Get an EII?

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Python Blue
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Get an EII?

Post by Python Blue » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:37 am

First of all, apologies for my long absence. Unfortunately, I got caught up with various things, both music projects and unrelated matters.

Anyway, I have been doing music, as many can guess, but most of it is software-based, which sort of puts me at a disadvantage not only because it's harder for me to do what I want with sounds (at least from the legal perspective) but also because I'm an vintage synthesizer nut, which brings with it the allegations of software recreations not sounding like the real deal. Partially for these reasons, I'm considering trying to save up for an '80s sampler, and because the Synclaviers and the extremely rare Fairlight Series III's are still so expensive when listed, I'm leaning toward an Emulator II provided it has the complete factory library.

Are there any EII users here? If so, what are your thoughts on this sampler? If your opinion isn't the greatest, is there another sampler from the period, preferrably the same price or less, you'd recommend? Unfortunately, I'm not ready to buy anything at the moment due to my finances; I'm just asking for opinions to prepare myself.

EDIT: moderators, feel free to move this to the sampler forum if need be; forgot about that area. :P
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synthroom
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Gear: Fairlight IIx(!), JP-8, D-50, S-50+550, S-760, JX-3P, JD-800, EII, Emax II, Mini, ARP 2600, P-5 Rev.1, Pro-One, Performer, K1m, K5m, few other things.
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Re: Get an EII?

Post by synthroom » Thu Mar 07, 2013 11:14 pm

It sounds like an EII would be a great choice for you. I was in my 20s during the 1980s, and there are some synths from that era that define a lot of the music I love. I had bought a lot of analog synths in the late 80s, and after spending much of the 90s and 00s pursuing other hobbies, is started getting back into synths and was looking for some new to me synths to play with.

The first two synths I went looking for were the Roland JD-800 and the Roland S-50. I had played with the JD when it came out, and had always liked the sound, so I got one. Then the S-50, I found one for cheap - $100, and then picked up an actual Roland video monitor to go with it. I'd long lusted after the Fairlight, and I remember seeing the S-50 in the local music shop in the mid-80s and I always had my eye on getting one. I always figured the S-50 was as close as I was going to get to a Fairlight. And at the prices the S-50 goes for today, I got one.

A nice thing about the S-50 is that Roland originally offered the sound library for free. You could walk into your local shop with a fist full of floppy disks, and the shop was supposed to let you make copies off of any Roland library disks that they had. Due to this, the entire Roland S-50 (and S-550) library is available online as disk images. You can download the images, and then spend literally hours (I know, because I did this) copying the images onto floppy disks. The S-50 has a nice library with a wide range of sounds. I mean, after all, they in many ways can't compare with modern gigasamples, but they are good quality. And 12 bit, so they have some nice feel to them.

After playing with the S-50 for a while - it really has some of that operational feel of a Fairlight, I started looking at other vintage samplers - and I remembered the EII. From the first time watching Ferris Beuller, I've been fascinated by the EII. The EII was also used for the opening sounds of the Pet Shop Boys West End Girls - the Marcato Strings sample, a song I've loved since I first heard it. I figured I'd look into the EII.
Fairlight IIx (Mid-Life Crisis - cheaper than a Corvette!)
Roland JP-8, D-50, S-50, S-550(2x), S-760(2x), JX-3P, JD-800
EII, Emax II, Minimoog, ARP 2600, P-5 Rev.1 (broken...), Pro-One, Crumar Performer, K1m, K5m, MS-2000B, Virus KC, a few other things.

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synthroom
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Gear: Fairlight IIx(!), JP-8, D-50, S-50+550, S-760, JX-3P, JD-800, EII, Emax II, Mini, ARP 2600, P-5 Rev.1, Pro-One, Performer, K1m, K5m, few other things.
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Re: Get an EII?

Post by synthroom » Thu Mar 07, 2013 11:39 pm

Part II -
At the time, two years ago, EIIs were going for about $1000-1500. I found one in Seattle, I'm in Portland, about 200 miles away. There are about 175 socketed integrated circuits inside the EII and they do not take kindly to the vibration of shipping. I drove to Seattle to pick it up one day, as I'd read that they are very tempermental with shipping.

It was working when I got it - Drive A still had one original 5 1/4" floppy drive but Drive B had been replaced with a 3.5" floppy. Right about that time, the HxC floppy drive emulator had cmoe out. The HxC replaces the floppy drive with a SD memory card, so I bought a Rev. C HxC. I hooked that up and it worked great. You can store thousands of EII disk images on a single SD card.

I never was able to get the HxC and the 5 1/4" drive installed at the same time due to the length of the floppy drive cable in the EII, and as time went along, my EII started acting up and not making sound. It ended up being the power supply in the EII - something was out of wack and the voltages would drift higher from what they were supposed to be as the EII was left on. So my EII sat for about a year unused as I tried to figure out a way to fix it.

Once I decided to forgoe the floppy drive and go with the HxC only, I realized that I could buy a simple PSU - so I found one that was only $35 + shipping and I installed that. It took clipping a few wires, but now my EII is working again beautifully!!
Fairlight IIx (Mid-Life Crisis - cheaper than a Corvette!)
Roland JP-8, D-50, S-50, S-550(2x), S-760(2x), JX-3P, JD-800
EII, Emax II, Minimoog, ARP 2600, P-5 Rev.1 (broken...), Pro-One, Crumar Performer, K1m, K5m, MS-2000B, Virus KC, a few other things.

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synthroom
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Posts: 876
Joined: Sat Sep 08, 2012 3:16 pm
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Gear: Fairlight IIx(!), JP-8, D-50, S-50+550, S-760, JX-3P, JD-800, EII, Emax II, Mini, ARP 2600, P-5 Rev.1, Pro-One, Performer, K1m, K5m, few other things.
Location: pdx
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Re: Get an EII?

Post by synthroom » Thu Mar 07, 2013 11:48 pm

Part III -

The EII has a great sound to it - not bad lo-fi, but beautiful lo-fi. And analog filters too. And a sequencer. And 5 1/4" floppies! OK - the floppies are cool - I'd forgotten how big they were from when I had be Commodore 64! But they can be a bit problematic with the age of the disk drives.

But as with the Roland S-50, you can find the entire Emulator II factory library online as disk images, and then load them into the HxC and there you go. Hundreds of really good, 1980s samples right at your finger tips. And there are more EII samples out there as well.

The availablilty of the EII factory sounds make the EII a great choice when getting into a vintage sampler. I had recently bought a Prophet 2000 keyboard - it sounds really nice, but I just could not find any samples for it. (I know - I need to be making my OWN samples on these machines, but my time to play with these instruments is not a great as I'd like it to be...)

There's a lot of EII users out there and also a great bit of software called EMXP that can convert samples from any Emu source, Akai S samples, WAV and a few other sources into any other Emu sampler format. It's a great tool to these old samplers. So there's big user base out there - an active yahoo user group and the eiiiforum are great resources for the Emu samplers too.

So look for one that's working, and close enough for pickup is ideal, but a lot of the loose IC chip issues from shipping can be solved merely by opening up the EII and gently pressing the chips back into the sockets.

Since you say finances are an issue, I'd suggest looking at a Roland S-50 and then a monitor for it. Lots of fun, lots of sounds, and it will cost 1/10th the price of an EII.

Oh, and did I mention that the EII is pretty much the second neatest looking sampler out there. Second only to the Fairlight, in my opinion!
Fairlight IIx (Mid-Life Crisis - cheaper than a Corvette!)
Roland JP-8, D-50, S-50, S-550(2x), S-760(2x), JX-3P, JD-800
EII, Emax II, Minimoog, ARP 2600, P-5 Rev.1 (broken...), Pro-One, Crumar Performer, K1m, K5m, MS-2000B, Virus KC, a few other things.

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