Ensoniq Mirage

Ensoniq Mirage Image

Mirage DSK-8

The Mirage preceded the revolutionary EPS and EPS-16+ sampler workstations in the Ensoniq line-up; in fact, the Mirage was Ensoniq's first commercial product. Historically, the Mirage was also one of the earliest affordable sampler/sequencer workstations, originally listing under $1,700. Compared with the much more expensive Fairlight CMI and Synclavier samplers of the time, the Mirage was a bargain!

The Mirage was an 8-bit sampler capable of a maximum sampling-rate of 32kHz with a limited 128Kb of RAM. Those are pretty old-school specs by today's standards and while it does mean your sounds will be somewhat lo-fi, that does not mean low quality. A built-in 3.5 inch DD disk drive was used to load and store samples, sequences - even the operating system. Each disk could hold up to 6 samples and 8 sequences. The keyboard is split in to two independent halves for an upper sound and a lower sound - great for playing two instruments at a time. Unfortunately, sample editing is done via hexadecimal-code manipulation which is not a simple to concept to master. Most users will just load-in sounds from the Mirage's extensive sample library, or look for computer programs that can edit or convert Mirage samples.

While the Mirage's limited sampling specs, limited polyphony (8 voices) and limited sequencer (333 notes) may seem to knock it off anyone's list when looking for a keyboard sampler, the Mirage still has a few hidden goodies under its hood. Most notably, it has analog filters...a true, analog VCF with low-pass filtering and keyboard tracking. In addition to that it has five-stage envelopes for the VCA and VCF and a nice LFO. Most models also featured a weighted, velocity sensitive keyboard.

Ensoniq Mirage DSK-1 Image

Mirage DSK-1

Speaking of models, there have been several versions of the Mirage during its lifetime. The DSK-8 was the original model and it featured a black steel chassis and a weighted Pratt-Reed keyboard. Later DSK-8 models were updated with a dark gray chassis and an improved Fatar keyboard as the original Pratt-Reed did not have very good feel. These later DSK-8 models are identified by smaller gray+yellow buttons and a solid yellow Mirage logo. In 1985 the DMS-8 rack-mount version of the DSK-8 was released. Then, in 1986 the DSK-1 appeared with a newer lighter plastic chassis, a relocated disk drive, an un-weighted keyboard action and the addition of stereo outputs. The DSK-1 is easily identified by the solid red stripe on the front panel.

Ensoniq Mirage DMS-8 Image

Mirage DMS-8

Most people searching for a classic Ensoniq sampler/synth would probably first look towards the EPS and EPS-16+. After all, their specs, design and quality are superior. However, there is a certain amount of nostalgia concerned with the Mirage, particularly with its sample library which still stands the test of time. It has been used by Skinny Puppy, Vangelis, Jimmy Edgar, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

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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 Mirage? 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.

64 Visitor comments
December 19, 2012 @ 3:29 pm
A disgustingly beautiful instrument only hindered by horrific design. It is technically an Analog/Digital hybrid. And it is capable of incredibly lush sounds., made some of the pest pads i have ever heard. Sadly, it is cryptic as hell, and slow to learn on, speaks its own binary language. I had one and loved it, but it was just too unconventional to keep. Then again, so is a Mellotron, so i guess to each there own. Still wouldn't pas one up if i saw one again.
December 9, 2012 @ 5:07 pm
there should be more love for the mirage.for any beginners make sure you get some kind of copy of the parameter card whilst (lol!) come in handy.understand for some reason the sample you record loop start will actually be set at the loop end in programming it... so go to loop start(parameter 62) and go backwards hexadecimal style.make sure you turn the loop switch on its #65.FYI:this keyboard can create the warmest sounding loops.no need to buy something $2k.you'll just have to work a little harder.I absolutely love this keyboard!!!
November 3, 2012 @ 1:38 am
I want to buy one of these. Contact me @saabgti@gmail.com
July 25, 2012 @ 11:32 pm
Flawed, idiosyncratic, strange to program, and near impossible to sample and loop with any sort of quality without a computer. Hell, I can even hear the amplifiers opening and letting noise through with a good set of headphones.

But I will never, EVER sell mine. The filters and library string sounds alone are reason enough to immediately replace it if (and when) it breaks down.
June 9, 2012 @ 11:20 am
I have both a full keyboard one and a rack mount, but does anyone know if the dms 8 can have the sequencer triggered by a foot pedal like the full keyboard version? I changed the parameter 89 to on, but it still just sustains... am I missing something or does it just not do it? Parameter 84 also I fooled with, but it still won't do it... it's either something really simple I'm missing or it doesn't have the feature, which is pretty stupid in my opinion if you've got a rackmount, and you can't trigger the onboard sequencer with your foot...
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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
  • Sampler - 8-bit, 32kHz (up to 6.5 seconds sample-time at 10kHz)
  • Filter - Analog low pass filter with 5 stage envelope
  • VCA - 5 stage digital envelope
  • Keyboard - 61 keys (velocity)
  • Memory - 16 internal patches, 128 kb sampler memory, 3.5 inch diskette
  • Sequencer - 333 Note capacity
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1984 - 1988

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