Ensoniq ESQ-1

I’ve been wanting to make a post about the Ensoniq ESQ-1 for a while. The only reason I didn’t do it sooner is I wanted to buy one on eBay before I drive the prices up! I can happily report I did just click the Buy Now button and got a mint one for $250. Now I’m going to tell you this synth is the biggest secret in the synth world. Ensoniq was an American company and most of their synths are made of metal. The ESQ-1 also has a LED screen which is still beautiful and much nicer than the green/black LCD screens such as on a Yamaha DX7. The ESQ-1 is a digital synth but has all analog curtis filters (like DSI products). They are 4-pole analog resonant filters with 6-stage envelopes. You get 8 voice polyphony. What’s the price difference between a DSI Prophet 8 and a vintage ESQ? See where I am going here? It has 3 oscillators per voice, 32 waveforms, 3 LFOs per voice (triangle, saw, square, random) and 4 VCA + 4 Envelopes with 7 parameters per voice. There’s MIDI, memory and an on-board sequencer.

When I was in college I was friends with a synth band called Exurbia. The lead keyboardist Juan had an Ensoniq. I was constantly blown away by the sound. Skinny Puppy also used one. Recently I was viewing the awesome synth demos Jexus puts online and came across two he posted for the ESQ-1 (see above). I instantly jumped on eBay. I was shocked to see these consistently sell for under $300. I bought one. Another piece in my musical time machine. Go get one.

“The ESQ-1 is an absolutely fantastic synth with a great sound. In modern language – “It has a DSI filter” – you can hear it when it’s running through those ‘lo-fi digital samples’ with high resonance. It’s a very aggressive, powerful sound with lots of low end and depth. The filter makes all the difference and I would never miss analogue saw waves now that I own it. Roland synths of the era were beautiful and smooth, ESQ-1 was heavier and darker.” – Rib (comment on vintagesynth.com)

For more info: vintagesynth.com/ensoniq/ens_esq1

photo credit: Matrixsynth

Sound like you have an old sampler with Decimort.

Vintage color is the special sauce audio producers crave when producing. We want the sound of Mic pres from the 70s, spring reverbs and even that classic sampler sound. Decimort is a new plug-in from the ever impressive Polish software freaks D16. There are a host of bit crushers on the market but Decimort specializes in recreating the effect of old EMU Emulators and Ensoniq samplers.

“Electronic music producers (especially in Hip-Hop) have always been aware that classic samplers (such as early Akai and EMU units) had a character and sound of their own. They added a “grit” and “colour” to the samples and loops they played back which made them sound “Fat” and sit well in a mix. This sound colouration was due to the encoding techniques, lower sample rates, lower bit rate and conversion circuits which these early samplers used. Decimort recreates this colouration and adds the vintage sampler magic to any loop, bass line or sound played through it. It also acts as the perfect bit crusher with filter.” – D16.pl

You can hear some very good Decimort samples in the context of full songs on the D16 site: click here However, below I recorded and posted some straight forward clips. Each clip starts with the dry sound then I click on Decimort:

A choir sequence from the basic Reason soundbank. I chose the choir samples because you could find very similar samples in The Fairlight CMI:

A computerized vocal which I think shows off Decimort quiet nicely:

A simple Roland TR-808 loop through some Decimort presets:

One thing I really like about Decimort is that is has a wet/dry knob, something I wish all plug-ins had! Also, automating the Frequency in Decimort sounds very potent. Overall it’s a nice plug-in that I could see using many instances of. I like to try using filters and bit-crusher before I’ll grab an eq.

Decimort is Mac/PC AU/Vst for 35€. Demo available: click here

photo credit: Johnrpenner