Interview Dave Rossum E-Mu, Part four – English Version

Peter:
Also we waited for an official follow-up on the EMU SP-1200. Instead you put the Proteus in a Desktop-Unit and called it MP-7 and XL-7. Did E-mu run out of innovations and ideas?

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Dave:
The success of the SP-1200, and the arc of its various successors, have always surprised us. The SP12 was derived from the Drumulator – and though the samples were 12 bit, it used “drop-sample” pitch shifting which creates substantial distortion. But amazingly, that distortion proved musically useful. The SP-1200 simply added my floppy disk interface, hitting a market opportunity at just the right time. My work then turned to chip development – designing chips for high fidelity pitch shifting and complex but analog-sounding digital filters. Other engineers took over most of the rest of product design. Our next product in the percussion arena was Procussion – a redesigned Proteus engine with software and a user interface for use with sequencers and drum pads. Like many E-mu products, the capabilities were great, but the effort to learn and use them effectively was high. While Procussion still has a small but devoted following, it never took off like the SP-1200. It’s a sound module, not a drum machine.

By the mid-90’s, E-mu’s vision was the digital music studio. While we maintained the Emulator and Proteus families, the lackluster response to Procussion led us to ignore the drum machine market entirely. The Emulator family was flexible enough that it could be programmed as an excellent percussion module, and that seemed enough. The Emulator and Proteus family ultimately evolved to the Proteus 2000 engine.

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The MP-7 and XL-7 were just desktop versions of that same sound engine. Since at this time, I was not very involved in E-mu’s decision making, I honestly don’t know if when these products were designed, any consideration was given to adapting the sounds and software to build on the SP-1200 legacy. I doubt we had anyone on staff that had a real understanding of what made the SP-1200 legendary. I would not say that E-mu ever ran out of innovation and new ideas. The changes were much more subtle than that; even in retrospect it’s difficult to sort out why E-mu failed to thrive after the Creative acquisition.

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