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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62 Visitor comments
gezu one
February 9, 2010 @ 7:35 pm
i have 4 mirages. they are really bad ass. that poopoo guy doesnt know how to use a mirage obviously. or doesnt have the upward concepts OS discs, which makes a mirage multi timbral. i use my mirage stacked on different midi channels with my mpc's...drums are awesome on mirages. if you dont like the ensoniq mirage then maybe its because you dont know how to use music equipment to your advantage...who cares about sampling time anyways? thats just an excuse for someone who doesnt know what theyre doing...if you cant make something dope with a little sampling time, then you probably cant make any good with alot of sampling time either. and thats the truth.
poopoo the korruptah!
December 10, 2009 @ 3:39 am
a mirage it is, cos it looks like this great big evil kickass beast of a thing and its a stoopid wimpy lil memory puny turd.
big and heavy as [beep] too
i had one for years that was so cumbersome and slow to be bothered with it ended up becoming a bench for a heap of other gear i had.
gave it away to a dude and it props up a bookshelf in his hallway.
Kazper
October 17, 2009 @ 4:24 pm
Great that you got it to boot, may need to sample something or load up some sound disks. It's a sampler and you need to get something in memory to playback something . :)
dutchweezy
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!
gothicgrave
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!!!
 
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  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a 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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