E-mu Emulator

E-mu Emulator II (1984)

The Emulator is the name given to a series of digital sampling keyboards using floppy disk storage, manufactured by E-mu Systems from 1981 until the 1990s. Though not the first commercial sampler, the Emulator was among the first to find wide use among ordinary musicians, due to its relatively low price and fairly contained size, which allowed for its use in live performances. It was also innovative in its integration of computer technology with electronic keyboards. The samplers were discontinued in 2002.


E-mu Systems was founded in 1971 and began business as a manufacturer of microprocessor chips, digital scanning keyboards and components for electronic instruments. Licensing this technology gave E-mu ample funds to invest in research and development, and it began to develop boutique synthesizers for niche markets, including a series of modular synthesizers and the high-end Audity system. In 1979, founders Scott Wedge and Dave Rossum saw the Fairlight CMI and the Linn LM-1 at a convention, inspiring them to design and produce a less expensive keyboard that made use of digital sampling.

Originally, E-mu considered selling the design for the Emulator to Sequential Circuits, which at the time was using E-mu's keyboard design in its popular Prophet-5 synthesizer. However, soon afterward, Sequential Circuits stopped paying E-mu royalties on its keyboard design, which forced E-mu to release the Emulator itself.

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