ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

A forum for comparing two or more synths against each other. Also known as "versus" threads.

ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby Walter Ego » Wed Oct 31, 2012 5:03 pm

Hi synth fiends, time to resurrect a zombie in a narrower form (it is Halloween and all)...

If given the narrow option between three fairly similar and low-priced wavetable synths with analog filters, the Ensoniq ESQ-1, the Kawai K3, and the Korg DW-8000, which would you go for?

I've listened to samples and seen youtube vids and they all seem to have their weaknesses, but also some significant strengths. I like sounds I've heard from all of them: gritty, rich strings, cold, etc. They all bear similarities to their analog and digital cousins, like the Poly 800 (not really a hybrid, but has DCOs) and CZ-1000 (all digital, but very interesting) and many others.

Which is your fav in this category? No need to respond if you don't like that particular 80s sci-fi soundtrack character these synths do best. I happen to like it a lot. It ain't clean, but it does have edges.

Give me your wisdom, such as it is...
Walter Ego

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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby meatballfulton » Wed Oct 31, 2012 5:14 pm

Disclaimer: former SQ-80 user 8-)

I pick the ESQ-1 because:

multitimbral up to 8 parts out of one box
"simple but good" linear sequencer
most extensive mod routings
best MIDI implementation

cons:
filter resonance cannot be modulated
no FX...not even chorus
prices going up!


Reasons to get K3:
you want to mess around with additive synthesis coupled with analog filter

Reasons to get DW8000:
you are a Korg fanboy, you love joysticks and arpeggiators
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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby Walter Ego » Wed Oct 31, 2012 5:21 pm

meatballfulton wrote:Reasons to get DW8000:
you are a Korg fanboy, you love joysticks and arpeggiators


You can see my small list of gear to the side...this is definitely the case...I've never shaken the love of my first board 12 years ago, my Poly 800, with all its quirks and flaws.

But I am really liking the overall package of the ESQ-1 (and I like that it has an on-board sequencer), so that is useful info about its flaws. I think I like the aesthetic look of it the best as well.
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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby Z » Wed Oct 31, 2012 6:03 pm

meatballfulton wrote:Disclaimer: former SQ-80 user 8-)
Reasons to get K3:
you want to mess around with additive synthesis coupled with analog filter


No additive synthesis on the K3. That's the K5 you're thinking of but it has a digital filter.

Another reason to get the ESQ-1 is that it has 3 oscillators per voice instead of 2 osc on the Kawai and Korg.

I own all 3 in rack format, but have yet to do any programming on my ESQ-M. The K3M and EX-8000 are fairly simple to program once you get a hang of the "select parameter, then adjust value" editing. I recently picked up a Kiwi Electronics Programmer, but have yet to hook it up to any of my gear (seller did not include power supply and I've been too lazy to hunt one down).

Personally, I'd pick the Korg DW-8000 over the others. With today's DAW systems, there's not much need for multi-timbral instuments (especially on an 8 voice synth) or the built-in sequencer on the ESQ-1. The DW-8000's arpreggiator syncs to MIDI and the built-in digital delay with modulation is a plus.

One of these days, I plan to make a comparison video of these synths and maybe even throw in the SCI Prophet VS and/or PPG Wave 2.x. I'll keep watching this thread for everyone's input. I'm sure there are many things I have already missed that I'd want to include in my video.
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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby minime123 » Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:17 pm

esq1, because it sounds great, has lots of modulation options / features and even a built in multitrack sequencer.
or a dw8000 but only if you get chris strellis to do the mod he did for ulrich schnauss:
Watch on youtube.com
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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby meatballfulton » Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:23 pm

Z wrote:
meatballfulton wrote:Disclaimer: former SQ-80 user 8-)
Reasons to get K3:
you want to mess around with additive synthesis coupled with analog filter


No additive synthesis on the K3. That's the K5 you're thinking of but it has a digital filter.


I had a K5, it sucked :?

But check out those K3 specs again: "the K3 also features a programmable digital waveform where you can tweak the harmonic content of a waveform". You can choose up to 32 of the first 128 harmonics, each with a level of 0-31. You can store one waveform on board and a second in a patch cart if you have it. Sadly, the harmonics cannot be modulated as in a true additive synth like the K5.

Weird but the most unique thing about it.
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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby mpa1104 » Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:06 am

Can't comment on the Kawai, but as a former DW user and a (happily still current) ESQ-1 owner, I'd be inclined to say that if the ESQ-1 had the built delay and aftertouch that the DW has, it would be a no-brainer for me.

Whilst the ESQ-1 lacks those particular "performance enhancers" (if you'll excuse the expression), it makes up for it with extensive mod routings as has already been mentioned, and the flexibility of a 3rd oscillator (not to mention the dedicated LFOs and envelopes). Also not forgetting on the ESQ you can also do Osc Sync and Ring Mod with Oscs 1 and 2.

What I did enjoy about the DW was the flexibility to program delays in with each patch. And arpegiator + bass with delay made for some great TD/Schulze-style sequence patterns. I also liked the way it did pads and unsion leads.

But overall, the ESQ just had a bit more of an edge for me.
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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby madmarkmagee » Thu Nov 01, 2012 2:57 am

-I have an ESQ 1, they're quite good.

-Make sure you buy one that's had the battery replaced.

-The Esq 1 is a hell of a lot more common then the K3 and the DW 8000.

-The ESQ-1 has a very very extensive modulation matrix, even compared to a lot of modern synths. I can't really comment on the other two, but I think you would find the modulation more limited.

-The ESQ 1's price seems to fluctuate. In Australia when I bought mine, I payed like 400 dollars (parity to USD). But now they seem to be down to 200. For the ESQ 1, cause they're so common, I reckon stake it out and get one at a good price.

-Might be an idea to look out for one with some writable cartridges, as the internal memory is pretty small.

-When I bought an ESQ 1, I got something completely different to what I thought I would get.

-Be warned the metal ones way a ton, but if you got excited and forgot your keys when you went to pick it up, you could use it as a battering ram, to get into your house. Though you would break both your door and the gizzards of the ESQ 1. On second thought, maybe call a locksmith.

-And the sequencer is a pain in the ass, It makes you record everything in bars, (Which means you need to have what you're going to play into it worked out completely to time, or you get this annoying pause when you loop the sequence, which can't be fixed) and also the step sequencer part is incredibly laborious.
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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby Big Gnome » Thu Nov 01, 2012 9:04 am

I don't really know anything about the K3, and I'm not familiar with the DW, although from demos I've heard, the filter sounds gorgeous.

But I can definitely vouch for the ESQ-1--it sounds wonderful and is extremely versatile. It sports 4 5-stage envelopes and 3 polyphonic LFOs, and most parameters can be modulated by one or two sources, so there is tons of sound design potential. Excellent keyboard feel as well. I can't speak to the sequencer as I've never learned how to use it (every time I sit down with the manual to try to, I just end up playing and programming it for a couple of hours instead). Watch out for dead batteries--it's a simple fix, but kind of a pain in the ass. Also worth noting, you can get a hacked OS that lets the oscillators spit out arbitrary data (in addition to the 30 or so standard waves), which is well worth getting if you're interested in abstract digital noise.
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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby Walter Ego » Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:20 pm

Seems there are a lot of ESQ-1 fans out there. The more I hear, the more I like, especially about the modulation routings. Is $270 a good deal for one that has just been serviced?
...
Anyone had any experience with the DW-8000 Angel City mod and care to comment? I am curious about that. If a DW-8K came up for cheap, I would probably still nab it; I like the introspective atmospheres it's capable of. It seems like it can create some very textured sounds if programmed correctly.
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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby madmarkmagee » Thu Nov 01, 2012 3:50 pm

270 sounds pretty good to my ears, though you probably live in a different country, so the real value of things is different.

So by serviced, they mean the battery's been changed?

Obviously if on ebay check the sellers feedback. If your going to pick it up, check it out for defects before you hand over the money.

Does it come with a re-writable memory cartridge/ catridges? Pretty hard to find them selling separate from the boards themselves. You only get 40 slots on the actual board itself. Though you can use sysex to transmit and save patches to and from your pc.

The ESQ 1 has a great interface, but it's not simple like a nord lead or juno, it takes a bit of time to get to know and it is a "limited interface" (by that I mean not a slider/knob fest, but it is an incredibly usable interface, one of the best, don't be put off), so it's complexity and the interface means you don't get great sounds in 5 mins.
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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby Sir Ruff » Thu Nov 01, 2012 3:56 pm

As a former DW/EX-8000 owner, and current SQ-80 owner, I definitely suggest the latter.

The DW/EX win in terms of a cleaner sound and snappier envelopes (and also a nicer filter), but really, the Ensoniqs have so much more going for them, I've never regretted not having the Korgs around. I do miss the EX-8000 for it's easy editing and simplicity, but realistically, the Ensoniq covers all of what it did sound-wise, and then some...
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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby dustinh » Thu Nov 01, 2012 5:50 pm

Seems like the suggestions are pretty unanimous here, but I'll add my 2 cents for what it's worth.

ESQ-1 all the way. I have the SQ-80 so same thing really. It's quite flexible, is surprisingly easy to program for not having a knobby interface, and you can really get some unique sounds out of it. It even overdrives itself quite easily if you turn up the oscillator levels to full which is great for getting some seriously filthy sounds. How many other synths do you know that have aftertouch, 3 osc, 4 envelopes, and 3 lfos?

You can also do some crazy layering. I've got a couple of patches that I made that are essentially playing two separate patches together. I have each one set at different points on the filter and more detuned. It sounds like it's playing a massive patch in unison and with dual filters. It's really a great sound. Perhaps I'll post a demo of the sound later this evening. Off to work for now though.
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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby Sir Ruff » Thu Nov 01, 2012 8:38 pm

minime123 wrote:esq1, because it sounds great, has lots of modulation options / features and even a built in multitrack sequencer.
or a dw8000 but only if you get chris strellis to do the mod he did for ulrich schnauss:
Watch on youtube.com


What an awesome mod... Strellis is an EPROM master. I wonder if something similar could be done for the ESQs?

Saying that, if you load the "extra waveform" patch into the SQ-80 (and the ESQ-1?) via sysex, you get a whole plethora of new weird, waveforms... though not all scale very far across the keyboard.
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Re: ESQ-1 vs K3 vs DW-8000

Postby Ashe37 » Fri Nov 02, 2012 2:02 am

I have both ah ESQm and a K3m....

They do sound different, and the waveforms are different, and the filters are different. I'd probably pick up an EX8000 if one shows up cheaply as well, just to have a complete set of the cheap hybrids. I haven't used the K3m extensively enough to be able to describe the particulars of the difference in sound... suffice to say that its a CEM vs SSM filter thing largely. The ESQ does have better modulation possibilities, but i wouldn't call it a mod matrix, considering that there are entries for the modulation sources and values at each destination...
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