E-Mu Systems SP-12 Sampling Percussion 8-voice drum sampler with a Turbo upgrade allowing for up to 400 songs and 400 patterns. $2299!

Overview: The E-Mu SP12 Turbo is an upgraded version of the original E-Mu SP12, a classic drum machine and sampler from the mid-1980s. Renowned for its distinctive sound and influential role in hip-hop and electronic music, the SP12 Turbo version offers expanded memory and additional features that enhance its functionality and versatility.

Key Features:

  • Sound Engine:
    • Sampling Rate: 12-bit, 27.5 kHz sampling rate, providing a gritty and punchy sound characteristic of the era.
    • Sample Time: The Turbo version includes an expanded sample memory of 5 seconds (compared to 2.5 seconds in the standard SP12).
  • Memory and Storage:
    • Memory: 8 KB of battery-backed RAM for pattern storage.
    • Storage: Capable of storing up to 100 patterns and 100 songs.
  • Sequencing:
    • Sequencer: Built-in sequencer with up to 999 measures, allowing for complex arrangements and compositions.
    • Timing Resolution: 96 PPQN (Pulses Per Quarter Note) for precise sequencing.
  • Pads and Controls:
    • Pads: 8 velocity-sensitive pads for triggering samples and programming beats.
    • Controls: Real-time and step-time programming, with dedicated buttons for various functions such as tempo, quantize, and swing.
  • Outputs and Connectivity:
    • Outputs: Individual outputs for each pad, a mix output, and stereo outputs.
    • MIDI: Full MIDI implementation for integration with other MIDI-equipped instruments and sequencers.
    • Sync: Sync options for integrating with other drum machines and sequencers.
  • Additional Features:
    • Turbo Expansion: The Turbo upgrade doubles the sample memory, providing more flexibility for sampling and creating complex patterns.
    • Analog Filters: Analog filtering for each voice, adding warmth and character to the samples.

Sound Characteristics:

  • Distinctive Sound: The 12-bit sampling rate and analog filters give the SP12 Turbo its unique, punchy, and gritty sound, highly sought after in hip-hop and electronic music production.
  • Versatility: Capable of producing a wide range of drum sounds and loops, from classic hip-hop beats to experimental electronic textures.


  • Genres: Ideal for hip-hop, electronic, dance, and experimental music.
  • Usage: Suitable for studio production, live performances, and beat-making due to its robust build and versatile sound engine.

Notable Users:

  • Hip-Hop Producers: Pioneering producers such as Marley Marl, Pete Rock, and DJ Premier have used the SP12 and its successors in their productions.
  • Electronic Artists: The gritty sound of the SP12 Turbo has also been favored by electronic and experimental musicians.

The E-Mu SP12 Turbo is a legendary drum machine and sampler known for its distinctive 12-bit sound and influential role in the development of hip-hop and electronic music. With its expanded memory, robust sequencing capabilities, and unique sound characteristics, the SP12 Turbo remains a valuable tool for producers and musicians seeking classic, gritty drum sounds and versatile sampling options. Whether used in the studio or on stage, this machine offers a unique blend of vintage charm and powerful functionality.

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