It lives! It lives, it lives, it lives!!!

The Emulator III has returned! As of this afternoon it is now back in working condition!

How did this happen? Well gather round and let me tell you about today’s serendipitous events. It all started when I noticed a closed auction for sampler memory for Roland samplers. As I’ve thoroughly documented, I’ve got a Roland S770 that I’m going to keep, but I’d really like to max out its memory to a full 16MB. The memory that it takes is pretty old and not the easiest to find. The auction reminded me that I really should buy some memory and get it installed. I found a few auctions that were promising candidates, but I was still a bit unsure and decided to open my S770 and closely inspect some of the memory that was already in there.

As I was searching for information, I found a page that claimed that the E-mu EIII used the exact same memory as the S770. That got me thinking…maybe the EIII’s cryptic problem was just an issue with faulty memory? That would be easy to check! With the S770 opened up, I had some spare sticks of memory that I knew were good. This would be a great time to check. Soon I left the S770 behind and was on a rabbit trail tearing apart the EIII.

The EIII is a beast inside. The rackmount version has five long cards that slide into place. I had to take out the processor card in order to get the memory card out. Once out, I swapped out the SIMM sticks and put it all back together. And…

…nothing. It still didn’t work. Except this time, I didn’t even have funny characters on the screen. I had nothing at all. It wasn’t trying to check the floppy drive or anything. That’s when I started thinking about a post I’d read on an excellent E-mu website called That post had talked about having a dead display when you try to power up the sampler. The cause was some errant voltages coming from the power supply.

Power supplies generally scare me. That’s probably cause I assume that all power supply problems are going to mean burnt-up transformers or dried-out capacitors. But things were different in this case. The EIII’s power supply has a small trimmer pot that allows you to adjust the output voltage. For some reason it can stray slightly, and that can lead the entire machine to crash. So I pulled out my multimeter and checked. Sure enough…the voltage was about 1 volt too low – enough to put it out-of-tolerance.

I followed the steps in the post and reset the voltage to 5.05 volts exactly, plugged everything back in, and it’s back in business! Such an easy fix! And to think that I’d been dreading that for months!

I’m really excited to have the EIII back and working. The 2012 Ultimate Sampler Showdown is back on!

I’ll leave you with this parting photograph. I think that the back of the EIII is pretty impressive. There really is nothing about this sampler that leaves you doubting that it means business. I don’t think I’ve seen quite this many jacks on a piece of equipment. Clearly, a formidable instrument:

The Emulator Speaks

Before the Emulator decided to go almost immediately on vacation, we had a brief honeymoon period during which I got to try out a few of the samples that the previous owner had left on the internal hard drive and record a couple of my own samples.

Much like every programmer has to write a “Hello World” example in each new computer language they try, the inaugural sample to record on any new sampler is a nice sung vowel sound, preferably the choral “ahhhhh” for about one second. Except it doesn’t sound like a choir when I sing it into the microphone. But that’s the power of the sampler! Moments later, a dozen madrigals patterned identically after me spring out of the machine. Except it doesn’t actually sound that magnificent. It actually sounds pretty cheesy.

But there’s something about that cheap warbly vocal sound that entrances me. I think it’s the contrast between something that seems to sound so human and yet doesn’t quite make the grade. I guess there’s a term for that sort of thing.

Anyway, here’s a little clip. I was just fiddling around with the new sample and kind of liked this chord progression. Maybe I’ll try to come back and figure out a full song for it.

1. wavy - Emulator Vocals     


Also, it seems like this sort of crude vocal sound has been creeping back into vogue in recent years. Witness 2009’s little Sleepyhead nugget or pretty much anything by St Vincent. Interesting trend. Maybe it was a 2009 thing and I’m just now catching up.