E-Mu Emulator X3 : starring Frank Thring


Hell, I love the story of E-Mu’s rise and fall. It’s like the Roman Empire in keyboards, with Creative Labs as the Ottomans or something. Maybe because Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley are familiar places for me. Anyway, read it here if you like


If the Morpheus/UltraProteus were the pinnacle of Empire, then the 2000 series were the division into East and West and I am really stretching this comparison please stop. The UltraProteus was cut back into more reasonable designs – the Proteus 2000, then the MoPhat, Vituoso, Planet Earth etc. all of which are the same machine with a different ROM chip plunked in there. Musicians would buy two or more boxes when they could have just put more than one ROM in one box. I don’t know how a company could pull off such a top-tastic rip-off and still go bankrupt, but, hippies, y’know?


I’ve come to respect the UltraProteus and was interested to see how E-Mu had re-engineered it. The number of Z-plane filters is cut back to a more manageable 50 or so. There’s 4 layers instead of 2. The function generators are much simpler, but there are some new modular elements – lags and diodes for example. I was also piqued that other libraries from E-Mu and Ensoniq products (transwaves!) became available as optional ROMs (transwaves and Z-planes oh my).


But the prices! Jesus wept. My UltraProteus was under $200. The 2000 series that was worthless a year ago have bubbled up to greedy levels. That Ensoniq sound ROM is currently US$326. A Proteus 2000 is about AUS$500 (although that seems a bit of a try). Forget it.


Thing is, in the last days they switched to software – while the Proteus X2 and Emulator X2 were tied to E-Mu hardware, the unlocked Emulator X3 sold (didn’t sell) for a ridiculous price and was soon canned when it didn’t light the world. This X3 is all of the 2000 hardware in one unit AND the E-Mu samplers AND roll your own Z-plane filters AND STEAK KNIVES!


If you think vintage hardware is annoying, try vintage software. The same obsessive searching and haggling involved, stupid prices and ‘sorry we should have taken that ad down ten years ago’ PLUS you can’t get it working on new operating systems. But now look:


Isn’t it ugly? Sounds good in that 90’s rompler way, the same textures as the Proteus, nice patching, all good. Many of the sounds are included but then there’s this guy who has the rest of them for a lot less than $326 a pop. If you’re vaguely interested in this era of synthesis it’s a good deal – IF you can find a copy!


QUICK UPDATE. Bought some samples from E-Mu dude. The Transwaves weren’t – so that’s a bad review. However looks like you can have set up multiple loop points in X3 and then switch between them. Depends on how many loop points you can have – if enough them could get that effect going…

It was either this or a red car and I think I chose wisely.