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
July 28, 2012 @ 10:43 am
the ESQ-1 has the best feeling keys i have every played. period! i have played many. well built. and the sound....classic! i have one with many hard to find sound carts. a keeper!
July 20, 2012 @ 8:19 am
The ESQ1 eand FVX-SD are prominently featured on the brilliant album Soniq Variants by Alpha Wave Movement.
June 27, 2012 @ 10:03 am
While I appreciate the flexibility and character of the digital nature of this synth, it would have made sense to generate some of the more standard waveforms, such as a the Saw, Sine and Square waveforms, with a DCO or VCO rather than sampling them. At the very least this would reduce some of the bizarre "stepping" noise you get when using fast portamento or the aliasing heard when transposing into higher octaves. Don't get me wrong, I love this synth, and in fact just bought another one. I'm just saying that there's room for improvement.
June 26, 2012 @ 11:15 am
I don't see why its a sad thing that "only the filters are analog", the digital parts is what makes it special and what gives its special sound and flavour, not to mention its extensive modulation possibilities. People here seriously need to get their heads out of the 70s, analog can do great things but analog alone does NOT make a great synth by default as some people seem to believe, I've played quite a few analog boards that I would trade anyday for one of these, and this is coming from a guy that DIYs analog modular synths days on end, digital can do great things, believe it!
June 25, 2012 @ 9:25 am
@Jonny: It actually is a purely digital synth with analog filters at the end of the signal path. Sound generation is done using multi-sampled single-cycle waveforms stored in the memory and played using Ensoniq's Q-chip (also found in the Mirage). The LFO's use the same system, allowing for some interesting rhythmic patterns when using the "Noise" LFO wave. Sadly, only the filters in this beast are analog.
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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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