Wednesday, July 17

Gear Talk #3. Synth Sense / E-mu E4XT

For our first feature on Gear talk we thought it best to fill you guys in on our beloved E-mu sampler. The E4XT first hit the market in 1999, proving just as popular as the other E-mu samplers produced in 1990's.  A perfect example of the E-mu samplers use in the 90s would be the output coming from Ed Rush & Optical around that time. The Wormhole LP would never have sounded the way it did without the E-mu sampler.

The E4XT is one of the most used bits of kit we have and its played a big part in our sound for years. You would have heard it all over our productions, recent and older. We use the E4XT for anything and everything from sound FX's, Drones, percussion, to gritty twisted up bass. It's an all round workhorse and one beast of a machine for designing sounds with. We quite simply couldn't live without it!

The E-mu E 4XT is more than just a sampler, it's more like a studio in a box, it has features that you would expect to see on any good modular synth, such as virtual patch cables (to give you endless options for modulation), filters, effects processors, arpeggiators, a sequencer, LFO's plus a whole lot more. It is in fact more like a synth that allows you to create sounds using samples mixed with synth style modulation. As you can imagine, this can produce some crazy effects and very unique sounds. These are some of the many reasons to why we have grown to love this machine.

The E4XT Ultra's facilities include 128-voice polyphony and 32-part multi-timbrality as standard, plus eight outputs, including the main left/right stereo outputs. This number can be expanded to 16 analogue outs if you desire, which we have, or eight digital ins and 16 digital outs on an ADAT-format I/O. There's also a 3.2Gb internal hard drive fitted as standard with, which we upgraded to 60Gb for more storage. This allows us to fill the sampler up with a ton of audio ready to have some fun with. 

E-mu have always been keen on modulation, and in the Ultra, any of a HUGE 65 modulation sources can be routed to a choice of 67 destinations, using 24 'virtual' patch cables per voice. The modulation sources include two multi-waveform LFOs per MIDI channel, direct MIDI parameter control over just about everything it makes sense to control, and three comprehensive envelope generators per voice. 

The available filter firepower is seriously impressive also. There are 21 filter types available on the Ultra, all built with E-mu's famous Z-plane technology. You have your standard low pass, hi pass, band pass filters, as well as more esoteric variations. These include morphing filters, phaser / flanger filters, a contrary band-pass (fancy name for notch?) and three different morphing sweep EQ filters. The Z-plane filters on this little baby sound great as we're sure anyone who has come in contact with them would agree!

Below is some audio from the E4XT in action. We wanted to give you a taste of how we end up with a finished sound when using this sampler. The audio clip is made up of one shot sounds, starting with a basic square wave bass sample, without any processes from the E4XT being used.  Each time you hear the sound, it will have a new patch cable added that will alter the sound, ending in a small sequence that we knocked up to showcase the result. 

The square wave sample ends up consisting of 6 layers of the same sound using various amounts of amp attack, filter frequency, filter resonance, pan, fine tune etc,  all patched to various sources like midi clock, LFO and breath control etc. effect sends from E-mu RFX 32 chip include (chorus, reverb, distortion and bit reduction).  This clip is all 100% E4XT with no EQ, compression or any other outside process. Enjoy

Overall, the E-mu E4XT is one of, if not our fave bits of kit. If you're thinking about buying one of these samplers, you can find them on eBay for anything between £200/£400 depending on the specs. 

Beware, you will have to spend a lot of time learning how this machine works!

1 comment:

Erik Olson said...

The EMU Ultra series of samplers are so sick... this post has motivated me to knock the dust off my old 5000 and fire it up. What a neat machine.

Love your demo showcasing the modulation possibilities. Very inspiring to hear that, thanks for putting that together. The Synth Sense music does have a lushness to it that must be in part due to the emu hardware. Cool to know that you use this sampler.

The Gear Talk posts are great, thanks for sharing these James and crew :)

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