Photos of the Pioneer “Tribute”

April 4, 2012 in Exclusively Analogue, The Pioneer

As promised in the previous blog post we’ve now got some photos of a completed Pioneer “Tribute” system in the Oak cabinet. Take a look below to see the finished system and remember to get in touch if you’ve got any questions.

Here are a couple of closer images along with the newly designed back panel.

An insight in to quality and how to order a Pioneer “Tribute” system

April 1, 2012 in The Pioneer

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the first Pioneer “Tribute” system will be on it’s way to Switzerland. This now means there are only 7 more systems left for sale. If you are interested in purchasing one the necessary details are at the bottom of this post.

Ensuring quality

From the outset of the Pioneer “Tribute” project I was keen to ensure that it was a high quality product. All the components used are to equal or better specification than those used by Emu back in the 70s. In some areas there have been improvements beyond the original. One example of this is in the oak cabinet and the mounting of the individual modules. The panels are made to very exact dimensions and I have just received the mounting metalwork which has been made to the same exact standards. This means that there are no unsightly gaps between the modules and they almost blend into one!

The panels themselves are not paint on top of the aluminium but instead the ink is impregnated into the metal. The result is a much sharper finish that is resistant to scratching unlike the original panels. The oak cabinet has been made by a professional cabinet maker and is the finishing touch. I could have used Walnut, which was the wood used in most of the originals, but decided to add a British touch and I think the finish on the oak works well to highlight the modules. The rear panel, which has the power supply mounted on it, has the “Tribute Limited Edition” text and each of the 10 panels are individually engraved “Number * of 10”. I’ll have the first complete system built up in the new cabinet on Tuesday and I will post some pictures once it is done.

I have now finalised what will be in the Tribute system and added some useful modules which I’m sure people will like. The first additional module is the Lag Processor (useful for glide effects and much more). The second is the Ring Modulator which can be used to create a number of interesting effects including ‘bell type’ sounds. Lastly I have decided to include the new MultiMode filter since this adds so much to the system and complements the 24dB Low Pass filter. The MultiMode filter provides 12dB Low Pass, High Pass, Bandpass, and Notch outputs so great for the ‘buzzier’ sounds and reverse envelope sweeps. Although the MulitiMode filter is not an Emu original, they produced the Universal Active Filter, it is made to fit into the system so it doesn’t look out of place.

I’ve also decided to do a small run of the Universal Active Filters to either be added to the Tribute system (at an additional cost) or existing Emu modular systems. I will only make about 10 of these UAFs to the original 1122 specification before looking at doing a redesign to replace the obsolete components.

Ordering a Pioneer “Tribute” system

The 7 remaining Pioneer ‘Tribute’ systems are now available to be purchased for a total cost of £4000 per system (plus shipping). Each system is individually built and can be customised slightly to the buyers requirement. A £500 deposit is required to secure a system with the remaining balance (plus shipping) being payable before delivery. If you are interested please use the “Contact Us” section of this website to get in touch.

A tale of two modules..

March 16, 2012 in Exclusively Analogue, The Pioneer

As I continue building up the modules of the “Tribute” system, for my own set and also for the first of the extra sets for lucky buyers, I have looked at what is beyond the basic set. I was fortunate to have some extra original submodules and PCBs for some of the less common modules including the rare Universal Active Filter (UAF), Lag Processor, and Ring Modulator. Unfortunately the discrete dual transistors used in the UAF means that it will not be possible to make many of them, most likely only 4, before having to do an upgrade of the parts with a resultant possible change in characteristics. I have built up the first UAF using an original 1122 submodule, original main PCB and a new front panel to match everything else in my system. The end result is great both visually and sonically!

The Lag Processor and Ring Modulator however are as difficult so I have just ordered the panels for these so that I can include them on my system as well as having some spare if people want them.

Because of the problems with the parts for the UAF I have decided to utilise the Multimode filter I originally used in the Aviator in the first of the new “Pioneer” modules. This filter is based on the Oberheim SEM 12dB design and provides Low Pass, Band Pass, High Pass, and Notch outputs so in some respects is very similar to the UAF. The only thing missing is the voltage control of Resonance (Q as Emu call it) but I personally have never really found much use for that function musically. I have aimed to maintain the same look as the original LPF 6″ x 6″ panel with the addition of a Mode selection control to select the output type just as it was on the SEM and the Aviator. The artwork picture below gives you an idea of how the new EA2120 Multimode Filter front panel will look and I have just put the order in for some of these to be made.

The MultiMode Filter will complement a new “Pioneer” EA2101 24db Low Pass Filter which is based on circuitry similar to the well known SSM2040 IC so with the two modules all the various filtering options will be covered.

So back to the soldering iron, PCB design software, and CorelDraw to work on some more modules to add to the new “Pioneer” system. The Dual LFO, Noise and Sample & Hold combined module looks favourite for my attention next.

Our tribute to the Emu Modular

March 11, 2012 in Exclusively Analogue, The Pioneer

It’s great to be back in the Analogue Synth world again after the long break due to a busy few years at work flying airliners. Now I have some time available and I can get back into doing what I enjoy.

I had always planned to sort out the Emu modular parts, (mainly a collection of sub modules) that I had from the 90s but never thought I would go so far as recreating a complete Emu modular system!

So how did it all start? Back in 1992 I was offered a modular system by a pawn shop in Madison Wisconsin who had had the system for 8 years with no one knowing what to do with it. They couldn’t tell me much about it other than it had aluminium front panels and it sounded like someone’s home built. I bought it unseen mainly out of curiosity and when it arrived I was gobsmacked. Here was one of the best looking modulars I had ever seen in a beautiful walnut cabinet and in flight cases. A definite bargain especially when I plugged it in and found that it was fully working!

It turned out that it was a very rare Emu modular system and in no time at all a shop in London made me an offer I couldn’t refuse with the system eventually ending up in a synth museum. I subsequently managed to buy a home built system based on Emu submodules but mounted on poor quality PCBs and with grey dull looking front panels. After a lengthy phone call to Emu I acquired a box full of parts, unused PCBs and submodules, which I planned to use to build up another system. Time just wasn’t available to complete the project until now!

It has taken ages to completely redo all the printed circuit boards, source the rare original parts, and complete the artwork for the front panels but I think it has been worth it. I now have my own system looking as good as, if not slightly better than, the original and because it uses the same 1970s technology it has the same sound.

The 8 Pioneer ‘Tribute’ modular systems that I am making available are all that I am going to do mainly because of the difficulty in getting some of the rarer parts for the original circuitry. Each one will be built to order and to the highest quality just like the Emu team did back in the 70s. You might like to read a bit of history behind the Emu modular systems in the interview with Dave Rossum;


The proposed ‘Pioneer’ system will be a redesigned version of the ‘Tribute’ utilising modern and more readily available parts but still maintaining the original look. The first Pioneer module will be the Multimode filter which is already at the prototype stage and fitted in my system.

Well it’s back to the soldering iron and building a couple of Transient Generators today but I will provide some regular updates so keep watching the progress and as a quick thank you; I’m indebted to Rob Keeble of AMS and Senso of Vintage Planet for their help.