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The story of E-mu began when Dave Rossum, a microbiologist at the University of California, unpacked the modular Moog Model 12. Nobody in the laboratory of the music faculty of the University of Californis knew how to assemble it. Except him. E-mu Systems (Electronic Music Systems) was founded in 1971 by Scott Wedge and Dave Rossum in California. The brand was into the production of samplers, drum machines based on samples, and budget digital workstations also based on sampling.

The first experiment made by E-mu was the instrument called Black Mariah which, of course, produced some sound but far from the quality one. Soon a few students at the University of California, with who Dave began his synth making, designed Royal Hearn which seemed to be more of a joke. E-mu 25 appeared a bit later featuring the front panel with fixed settings. Scott Wedge joined the company. They created another E-mu 25 unit which was given to the Museum of Conceptual Art in San Francisco.

In 1972 the company was selling VCO, VCF, VCA, ADSR (assembled and in kits), and in 1973 the first modular was sold to the future production director Ed Rudnick. In the 70s the brand was engaged in the manufacture of stable VCOs, quality filters, sequencers, chips and polyphonic analog keyboards. Back then when the word "digital" had just become familiar to us at all, E-mu engineers collected a decent number of patents.

In 1978 Marco Alpert joined the company as a marketing director. Thanks to Marco E-mu started supporting Sequential Circuits and Solid State Micro Technology (SSM chips) which allowed him to pay for the development of his Audity.

E-mu Audity became the first 16-voice analog synthesizer with a computer (Z-80) control presented at the AES Show in 1980. Considering its price (about $70000) and enormous size Audity naturally failed watching the success of Fairlight CMI, Linn LM- 1, at the convention of the year, as well as Prophet5 which had already become popular (and actually featured E-mu technology). Realizing what was wrong and how to fix it Dave and Scott launched the real NAMM 1981 hit - the Emulator.

Thus the first series of the brand was put into production in 1981 and was presented by Emulator keyboard-samplers which included 4 generations with various improvements. Emulator first generation instruments (cheaper than Fairlight CMI in 3 times - $10000) included the possibility of sound sampling and samples storage on floppy disks which allowed users to create their own libraries. An 8-bit sampler comprised a simple filter and didn’t have a dedicated envelope generator for VCA. Later the envelope generator and sequencer were added though the price became even lower.

Emulator II offered more flexibility when editing samples (looping, reverse, velocity switch cross-fading and sample linking); the synthesizer included resonant analog filters (24dB), 8 low-frequency oscillators and increased hard drive memory. The unique sound of the instrument was achieved thanks to the DPCM mu-255 companding. The synthesizer became immediately popular among musicians and bands of the 80s: Stevie Wonder, Talking Heads, A-ha, Tears for Fears, Yes, Dire Straits, Ultravox and many others. "Terminator" and John Carpenter's films talked with E-mu voices.

Emulator III made it possible to store 16-bit samples and had 8 MB of RAM and 44 kHz stereo. By the time the third Emulator perfected each of the aspects, samplers appeared on the market much cheaper than the overpriced high-quality E III (for example, Akai or Ensoniq ones).

Emulator IV version was introduced in 1994. Sampler allowed to be integrated with sample libraries of other E-mu instruments as well as models by other brands, such as Roland, Akai Pro. The instrument had a new updatable EOS operating system so you could easily expand the capabilities of the device. The user interface of the rackmount E IV with 128 votes and 128 MB RAM was much more varied than that of the third model.

EOS-sampler e-Synth and E4K came out a bit later. While streaming with "emulators" E-mu still managed to produce Drumulator drum machine and Emax samplers budget series. The first model of the series was based on the capabilities and functions of Emulator II. The series also included a more advanced version of Emax SE in 1988 which had a 20 MB sample storage memory and featured additive synthesis. In 1989 the original Emax model was replaced by Emax II which was a 16-bit sampler with an increased number of polyphony voices and digital filters. In 1987 a rather practical SP-1200 drum sampler was created, making sequences not only from drum sounds, but also from samples using the loop function.

In 1989 the brand introduced Proteus - a rackmount module with a huge high-quality library. Proteus 1 sound modules appeared on the music market in 1989. The series included models Proteus 2000, Proteus 1000 (a cheaper model with a 64-voice polyphony) and Proteus 2500.The instruments didn’t allow recording, unlike Emulator samplers, but initially offered a good number of the factory ones. The module became known as the company's first MIDI module. The 2000 model included 128 polyphony voices. The memory of the device could be increased with ROM cards. The Proteus 2500 model extended the capabilities of its predecessor by including programmable control knobs and an on-board sequencer. The series was supplemented by Proteus X – a software operated virtual sound module. The module had a SoundSet library that was previously available for the 2000 module model, as well as an additional sample database.

In 1993 the company was acquired by Creative Technology (Singapore). After the merger Ultra series EOS-samplers were equipped with increased processing speed due to the 32-bit RISC chip. But basically after unsuccessful attempts to create a recording system called Darwin the company got busy with sound cards for PC. 1998 brought E-mu together with Ensoniq which had been acquired earlier by Creative Technology.

In 2004 Emulator X soft appeared - PC-version of the samplers but with advanced synthesis capabilities. In 2005 Proteus X software was released.

At the moment the production of E-mu is aimed at software instruments and USB/MIDI controllers development.