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
February 11, 2009 @ 1:21 am
At first, someone not familiar with synths will think this synth sounds really fakey. But this synth will do excellent moog sounds, a decent piano sound (for 1986) and other nice instrument sounds are possible. electric piano sounds are top notch. it will make edgy stabs and warm vintage, quite analog sounds. it can emulate practically any synth that preceded it. i use recordings from it in place of virtual synths. i once got it to make the 'dolby THX' sound and someone once emulated many of the original star trek sound effects on an esq-1.

it has layer, split keyboard, and on top of everything, a built in sequencer.

if they could make these things now and sell them for what they run used, every electronic musician would have one.
Candle Nine
January 26, 2009 @ 10:58 am
Converter did a bunch of his early works using only this piece of gear. Definitely an awesome synth/sampler.
Mikee 100
December 18, 2008 @ 12:31 am
The digital patching is really extensive in this thing. Anyone who denies this thing props in making powerful sounds did not dive into the programming. The ENV and LFO can be edited in excruciating detail. Then digitally patched to modify nearly any variable anywhere in the chain. And once you get a feel for it, you can do this very quickly. No scroll menus ANYWHERE! In each menu, the 10 buttons around the screen are dedicated to each variable. (Screen is ) Keep the left hand on the slider, then zero in on whatever you want to change. Extremely well thought out once you feel it. Factory presets are terrible and do not do this synth justice at all, I assume that contributes to its underrating. And to top it off, LED screen. Very bright and easy to see.
November 6, 2008 @ 2:52 am
To me, there is an OK sound, but most of the waves sound very antiquated and cheap, and I only use the classis sawtooth, pulse, and square, which don't even sound very strong. The "formants" and "voice" waves just have weird high overtones that stick out way too much in a mix. I don't know, some people are obviously into that kind of stuff. To me, it's a pretty useless machine.
October 26, 2008 @ 10:34 pm
The ESQ-1 is 40 pounds of Digital/ analoge hybrid heaven. Think Yamaha DX7 with simpler programming and an analoge filter, and for less than 200 bucks on ebay! You can't get more bang for the buck. The synthisis arcetecture is straightfoward and easy to understand if you own half a brain cell. It is basic subtrative synthisis with a few quirks. Good Filters, built like a tank. Its got a distinct personality and is loved by many. A Gem.
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4.68 (829 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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