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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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
September 16, 2009 @ 9:43 am
Ohh the Mirage....My main squeeze since I used to rent it from the guitar shop back in 1990. Used it for Hip-Hop since back in the day and(insanely enough) still today. I compare it to the big machine in the movie War Games which they called the W.O.P.R. By the way if you just started using it and noticed the display is always flickering like it's broken, don't worry that is just the Mirage purrring like a wild 80's digital beast. I also like the sequencer: arm it, play it, hit the loop button! That's it! No bpm's or metronome to throw you off. It's all you baby! The sound is like warm velvety blankets while sitting by the fire on a cold winter night. Glitches and tricks must be learned through trial and error, and they are a plenty. Digital sunburst techno-colour spewing goodness!
June 26, 2009 @ 7:21 am
I bought a rack version of the Mirage and, in few days, the floppy began to fail, therefore, unable to boot this machine, it becomes a totally useless metal box. My advice: always try to find a sampler with EPROM unless you want it as an ornament. Each manufacturer has its own standard on floppy disk and storage and is near to impossible to repair it!!!
May 15, 2009 @ 3:35 pm
A nice board, but ended up selling because it is VERY heavy and I found I could get most of the sounds I wanted using other hardware/software.
April 20, 2009 @ 6:25 pm
This sampler is terse, complex but ultimately wonderful. It is capable of producing lush and lofi atmospherics, crunchy drum sounds and fanstastic strings. Also used by www.thescienti.st
December 27, 2008 @ 9:33 pm
"...there is a certain amount of nostalgia concerned with the Mirage."

For me it is the factory sound disks. The drum samples from the 1985 (c) and 1986(c) disks are still pretty intense compared to what you would get these days (thankfully Ensoniq weren't thinking hip-hop).
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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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