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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The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings with more images, specs and information. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace. Our marketplace gets thousands of visits every week so make sure to check back often if you want to buy or sell a synth.

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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
May 30, 2013 @ 12:52 am
just bought one today this baby has a lovely aliasing sound combined with dat filter makes it really growl
Matrix 6
May 10, 2013 @ 8:13 pm
Unless something has changed the ESQ-1 & ESQ-M have DCA's not VCA's and it's printed on both devices. Perhaps the description should be modified/corrected?
Pulse Emitter
April 17, 2013 @ 1:01 am
ahh, one of my favorite synths ever! great digital sound from the age when sounding digital was a good thing. not to be thought of as a replacement for a true analog polysynth, if that's what you need, it's got its own (great) hybrid sound. easy, subtractive architecture and menu-less programming interface, a lovely vacuum fluorescent display, lots of modulations... the analog filter isn’t very sexy sounding but mellows out the oscillators very nicely. i think i paid only $125 for it. doubt i’ll ever sell it! www.synthnoise.com
J Jamd
April 15, 2013 @ 11:14 am
To Mikeg: Take it to your nearest large city, to a music store which has an electronics repairman. He will replace your battery, and you can then download the original factory sounds here on the Vintage Synth Explorer ESQ-1 page to restore your instrument to working order. This is much worth doing, as these are flexible instruments with fresh sounds; even a simple sine wave has motion in harmony, as the wave seems to start in different places with each new note added. Get it fixed, and use it!
April 6, 2013 @ 12:32 pm
I have an ESQ-1 that I have not used for 10 years and the sounds are now gone. I have been told that the battery died. Any idea what this synth is worth in this condition? Please email me if you do - Thanks! Phidippides140@aol.com
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User Rating

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
  • Resources & Credits
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