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
Reefy G
August 10, 2010 @ 5:15 am
Firstly i must say that this synth is absolutely the best value synthesizer that i have ever purchased ($69 au). As soon as i picked it up and held it and noticed the weight i knew i had a steal. I had to check the price twice..........
July 23, 2010 @ 1:57 pm
What an incredible synthesizer! It may be no good at duplicating acoustic instruments, but it can nail all of your favorite tones from other synthesizers. Its sound is very fat, and you can sound analog and fuzzy or crystal clear and digital; how many modern synthesizers can do that? The sequencer is full featured and easy to use. With enough editing the options are seemingly endless, and the process is so easy you always want to. I bought this synthesizer for $150 and had the battery replaced for another $40. That kind of value is simply unbelievable.
riot boi
May 22, 2010 @ 6:10 pm
This review needs to be corrected. The esq-1 has a 2,400 note sequencer & can be expanded to about 10,000 notes (sqx-10), or to about 20,000 notes (sqx-20).
March 7, 2010 @ 8:35 pm
@ AGL - mine does this too if I load something in from the tape interface which is too quiet. I get 'fatal errors' and it scrambles the memory, setting all the voices up with the hidden waveforms and other bizarre settings. Helicopter noises and jungle drums, good fun! Generally if I want it to work I use MIDI instead, haha.
March 4, 2010 @ 6:35 pm
Ah, I forgot to mention: Half of the time, my ESQ would initialize incorrectly, causing it to become the most insane sounding synth I've ever used...even when it's wrong, it's right. Unfortunately, it would always start up properly whenever I wanted to record it.
VSE Rating


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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