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
May 2, 2010 @ 7:52 am
Erwin you can do the same thing that i did to my esq-m just recently:
Desolder the 3v battery from the board, and solder a new battery holder into it's place. I think the best option would be a holder that can take two 1,5v AA lithium cells. These will become 3v if they are in series. After you have finished soldering you can simply glue the battery holder to the case. I've done this to at least 5 of my synths. I didn't even lost my patches when I did this, but remember to backup your patches just in case. If you don't know how to do this get someone to do it for you
September 14, 2009 @ 8:51 pm
@Jimmy: To clarify the statement above, the SQ-80 doesn't contain 5 different drum sets. It has 5 drum set programs, each of which contain the same drum set laid out in 5 different configurations across the keyboard. In addition, each drum sound (Kick 1, Kick 2, Log Drum, Snare, TomTom & Hi Hat) has its own program as well.
Kirk Slinkard
April 20, 2009 @ 4:26 pm
(response to Erwin) There is still a lot of support on this great synth at Rainer Buchty's website. Go to the Ensoniq Heaven section and check out all the stuff there. The best possible place to ask tech questions.
March 15, 2009 @ 7:31 am
Hallo can someone help me with ideas to replays my backup ensoniq-sq80 battery with an original or some other battery that the keyboard will accept?
January 23, 2009 @ 3:28 pm
There are five sampled drum sets? How have I missed this over the last 20 years?!? Please check and confirm that statement....

Other than that, I looooove this synth! So much that I just picked up another one "just in case"... Ensoniq just "got it" you know? Great stuff!
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Rated 4.03 (396 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.
  • 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
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from

    Thanks to Tony Evans for providing information.

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