Production E-mu SP-1200 - A Look Back


The Beat Strangler
*** illest o.g. ***
Battle Points: 1
E-mu's SP-1200 sampler/drum machine was THE machine to have back in the day, all throughout the 1980's and 1990's. Featuring 26.040 kHz and 12-bit resolution - yes, that's very limited, but it did its job very well, giving producers the tools to make very gritty, dirty, legendary hip hop productions. Many have said that it had an "old vinyl" sound, which of course is what hip hop is built upon so it's only fitting that the SP-1200 was a favorite of hip hop producers.


Released in 1987 by E-mu as an updated version of the SP-12 which was released in 1985. E-mu later reissued the SP-1200 throughout the years, all the way up until 1998 when they ran out of the SSM filter chips that they used for it. Producers such as the Beatminerz, Large Professor, Lord Finesse, Pete Rock, etc. used the SP-1200, giving them that classic hip hop sound that is simply timeless.


One of the most popular features was the 12-bit sampling, which in essence was responsible for that gritty sound that came out of this machine. Its prize was the 32 user samples available, which E-mu were able to do since they left out the drum sounds that were featured in the SP-12.

A well known feature of the SP-1200 is its very tiny 10 second sampling time. Yes, 10 seconds! That seems like something that dates back to the building of the pyramids, so a trick that producers did was to sample their sounds from vinyl on 45 speed. This way they could cram 10 seconds of sound into the SP and then pitch it all the way down, so essentially they would end up with more than 10 seconds. The downfall of this technique however, is that it downgrades the resolution of the sample, but back then this wasn't an issue compared to today's music where everything is crystal clear with no imperfections!

Here is Grap Luva playing beats on the E-mu SP-1200:


Since E-mu stopped making this classic piece of music production hardware, countless people from all across the world have sought after the SP-1200. Many people that had the SP and didn't want it anymore (why would you sell such a legendary piece?!?) have sold theirs at very high rates since it's in such a high demand and they were able to get it.

It's too bad E-mu never planned on reissuing it again because in my opinion even though this machine is outdated by today's standards, it would still be a huge profit for them as they would most likely get scooped up in record time.


Hands Of FIRE!
*** ill o.g. ***
Battle Points: 259
ah man you dug deep on this one. yeah the sp-1200 was a beast back in the day and probally could still hold its own today. Some classics never die. Eventhough it doesn't have the memory of todays gear it's still a dope production tool. I never owned one but I've put many hours on a friends of mine. Eventually I bought a SP-808EX by Roland (pretty dope also) and I loved that thing. Production has come a long way since those days but it's priceless to know how much impact the EMU SP1200 had on hip hop. Good stuff!

Members online

illmuzik on youtube

Tricks & Trap
ProducerSpot Black Friday