Hands-On Review:E-MU 1820M & 1212M Recording Systems




E-MU 1820M & 1212M Recording Systems

Computer digital audio comes of age

By David Barnes


E-MU 1820M & 1212M Recording Systems

Everywhere you turn these days, there's someone promising to "turn your computer into a professional recording studio." Usually, when you try the product in question, the results are less than spectacular. Leave it to the folks at E-MU to come up with the real deal. E-MU was one of the very first companies to design and manufacture electronic music gear, and their decades of experience show in their truly amazing new computer-based recording systems. The 1820M and 1212M give you all the tools to produce recordings that rival the best that the big city studios have to offer. And they do it for prices that won't make your pocketbook cry!

The 1820M: beyond the buzz

The 1820M is creating quite a buzz in the music industry. What sets it apart from the crowd is its awesome combination of state-of-the-art hardware, versatile connectivity, and astonishing affordability.


Let's check out the hardware first. The essential component for professional-grade recordings are the A/D converters that translate the recorded music from sound vibrations going into your recorder into digital signals that your computer can digest. The 1820M uses the best 24-bit/192kHz converters available; they're the same A/D converters found in Digidesign's Pro Tools HD 192 I/O interface, the platform that has set the standard for the recording industry.


The other crucial defining element of the 1820M is its E-DSP hardware-accelerated effects. When you're ready to sweeten the mix and add depth with some effects, the 1820M gives you just about every high-end effect you could ever want. The 1820M offers you over 20 effects algorithms that are organized in over 500 presets. The 32-bit effects processor runs in hardware, leaving your CPU free to use all of its power for other tasks. The E-DSP effects architecture is also fully expandable, allowing you to add more hardware-accelerated effects plug-ins to your system as needed.

Think inside the box

The break-out box that comes with the 1820M is the most well-thought-out and effective PC interface for musicians anywhere near this price range. Let's run down the connections on the 1820M system: 18 audio inputs and 20 outputs, 2 sets of MIDI I/O (32 MIDI channels), sync capability, plus a FireWire port. No external preamps needed here - there are two onboard premier class TFPro preamps with 40dB of gain and 48V phantom power. You can plug your keyboards, guitars, and microphones straight in. There's even a turntable input with ground lug and hardware RIAA preamp, ideal for DJ and remix applications.



E-MU's brilliantly realized PatchMix DSP hardware-accelerated virtual patchbay gives you 32 channels of zero-latency hardware mixing and monitoring with intuitive drag-and-drop functionality - no external mixer needed.


Got other digital gear you want to connect to your 1820M? No worries, it's got ADAT lightpipe, optical and coaxial S/PDIF digital connections, as well as Word Clock, SMPTE and MTC sync to tie your whole digital studio together. The sync features alone would cost you several hundred dollars with another system!


All this high-end audio firepower is ready to integrate seamlessly with all the most popular PC audio/sequencer applications. Drivers for ultra-low latency WDM, Direct Sound and ASIO? 2.0 for Windows XP and 2000 are included. You can also opt to use the powerful software studio package that is included, featuring a full version of Steinberg's popular Cubase VST.


1212M: Keep it simple

If the 1820M seems a bit over the top for you, check out its sibling, the 1212M. It delivers the same mastering-grade converters, effects processing, and PatchMix DSP architecture as the 1820M in a smaller package. The 1212M includes 2 - 1/4" balanced inputs and 2 - 1/4" balanced outputs, with ADAT, coaxial S/PDIF, and MIDI I/O, as well as a Firewire interface. Of course, it easily integrates with all popular PC studio software applications and also includes a suite of powerful studio software.


The E-MU 1212M is your secret weapon, allowing you to transfer the music you make into your computer at the highest-quality possible. A lot of devices out there can do this simple task - but doing it at a professional level is a lot trickier and takes some sophisticated hardware and software power. The 1212M system is the first to put impeccable recording quality within the reach of almost anybody, costing less than you would pay for a decent multitrack cassette recorder.

Viva la revolution!

With the 1820M and 1212M Digital Audio Systems, E-MU becomes the first to bring together all the different elements needed for producing pro recordings on a personal computer, integrate them, and sell them for a price that is in reach for practically anybody who wants them.


Highest-level A/D conversion, hardware-accelerated effects and mixing, comprehensive sync options, compatibility with your PC audio/sequencer software - E-MU's new Digital Audio Systems put it all together at a previously unheard-of low price. No more settling for mediocre audio recording quality at home. You can now own a true mastering-quality recording system for same price you might pay for several hours of studio time. The E-MU 1820M or 1212M Digital Audio System are creative tools of superb quality for musicians, producers, DJs, and remix artists. Just add your own talent and tunes, and you'll be amazed at the results.

Features & Specs



1820M Mastering-Grade Recording System1212M PCI Recording System
  • Mastering-grade 24-bit/192kHz converters (120dB SNR)
  • 2 - TFPro? Mic/Line/Hi-Z preamps with 40dB of gain and 48V phantom power
  • 6 - 1/4" TRS inputs/ 8-1/4" TRS outputs
  • Turntable input (with ground lug and hardware RIAA preamp)
  • 24-bit/192kHz ADAT I/O (switchable to S/PDIF)
  • 24-bit/96kHz coaxial S/PDIF I/O (switchable to AES/EBU)
  • 24-bit/192kHz optical S/PDIF out (switchable to AES/EBU)
  • 4 stereo 1/8" speaker outputs (configurable from stereo to 7.1)
  • Stereo headphone out
  • 2 sets of MIDI In/Out
  • SMPTE I/O, Word Clock I/O, MTC Out
  • Firewire interface (6-pin)
  • Includes powerful studio software package
  • Mastering-grade 24-bit/192kHz converters (120dB SNR)
  • 2 - 1/4" balanced inputs
  • 2 - 1/4" balanced outputs
  • 24-bit/192kHz ADAT In/Out (switchable to S/PDIF)
  • 24-bit/96kHz S/PDIF In/Out (switchable to AES/EBU)
  • MIDI In/Out
  • Firewire interface (6-pin)
  • Includes powerful studio software package