SP1200® : Overview
The SP-12 Moves On The mid to late 1980's was a great time for dedicated sampling drum machines, and after the roar away success of the SP-12, E-mu Systems made a number of important upgrades and released the SP1200 in the summer of 1987. The key improvements are:
- An integral 3.5" DS/DD floppy drive
- 10 seconds of sample memory
- Full feature MIDI sample dump
Everything else on the SP1200 is exactly the same as the SP-12.
12 High The SP1200 kept with the 12-bit crunch of
the SP-12, as 16-bits was neither necessary nor cost effective (the 16-bit EIII had just been launched at $10,000+ in 1987). The SP1200 does away with ROM based sounds, and relies totally on a floppy disk based sample
library which is loaded into RAM.
Sample Time The sampling time was upgraded to twice that of the SP-12 Turbo memory, providing 10.07 seconds of sample time within four banks of 2.5 seconds. The sample rate was reduced
from the SP-12 27,500 Hz to 26,040 Hz, to enable the 384 Kbytes of memory to take 10 seconds of samples. There can be up to 32 user sampled sounds spread over the 8 voices, but no single
sample can be longer than one sample bank (2.5 seconds).
The machine is very highly regarded in Dance and Hip Hop circles, for both its sound and beats..
Additional Features The SP1200 can store up to 100 patterns, 100 songs and has a 5000 note minimum memory for drum
sequences. It also has a mono mix output and eight individual outputs, MIDI in/out/thru, SMPTE sync, and a metronome output.
Controls The front panel is littered with LEDs and buttons with eight chunky faders controlling the volume and pitch of each sound in the bank. A small button allows you to step between
banks A, B, C and D giving easy access to the 32 sounds. Below each fader is a large button for triggering the sound, or selecting it for editing, and there's a global switch to turn the trigger's velocity sensitivity on or off.
The triggers are heavy and, with the passage of time, inclined to stick. You can get around this problem with the Repeat key which, when held down along with a drum trigger, causes the sound to
auto-repeat at the current quantisation value, although it takes practice to start and stop the roll at the right point. Volumes are easily set with the faders and sound can be individually assigned
to any of the eight outputs. Outputs can be either dry or passed through preset analogue filtering - undoubtedly one of the SP's popularity factors. Outputs 1 and 2 have fast decaying low-pass
filters, 3 to 6 have static low-pass filters that slightly dull the top end, and 7 and 8 are unfiltered outs.
One of the machine's clear highlights is the simple and intuitive step-edit mode, whereby sounds are added by stepping
to the desired point and hitting the drum trigger. Although pitch and velocity can't be edited directly, it's simply a case of deleting the existing beat and replacing it with the corrected version. To
this end, the SP1200 'Multi' mode temporarily splits your chosen sound across all eight triggers, at varying volume and/or pitch, making it ideal for precise edits or dynamic fills.
Sequencer The sequencer works in the familiar pattern-style,
chaining short 'segments' into a song. Swing quantisation and tempo changes are easily added and the sequencer can generate or sync to SMPTE, MIDI or analogue clock pulses. It'll even
synchronise to a tapping finger with the 'tap tempo' function.
Transferring SP-12 Samples The sound library from the SP-12 can be transferred to the SP1200 by connecting the cassette OUT
of the SP-12 to the SMPTE IN of the SP1200. Power up the SP-12 and load the samples into the SP-12. Then power up the SP1200 with the DISK button held down. This places it into Cassette and
MIDIDisk mode. Select Cassette mode (option 1), and then select either Seqs or Snds to transfer either sequences or sounds from the SP-12. When complete select option 3 MakeDisk, and save the
samples to a diskette in the SP1200. You will need to name these sounds later on, and you cannot transfer the SP-12 ROM sounds.