RZA’s first E-MU SP-1200 sampler is up for auction: your chance to own a piece of Wu-Tang Forever

RZA E-MU SP-1200
(Image credit: Sotheby's)

Released in 1997, Wu-Tang Clan’s second album Wu-Tang Forever is a hip-hop classic. The same could be said of the E-MU SP-1200 sampler that RZA used to produce the record, and now that exact machine is up for auction.

The Wu-Tang Forever album was praised for its innovative use of sampling, with a diverse range of sounds being chopped up, repitched and mashed together. It becomes an even more impressive achievement when you consider the SP-1200’s limited specs - 12-bit/26.040kHz quality and eight voices of polyphony - but the machine’s gritty sound remains much sought-after in hip-hop circles. Released in 1987, It’s been emulated in several plugins - most recently Inphonik’s RX1200 - and original creator Dave Rossum announced an enhanced reissue in 2021.

Commenting on the sale, RZA said: “This is the first SP-1200 that I ever owned,” with the wonky fader caps indicating that it’s had some pretty heavy use. RZA confirms that it was used in the creation of a slew of classic Wu-Tang records: “There’s DNA in this,” he adds. 

With an estimated value of between $50,000 and $80,000, you’ll need pretty deep pockets if you want to own this particular piece of hardware, which RZA has signed in black Sharpie.

The auctioning of the SP-1200 is being handled by Sotheby’s, and forms part of its third annual hip-hop sale. Timed to coincide with the genre’s 50th anniversary, this also includes “art, fashion, sneakers, jewellery, photography, hand-written documents, historic studio equipment, important artifacts, and more, representing key moments from the late 1970s through the present.”

You can register to bid for RZA’s SP-1200 on the Sotheby’s website. That said, the current highest bid of $38,000 doesn’t even meet the reserve price, so we’re guessing you’ll need to go significantly higher than this if you want to be considered a serious player…

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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