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
Izera Stephen
March 21, 2010 @ 8:51 am
The heaviest synth I have ever had to lift!!!
LOADS of character.
They sound older than they look but in a very usable way.
Its sort of lofi but in the same way an eventide h910 harmonizer is lofi.
I love it and have only played with it a little bit.
I plan on sampling vst softsynths in to it to add that psychological "realness" factor that I miss from vsts, and for the coolness factor.
Like many other cool pieces, they dont seem to go for much.
No in built fx but that doesnt matter.
They look very inspiring IMHO.
Dann Chinn
February 13, 2010 @ 5:11 am
This machine was apparently used by Steven Wilson on early/mid-1990s recordings for No-Man and Porcupine Tree - don't know which ones, but a studio equipment list from the time definitely lists the Mirage, and at the time he was using a lot of sampling.
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.
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 . :)
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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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