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
January 11, 2013 @ 8:47 am
QUOTE "The Ensonic SD-1 was also used by another famous Keyboard player in the 1990's until he was given a full sponsorship from KORG. His name is Jim Gilmourof the band SAGA [...]"

Not to forget Tony Banks (Genesis) who used it live to replace the rather unreliable VFX. You can hear it on "Jesus, he knows me".
Dennis J. Newman
January 3, 2013 @ 4:41 pm
1) My SD-1 of late has begun to "whine"--inexplicably, even when I'm 10' away. Turning it off, then back on, usually solves the problem. Temporarily. Bad hard-drive? Any good repair-places (especially in the Chicago area) ?
2) A solution for winter de-tuning. Years ago, especially in very cold, crisp weather, my SD-1 would suddenly begin "acting up." Sounds would go out of tune. Woefully. A letter to Ensoniq's president gave me the answer: the synth's top is subject to static-electricity. I bought a static-de-charging wrist-band (plugs into a grounded outlet): problem solved!
December 29, 2012 @ 10:19 pm
I own several Ensoniq products from a Mirage to the MR series. I'm also a tech. Although no brand is perfect and all will have a model or two with a problem..... I strongly Disagree with 68000's take on Ensoniq as a whole. My equipment has served me well. I have friends that still use Ensoniq gear and haven't had any problems.
BTW, 68000, might want to proof your spelling before you post. LOL!!
September 7, 2012 @ 6:46 pm
It's funny to read ommens about that 'Ensoniq ruled the synth marked' and so on. The real truth is that their instruments were filled with programming errors, horrible hardware that broke down, and technical spec's way below standart. They were the last company to make resonating filters & it was not very good. Before the Fizmo they had just simple filters with no Q making them just dynamic eq's. Further they used Philips hi-fi converters that multiplexed more outputs, resulting in inferrior sound.
Steve Alcorn
August 19, 2012 @ 10:35 pm
I bought an SD-1 when it came out and used it primarily for gigs in the '90s. I still have it, perfect shape still, but much ignored and neglected. Recently toured the Moog factory in Asheville, got excited again about synths, and broke out the SD-1 when I got home. It works just fine and, incredibly, after 20 years the backup battery is still functioning, with no indication that it's weakening. Still an impressive keyboard!
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  • 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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