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
John Perrett
September 3, 2010 @ 7:53 am
This is my favorite synth of all time, its so easy to use, the keayboard feels great to play, the sequencer is very easy to use. The sounds you can produce are awsome. I love the Ensoniq sound from the ESQ1 to the SD1. I have an EQM, SQ80 and two VFX's. Adamski's album livendirect was created almost entirly on one of thease, with a little help form a Roland TR909 and a Casio FZ10m
August 6, 2010 @ 10:38 am
Thanks for letting the secret out Dark star
I wish you had NOT though - lol !

Seriously though your right, its an absolutely incredible synthesizer.
And in my opinion better than a jupiter 6
I actually own both.
The Dark Knight
July 26, 2010 @ 4:13 am
Curtis phjatness all over the place, just phenominal, and supremely accurate.
Ensoniq deserved much bigger success with this hidden gem, but when you abandon sliders and knobs for parameter access, thats whats going to happen. Its when you program this machine that things begin to go stratospheric.
The secret has been out on this board for little while now that Jupiters are commanding stupidly OTT prices, so these babies are starting to soar in price, and for good reason.
Love this synth, absolutely love it !
The Dark Knight
July 26, 2010 @ 4:13 am
I think the reason this synth is so underated is because their owners dont want anyone to know about them.
Adamski wrote all his best music on one of these, just an SQ80 a 909 and a casio sampler, put seal into the equation and your talking world wide hits.
Its simply because this board creates Am tones and cross waves that no other board can do (full stop). Ever wondered what those wierd clangy 8 bit tones and monster ripping throaty effects were in "Killer" ?
Well, look no further.
The Dark Knight
July 26, 2010 @ 4:12 am
Well, ive had just about every big poly you can think of over the last 20 years but i discovered this one very very late.
I ignored Ensoniq as i thought they were boring and because they were not talked up like the Rolands and the Oberheims, didnt even put them on the radar, big mistake for me.
I found recently that the SQ-80 is without doubt the biggest secret weapon out there if you want phat unusual analog sounds on the cheap.
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Rated 4.04 (392 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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