Synth Site: Ensoniq: ESQ1 Workstation: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.4 out of 5
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Michael Jones a hobbyist user from USA writes:
I had the Ensoniq ESQ-1 Low Battery problem and figured out a way to fix it and make it easier next time. I just got done writing a HOWTO. Visit: and select ESQ1 - Fix Low Battery. It took me awhile to figure it out and thought I would share my findings.

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Thursday-Jun-27-2002 at 21:13
jeremy a professional user from USA writes:
this synth DEFINED what would later be known as the Synth Workstation. on a budget you simply can't go wrong with this thing. i bought my esq and my mirage together with my paycheck from my first job when i was 15 in '93. i was new to midi and synths, and they were great units to learn on (though the mirage takes some serious patience).

i couldn't live without my esq. it's still my favorite synth. i also use a yamaha qy70, mirage, electribe sampler, yamaha dx100, and a few other things. every once in a while i feel a little confined by the sound of the esq and then a week later i feel inspired by it.

it does have a dark quality to it. tasteful use of fx can really spice it up. i use delay a lot, synced to the midi clock of the esq. instead of running the patches in stereo, i hard pan different patches different channels on my mixer, one running into the fx and the other dry (for bass sounds)

some people complain about not having knobs on the esq. the esq really comes alive if you've got a CV pedal. run an analog style patch in sync mode (or AM mode for ring mod type effect), use the pedal to controll OSC2's pitch, and the mod wheel to controll filter frequency. LOTS of fun. you can also route an external midi controller to virtually any parameter (which controller is specified in your master MIDI page and is somewhat limited to a few certain controllers- check the manual). so you still have 3 ways of controlling parameters in realtime.

the modulation capabilities on this thing are incredible. you can even modulate an LFO with another (or even the same) LFO, and you're not restricted to just one mod source per parameter. you can modulate the filter with a mod wheel and an LFO, while the LFO may me modulated by one of the envelopes, etc.

even many of today's medium budget "retro synths" don't give you 3 oscillators, FOUR envelopes and 3 LFO's, and even when they do you rarely get as much routing flexibility (which is not to say there aren't tradeoffs). this thing can make great sounding analog basses, evolving pads, and with creativity, sounds no other synth can replicate. most other digital synths of this period are better suited for digital type sounds but this one gives you much more. the only thing i REALLY wish it had was an option to switch the filter to highpass or bandpass, but for what you pay, you still get plenty.

the sequencer is very similar to the alesis AMT8's, although you can't mute/unmute more than one track at a time. i actually really enjoy the esq sequencer, particularly for live use because it allows some improvisation with the song structure.

last i checked, Syntaur ( was selling blank Eprom cartidges, as well as programed cartridges, sysex patches, and other accessories like cv pedals, etc. it's not cheap for the cartridges, but it's worth it if you don't have one, or if you go live a lot it's good to have at least 2. there's a good pc librarian online called that's a GREAT program to have for storing patches and sequences. i run it on an old 33mhz 486 laptop running windows 3.1 and it works great. you can even edit your patches visually on your pc and send the changes to your esq (it also works with the sq-80).

if you want a synth that can deliver descent analog sounds and also offers a lot of versatility, the esq is a phenomenal buy. with a little creativity, you can create entirely new sounds, or emulate moogs, 303's etc, depending on your programing ability. you can even make the envelope attack velocity sensitive (often overlooked on many newer retrosynths), and you can even get really wacky and do some microtonal tuning. it's got a distinctive sound that i can't imagine one wouldn't like unless they couldn't figure out how to program it well. i've found that sometimes it even has a vocal quality to it, like it's singing. it can often sound quite organic. and if you're still skeptical about using a digital synth, the filters are actually analog.

aside from the oft-mentioned usage by skinny puppy, i've also seen many synth-pop bands use the esq. i've seen Moby and Anything Box use it on stage, and there are many times where i'm quite sure i'm hearing it on a cd. for a current market price of 2-400 bucks, it's a great value and will sound more unique than many other modern retro synths, and once you learn to get around it well you'll probably prefer the esq's interface to most other interfaces. it's very intuitive.

4.5 rounded up to 5 :)

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Sunday-May-26-2002 at 19:08
Beth Castaneda a professional user from USA writes:
After writing in earlier today, then reading some of the other comments, I add: this is my only electronic keyboard. The piano sample is has the right quality to my ear; although, a couple of years ago I was living in the show music capitol, Branson, MO, where a professional commented to me that he wouldn't have one of these because the piano sound was so crappy. He was playing a Yahama which he had complemented with some kind of alternative piano sound. I had tried the same type of thing with my ESQ1 years earlier. The result for me was that I preferred the original sound. Having a true Piano sound was the main thing for me, followed by weighted touch on the keys. I was happy with both. I knew that I was only playing with half the deck or less, because I could not use it as a real synth without the cards. Does anyone know if we can find these anywhere. Also, the owner prior to me was someone in Santa Fe, NM who used it as a studio instrument. I left Albuquerque, NM, in 1996, and am now living in North West corner of Louisiana. There are absolutely no music stores here in this third largest city in Lousy-eeee-Ana, Father forgive them for they know not what they have done by closing all music stores here. Actually I exaggerated, since there are two "Music Man" type of stores which sell cheap, and used instruments to band students, along with a small variety of sheet music. And, of course there is a warehouse style store selling seen their better days, acoustic pianos. I long for being near a store like GRANDMA'S MUSIC which was in Albuquerque, NM, where I got my beloved, light-weight/heavy-weight keyboards. Has anyone noticed that a little old lady like myself can still pick up this thing with no problem. I will never give mine away, sell mine, or lose mine. HELP me get it back -- the battery finally died after 9 beautiful years. Oddly, I got a professional gig just last week with a church; and, now this cute little thing is on its verge of death. BATTERY - where inside the keyboard is it; and where will I buy another one? HELP, I'm dying, HURRY, TOO!?????????? The Lord will thank, and another ESQ1 will live on forever, and ever, and ever AMEN!

posted Saturday-May-11-2002 at 11:48
Beth Castaneda a part-time user from USA writes:
That fateful day has finally arrived. I got my ESQ1 in 1993 for $350 from Grandma's Music in Albuquerque, NM. Wow, the battery was probably a new replacement at the time I purchased it in '93. The manual said it would only last 3 years. Nine years later, it has finally notified me to replace the battery. I have the manual; but, it is now lost in all my stuff. It is Saturday, and I will try to find out via this site, where inside the Synth is the Internal Battery and can I buy a replacement battery at Radio Shack. If anyone knows what or where to find the battery on the inside, please comment. Thanx.

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Saturday-May-11-2002 at 11:12
Rod a part-time user from CA writes:
The ESQ1 is one of the most incredible buys you can possibly make!! Really its a steal for what they are going for these days. Very high quality board with a lot of possible sonic flavors. I recommend finding one that comes with a bunch of ROM carts if possible, or you will be buying them later and they arent cheap.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Saturday-May-04-2002 at 21:51
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