Ensoniq SQ-80

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The Ensoniq SQ-80 is a digital/analog synthesizer manufactured from 1987 to 1989. It was Ensoniq's update to its first synth, the Ensoniq ESQ-1.

Compared to the ESQ-1, the SQ-80 includes 43 additional waveforms (including five drumkits), an enhanced sequencer, and a floppy disk drive for storing patches and sequences. Synthesis-wise, the SQ-80 introduced the so-called 2nd Release, a low-cost solution to simulate reverb-like effects. In contrast to the ESQ-1, the SQ-80 not only offers MIDI in and out, but also MIDI thru jacks.

The SQ-80 was the first Ensoniq product to feature their patented Polypressure Keyboard technology. Unlike the ESQ-1 and Mirage, the SQ-80's keyboard offers channel pressure and polyphonic pressure (aftertouch) as well as programmable hardness (velocity). Since the keyboard does not use mechanical sensors for detecting velocity and pressure, it is immune to contact problems (which ESQ-1 and Mirage suffered from) and pressure sensor wear-out (like conventional keyboards).

Because of the hardware similarities, the SQ-80's operating system was later back-ported to the ESQ-1 to become the latest ESQ-1 OS Version 3.5, which is almost identical to SQ-80 OS 1.8 apart from the hardware-specific features (additional waveforms, floppy routines, and keyboard control).

This machine also features the same interface as its predecessor (ESQ-1) at a time when other synthesizers were getting harder and harder to program due to their frustrating obscure menu navigation systems.[citation needed] On the SQ-80 and ESQ-1, a large fluorescent display consisting of two rows of 40 alpha-numeric characters shows many parameters at once for a given section, and buttons placed over and under it give instant access to each one.

Notable users[edit]

  • Chucho Pinto y sus Kassino 1988 -1997 ( "En la fiesta más grande del mundo" ) Puebla México in live edition 1997.
  • Adamski – 1989–1991 recording sessions ("Killer" single) all tracks on Live & Direct (album)
  • Louis Panzer - Nocturnus
  • Mr Bungle - Mr Bungle (1991)
  • NTRSN - Hardlines (album)
  • Wintersun Project – All productions from 2005 onwards


  • "Ensoniq SQ80 Workstation Synth". Sound on Sound (July 1996).
  • Ensoniq SQ-80 Cross Wave Synthesizer and Sequencer - Musicians Manual Version 1.0 (PDF). Ensoniq. 1987-1995. Model # MM-15, Part # 9310 0025 01-B. About Cross WaveSynthesis (p.29) The sound of most musical instruments can be separated into two basic parts: • The Attack ... • The Sustain ... Ideally, we would like to be able to sample (digitally record) the Attack segments of various sounds, and then Crossfade those Attacks with other sampled or synthesized Sustain Waves. ... Within each Program, each of the SQ-80's three Oscillators can play a different Wave. Among the available Waves are Transient Attacks, which are used for the initial Attack portion of the sound, and two types of Sustain Waves — Waveforms, which are single-cycle waves repeated over and over, and Inharmonic Loops, which are dynamic. multi-cycle waves.

Further reading[edit]

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