Emulate the Emulator
The Emax is essentially a complete replication of the Emulator II using custom E-mu chips instead of standard off the shelf silicon chips. This new engineering increased reliability, and reduced the cost of manufacture. The sample resolution was the same 12-bits companded into 8-bits of memory, the samples were still monophonic, but the maximum sample rate was increased to 42kHz. The operating system is very similar to the EII, not least because program ROM was expensive and an “overlay OS” was still needed .The Emax was also availablefrom Baldwin, a US organ and piano manufacturer. You will occasionally see an Emax badged as a Baldwin IKE, but with no front panel graphics explaining the OS functions. Other than this, they are identical samplers. The tie up with Baldwin lasted a few years, and included a Baldwin Proteus.Emax Breakthrough The Emax brought quality sampling within the reach of the average musician. Although it was overshadowed by Akai’s S900/950 rack sampler in Europe, where US music products were expensive.Fully Featured Memory was still expensive when the Emax was launched, and therefore the 512 Kbytes of the original EII was retained, and unfortunately never expanded. However the good news is that SCSI had made an appearance (at a reasonable price ), on the new Apple Mac computers, and this technology was quickly ported across to the Emax – augmenting the RS422 serial port. Internal and external hard disks could now be used, although the Emax stuck at a 20 MB limit, as hard drives were expensive in 1988.
Emax DSP Whilst the initial Emax OS provided no major leaps forward from the EII – other than the famous Bird Run!, the Synthesis Enhanced (SE) OS update did move sampler technology forward. Although not realtime, the SE versions provided new DSP functions called Transform Multiplication and Spectral Synthesis. This new software (and the subsequent OS for the Emulator III – which had digital processing options), was the start of some serious DSP power for sampler users.
Baldwin Versions Theses are electronically identical, the only difference is that Baldwin didn’t print the OS module names on the front panel. So it’s a bit tricky without a manual !
Emax Success Emax’s sold well in the US, and to a more limited degree in Europe. Depeche Mode switched to using Emax’s from Emulator II’s on tour, and the Emax SE HD’s can be seen and heard in use on the 1988 USA tour video “101”.
Front Panel Graphics The Emax follows the EII tradition of having the OS functions listed on the front panel of the rack and keyboard models (unless you have a Baldwin model !). This makes it much easier to operate the Emax, but it gave E-mu a problem once they upgraded the software ! The front panel graphics changed during the production life of the Emax, to match the new OS features. Initially the graphics had bold lines linking them to each module button. However after the SE model upgrade arrived with an extra sticky patch to describe the new Digital Processing options, it was time to redo the front panel graphics and simply list them with no bold lines, just slanted vertical lines of dots to separate the text. These changes have more visual impact on the keyboard models.