Zoë Blade's notebook

E-mu Vintage Keys

Vintage Keys tech specs

  • Released: 1993
  • Company: E-mu
  • Type: Rompler
  • Polyphony: 32 voices[1]
  • Timbrality: 16[1]
  • Sample rate: 39 kHz[1]
  • Sample resolution: 16-bit[1]
  • Audio out: stereo pair (×3)
  • Control: MIDI
  • ROM: 8 MB[1]
  • Display: 16×2 character LCD
  • Size: 1U

The Vintage Keys was released by E-mu in 1993, as part of their second wave of romplers. It offered recreations of various electric and electronic keyboards.

Its sounds included electric pianos and organs, the Mellotron (as much as a fraction of 8 MB will allow), and various synthesisers and string machines. While it probably wouldn't fool anyone when pushed to the front of a mix, it was compact and convenient, and certainly helped add flavour to a lot of nineties songs.

It was effectively like having several electromechanical and electronic keyboards, without the hassle of maintaining them and separately wiring them up, but being sample based, you wouldn't be able to stray too far from the presets. In short, it was useful for keyboard musicians. Less so for maverick sound designers.

It was superseded by the third wave Vintage Pro.

Vintage Keys Plus

Released in 1994, the Vintage Keys Plus added a second ROM of additional vintage sounds (not just keyboards), making for a total of 16 MB.

Classic Keys

Classic Keys tech specs

  • Released: 1994
  • Company: E-mu
  • Type: Rompler
  • Polyphony: 32 voices[2]
  • Timbrality: 16[2]
  • Sample rate: 39 kHz[2]
  • Sample resolution: 16-bit[2]
  • Audio out: stereo pair
  • Control: MIDI
  • ROM: 8 MB[2]
  • Display: 16×2 character LCD
  • Size: 1U

At the other end of the spectrum, the Classic Keys removed the extra outputs and digital filters to create a rompler that was more streamlined, and therefore cheaper. With no pretense of going beyond the presets, this is arguably the most honest of the bunch.

Curiously, while it has 8 MB of ROM like its predecessor, this now includes some other sounds, such as acoustic drums, brass, and guitars.[3] This presumably leaves less space for the titular keys.


The Hammond and the Rhodes are just breathtaking...

— Jimi Goodwin, Sub Sub, 1993[4]

I'm not that impressed with this, really. I went through a stage of going into my local music shop, and every time they had a new bit of equipment, I convinced myself I needed it. I had to get out of that. I've used this a couple of times — on Jilted Generation I used it on about three tracks — but I'd sell it any day.

— Liam Howlett, The Prodigy, 1996[5]

Notable users

Vintage Keys

Vintage Keys Plus


  1. Vintage Keys manual E-mu, 1992
  2. Classic Keys manual E-mu, 1994
  3. "Modern classic" Nigel Lord, The Mix, Feb 1995
  4. "Sub Culture" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Jul 1993
  5. "Liam Howlett: The Prodigy & Firestarter" Paul Nagle, Sound On Sound, Sep 1996
  6. "Classic Tracks: Fatboy Slim 'Praise You'" Tom Doyle, Sound On Sound, Jan 2017
  7. "Future Talk" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Jan 1994
  8. "Rob Playford: Producing Goldie" Christopher Holder, Sound On Sound, Jun 1998
  9. "Kracked Plastik" Roger Brown, The Mix, Dec 1994
  10. "Under New Orders" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Apr 1994
  11. "Mixing up the motor city" Rob Green, The Mix, Apr 1995
  12. "SNAP! to tomorrow" Roger Brown, The Mix, Nov 1994


Vintage Keys

Classic Keys



Romplers: E-mu Vintage Keys | Roland R-8 | Roland U-110