E-MU Command Station XL-7

The yellow unit, with its default sounds.
Anyone has it and care to share opinions on usability/sequencing and sound (palette and quality)
I am tempted and it’s my dream since 15 years, however the videos I watched are all like meh.

I forget who it is, but at least one person who frequents this e-space uses that specific device.

I use an Xl1, which I believe is the rompler sound module sans command station controls. I love it, but Im super fond of 90s romplers so YMMV. I sometimes use it for lead duties, or to layer using a Prophet12 for leads. Im still in the process of sampling some of the sounds (mostly perc sounds) for the OT. Some nice crunchy synth sounds in there. Operating system could be a little more stable (i can crash the romplers built in this platform - i cant crash the Orbit V2 tho.

Programming is probably easier on the command station. But Prodatum is a good freeware software editor which can make things easier.

I dont control via OT, tho. I control both XL1 and OT via Pyramid, so not sure about that bit. The scenario for CC modulation seems to confuse people, but again: command station puts nore control at your fingertips.

IMO - if you have the cash, go for it.
Check out demos thi to make sure there are some sounds you like. The XL1 is 64 note polyphony so even just stacking mundane sounds makes a thick and chewy topping for so much.

There is also this - i believe the purple command station is just the XL7 but with the Planet Phatt sound ROM instead of the XL1.

I had one for about two years.

  • It involves A LOT of menu diving: But IIRC, there is now a cool editor for it.

  • The filters are extremely flexible and varied; I reckon they stood the test of time

  • I didn’t like most of the samples, including from an extra soundcard I got for it I also bought (the rare one from the grey version). BUT, it has basic waveforms that can be layered, each with own modulation and pitch , filters etc. This enables pretty deep sound design. I got some very pleasing results.

SPDIF out is always nice to have.

I don’t remember the ins and outs of the sequencer, but it’s very flexible, but a bit clunky.

In the end I found it to be more pain the gain. (I’m not choosy about how gear looks, but I came to really dislike the colour!) I sold it to fund an OT, I also had (and still do) a Nord G2 engine, which I preferred overall in terms of sound, more flexible and much, much better patching / programming experience. Then again I didn’t explore patching with just the XL’s basic waveforms as much as I could have. I also much prefer the OT sequencer. But, I recall the Z Plane filters as being wonderful.

I wouldn’t want to advise for or against. Depends what other gear you have and what you’d want to do with the Emu.

I’ve owned 2 MP-7’s (the purple ugly ones) maxed with sound cards and still have 1. Love the fat basslines that boom shake the room and other sound content, the 16 parameter knobs and the fact it can add an extra playable octave to your keyboard. If the card is from an older rack model then some, but not all of the parameter will be assignable while using that card though.

I haven’t touched the sequencer for years, but I believe chaocrator has a few of these, including the yellow one and maybe he has.

Thanks all for the input. It’s true I’m on the fence about it, as there are better sounding alternatives for the money these days.
I’ll give it some more thought.

Ask @chaocrator also. I believe he has much experience with the EMU Command Stations.

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I’ve had XL-7, loved the color because it had the greatest contrast ratio of text labels of all command stations. Sound engine is quite powerful. As mentioned, you have 4 layers per voice with independent structure of filters, 24 cords (equivalent of mod matrix slots), LFOs, ENVs etc. per layer! There are big threads on Gearslutz where user Balma elaborates on all the possibilities incl. Soundcloud examples. You can really go crazy in synth engine department. ROM samples are not bad and you can squeeze a lot from them. Overall the sound has certain punch to it, in E-MU kind of way. E-MU boxes are known for good amount of headroom which keeps the sound nicely clean. As said, filters are crazy and there’s a lot of them to choose from. Also, many arpeggiator patterns, each for up to 16 tracks. Sequencer can have 32 tracks (there are 2 MIDI outs) and has all the bells and whistles, MIDI event list editing etc. You can record in step, realtime and grid modes. I really liked the realtime recording because you don’t have to stop the sequencer and can record one track after another. When in pattern mode, you record one track, switch to another (you can ‘scroll’ between track with dedicated buttons or jump directly to track with TAP + Track # button) and record another track without loosing the flow. When you ad simple analog footswitches and map them to start/stop and record, you can do hands-free recording. Usual workflow is to build/record patterns which then can be chained in a song mode. You can chain them manually in the list (think of OT Arranger) or ‘perform’ and record the pattern switching, incl. track mutes, volume fades, CC automation in realtime if you want to. It’s also possible to just chain the patterns and record the automation over the patterns into the ‘song track’ so the patterns remain unaffected.
Cool trick is using the additional SUB Outs with Y-split cables which allows you to mix-in the external send effects. But when half-plugged you can just mix-in any other audio sources without the need of additional mixer.

Menu diving was not an issue for me, there’s a lot of buttons which get you where you need but yes, there is a certain amount of horizontal menu scrolling for some stuff. Once you know where is what, it’s OK. 16 knobs with different modes (quick edit, program, volume, pan) are really great way to get your hands on sound.

The only weaker point in my experience is a sound preset management. If you use ROM presets without any tweaks, it’s fine. But when you start tweaking your sounds (and you will), you should basically save a copy for each song or pattern because you’ll find your self to tailoring it to that particular piece. If you just tweak it and save it, all patterns that use the same preset will be affected. It’s enough if you just keep it in mind and stick to some preset management strategy. I highly recommend reading Tarekith’s Commandstations FAQ, a lot of knowledge there.

Sold the XL-7 some time ago but missed the E-MU sequencer and synth engine and bought Proteus 2500 instead which is basically a command station minus pads and slider with slightly improved DAC (24bit vs 16bit on CS).

Used it for some years as a main HW sequencer but I’m currently selling it because I moved the MIDI sequencing duties to Atari ST with Cubase 3. If noone buys it, I’ll happily keep it, it’s nice to come back to it from time to time but these machines deserve to be put in use. Real multi-timbral power houses.

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this track is entirely XL-7 with a bit of external processing, one take no edits

my overall impression was that i really like the sound engine but the sequencing + interface + saving and stuff is a bit dated so i would feel better with something like one of their rack units and an elektron to sequence

one key thing to keep in mind that i kept forgetting and losing a lot of work:

if you make a sequence, and edit the sounds used in the sequence, you must save your edited sounds as new presets, otherwise they will be gone when you change sequence. this also applies to the sequence itself, that must also be saved separately. I kept saving sequences and then forgetting the preset side and losing sounds over and over, it was a bit infuriating because it’s also a bit unclear as to when you would need to save.

As long as you keep believing that, you’ll never be satisfied with an XL-7. You could try to rationalize it away if you still go ahead and buy one, but “I don’t like the sound” is going to eat away at you until you get rid of it anyway.

I have one, I still like it - yes, including the sound -, but it’s aged enough that the slightest bump causes it to crash, so I don’t use it much.

regarding better sounding alternatives … too hard to say anything really explicitly for 2 reasons:

  1. it’s the matter of preferences
  2. it’s the matter of particular ROM we’re talking about :smile:

for instance, i have at least one ROM (B-3) which has no alternatives at all.

to speak about alternatives … i migrated from Command Stations to MC-707 as my main workhorse.

is MC-707 a better sounding alternative? yes, for great part of presets. but what’s interesting — i have my old trusted E-Mu sample banks on SD card in 707. because there’s plenty of good sounds that just work well. (especially percussions, as for me.)

what’s really weak by todays standards in CS sound is effect section. but since there are 2 aux send/return capable buses — it’s not really a problem.

synth engine and sequencer are really deep and definitely worth it. especially if you don’t need polymeters (but if you do — arpeggiator is a workaround).
oh, and up to 32 simultaneously running arpeggios in particular.

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Just another opinion:

I bought an XL-7 and MP-7 when Guitar Center blew them out for $300 new, years ago when Creative/EMU went bankrupt. And pulled a few ROMs from the Proteus 2000-series of rack synths. Also had an E4XT Ultra.

As a ROM-based sound module, the Command Stations were deep, with lots of menu-diving, but I found them to have that typical 2000s ‘distant-with-little-character’ ROMpler sound. The MC-101/707 sound much better, IMO.

I found the hundreds of filters to be interesting at best, and many didn’t have modulatable-filter freq or Q - IMO they’re over-hyped and not comparable with the unique digital filters on the Waldorf Microwave 2/XT. Deep mod matrix, but again not as direct or intuitive as the Waldorfs or even the Kurweils.

Its sequencer was buggy and not fun to use. The main alpha dial will go bad sooner than later. But it was fun finding and collecting ROMs off of Ebay. If you had one of the last-generation E4 Ultra-series samplers, you could make your own ROMs.

Nowadays, I’d look into a used Kurweil K2000/K2500RS for a deeper ROM-based synth/sampler. Or a Yamaha EX5R. Or use an iPad.

I happen to have a K2000 V3 keyboard which I repaired and refurbishes. Still have to learn to use it properly. And find cheap ways to bring it up to date, with a floppy to usb and perhaps SCSI2SD modules.

The Kurzweils’ synthesis and modulation options are underrated, IMO. VAST + FUNs. There was a K2VX selling for $250 locally, was tempted.

Sweetwater used to sell the Kurzweil upgrades, maybe they still have a few sitting on a shelf. I remember having a tough time trying to find the P-ROMs and sound ROMs. I think you can still get the OS ROMs off of Ebay. And the USB floppy emulators.

I have one yellow XL-7 and the MP-7 with the emu launchpad for beat mode and the esi - 32.

Not using this units much right now I’m reporting later on about the XL-7 seq

Really interested in a Kursweill ill start to search for a good one thanks for the reminder