E-Mu Systems has been one of the leaders in electronic music production since 1971. In their early days, E-MU made gargantuan modular synthesizers. They have adapted with the times and now make sound modules and software for computer music production. E-MU is one of the few companies from the early days of electronic music to have survived.
In the early 70’s, E-MU competed in the market pioneered by Moog, custom-built modular synthesizers. While E-MU’s designs derived from the work of Moog, they were also innovative in their own right. Their oscillators were much more stable than Moog’s, and they had a huge number of unique modules. Their shiny metal panels were a colorful alternative to the plain black panels of other systems, too.
The E-MU Emulator is one of the first great keyboard samplers. The Emulator was inspired by the Fairlight, but was much more affordable. Unfortunately, early digital synthesizers have not aged as gracefully as analog ones. The Emulator is very big, has a whopping 128k of memory and uses funky old technology like large floppy diskettes. While it seems primitive by today’s standards, the Emulator offered 8 voices of sampled polyphony.
The Drumulator was a sample-based drum machine built with much of the same technology as the Emulator. It tried to be a Linn LM-1 at a price that musicians could afford. The drumulator had eight drum sounds that were sampled and stored on ROM chips. These lo-fi samples were gritty and distorted, but had a great sound nevertheless.
More recently, E-MU has created several lines of products that continue to be popular with musicians. These include the Proteus rackmount synth modules, and synth modules designed for specific styles of music.