Interview: Dave Rossum E-MU, Part Three – English Version

Peter:
This enormous delay surely meant economic loss?

Dave:
I think the history of E-mu might have been very different had LSI Logic’s multiplier worked. We probably lost millions of revenue dollars, all of which could have fueled R&D on expanding and cost-reducing the Proteus line a year earlier than we did, and we would have been prepared for the competition from the Sound Canvas and other copycats.

E-MU product family, 1993

E-MU product family, 1993

Peter:
The sound of the Proteus was awesome back then. Why didn’t it have a filter?

Dave:
The Proteus began as “the quickest thing you can design with a G-chip.” Our digital filter, the H-chip, hadn’t yet been completed. And Proteus had 32 voices – we couldn’t include 32 separate DAC channels and 32 analog filter chips.

Peter:
It seems like the sound-library didn’t change since the EMU II. Okay, the new sounds of the EMU II were included. But those were also detected in the Emax II library, with the ESI sampler and with the Proteus models. And in the times of CREATIVE LABS even in the computer versions. What happened to Kevin Monahan? Did he leave the company?

Dave:
The Sound Library was one of the most dynamic, critical, and innovative departments at E-mu through the mid 2000’s. In fact, it was one part of E-mu that Creative has since allowed to thrive through licensing. I suppose many of the sound library improvements that were made in the Emulator family since the EII are not quite obvious. For example, the EIII was our first sampler to play stereo samples. This meant that samples in the EII library had to be re-recorded in stereo. We’d learned a tremendous amount about how to run a sampling studio session by then, and we continued to improve all the “traditional” samples. So even if an instrument had the same name as its EII equivalent, it was almost certainly a new recording. The G-chip technology also had a huge effect on the sound library. E-mu’s sound department didn’t just make recordings and save them to RAM or ROM, there was a lot of painstaking work in determining the loops, picking the exact native sample rate, getting the tuning and matching of multi-samples exactly right, etc. Our DSP gurus, particularly Dana Massie, wrote many custom signal processing tools for the sound department.

In 2007, it was clear that Creative was not interested in advancing, or even using, the E-mu Sound Library. Tim was able to convince Creative to license the library to him, and he started Digital Sound Factory, which continues today.

Peter:
Tim who?

Dave:
While Kevin Monahan was the early advocate of the importance of the sound library, in the early ‘90s Tim Swartz took the lead of E-mu’s sound department. Kevin stayed at E-mu until 2000, very involved in customer development. He was responsible for many of the hidden uses of E-mu technology, such as behind the scenes at theme parks and even in military flight simulators. When E-mu introduced the “SoundFont” concept, working with Creative, Tim sweated blood to squeeze out a 1Mbyte sound ROM for Creative’s Sound Blaster. But most of his work, and that of his department, was developing sounds for new E-mu products. Gathering sounds far and wide for Proteus World and developing the crazy samples needed for Morpheus are a few early examples, but Tim and his group were always busy. Tim worked very hard to make the sound department a profit center for E-mu. This was a challenge, because there was a lot of piracy, but for many years the sound department was one part of E-mu that consistently turned a modest profit.

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