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.

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32 Visitor comments
Alpha Wave Movement
June 20, 2012 @ 8:18 pm
Ive owned the VFX, VFX-SD and SD-1 and now for the last few years a modified VFX-SD that was internally modded to an SD-1/32(these are kind of rare!). I have recorded alot of music with them and not in the traditional piano, bass, organ/pop music sense but ambient electronica. The VFX/SD series have a unique depth & muddiness that makes them the odd one out compared to the Korg X3 and Yamaha SY series from that era.The VFX/SD had the ability to easily layer 6 different tones in one patch. Massive for pads and thick other worldly almost Wavestation type sounds. Highly underrated machines.
May 15, 2012 @ 4:00 pm
The VFX, VFX-SD and SD-1 all had another feature that few musicians tapped into - micro-tonality. They came with a variety of tuning presets, including Indian and Arab tunings, just tuning, and others, plus you could basically custom tune the entire keyboard.

Also, the aftertouch includes both channel aftertouch or the very rare poly-aftertouch - where every key controls aftertouch separately. The keyboard was a little odd, but it is one of the most expressive keyboards are made.
April 5, 2012 @ 10:16 am
I own a SD-1 and a VFX. These run $400-$600 on eBay in 2012. Repairs and parts are available from The Soniq (Google it.) Nearly all of the soundbanks have been documented at http://bobbyblues.recup.ch/ensoniq_vfx/vfx.html Syntaur still has all the disks. Cartridges are becoming hard to find. The Stor Cart 32 and the Voice Crystal X are the blank EEPROM cartridges. These go for $60-$100, if you can find one. (I have four.) The semi-weighted keys are a joy to play. The user interace is as simple as it gets. The sounds are awe-inspiring and unique. It was 10 years ahead of its time.
Jansen ( Singapore )
February 10, 2012 @ 12:25 pm
I own the 32-voice version early 90's sold it few years later , The Sd-1 sounded better than the Korg's ,Yamaha,Roland synths back than... It had a very good Piano sound "1 MB"..the sequencer & effects were top notch too. I miss it dearly, had a few songs recored to my mini disc..still sounded good. I own a TS-10 now, audio is down, not sure how to repair it . Ensoniq gears were good value back than, 5 stars.
Terry Prong
December 30, 2011 @ 7:47 pm
I have had my SD1 for more than 10 years. It just now started to display "out of memory" after only a few sequences with drums bass and piano. I used to be able to add many more instruments. The memory says 25503 available. But now I am running out of sequencer memory? I used to be able to create many sequences with many instruments and the only thing I had to deal with was voice stealing.
It has been a great backup instruments for gigs being able to record backup tracks.
Love that SD1
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User Rating

Rated 3.82 (302 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.

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