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
1xeach
June 5, 2012 @ 4:40 am
I still own and use that thing. Sounds great within its limitations... Plus there are at least 2 cool features you will hardly find in any other synth/sampler:
- Layering sounds DOES NOT reduce polyphony
- The keyboard has release velocity and supports POLYPHONIC AFTERTOUCH via MIDI
Lorentz
May 29, 2012 @ 3:38 pm
The Mirage is a basic sampler, but an excellent synth. The EPS and its followers are good samplers, but poor synths. If you approach it as a 16 oscillator, 8 voice polysynth with the "American" sound, you'll be happy once you get your head around programming it - sample manipulation is arcane, but the synth engine is as good as any made in that era.
Moog-Source Vermona
March 22, 2012 @ 7:36 pm
d.notive has this in his studio :) saw it on the "Bronies react to kids reacting to MLP" and the "1000 subscribers special" video. and he played an amazing piano sound in his "4000 subscribers special"
He has it right below his Korg Microkorg, and Alesis Micron
lightman
January 21, 2012 @ 2:38 pm
By the way, here's an interesting comparison of the A/D converters of the Mirage, EPS 16+, MPC and a sound card: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BinVL3Li2O4 .

The ol' 8-bit Mirage still got it IMO. :)
lightman
January 21, 2012 @ 11:14 am
Just yesterday I worked with my Mirage for several hours to create detuned drum samples from my 606 and 626 and a couple of effects for a new project. I just love this delightfully strange and gritty piece of American hardware, there was nothing like it before or after. Yeah, the EPS may be easier to use but once you boot up your Mirage with MASOS 2.2 and create a few string samples, say from a VA, spice it up with a velocity-driven VCF and route it over a proper EQ, you will quickly find out why some people still hold in in high regard. It's huge, fat, dirty and of inimitable character.
 
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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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