Ensoniq SD-1

Ensoniq SD-1 Image

The SD-1 comes from a long line of Ensoniq's evolving TransewaveTM wavetable digital synthesizers. It began with Ensoniq's earliest synthesizer, the ESQ-1. That led to the SQ-80, then the VFX and VFX-SD (the latter featuring an on-board sequencer) and then to the SD-1 (and it eventually led to the Fizmo). The SD-1 allows for additive synthesis using waveform modulation, a sort of wavetable synthesis. This puts it into a unique class of digital synthesizers along with the PPG Wave series and Waldorf Microwave series.

The SD-1 can create all sorts of acoustic, electric, digital, and analog-like sounds. Its piano sound has over 1 MB of 16-bit waveforms to give it a full and rich realistic tone not found in other digital synthesizers of the time. That piano sound was just the beginning of what would become the "Perfect Piano" used in Ensoniq's ZR-76 and E-mu/Ensoniq's Halo series "Sounds of the ZR" ROM expansion soundset.

The SD-1 has 21 voices of polyphony just like its predecessor, the VFX (a 32 voice version later became available). A single patch can contain up to 6 of the 168 waves in its ROM memory that can be combined and layered. Advanced and analog-like synth parameters including its dual multi-mode digital filters, three 11-stage envelopes, LFO, and 15 modulation sources allow you to further shape and morph your sounds. There's even a built-in 24-bit VLSI dual effects processor with reverb, chorus, flanging and delay. The SD-1 also has a standard 61-note keyboard with velocity sensitivity, polyphonic aftertouch and full MIDI implementation with 12 channels for multitimbral functions as well as four 16-bit DAC outputs.

Like the VFX-SD, the SD-1 has a professional quality on-board sequencer making it a complete all-in-one music production workstation. This is a 24-track sequencer with 25,000 note capacity and it holds up to 60 sequences and 20 songs. There is quantization (96 ppqn), real-time or step entry, looped or linear mode, and auto-punch in/out. Tracks can be set to control the SD-1's internal voices or external MIDI equipment, or both at the same time! An on-board 3.5" disk drive allows you to store your programs, sequences, songs, and even MIDI SysEx data. The SD-1 is compatible with all VFX and VFX-SD program librarys too. An optional SQX-70 Sequencer Expander upgrades the sequencer memory from 25,000 to over 75,000 notes.

Lookup Ensoniq SD-1 Prices

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.

Related forum topics


Are you looking to buy or sell a Ensoniq SD-1? 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.

32 Visitor comments
November 16, 2013 @ 5:09 am
Just thought I'd share my experience with the Ensoniq SD1. Upgraded from an old faithful VFX-SD several years and I have just converted it with an HxC virtual floppy drive (SD type) that uses a micro SD card. No more floppies! Converting my old floppies to virtual disk images was easy to do too. Also converted my old ZR-76, and TS-10 as well. Anyone else try this? Anyway I love Ensoniq stuff especially the simplicity of the sequencing - not so sure about the ZR though.
Dav id
August 31, 2013 @ 10:19 pm
There is something about the wavetable-based synthesis of the early Ensoniq synths from the SQ-80 thru the SD-1 that made them sound like NOTHING else out there. I used to work for a dealer many eons ago when the VFX and VFX-SD were on the market. The openness of the sound, clarity and expressive capabilities they put in them set them apart from the Rolands, Korgs and Yamahas available at that time - we carried them all. I am the owner of an SD-1 now, and is one synth in my collection I will not part with.
Duncan Bristow
August 30, 2013 @ 11:10 pm
I love my SD-1. I bought it in Singapore about 1989. When I got it home I had it converted to 110 volts and upgraded to 32 voices. I mostly use the organs in my bands which are great. For pianos I like Innocence and bows and strings.
June 12, 2013 @ 9:48 am
The VFX and SD1 are still some of the "freshest" sounding keyboards you will ever hear. Older Ensoniq boards always sounded different than any of the other major companys out there. Yes, some of their hardware was inferior and some folks had issues, but all company products do, to a point. The important thing to remember is, whenever I play my VFX or SD1 for anyone today or they hear them on a record, they are blown away by the sounds, nomatter who they are. If you love the sounds and they work for you isn't that all that matters?
Kyn Mahone
April 9, 2013 @ 9:25 pm
I used the SD-1 a couple years ago playing aux keys for a band I'm in...that thing was amazing!!!! Some of the best sounds I've heard in a long time...
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 3.82 (301 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • 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.
  • Demos & Media
  • YouTube Thumbnail
    by Steve Sisson

    Manual - Download the original owner's manual from SoundProgramming.net.

  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 21 voices (or 32 voices in the SD-1/32).
  • Oscillators - 1 to 6 per voice. Wavetable has 168 waveforms (multi-sampled acoustic instruments, sustained waveforms, harmonic and inharmonic structures) 3.5 MB ROM.
  • LFO - 1 LFO
  • Filter - dual multi-mode digital filters
  • Envelopes - 3 11-stage envelopes
  • Sequencer - 25,000 note capacity (expandable to 75,000), 60 patterns, 20 songs
  • Effects - 24-bit Dual VLSI Multi-Effects: reverb, chorus, flanging, and delay
  • Keyboard - 61 keys (velocity and polyphonic aftertouch)
  • Memory - 180 Patches, 60 Performances
  • Control - MIDI (12-parts)
  • Date Produced - 1990
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from unknown source.

Errors or Corrections? Send them here.