Ensoniq SQ-80

Ensoniq SQ-80 Image

The SQ-80 is basically a reved-up ESQ-1 with a total of 75 waveforms, a 61-note keyboard with velocity & aftertouch, floppy disk drive for storing patches and sequences, and an enhanced sequencer. Great for organs, analog-type sounds, pads and sound effects. Like the classic ESQ-1, the SQ-80 functions in providing analog-type 4-pole lowpass filtering and editing of digital waveforms. Each voice can combine up to 3 of the 75 waveforms. These waveforms include multi-sampled transient attack waves such as violin bow, plectrum picks, mallet, hammer, breath attacks and percussive sounds. There are also 5 sampled drum sets. Three LFOs are onboard for some pretty wild modulation of the sounds you create or edit. Complete MIDI implementation makes the SQ-80 great for any studio or live use too.

Ensoniq SQ-80 Image

As for playing the SQ-80, it is a dream! Its 61-note keyboard is full, responsive and has polyphonic aftertouch. Polyphonic aftertouch simply means that each key pressed will respond to aftertouch independently of the other keys. The aftertouch can be used to control a variety of modulation parameters such as the LFO. Pitch and mod wheels and plenty of front-panel buttons and a few sliders make accessing and editing fairly easy and hands-on. The keyboard can be split or layered. The pattern-based 8-track multitimbral sequencer is great for creating short to complex sequences live, or in step time with quantization, bounce-able tracks, 60 sequence patterns and 20 songs. And they can be saved to disk along with any patches you've created and any SysEx Midi data. Unfortunately, the SQ-80 has no built-in effects. The SQ-80 is certainly a classic analog/digital hybrid of the late eighties which still holds up well today. It has been used by filmaker/composer John Carpenter.

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37 Visitor comments
January 7, 2009 @ 9:26 pm
Wow, lots of great posts about this synth! I bought one slightly used when I was 19, almost 20 years ago now. It was my first "real" keyboard, and I still have it and use it today. I love it so much I bought another one on eBay that was in even better condition than my own. I agree, very unique sounds, very fat with the analog filters. This synth can do a lot, and the sequencer is great, too. I'll never sell mine.
Joel Galasso
December 31, 2008 @ 5:03 pm
Suena fantástico y poderoso cuando se activan y combinan los 3 osciladores. El secuenciador es muy útil y sencillo. Me encanta y se lo recomiendo a todos los músicos-productores que requieran sonidos de ochentosos, metales, lead synths (medios-agudos) y sonidos percusivos. Para mi le falta algo de poder como bass synth, pero siempre se puede procesar con algún multiefecto para bajo. Pd: con el Lowpass filter del KAOS PAD2 (Program 00), y saturando la entrada, los bajos suenan geniales, ahí si derriba paredes.
Milk / The Mekano Set
December 11, 2008 @ 5:00 pm
I loved this synth. I got some really unique drum sounds (deep percussion, classy white-noise snare sounds etc.) and noises out of it, sounds I've never managed to duplicate on any other gear since.

A digital synth, with a sequencer, AND true analog filters!

I only stopped using the sq80 because the place where I was living got so cold that the casing would kind of freeze up and thaw out, and eventually the display screen cracked. I've been searching for a replacement - or some other way of creating those distinctive drums and noises, ever since.

A kind person has uploaded the wave forms somewhere online. Not quite the same, but still a nice reminder.
November 20, 2008 @ 7:21 am
Hi all, I have been doing a one man midi band with the sq 80 for about 20 years. I have had very little problems with it and with doing 80 one nighters a year she has held up great. I did backup all the recordings 2 years ago because the disk drive went out, I did get it to work after I cleaned it, after the gig, to Mp3.
What I did was record the music minus vocals and guitar parts. I do CW to Classic Rock in small clubs in the upper midwest. I do use a large PA. I did upgrade to a computer and down load the midi files to the sq 80 and I also use a old mac to run midi files from. So I use two systems for my background music and have everthing backed up to a new laptop in either mp3 or midi if I would have any problems. The old sq 80 has really helped supplement my teaching job for many years. Dusty
Kirk Slinkard
November 16, 2008 @ 11:33 pm
This one is my favorite, I even bought a 2nd one for more polyphony & sequencer tracks. Sort of like an atomically-mutated Memorymoog. Resonant analog filters and quirky early digital waveforms can get some sounds that no other synth can do. Sync & AM create weird and unexpected sounds on a few of the waves. Even with no effects, I get really lush stereo reverb. Huge analog sounds. Tons of FM sounds. Not many percussion waves, but I still have 3 banks of all sorts of percussion instruments. A real killer!
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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.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 8 voices
  • Oscillators - 24 osc.
  • LFO - Up to 3 per voice - can route to pitch, amp, filter, pan
  • Filter - 1 4-pole analog filter per voice w/sweepable resonance
  • VCA - 1 digital amp per oscillator + 1 global amp per voice
  • Sequencer - 8-Track, 60 patterns, 20 songs, 20,000 note capacity
  • Keyboard - 61 keys with velocity & aftertouch
  • Memory - 40 patches onboard + 80 with EEPROM cartridge, floppy drive
  • Control - MIDI (8-part), switch pedal, CV pedal, wheel, breath, mono/poly aftertouch, kybd mapping
  • Date Produced - 1988 - 1989

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