a new Gotek USB floppy emulator replacing the rather old and damaged floppy drive.

OLED Display is a Vishay O016N002CBPP5N0000 available from Mouser for £15, its an exact drop in, only a 14 pin male header needs to be added. It has a wide viewing angle, is very clear and not too bright. Unfortunately specific OLED displays go in and out of stock and you will need to look for an alternative now.

Gotek Drive

Sample Libraries Back in 1989 the E-mu Systems factory library diskettes were available but very expensive, so I only bought a few beyond the initial 10 diskettes that came with the Emax. In 2001 I had most of the factor library on ZIP100’s and used EMX to archive them.

Fast forward to 2020 and a more complete factory library, the OMI Universe of Sound CD’s and Northstar and other Emax libraries can be located online for free. I have downloaded these onto USB sticks and upgraded the Gotek drive with a OLED display and a rotary encoder. This makes browing the hundred of samples easier.

The Emax sample input can be connected to my Tascam DR-05 digital recorder, which is how I transfer samples that I make on the PC to my samplers. I use DAT tapes as a way of recording from the Internet, then editing in Wavelab before sampling into the Emax.

Bladerunner Disk I have recreated one of the most famous Emulator I sample disks (Reggae Loop and Trumpet) that was used in the original Bladerunner film. I have sampled the original sources (Rat a Cut Bottle – Lion Youth and Mile Davies – Sketches of Spain) using my DAT recorder and Wavelab to prepare the samples. The Emax has 4x times the sample memory of the Emulator at the same 27,777Hz, so the samples easily fit and I have used the same keyboard split.

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