The EII was 8-voice polyphonic
but, unlike any sampler before, it featured resonant analogue filters
and other synth features that blurred the distinction between synth
and sampler and with its (limited) multi-timbral capabilities, it
(almost) qualifies as one of the first sampling 'workstations'.
For many, the EII was THE keyboard sampler to aspire to and, indeed,
many did have them on their shopping list!
But the EII was not without its compromises - 8-bit (but
with 14-bit playback), a 27kHz sampling rate, 512kb RAM no hard
drive (5.25" floppies only) - in this day and age, it all looks
a bit crap but to put all this into perspective, the EII represented
cutting edge sampling technology at the time it was released and
its internal processing matched (or even exceeded) most 'home computers'
of the period.
The EII's biggest problem, however, was its price - at
around £10,000 it wasn't cheap and so was beyond the reach
of most people. It was, of course, a big hit with artists such as
the Pet Shop Boys and countless others for whom money was no object
but for yer average Joe, the EII was an unattainable pipedream.
Of course, the EII had the wind knocked out of its sales
when Akai brought out their 12-bit S900 at £1,800 a year or
two later and subsequently their 16-bit stereo S1000 at £2,300
- neither products were exactly 'cheap' but they outperformed the
EII at a fraction of the cost.
Emu retaliated with additions to the range. There was
the EII+ (1985) that offered a dual floppy disk drive as well as
an extra 512kb of RAM but there were limitations on how this could
be used - rather than having 1Mb of RAM, you had two banks of 512kb
which you could switch between but you could not use both together.
Then there was the EII+HD that shipped with a 20Mb hard drive. However,
given the market forces at the time, there was little that the EII
could do to compete with the dominance of the Akai S900/S1000.
That said, the EII is an influential product in the history
of sampling and some of the sounds that were shipped with it became
'classics' in modern music history.
I have some of them here which have been generously donated
by Jem Godfrey, an EII owner and Hollow Sun customer who has very
kindly entered into the spirit of Hollow Sun by donating some classic
sounds from the original EII library.