Synth Site: Ensoniq: ESQ1 Workstation: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.4 out of 5
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James Meeker a part-time user from Toledo, Ohio writes:
The ESQ-1 is a great synth for their going rate, which is very, very dirt cheap. It's facilities far outweigh its price and thus make it a viable option for budget-conscious players.

In fact, it's solid plastic construction (I'm talking about REAL plastic... like the Emulators were made out of), 5 octave/61 key, sturdy and precise pitch and mod wheels as well as it's good MIDI implementation mean that an ESQ-1 makes a great MIDI controller. The only real downside to this is that there are only 40 or so patches you can control for patch changing--however, since you have 10 patches available at once to choose from this is kind of made up for in versatility.

In my opinion, since the ESQ-1 can double as a good MIDI controller as well as a dedicated synth it is made doubly valuable.

The ESQ-1 is a dirty, actually somewhat ballsy performer, reminiscent occasionally of a Prophet 600's cold tone. On its most basic level, the ESQ-1 can tend to sound somewhat "lo-fi"--however, with proper programming the real strengths of the ESQ can be made to shine. I am running my ESQ-1 through a Boss ROD-10 Overdrive rack and it sounds excellent!

The major strength with the ESQ-1 is its flexible routing systems, in which a wide variety of controllers such as envelopes (4 total), LFO's (3 total), mod wheel, footswitch, etc... can be used to modulate the sound. Oscillators can be given seperate pitch envelopes, as can the filter--the only limitation is that env 4 is always dedicated as the "overall" envelope for the entire patch. The amount of options are so good that the ESQ-1 will keep you busy for a long time, continually exploring a new avenue for sounds and/or control. The oscillators themeselves are good: 32 digital waveforms to choose from, a range that stretches from +3 to -3 octaves, individual detuning, as well as the ability to adjust the pitch of an oscillator in 1/2 steps. Sync is available as is "AM Modulation"... which I suppose is Ensoniq's version of ring modulation. The filter is the most talked about part of the ESQ-1, and for good reason--it is analog. The 4 pole/24 db filter of the ESQ-1 is dark and grungy... simply excellent. One of the best parts, and indeed my favorite, is the incredibly power envelope section of the ESQ-1. Four envelopes, each one sporting (at first) tricky four stage rate/time parameters. Since these envelopes can be attached to almost anything in the ESQ-1--their power and flexibility become immediately apparent.

However, despite its power there are a few downsides to the ESQ-1. Myself, I was a bit disappointed with the LFO's power... which must be digitally generated. In my opinion, digital LFO's lack the guts, cutting clarity and sheer "over the top-ness" of an analog LFO. For what it's worth, the ESQ's LFO's are okay. For the year it was produced (1986) 40 patch memories seems damn stingy. This can be expanded with a cartridge to add 80 more sounds--which is probably what Ensoniq intended as there are soft buttons specifically for accessing sounds on the cartridge. No internal sound effects cards/DSP's... which doesn't bother me but may upset a more modern synth afficianado. The ESQ sounds great running through some 'verb, or with some overdrive... delay, as always, is a nice touch.

Overall, there are a lot of capabilities I would have LIKED to have seen on the ESQ-1, such as hard/soft sync, FM, the ability to sync all three osc's together, etc... But, for what it's worth--the ESQ-1 is very well equipped. In fact, the ESQ has a somewhat distinguished heritage as it was used by Skinny Puppy (Check this link out of kEvin Key playing an ESQ-1, a 606 and what looks like a Mirage: ).

Altogether, when considering price/features the ESQ-1 may be one of the best deals out there next to a Matrix 6! Highly recommended!

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Wednesday-Dec-06-2000 at 10:00
Rob a part-time user from CA writes:
Wow!! $130 for an ESQ-1 with on ROM card? You got the deal of a lifetime. I paid twice that with no ROM card and am thrilled with it.!!!

I love how original this thing sounds and how programable it is as well. Im glad it doesnt sound like some typical rompler with the basic sounds. Rather it sounds like nothing else that I have and therefore I will have to hang onto this one. I got some more ROM cards and they are great . Theres tons of more sounds on the net too. The evolving pads this thing does are incredible. Great for ambient ! This thing is remarkable for sure. I guess thats why the Crystal Method uses one too. :-)

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Monday-Dec-04-2000 at 17:26
ESQ Owner a professional user from UK writes:
You have bought an analog synth with digital oscillators, its grand piano sounds may be better than those on a Jupiter-8 but only just

What you needed was a cheap Korg N5EX or similar type of Rompler, you have more chance of getting the ESQ1 to sound like a Memory Moog or a PPG Wave than an orchestra, most people would think of that of a PLUS point for the ESQ1.

Use it for big analog type sounds and save the boring stuff for an N5, SY85, D70 or the like

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Monday-Dec-04-2000 at 15:39
Martin Forward a hobbyist user from UK writes:
I've just picked up an ESQ-1 for £200 ($130) in excellent condition (never been gigged). But I'll be dammed if I can get many decent sounds out of it. I use it for playing live only (songs such as Angels - Robbie Williams, I shot the Sheriff - Bob Marley, and more rock classics like these) and am looking for decent patches such as grand piano, hammond organ, orchestral strings & decent brass. Most of the presets are unusable. I don't want drums sounds, gongs or alien-sounds, and haven't got time to rigg it up to a PC and download sound patches from the internet. All I want to do is switch it on & play the thing. It came with a ROM cartridge, but the sounds on here are crap also. Do I need to buy more catridges or download from the internet before I get any playable sounds out of this thing?? On the plus side, it's a nice solid piece of eqipment - and worth the money I paid for it. Will percivere and make enquiries on how to get some decent sounds. Can anyone out there help? I've got a manual that I can photocopy in return for some help (How's that for a bargain!)

Rating: 2 out of 5 posted Monday-Dec-04-2000 at 12:42
tony echos a hobbyist user from chicago writes:
as with most of the older ensoniq products, the ESQ1 is intuitive, highly versitile and a BIG Bang for the buck. it has everything most of the analog modeling synths of today are offering except knobs, and for what it is missing in knobs it offers instead dedicated buttons and a large display screen. plus it has about 30 more waveforms to chose from, i do not understand why anybody would want to be limited to just a pulse and a triangle waveform, if you are gonna do digital waveforms (DCO's) you may as well have some variety! and the ability to playback 8 stereo voices at once! plus analog filters. try finding that for under $500 today. i will never sell this piece.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Saturday-Aug-12-2000 at 02:22
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