The Emu Emulator II

The E-mu Emulator II was E-mu’s second sampler, released in 1984. Like the Emulator I, it was an 8-bit sampler, however it had superior fidelity, and allowed more flexibility in editing sounds.

It was priced similarly to the Emulator I, at US $7,995 for a regular model, and $9,995 for a “plus” model featuring extra sample memory. Several upgrades, including extra disk drives and a 20 MB hard drive, were available as well.

Notable users include: Depeche Mode, Enya, badass keytar player Herbie Hancock, Jean Michel Jarre, Orbital, Paul n-n-nine-nine-nineteen Hardcastle, Tangerine Dream & Ferris Bueler.

If you’ve used the Emu Emulator II, leave a comment with your thoughts!


  • 8 voice polyphony
  • Sampler – 27kHz; 8-bits; 512 KB to 1 MB storage
  • 8 parts (8 midi channels) multitimbral
  • 8 sequencer tracks
  • 61 keys w/ velocity & aftertouch sensitive keyboard
  • 24 dB/oct 4-pole lowpass filter with resonance


8 thoughts on “The Emu Emulator II

  1. Fond Memories – thanks for the posting. We used the Emulator II quite a lot in the mid 80’s. You can hear the distinct sounds scattered across many of our recordings from that time – especially albums like ‘Stormhorse’ & ‘Koda’. We couldn’t afford to buy one, so always hired a machine for the studio sessions (never wanted to give it back at the end!). use to love the 24-bit ‘scrunched but meaty’ sounds. I remember going through the catalogue of sounds, loading the big floppy diskettes one by one, waiting to see what ‘gem’ would be spread across the keys. We went on to buy our own Emu Emax II HD keyboard, which was great, but not quite the same as the Emulator. The Emax cost us 2k at the time – wish we could have an Emulator today – it really is an excellent example of an Uber Sampling Keyboard.

  2. I ended up with a Yamaha sampler in the long run because it as cheaper, but I wanted to get one of these about 7 or 8 years ago and it was still very very costly!

  3. I would dearly love to get hold of this entire library in a more “up to date” format (.exb would be cool) or even something like Akai. I have about 8 sounds (Choir, Shaku, Waterphone, etc) from my work with Hollow Sun but would love to get my mitts on the entire library. Anyone know if anything like this exists? I have the Emax, EIV and ESI32 Libraries from Digital Sound Factory which are very good.

  4. I owned an Emulator II in the late 80s. It came with a Macintosh Plus and Digidesign software to edit samples. It was just a great piece of equipment, In hindsight you gotta love all the limitations which forced you to be really creative. Sampled drums sounded great and it had analog filters which I din’t realize until I sold it in the 90s for about $500… bummer

  5. Great to hear these sounds, thanks. I remember most of them.
    Emu always created the best sound librarys for their samplers.
    I owned an Emulator II, an EMAX, Ensoniq Mirage and EPS and later the Emu ESI. Not all at once of course, I’m not Peter Gabriel. πŸ˜‰
    I’ve never found anything that replaces the sound of the Emulator.

    Klive, I don’t remember Emu ever producing a 24bit sampler all these early ones were 8 to 12bit.

  6. I had always wanted one of these as a teenager – and I finally picked one up last year on craigslist for $600 (Emulator II ). The minute I turned it on I was inspired – incredible sounds and sample character. I used it right away all over a remix for Combichrist (“Prince of Evil”) and it’s now my go to secret weapon on tracks. It’s found a great home with my Emax and Emax II.

  7. I had the opportunity to play an Emulator II in a local store. They know I couldn’t afford one but they used to let play synths to certain people (like me) just to attract potential clients. Now all that is lost: “Please, don’t touch!” πŸ™

  8. Did Orbital use this? I have an old issue of Keyboard Mag where Orbital, Aphex Twin, VapourSpace (Mark Gage?), HipHop and ElectroAcoustic/Musique Concrete artists discuss sampling. The Hartnolls talk about their Emax II.. No Mention of the Emulator.

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