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E-mu | SP-12


The SP-12 also featured velocity sensitive pads, 24 ROM samples (Prairie Prince from the Tubes played the samples!) and 12-bit linear sampling. The SP-12's incredibly easy-to-use interface and cutting sound made it an instant hit.

E-mu SP-12 also known as the “sampling drum computer” was designed in 1985 and widely released in 1986 by E-mu Systems. Although the SP-12 was quickly superseded by the more powerful SP-1200, the SP-12 is often regarded as the first commercially successful drum machine and sampler.

The E-mu SP-12 was the spiritual successor to E-mu’s “Drumulator” and was originally going to be produced under the name Drumulator II, however shortly before the sampler went into production its name was changed to SP-12. The name SP-12 stands for sampling percussion at twelve bits, demonstrating the power of the sampler. 

The E-Mu SP-12 today is classified as “Low-Fi” due to the fact that it samples at 12 bits at a rate of 27 kHz, however it came preloaded with 24 drum samples in ROM that consisted of a rim shot, 4 toms, electronic snare, snare, bass, 4 electronic toms, hi hats, crash, ride, claps, and cowbell along with 8 user sample positions.

The original SP-12 had a maximum sampling time of 1.2 seconds while with the Turbo upgrade has a maximum sampling time of 5 seconds. Additionally the SP-12 has a 5000-note memory allowing it to store 100 songs, and 100 patterns and 400 songs, and 400 patters with the turbo upgrade.
Engine TypeDigital
Voices (max)8
Engine Detailed24 samples including kick, snares, toms, hi-hats, crash, ride, rim, clap, cowbell
Sampler27.500 kHz, 12-bit sampling, 48kb memory for 1.2 seconds (expandable to TURBO - 192kb memory for 5 seconds) of sample time
Memory8 samples
Sequencer100 Patterns (400 with TURBO)
Recording100 songs (400 with TURBO)
Key typeButtons
Audio8 individual outputs
Produced:1985 - 1987
Legend: Obvious Y: Yes, N: No, N/A: Not Applicable
VCO Voltage Controlled Oscillator DCO Digital Controlled Oscillator
LFO Low Frequency Oscillator Sub Sub Oscillator
VCF Voltage Controlled Filter VCA Voltage Controlled Amplifier
Velocity As with a piano, the harder you hit a key, the louder the sound, unlike most organs which always produce the same loudness no matter how hard you hit a key. Aftertouch Pressing a key after you activated it. Channel Aftertouch, no matter which key, it will send a Channel message. Poly Aftertouch, sends the pressure per key instead of the whole channel.
Values for OSC, LFO, Filter, Envelope are per voice unless stated otherwise.

Manuals, patches etc.


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