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
April 14, 2014 @ 8:55 am
Got an SQ-80 this weekend, and I spent basically every free moment playing with it. What a fantastic machine! Three oscillators with independent envelopes means you can have complex multi-component sounds, or stack 'em for an enormously fat sound, and the waveforms provide a solid base of raw material to work with. It has a sound that hovers somewhere between '80s synthpop, Amiga music, and '90s psychedelia. The sequencer is beautifully simple, too - bare-bones by modern standards, but straightforward and utterly free of malarkey. I wish I'd found an SQ-80 years ago - totally worth the price!
Andy Jones
October 14, 2013 @ 3:02 pm
Great keyboard from a great American synth maker that is sadly and inexplicably, not with us today! A great example/demo of this synthesizers sonic capabilities is the track 'Killer' by Adamski who used the SQ80 with the ubiquitous '909'. Aamski's synth sounds for his first two albums were all based on the SQ80. A brilliant, underrated piece of engineering from Bob Yannes
June 27, 2012 @ 1:44 pm
Had an SQ80 a but sold it as I thought it sounded weak. Picked up an ESQ-m recently to revisit some old projects (just needed the first 32 waveforms) and I swear it sounds different than the SQ80. It sounds ballsier, thicker. In fact, It sounds better overall. If you had the choice, go for an ESQ-1 or ESQ-M. The extra waveforms in the SQ80 don't make up for the lack of sound quality. As far as the keys go, yes, the SQ80 has polyphonic aftertouch, but the keys are noisy and clanky. I found it annoying to play.
May 10, 2012 @ 5:38 am
Yes, u n i q u e sound design possibilities. Not an all in one box. Great for Industrial FX, strings, leadsound. Needs to be explored to get full potential, though. realtime tweaks would be fantastic. Mine is a tricky beast with a couple of flaws. Nevermind. Still you may get this for a bargain since it still a secret weappon. so grab yourself a rare and raw sounding synth.
February 9, 2012 @ 11:20 pm
A Patch Called Beatbox And Missles Is So Rad !!!!! This Synth Is So Awesome !! I Found Me A Brand New One !!!!!! Freakin Amazing Holds Up Against My Others Vintage Synths !!!!! Find One Buy It !!!!!! Sonically Unparalled =)
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User Rating

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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