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Page updated: 23-Jan-2014

E-MU IDE Discs

Some notes on adding internal IDE discs to an E-MU Ultra E5000 sampler.

The high current demands of large 3.5" internal discs can put a strain on the E-MU's PSU and may shorten its life so it can be beneficial to replace with a smaller 2.5" disc or even a solid-state one. Smaller discs also tend to be quieter, and SSDs should make no noise at all. Here are 3 options I tried:

Solid-state discs

I had no success with a compact-flash card and cheap CF-IDE adapter, but working solid-state systems do exist (albeit expensive) - see the E-MU forums for discussions on these, e.g. the legacy emusonacid here. If you can get these to work, the cards can be moved easily from the E-MU to a PC.

Removable IDE disc caddy

The IcyDock disc caddy system is recommended if you can get hold of one - there are other makes but it must use an IDE/PATA connection; SATA connections will not work inside the E-MU.
More details are in the legacy emusonacid forum here, but basically you replace the E-MU floppy drive with the docking unit and connect using a 40-way IDE ribbon cable and miniature 4-pin Molex power plug.

This example uses a Molex adapter/splitter which converts the original E-MU large 4-pin plug into another large plug & a miniature plug; the large plug is left unused. Note the original Molex plug is the special E-MU one which is based on a standard PC plug but with the 5v & 12v wires (red & yellow) swapped over.
The power cable & ribbon cable for the floppy drive are both unused, but a jumper is required across 2 pins on the floppy ribbon connector to prevent E-MU waiting for a non-existant floppy drive.

IcyDock IDE disc bay

Mount the 2.5" IDE drive into the caddy...

IcyDock caddy with disc

...and insert caddy into docking bay.

IcyDock front view

The removable caddy has a proprietary connector so if you want to connect it to a PC you'll need a 2nd docking bay. To connect via USB, e.g. for a laptop PC, leave the 2nd dock free-standing and connect a separate 5v power supply and a USB-to-IDE cable.

If your PC is a desktop, it's easier just to mount the 2nd dock directly into your PC and connect the PC's IDE & power cables just like fitting an internal drive.

Icy Dock mounted in PC

Non-removable IDE discs

This is the easiest & cheapest method, but there is no easy access to the outside world. The E-MU can 'see' external SCSI devices so you can push & pull data via SCSI using the E-MU controls, but external SCSI devices cannot 'see' the E-MU's IDE disc.

In emergencies, you could take the lid off and temporarily replace the 3.5" to 2.5" adapter (see below) with a USB-to-IDE cable connected to a PC. E-MU power must be switched off; the IDE disc will be powered by the USB cable.

To fit a non-removable drive, you'll need a 40-way IDE ribbon cable & a special E-MU 4-pin Molex power cable. This is the same as a standard PC disc power cable but with the 5v & 12v wires (red & yellow) swapped over. If you're replacing a 3.5" IDE drive, both cables will already be present.

3.5" to 2.5" adapters can be picked up very cheaply from well known auction sites, especially direct from the far east if you're not in a rush for delivery!

2.5" Adapter    Adapter cable end    Adapter disc end 

Mounting brackets - only one bracket of the pair is needed per disc.

  Disc brackets    

I used nylon washers as a precaution between the disc & bracket, and a couple of nuts & bolts to fasten the bracket to the existing holes in the E-MU chassis.


Plug the power & signal cables into the 3.5" side of the adapter, then carefully push the adapter onto the disc.

Disc side view    Disc top view


There are a few anomalies with the two disc formats. According to the manual,  E-MU/EOS format is tuned for fastest access, but FAT32 (available with the latest OS 4.7) allows for 'more efficient use' of large discs plus compatibility with computers.


The 'efficient use' is a strange one, e.g. the full E-MU factory CD set occupies about 5GB on a FAT-formatted disc, but if you try & copy them to a 40GB E-MU-formatted disc, you'll get a 'disc full' error!

The problem appears to be due to E-MU format using a fixed no. of clusters (1024) regardless of disc size so larger discs contain larger clusters. Compare this to FAT format which uses a fixed cluster size so larger discs contain more (smaller) clusters. The larger the cluster size, the more disc space is wasted. For 'small' discs up to a few GBs there's not much difference between the two formats, but the wastage gets worse for larger ones.

The bottom line is if you want to use the full capacity of discs larger than a few GBs, it's better to format them as FAT.


There didn't seem to be a huge difference in read/write access speed on the discs I tried (6GB, 20GB, 40GB), but FAT-formatted discs always pause before writing to the disc for the very first time after a power-on or mount operation (Disc, Utils, Mount). The more files stored on the disc, the longer this initial pause - even several tens of seconds. Once the first write has occurred, there are no more pauses until you next power on or mount. It's not a show-stopper - you just have to be patient - but it can be disconcerting when editing samples if you have the 'undo' feature switched on; the very first edit will appear to freeze for a while as it writes a copy of the original sample to disc.

All four 2nd-hand E-MUs tried have this problem, but I don't recall having it with my original E-MU (all running OS 4.7), so maybe there was a h/w issue on older models. Am unable to confirm this now due to its 43W PSU finally blowing up - it was fitted with a 2.5" disc and RFX card several years ago and has been working fine, but have since discovered that RFX cards really need the larger 65W PSU!
(this video shows how to replace a broken PSU).

Apart from all that, fitting a 2.5" disc is well worth the effort, with a bonus of a reduction in noise.