July 2021

SP12: Still King Of The Beats

SP12/1200: Still King Of The Beats

SP 12

SP-12® Overview
The Drumulator II Roger Linn’s company continued to set the pace for drum machine development in the early 1980’s, and after the roaring sucess of the Drumulator, E-mu Systems moved into the upper end of the market in 1984. The Drumulator II was a complete revision of the original. It was designed with user sampling, MIDI and SMPTE, far better controls and a LCD. It takes its looks straight from the Emulator II, as well as using the same buttons and sliders ! The original PCB’s even have Drumulator II on them, as well as “Paul is the Walrus” in mirror reversed writing. Those crazy guys at Santa Cruz!
Why the name change ? Umm don’t know , but SP-12 stands for Sampling Percussion at 12 bits.
12-bit Heaven The SP-12 comes supplied with 24 drum samples stored in ROM. They are bass, snare, electronic snare, rim, 4 toms , 4 electronic toms, hi hats, crash, ride, claps, cowbell. An additional 8 user sample positions are available in battery backed up RAM for sampling into, but all 32 positions can use sampled sounds provided they fit in RAM memory . The samples are 12-bit linear at 27,500Hz, and there is a full set of sound editing controls on board for manipulating the samples. The machine is highly regarded in Dance and Hip Hop circles, for both its sound and beats.
Sample Time The base model maximum sampling time is 1.19 seconds (refered to as 1.2 seconds in the documentation). The Turbo model has quadruple this memory providing 4.76 seconds of sample time across 2 separate banks (a sample cannot span a bank). The documentation incorrectly refers to this being 5.0 seconds of sample time, although most factory sample diskettes only use up to around 4.2 seconds of sample time. The SP1200 uses a lower sampling rate of 26,040Hz.
Additional Features The SP-12 can store up to 100 patterns, 100 songs and has a 5000 note memory (4 times this with the TURBO model). It also has a mono mix output and eight individual outputs, MIDI in/out/thru, SMPTE sync, cassette/floppy disk storage and a metronome output.
Sample Diskettes E-mu Systems produced a library of 30 5.25″ floppy diskettes (as at Spring 1988), each with 8 or more individual samples.
Tips & Technqiues #1 I use the dynamic filter feature on my SP -12. Here’s an easy way to play with it. Sample a breakbeat, or something that has several jumps in amplitude (i.e. not just a kick or other single percussive sound). Go into the output assign menu and tap the user key that holds the sample while you press “1,” “2,” etc. for output. The effect the dynamic filter has is dramatic. I think only the 1 and 2 outputs have dynamic filtering, 2 less than one. There are two SSM2044’s in there.
In the stock configuration, the toms get the dynamic filtering on output one (which makes them sound so smooth I guess), and… shoot. Now I can’t remember – – I think the snares are on output 2 by default. That would make sense. Anyway, try it, play with it. A lot of people don’t seem to know about it. The multi pitch function on the SP-12 is pretty remarkable too! And don’t forget that Prairie Prince (The Tubes) did the samples!
Many Thanks to David Bivins for this Tip