Review of the Emu E-5000
Hardware Digital Sampler
by Rich the
using emu samplers for quite some time.
Since 1995 I've used an Esi-32 maxed out to 32 megs with every expansion
option they offered and developed 3 sample cd roms (2 of which are
available on this site). Because I had developed blazing speed
programming the esi and because it remains the only emu sampler that is
compatible with itself and the EOS samplers, I have been shy about upgrading.
Recently the LCD died on the esi and I found it time to move up into the EOS
world. I was not expecting there to be a great difference in what I was
hearing and producing, after a sample playback is sample playback, right?
E5000 Ultra is the newest
member of E-MU's E4 Ultra sampler family and the most affordable Emulator
ever! As an E4 Ultra sampler, the E5000 provides you with the same
professional features that countless musicians, composers, and sound
designers depend on every day: the intuitive Emulator Operating System,
the new lightning-fast Ultra processor, access to the most comprehensive
sound library in the world, and proprietary tools like Beat Munging and
Z-Plane Filters, all at a remarkably low price!
Wrong! There's many good things in store for those
that move up from the esi. The 1st thing I did, after getting the unit
connected was to load my favorite bank of sounds I've made over the past 5
years. I played a sound then had to do a double take at my board. I
played it again, in disbelief. It was my sample alright, but the sound had
deep, rich, majestic qualities I never heard before! A rush of
Tweakmeister's happiness ensued as i went through my old bank. The E-5000
had "The Sound". If you've read my other articles you will remember that
when I talk about "The Sound" I am not talking about samples, presets, noise
specs, s/n ratios or any of that. I am talking about a very subjective
quality of the way our brains react to sound waves coming from speakers.
"The Sound" is an indefinable quality of a piece of gear. I can describe
it with adjectives to get you close. The sound of the e5000 is warm, deep,
supple, majestic and almost nourishing. My esi always sounded "good" in
comparison--never too bright, and neither warm nor sterile--a good transparent
place for a sampler to be, but the E-5000 was a tremendous leap sonically.
It's sonically rich and fertile in a tasteful way. How Emu got their
electronics to sound so good is a mystery to me.
The quality is different
than that of their sound modules. One might think that since the Proteus
2000 has a similar synth architecture, filters and internal processor that the
E-5000 might have the same sonic characteristics. Nope! In fact the
p2k becomes slightly annoying referenced to an e5000. Let me say to those
at a similar point that I was at, the Emulator shines in the Sound Quality
Department, and this is reason alone to get this box.
6 months later...
Ok, you've read my initial gush that
accompanied my honeymoon with the e5k, now lets get into the issues. There
are many, but still, even after all of them, the e5k is still a winner, so keep
that in mind. I have used the e5000 on tons of projects the last 6 months.
I updated Ice Kold tekno to get my feet
wet, then went full steam ahead into producing a massive cd rom project called
Indsutrial Cybr Sound Depot and am now a month or so into my next Cd rom,
the World Cafe'.
The overall bright spot is the sound. It
is everything I have described above. The problems I have run into are of
these types. Sound Glitches, EOS bugs, and general idiosyncrasies of the
file system and hardware interface.
The Low points
Sound Issues: The Emulators do come with
lots of filters and tweaked carefully they can yield outstanding results,
especially when corded to real time controllers. However, its all to easy
to introduce distortion at the outputs at some settings. Sometimes after
tweaking a filters one or both channels will distort and have a hard time
recovering from the distortion. I also note the volume knob works
idiosyncratically, different from other samplers and synth I have used.
Mixes sound very different with the master volume at 50% and 100%, compensating
for the difference at the board. The balance between instruments changes
as one raises, lowers the volume.
EOS issues. I am not going to bash Emu
here. But EOS does crash, and if you use it, you need to get used to this
fact and save often to avoid loss of work. The larger the bank, the
greater the chance of a crash. One bug in particular is when you are near
128 megs and 1000 presets it appears the Ultra cannot find room to save
Soundsprints and will return an 'end of file" error. The solution is not
to save soundsprints along with the bank, then it will save properly.
Other bugs that have bit me are SMDI transfers over SCSI. It's quite
important to have a scsi card the the e5000 likes. I had major problems
with my old ISA scsi card that worked perfect on my esi32. I had to
upgrade to an Adaptec 2906 to get SMDI working right. No big deal.
Even still, there is always a possibility of a timeout during a sample transfer
and if the e5k does glitch it may or may not recover. Usually after about
5 seconds it does come back, but there are times when it does not.
I was extremely displeased that EOS will not
allow export to an Esi, even though they share the same disk file system.
You can load your Esi bank into EOS, but there is a few glitches here. I
wrote them all down and how to fix them.
There is also a problem with the Rotary encoder
on my machine. It seems to "stick" and jump ahead rather than smoothly
scrolling through the parameters. This is after 2 years of fairly heavy
use, but still, it should not be there.
The main reason I got an e5000 was for the
sound and editing capability by sysex, which I missed dearly on the esi
platform. I was not at all disappointed. SoundDiver is an excellent
interface for programming the Emulator by sysex. It will not let you edit
samples (Sound Forge is great for that) but it lest you experiment with filters
and cords to your tweakheads content. Selecting samples is far easier and
managing presets is a breeze.
You can add a 20 gig IDE hard drive inside the
e5000. While there are some file system issues which prevent you from
actually getting use of the full drive capacity, still, the IDE drive option is
a fast and effective means of storing banks.
Emu appears to be committed to developing EOS
into the future. Recently they introduced the RFX board that alllows for a
tremendously flexible FX routing. That's good, because the stock FX in the
Ultras are not the greatest.
I can't say enough about the sound. It's
open, airy, delightful with tremendous realism. Separation is excellent,
even going out the main mix outputs. The internal mixer is well thought
out. I prefer my e5k over my Gigasampler, EXS24 and SoundFonts, despite
that I can't use really long samples and am stuck at 16 bit. (you can
resample in the e5k to 20 bit). Sometimes a dedicated hardware sampler is
far better than having to squeeze in a virtual sampler into an already taxed
CPU. i think as time goes on, the EOS samplers will hold their own.
Studio hacks know, the bottom line is sound.
Read about the
rfx board for the
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