WNAMM04: Emu Emulator X/Emulator X Studio

The next generation Emulator is almost here      02/02/04

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Buying Choices
Emu had their new Emulator X and Emulator X Studio on display at the their booth, along with their new hard disk audio system, the 1820m. The Emulator X comes in two models and is a combination of software and PCI cards. Both the Emulator X and Emulator X Studio have two PCI cards that must be placed in adjacent slots in your computer. The common PCI card in both systems is the digital I/O card, featuring ADAT and SPDIF I/O, plus a firewire interface and an expansion connector. The Emulator X adds an analog/midi PCI card which has stereo analog I/O and midi I/O. The larger Emulator X Studio system includes, in addition to the digital card, word clock and SMPTE I/O, plus MTC out. Also featured with the X Studio is a 1RU or tabletop box with two mic/line/hi-z preamps, six 1/4” balanced inputs, eight 1/4” balanced outputs, and a turntable input with ground lug and hardware RIAA preamp. Further, it has two sets of midi I/O, four stereo 1/8” speaker outputs configurable from stereo to 7.1 surround, and a headphone output. Both the Emulator X and Emulator X Studio oprate at 24 bits adn up to 192 k. The Emulator X is a combination PCI soundcard and software sampler, supporting EMU EOS, EIII, Gigasampler, Akai, HALion, EXS24, Soundfont 2.1, .WAV and other formats. I hope they add AIFF and Roland format to that. Emulator X also ships with over 2 GB of sounds. Emulator X features automated sample aquisition and preset creation, allowing for very quick preset programming from external audio or batch files. I didn’t ahve a chance to see this in action, but I would expect it is some kind of automatic sample mapping function. Also onboard is a waveform editor with gain, change, time compression/expansion, pitch change, reverse, and sample calculation with automatic digital tuning. Sample mavens with very large collections spread over many drives will appreciate EMU’s automated preset cataloging across network drives. Anyone who has used Emu samplers or synths in the past years will likely be fond of their extensive and good sounding filters and patchcord architecture. This is continued in the Emulator X, which has 36 patchcords per voice, over 50 Z-Plane morphing filters, multi-wave LFO’s, conditional voice modulation, clock modulation, and many other synthesis features. You can also save your favorite synth setups as templates, as you can other edits in the filters. The Emulator X also offers hardware accelerated plug-in effects (over 500 presets), with no CPU overhead. EMU has also included Patchmix DSP software, which delivers 32 channels of zero latency hardware mixing and monitoring with a virtual patchbay. As a user of EMU E4XT Ultra samplers, the first thing that I noticed about the Emulator X is how nice it is to be able to see so many functions on the screen at once. Even though the LCD on the hardware is big, it still doesn’t come close to displaying as much information as is possible on a computer screen. The user interface of the Emulator X software felt very comfortable, and would make for an easy transition for EMU’s hardware sampler users. What may limit the appeal of the Emulator X is that it is currently only available for PC. No firm plans for a Mac version are in the works, although it is being considered, according to the rep I spoke with. Creative Labs is a PC oriented consumer company, but hopefully they will realize that many professionals in the music business (including EMU sampler customers) are Mac users. Here’s hoping for a Mac version! Albert

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