Sampler (Hardware)

E-MU E4XT ULTRA($3,595)Four years ago, we gave the Editors' Choice thumbs-up to E-mu's original Emulator IV sampler. Heading up a new sampler line, that
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E-MU E4XT ULTRA

($3,595)

Four years ago, we gave the Editors' Choice thumbs-up to E-mu's original Emulator IV sampler. Heading up a new sampler line, that unit offered 128-note polyphony, Z-Plane filters with morphing, extensive modulation, digital I/O, three expansion slots, and a Flash ROM-based OS. What more could you ask for?

Apparently users asked for a lot more, and got it in the new E4XT Ultra. Let's start with a lot more speed, thanks to a new RISC-based processor with 32-bit internal processing that makes CPU-intensive features much more usable. The converters have been upgraded from 18- to 20-bit, and in addition to the S/PDIF and AES/EBU digital I/O and 32-channel MIDI support available in the earlier Emulator, you now get word clock and an ASCII port for a computer keyboard-all stock.

The software improvements also are extensive. Producers of dance music will love the new Beat Munger feature, which analyzes the tempo of a sample loop and lets you manipulate the time signature, scramble the order of beats, and generally muck with the tempo and rhythm, all in real time. An Aphex Aural Exciter is now part of the processing package. And almost everything can be controlled from a Mac or PC using EOS Link, a cross-platform application. The samplers can now import Akai S3000 files via SCSI and can read and write AIFF and WAV files.

The new sampler uses a card cage-like design that lets you add expansion cards the way you would add PCI cards to a desktop PC. And such cards! Some add new sound libraries (such as the sounds from E-mu's Orbit and Planet Phatt modules), and one card provides ADAT Lightpipe I/O. Mixing and multichannel effects cards are on the way. But the coolest card is the one that lets you create sound ROMs for E-mu's Editors' Choice Award-winning Proteus 2000 sound module. Clearly, the E4XT Ultra represents a big step forward for an already superior product. To top it off, the new sampler costs $2,400 less than the original E IV. That makes it a winner in our book.