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
May 3, 2012 @ 9:37 pm
Great piece of gear. Bought mine just under a year ago and it is truly an awesome instrument for the money. Takes time to get really good sounds out of it, but it is worth it. Key action is great, and doesn't feel cheap like a lot of synths around this time period.

A bit odd to work with using midi, as the processor is a bit slow and sometimes requires a soft restart. Hit record and filter button to tune up the filters if you feel that notes sound funny. A gem definitely worth snapping up for the studio.
April 12, 2012 @ 3:58 am
Its a great synth but take care like most Ensoniq synths if you drop it it will never work again.....
March 14, 2012 @ 11:52 am
The ESQ-1 is a classic synth. The synth can be anything you want from lush pads to filthy basslines. With its strong and fat filter this babe can do damage when needed. The oscillators are all good not Analog but good enough to get lost in programming for days. What more could you want with 3 oscillators running through this filter will send grandma running home. Pick it up for a bargain under $150. Oh yeah the battery is usually dead when you get them no worry though easy cheap fix if you care about saving patches otherwise it will function even after battery is dead just wont save patches.
Jason Tonks
March 13, 2012 @ 11:49 am
Doug Farrar- please contact me. I am looking for a mint ESQ.

midipuppies at mac.com
Doug Farrar
March 11, 2012 @ 6:52 pm
I have one that i have been sitting on for 25 years. Its mint condition. I just prefer vst stuff.
I would love to get rid of it.
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  • 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
  • Resources & Credits
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