Ensoniq ESQ-1

Ensoniq ESQ-1 Image

Similar to the Mirage synth/sampler, the ESQ-1 was Ensoniq's highly affordable and impressive digital synthesizer, released in 1986. Although the waveforms are digital in nature, the filters are all analog as on the Mirage. In fact, for a digital synth the ESQ-1 has many good old analog-synth features such as a ring modulator, sequencer, and oscillator-sync. The envelopes and LFOs are can be freely routed to each DCO, VCA and or VCF. There are 40 preset sounds which are the usual not-so-great sounds. Luckily the VFD display screen is large enough to make editing the sounds somewhat pleasant.

What really sets the ESQ-1 apart from other similar synths is the voice architecture. Choose from analog, digital, or samples or any combo since there are three independent oscillators per voice! Once you start editing on the ESQ-1 you will come up with interesting and unique results. Using dynamic voice allocation it can seemlesly switch from 8-voices of analog to 8-voices of digital or sampled voices! This gives you a wide array of different sonic elements at your fingertips!

Then there's its built-in sequencer. It can store up to 24,000 notes in 30 sequences and 10 songs via battery back-up. Anyone in search of an alternative synthesizer should consider the ESQ-1. More analog than a DX-7 or D-50 and also much cheaper, the ESQ-1 is a tasty option that is worth a try.

Ensoniq ESQ-< Image

The ESQ-M (pictured above) is a rack-mount version released in 1987 which is identical to the ESQ-1 except that it excludes the on-board sequencer option. The ESQ-synths have been used by Anything Box, Skinny Puppy, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Steve Roach.

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124 Visitor comments
mikee O
October 19, 2008 @ 11:40 pm
It's probably my favorite digital synth to program. No scroll menus and the illustration of the signal path integrates the buttons, so it's easy to visualize whats happening. Also makes it easy to hop around and edit quickly once you get a feel for it.

Every esq out there now has a dead battery, and changing it requires opening the casing and soldering a new one in place.
mikee O
October 19, 2008 @ 11:40 pm
Bought one off ebay about 4 years ago. The battery was dead, so when you change an internal patch, upon reboot, it will reset to the factory presets. To get around this I connect the tape out to my computer to save my patch data in a WAV file. It works. However I finally ordered a new battery for it since I'm sick of having to save my patches this way.

The synth isn't ANY good for replicating instruments. But it is a beast for electric music. I really don't like editing the LFOs and envelopes(no simple ADSR envelope here). But the 4 envelopes and 3 lfos can be assigned in pretty much any way you can imagine to the DCOs, DCAs, and the filter. Which makes for VERY diverse sounds. Slide can be set from 0 to 32 making for good acid leads.
Walter Slavik
September 30, 2008 @ 8:05 am
I bought my ESQ1 18 years ago, it came with a rack mount MIRAGE sampler.I don't use its internal sounds that much now a days, but it makes for a great midi controller for software synths and piano's such as Steinburgs GRAND 2, Reason, Absynth etc.and as a controller for Rolands SH 32.
It is reliable and built like a tank, I have only had to change its Lithium battery once, in 18 years.
September 2, 2008 @ 4:03 am
Very beautiful machine I've got one of this and is very powerful, the sound is very impressive for an ibrid synthesizer, thanks to the Curtis CEM filter; sound like an little cold oberheim in brass preset, and more...The amplifier section is is digital not analog (DCA instead VCA); sequencer is powerful but it's not easy to use at first moment.
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Rated 4.68 (827 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 8 voices (dynamic voice allocation)
  • Oscillators - 3 digital oscillators per voice, 32 waveforms
  • LFO - 3 LFOs per voice; triangle, saw, square, random
  • Filter - 4-pole analog resonant filter with 6-stage envelope
  • VCA - 4 VCA + 4 Envelopes with 7 parameters per voice
  • Sequencer - 8-Track (30 patterns, 10 songs w/ up to 99 patterns each)
  • Effects - None
  • Keyboard - 61 note (velocity)
  • Memory - 40 patches
  • Control - MIDI (8-parts)
  • Date Produced - 1986 - 1988
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