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Ensoniq ESQ-1
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Similar to the Mirage synth/sampler, the ESQ-1 was Ensoniq's highly affordable and impressive digital synthesizer, released in 1986. Although the waveforms are digital in nature, the filters are all analog as on the Mirage. In fact, for a digital synth the ESQ-1 has many good old analog-synth features such as a ring modulator, sequencer, and oscillator-sync. The envelopes and LFOs are can be freely routed to each DCO, VCA and or VCF. There are 40 preset sounds which are the usual not-so-great sounds. Luckily the VFD display screen is large enough to make editing the sounds somewhat pleasant.

What really sets the ESQ-1 apart from other similar synths is the voice architecture. Choose from analog, digital, or samples or any combo since there are three independent oscillators per voice! Once you start editing on the ESQ-1 you will come up with interesting and unique results. Using dynamic voice allocation it can seemlesly switch from 8-voices of analog to 8-voices of digital or sampled voices! This gives you a wide array of different sonic elements at your fingertips!

Then there's its built-in sequencer. It can store up to 24,000 notes in 30 sequences and 10 songs via battery back-up. Anyone in search of an alternative synthesizer should consider the ESQ-1. More analog than a DX-7 or D-50 and also much cheaper, the ESQ-1 is a tasty option that is worth a try.


Observations on the Prophet 12

...front-to-back analog synth, it's not entirely digital. It's a hybrid and should be evaluated against similar instruments like the DW8000, ESQ-1, and the like. Secondly, there was quite a lot of chatter about the tone of the P12. Common adjectives thrown around were "cold," "metallic," and "thin." I'll admit that some of this discussion biased...

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The Ensoniq ESQ 1

I own a bunch of fancy vintage synths, but IMO, the ESQ-1 (and SQ-80) are THE best bargain in vintage polysynths. The digital oscillators aren't as warm as a true analog, and can't really do PWM correctly, but they're way more flexible (and there are three of them), and the filters sound great. The...

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Older VA synths... Obselete or overlooked?

I’ve said the before, but the great sound of digital oscillators paired with analog filters (Quantum, ESQ-1, Prophet 12, Summit/Peak, etc.) really makes me wish for a Yamaha AN1x remake with dual analog filters. Oh, and they should add a pre and post analog saturation stages that can do everything from subtle to extreme...

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