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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Are you looking to buy or sell a Ensoniq ESQ-1? Post an ad in Gear For Sale or a request in Gear Wanted. For spare parts and repair services check out Gear Services & Other Goods. Our forums also has a Buyer’s Guide section where you can ask for advice on buying synthesizers.

124 Visitor comments
June 21, 2012 @ 6:33 pm
Got mine in '87 or '88. pawned it parents who just sent it back. can't remember the price or value. have two problems- have a completely dead octave up E key. don't know if it is a simple fix by a keyboard spe [beep] t. also being warned that internal battery is low. believe that is causing a problem with not being able to pull voices out of internal bank. extras were put in by a now closed music store can i still get a battery or can the battery be charged?
June 20, 2012 @ 11:31 am
This sounds to my ears better than a lot of the overhyped "all-analogue" boards out there, it can be growling, warm, wet, personal, melancholic and all up in your face like a faithful old dog, and got a lot of love coming out of it. I had one for an all too brief period, then had to sell it for economical reasons, I'd really wish to have one again someday before they are all gone.. Look away from all those Junos and JXs, and especially the overly-praised overpriced Jupiters, and let the ESQ into your studio, and eventually your heart :) This is a truly underrated and extremely capable gem!
June 18, 2012 @ 9:38 pm
Great synth, it’s a gritty hybrid capable of warm lush dark sounds. Lots of editing options, weighs a ton, action you will love or hate. It does not have that true analog bass sound but works really well for a lot of other sounds. definitely recommended,
June 5, 2012 @ 11:10 am
Worth noting how awesome this synth is. They would be going for major bucks if they weren't so hard to track down parts for or get repairs on. AMAZING sounds, just not the most sound investment with Ensoniq being so long gone. If you like to gamble, its a good synth to get. If you don't, it's smarter to get something else. If you loose a part of break a part, you might as well sell it for parts, because you can buy a new synth for what you'll pay for in parts.
June 5, 2012 @ 11:05 am
To my understanding this is a hybrid. Meaning that you have the option of using DCO's for your oscillator source, DCO's are physical oscillators which are just controlled digitally instead of controlled with voltage. Just worth noting because the specs make it wound like its a 100% digital synth using analog filter only. When, to my understanding it is actually an analog synth, with the option of using digital sample roms instead of oscillators. Anyone feel free to correct me if that is inaccurate.
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Rated 4.68 (823 Votes)

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  • 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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