Recommend Related Items & Pairings
This is where you can recommend to readers an alternative - or gear that goes with - Ensoniq SQ-80. What gear sounds similar, is less expensive, higher-end or boutique, etc.?ADD YOUR RECOMMENDATION
3 AVAILABLE FROM
* Product prices and availability are updated by Equipboard every 24hrs and are subject to change. Equipboard may receive compensation for purchases made at participating retailers linked on this site. This compensation does not affect what products or prices are displayed, or the order of prices listed. Learn more here.
Found 0 artists
edited 12 months ago
The power in this one is in the modulation possibilities and expressiveness. The sounds themselves (ROMs) are ok, but the sound engine is really good when you start adding all that modulation capability and expressiveness.
Hidden gem with unique sound: raw digital oscs with smooth analog filters
Hidden gem from the late 80's! When all major synth manufacturers were dumping analog synths for digital synths, Ensoniq could only afford to implement digital oscillators (with a total of 256Kb of wave memory) while the filter was still an analog resonant filter which gives the SQ80 it's unique sound: raw digital oscs with smooth analog filters. Nice keyboard with polyphonic aftertouch as well.
One of the few synths in the world with poly aftertouch
The Ensoniq SQ-80 is a hybrid digital/analog synth that utilizes wavetable oscillators and analog filters using CEM chips. It earns a five star review from me because of its unusual feature set. Its three-oscillator-per-voice architecture is unusual for the era, and while lacking "knobs", it has arguably one of the best button-based interfaces for a synth of the era. Additionally, it provides analog-synth style features like ring modulation and oscillator sync, which are rare on digital synth of the era.
Like its predecessor, the ESQ-1, it is a stereo synth that allows voices to be panned in the stereo field. It is almost identical in function to the ESQ-1, and indeed can load ESQ-1 patches, but adds additional waveforms as well as aftertouch.
And let's talk about aftertouch! The SQ-80 is one of the only synths of the era (along with some other Ensoniq synths) to provide polyphonic aftertouch, as opposed to channel aftertouch. Many modern synths such as the Novation Peak, Summit, and soft synths like Arturia's clone of the Yamaha CS-80, can be configured to respond to poly aftertouch.
Other than that, the keybed is not spectacular, in my opinion. It has a very light touch, and some complain that it is "clacky", an issue that can only be resolved through a hard-to-find bushing replacement kit. (Check Syntaur for these.) On the plus side, the design of the keybed was state-of-the-art for its day, and due to the way it works, does not really have parts that can wear easily. Along those lines, it should last a lifetime.
Those looking for the SQ-80 sound on a budget (without poly-aftertouch) should check out its cheaper, more popular cousin, the ESQ-1.
One of my oldest synths and still my main synth!
There isn't really anything I don't like... I suppose it would've been nice if it had a "know per function" but the SQ80 is extremely easy to navigate. I guess having self resonating filters would be nice... but since my background is also electronics i'm working on my own version, so to speak, so stay tuned! For updates on my synth designs look here or check out my product page: lewistechnogroup.com
The SQ80 has been the best and most useful synth i've ever owned. I'd say it's responsible for 80 percent of the sounds you hear in my songs. I only regret not getting an Ensoniq sampler, the TS-10, and Fizmo. I loved almost every synth Ensoniq made, they were really ahead of their time!
Also I almost forgot the SQ80 has poly aftertouch, a rarity then and especially these days.