E-MU Emulator X2 with E-MU 0404 PCI Sound Card

E-MU 0404 PCI Sound Card
E-MU 0404 PCI Sound Card

Yesterday I found a really cheap sound card at the used music shop here in Nagano-city, Japan. The sound card is an E-MU 0404 PCI Sound Card and it came with an E-MU Emulator X2 Sampler Software Disk. Everything installed flawlessy into my Windows 7 PC and I must say it’s a fantastic combo to work with. How I primarily use it right now is to create multi-samples for my Roland Fantom X7 Keyboard and then transfer those sounds to the Roland S-50 12bit sampler. I basically audition samples using the X2 software. When I find what I like I then fire up Extreme Sample Converter and record a multi-sample automatically using the VST/Hardware recording function. I set my key splits, velocity layers, release, etc. and Extreme Sample Converter does the rest.

I then take that mult-sample program and convert it instantly into Akai S5000 format which I then import into Nexoe’s YASE for the Fantom X and G series keyboards. After importing the Akai S5000 sample into the Fantom X7 I have a perfect multi-sample of what I played in the Emulator X2 software. From there I can load up the same multi-sample and play it on my Fantom XR rack which is then connected to my Roland S-50. The S-50 samples in the multi-sample kit and I can then get that 12bit lo-fi sound beautifully and almost instantly. It’s incredibly easy and fast. The possibilities are unlimited with sampling sounds into the Fantom X series keyboards as I find their import ability to be very simple, especially when using Nexoe YASE.

E-MU Emulator X2 Sampler
E-MU Emulator X2 Sampler

The Emulator X2 software and E-MU 0404 PCI sound card make it incredibly easy to audition and tweak sounds. Plus you can import your own sounds and create some sophisticated multi-sample programs which can then be converted using Extreme Sample Converter. I usually use ESC to record VST sample libraries to the Roland Fantom X and on over to the Roland S-series samplers. It’s just easier that way than doing all these S-Series sample conversions. In Japan, E-MU sound cards can be expensive and difficult to find. I lucked out in finding the 0404 PCI and it really works and sounds fantastic. Check them out if you can!

UPDATE #1: I just bought and downloaded these E-MU Emulator X2 video tutorials at http://www.emulatorxone.com/emulator_x_video_tutorial/emulator_x_video_tutorial.htm . They are really helpful and have helped me to understand the inner workings and programming of the Emulator X2 much faster. I highly recommend these video tutorials if the Emulator X is new to you. So far I’ve really enjoyed the Emulator X2 for creating multisamples for my hardware keyboards. It’s really great for that.

Roland A-90EX Controller Keyboard is Fantastic!

Roland A-90 EX Controller
Roland A-90 EX Controller

Last week I stumbled upon a special find which happened to be the Roland A-90EX Controller Keyboard along with the VE-RD1 Expansion board for $200 bucks. The A-90 was in unusually “mint” condition so I had to ask the sales clerk in the used music store where he got it from. Apparently, a really old “grandfather” of someone brought it in with his truck and basically dumped on the store floor. The Roland A-90 to those who know about it is rather large and a bit heavy. The sales staff admitted they had a very difficult time finding a place to put the keyboard. I didn’t know much about the Roland A-90, but I did notice that the condition was exceptional. I also noticed that it had sounds in it even though it was classified as a controller. I later learned that the A-90 had the VE-RD1 Expansion board inside.

A few things I really liked about the Roland A-90 right away were the four ( yes four! ) midi outputs that were extremely easy to allocate and select. I also liked the fact that the on board sound module VE-RD1 has some great sounds including reverb, delay, and chorus effects. All of the parameters like attack, release, etc were easily found and manipulated on top. The 88 keys themselves were also very nice and I was immediately drawn to the great playing action. Other than a real piano, I have never owned an 88 keys synth or keyboard, so I’m probably easy to please perhaps. I did hear that the Roland A-90 keys are prone to break easily over time due to a hammer construction weak spot. However, with the condition of this A-90 I thought I likely would get quite a bit of mileage out of it before that happened… I hope!

I currently live on the 3rd floor of a building here in Japan and I have to climb three floors of stairs when hauling music gear. It was a bit strenuous getting the Roland A-90 up the stairs “by myself” but I eventually did it and realized the weight wasn’t all that bad. It could have been worse as I recently passed up a Roland RD-1000, but then later picked up a Roland MKS-20. I think that was a wise decision as I can now pair of the Roland A-90 and MKS-20 real nicely. I could actually get that combo to a gig if necessary too.

The overall build construction of the Roland A-90 is fantastic. I really like the wood ends and the big heavy duty buttons on top. The Roland A-90 is a really “cool” looking controller and so far it has been able to handle just about every controller situation I’ve thrown at it. The music store was just happy to get rid of it because in Japan anything that takes up precious space is difficult to manage. I was told the “grandfather” who brought in the Roland A-90 had it in storage for quite some time. Personally I don’t think its ever been played. It’s got that new feeling you don’t see often.

The reviews I’ve read about the Roland A-90 are all pretty much stellar. I was happy to find a nice “used” controller for my sound modules that has 88 keys and is built well. The Roland A-90 was a nice fine I thought and perhaps a lucky one at that!

The SynthFreq on Youtube really shows off the Roland A-90 well with the VE-RD1 expansion board.

E-MU Emulator II Omi Universe of Sounds Library Volumes 1-3

E-EMU Emulator II
E-EMU Emulator II

The E-MU Emulator II Omi “Universe of Sounds” Libraries are some of the BEST 80’s samples I have ever heard. What’s great about the 3 volume library is that it covers just about every sound imaginable for that 80’s synthpop sampler sound.

Last week I found a used E-MU Emulator II here in Japan that unlike other gear I have found is in pretty rough shape. It’s currently not working but the good news is that it has potential and hopefully very soon I’ll have it back into shape. Luckily I found 3 brand new boxes of 5.25 floppy disks as well to feed this beast. I never thought I’d be using those disks ever again…laugh.

OMI EII Universe of Sounds Volume 1 – Fantastic collection of samples in this volume.
OMI EII Universe of Sounds Volume 2 – Superb!
OMI/Northstar EII Universe of Sounds Volume 3 – Lots of great SFX in this one.

For now I am collecting both E-MU Emulator II and EMAX II sounds ( another great sampler ) for later use in my newly acquired Emulator II. I also have been extracting some of the WAV files for importing into one of my favorite samplers, the Roland S-760. From there I can then sample sounds into either the Roland S-50 or S-330. Of course the samples are not identical sounding as you would get out of the Emulator II, but it does allow me to use the samples and explore them while I get the Emulator repaired.

I really like these old hardware samplers. I find the limitations they have to be quite challenging but at the same time very rewarding. I also find tinkering with these old samplers to be quite nostalgic as I grew up in the 80’s attending elementary, junior high, and high school during that decade. When I listen to the old samples, they really remind of that time and a great time it certainly was. At the same time it will be fun to try and create new ideas and songs out of these samples as well. After all, these vintage samplers cost a fortune back in the 80’s and it’s only taken me 20 plus years to get my hands on a few…laugh.

Hopefully I’ll have my newly acquired E-MU Emulator II up and running soon. For now though, I’m having fun sifting through all these great sounds of the past and enjoying what they have to offer now and into the future. Note that the E-MU Emulator II had some great presets as well as some other great libraries that I’m currently checking out. I’m not up to speed with all the past releases and producers of the E-Mu Emulator II Sample Series Libraries, but I’m learning really quick thanks to some great forums and of course the Yahoo Groups. Lots of reading!

Here is a demo video found on Youtube of the E-MU Emulator Sampler in action.

Roland TR-626 Drum Machine Triggers Out

Roland TR-626 Drum Machine
Roland TR-626 Drum Machine

This evening I was completely shocked to find a Roland TR-626 Drum Composer in mint condition at a used music store in Nagano City today for only 10 bucks!! ( Similar to one in the photo ). Amazing! The Roland TR-626 had the original box, manual, plastic wrap, warranty slip, and everything including an adapter and memory card! I later learned that the reason it was so cheap was the sync mode was set up for midi or external. Thus when you tried to play the patterns it wouldn’t start. You could play the pads, but not the sequencer.

I remember this happened before when I bought a couple of Yamaha RY20 drum machines from the very same shop which had the same midi sync setup. If these drum machines are in midi sync mode they do indeed look like they are broken to the untrained sales clerk. Needless to say I grabbed this machine real QUICK!!

There a number of reasons why I’ve had my eye out for a Roland TR-626. I know it’s NOT a TR-808 or TR-909, BUT…

1. The TR-626 has a trigger out jack on the back that allows you to use the rimshot as a trigger pulse for arpeggiators/sequencers on old analog synths. This should work perfectly for triggering my Roland SH-101 and Juno-6 synths.

2. The TR-626 has midi in/out jacks on the back so that in addition to trigger out, I can sync external midi gear. Fantastic!!

3. You can hook up the TR-626 to an external sampler and trigger it with a cool 16 step TR grid sequencer. The TR-626 has 30 drum sounds so you can control 30 samples, and you can assign the midi note number/channel for each sample. You can also set accent levels for each individual sound.

4. The TR-626 sports 12-bit samples which I kind of like. They actually sound pretty good and work great for all sorts of electro beat type music. This particular TR-626 sounds pretty clean, punchy, and quite warm. I am quite surprised.

5. The sequencer also is good and easy to use. It has accent (+/- 3), shuffle, and flam. There is a memory card slot and sysex/midi implementation is great.

6. The TR-626 can be run on batteries or with an adapter which is fantastic. You can bring it along with you in the car as it’s quite portable. It has a headphone jack too of course.

7. The Roland TR-626 also has multiple output jacks so you can route individual sounds through separate mixer channels or effect processors.

Plus there’s probably quite a bit more to learn about this little gem.

All in all, the Roland TR-626 is quite a versatile drum machine. I did not expect to find one this evening in such great shape for such a steal. It’s things like this that keep driving me back to these used music shops here in Nagano each day. Amazing stuff to be found!!

About a year ago I found a used Roland TR-606 that has dual trigger outs, but no midi. It cost me only one dollar!! You can check out my post about it here:

Here is a video I found on Youtube of the Juno-6 arpeggio triggerd by the TR-626.

Also here is a Roland TR-626 demo found on Youtube.

Yamaha MFC10 Foot Controller Plays Chords

Yamaha MFC10 Foot Controller
Yamaha MFC10 Foot Controller

Last week I picked up a really great Midi Foot Controller called the Yamaha MFC-10. I already have the Roland FC-200, but the Yamaha MFC-10 had one really cool and unique feature that prompted me to get it. With each individual foot switch you can program it transmit up to 4 different note on/off messages “at the same time”. This effectively means you can program four different notes and play back chords or groups of trigger notes by simply pressing one foot switch. I don’t know of any other foot controller that has such functionality. The possibilities are quite cool and unique when you think about all of the things you can do by simply pressing one switch. I like using samplers a lot so in addition, you can effectively control four different key samples at the same time using one pedal.

The MFC-10 also has all the conventional program functions that most midi foot controllers have but in addition, it also can control the sections or parts of the Yamaha QY-700 Sequencer that I recently purchased written in an earlier article. With the QY-700 Sequencer you can control 4 notes chords, fills/sections, and a whole bunch of other things dedicated to the QY-700. If you haven’t checked out the Yamaha MFC-10 and you’re interested in a cool foot controller, take a look. If you’re a musician who likes to think outside the box, it could be quite useful for all sorts of situations.