company_name = Ensoniq Corporation
company_type = Corporation
company_slogan = Leading The World In Sound Innovation
foundation = 1982
location = Malvern, PA
key_people = Bruce Crockett, Al Charpentier, and Bob Yannes (founders)
industry = Musical Instruments and Technology
homepage = http://www.ensoniq.com (closed down)

Ensoniq Corp. was an American electronics manufacturer, best known throughout the mid 1980s and 1990s for its musical instruments, principally samplers and synthesizers.

Company history

Ensoniq was founded in 1982 by former MOS Technology engineers Robert "Bob" Yannes (designer of the MOS Technology SID chip for the Commodore 64 home computer), Bruce Crockett, and Al Charpentier. Their first product was a software drum machine that ran on a home computer.

In January 1998, ENSONIQ Corp. was acquired by Creative Technology Ltd. for $77 million. The fusion with E-mu and Creative Labs sealed Ensoniq's fate: their products and support vanished soon afterward.

Musical Instruments & Digital Systems

Ensoniq entered the instrument market with the Mirage sampling keyboard in 1985. At the price of USD$1500 it cost significantly less than previous samplers such as the Fairlight CMI and the E-mu Emulator. Starting with the ESQ-1, they began producing wave table based synthesizers. Following the success of these products, Ensoniq established a subsidiary in Japan in 1987.

Ensoniq products were highly professional; strong selling points were ease-of-use and their characteristic "fat", rich sound (generally thought of as being an "American" quality, as opposed to the "Japanese" sound which was more "digital" and somewhat "cold"). After the Mirage, all Ensoniq instruments featured integrated sequencers (even their late 80s and early 90s samplers) providing an "all-in-one" "digital studio" production instrument concept. High-quality effects units were included, along with disk drives or RAM cards for storage needs. The manuals and tutorial documents were clearly written and highly musician-oriented, allowing the users to quickly get satisfactory results from their machines.

The company's heyday was in the early 90s when the VFX synthesizers offered innovative performance and sequencing features (and terrific acoustic sounds), along with the ASR series of 16-bit samplers which also integrated synthesis, effects and sequencer into a single-unit digital studio. The TS synthesizers followed the legacy of the VFX line, improving several aspects such as the polyphony, effects engine, sample-loading capabilities and even better synth and acoustic sounds. The DP series of effects rackmount units offered parallel processing and reverb presets on a par with Lexicon's offerings but at affordable prices.

Despite these strengths, early Ensoniq instruments suffered from reliability problems. The company didn't manage to reinvent its workstation concept in order to survive the mid and late 90s, and no lower-budget versions of their keyboards were offered. Excellent synthesizers like the VFX or TS models lacked cheaper rackmount counterparts. Finally, while the competition's products were continually evolving and newer technologies such as physical modeling were introduced, Ensoniq failed to follow the late '90s market orientation, often recycling old concepts on their new products. The incorporation of an arpeggiator and a resonant filter on the latest products (such as the MR synthesizers) could have made Ensoniq a desirable alternative for the dance and electronic crowd (which was almost entirely responsible for the late 90s synth market), but that feature was apparently noticed too late.

Timeline of major products

* 1985 - Ensoniq Mirage
* 1986 - Ensoniq ESQ-1
* 1988 - Ensoniq SQ-80
* 1988 - Ensoniq EPS
* 1988 - Ensoniq VFX
* 1990 - Ensoniq EPS 16 Plus
* 1990 - Ensoniq SD-1
* 1992 - Ensoniq KS-32
* 1992 - Ensoniq ASR-10
* 1993 - Ensoniq TS 10
* 1993 - [http://www.stanford.edu/~dattorro/DP4.htm Ensoniq DP/4]
* 1996 - Ensoniq MR61
* 1997 - Ensoniq ASR X
* 1997 - Ensoniq E Prime
* 1998 - Ensoniq Fizmo
* 1998 - Ensoniq ZR-76
* 1998 - Ensoniq ASR X Pro
* 1998 - Ensoniq PARIS Digital Audio Workstation
* 2002 - Ensoniq Halo (Creative Labs product using Ensoniq name)

Multimedia Sound Cards & Semiconductors

Ensoniq was known not only for their innovative musical instruments division, but also for their computer audio chips. In 1986, after making an agreement with Apple Computer, the same Ensoniq 5503 chip utilized in the Mirage and ESQ-1 keyboard was incorporated into the Apple IIGS personal computer. The Ensoniq ES5505 (OTIS or OTISR2), ES5506 (OTTO) and ES5510 (ESPR6, ESP stands for Ensoniq Signal Processor) were used in various arcade games. They were all manufactured on the CMOS process. The OTTO was licensed to Advanced Gravis for use in the Gravis Ultrasound card. In 1994 production began on PC sound cards for home computers.

Ensoniq's sound cards became immensely popular, no doubt due to their many wins with the big OEM system manufacturers. Towards the end of the DOS gaming era, every game supported the Ensoniq Soundscape. In fact Ensoniq was the first to come up with an ISA software audio emulation solution for their new PCI sound cards that was compatible with most DOS games. It is likely that this was a big motivator in the Creative/E-Mu purchase of Ensoniq because Creative Labs had not developed a high-compatibility method to support audio in legacy DOS software. According to one source, because of the wide range of patents Ensoniq had involving the PCI bus support for the sound cards, and the fact that Ensoniq wanted what E-mu's technologies, the buyout of Ensoniq became the best of both worlds.


*Ensoniq Soundscape S-2000 The original Soundscape was Ensoniq's first direct foray into the PC sound card market. It was a full-length ISA digital audio and wavetable synthesis audio card, equipped with a 2MB Ensoniq-built ROM-based patch set.
*Ensoniq SoundscapeDB The SSDB was a wavetable daughterboard upgrade for PCs with a sound card bearing a Waveblaster-compatible connector. It was based upon the S-2000 chipset but was without the digital sound effects section or any DAC. The SSDB would use the host sound card for final output.
*Ensoniq Soundscape Elite The ELITE was Ensoniq's high-end ISA offering. It offered the highest MIDI quality of any PC sound card they ever made, including the newer AudioPCI. The Elite was based mostly around the S-2000, with some additional features that set it far apart from its progenitor.
*Ensoniq Soundscape OPUS This card was a Gateway 2000 OEM, and possibly was used by other OEMs, but was never sold to Ensoniq's customers directly. It was a Soundscape-like board, using the Ensoniq "OPUS" multimedia sound chip, a chip that was only used on these OEM boards.
*Ensoniq Soundscape VIVO90 was Ensoniq's generational step forward from the Ensoniq Soundscape S-2000-based boards. It was first produced in 1996. VIVO90 had similar specifications to the older boards, but was built to cost less to manufacture.


*Ensoniq AudioPCI The AudioPCI was designed to be cheap first, functional second. However, it is very functional. When one compares the wide variety of chips and sheer size of the older Soundscape boards to the highly integrated 2-chip design of the AudioPCI, the cost-reduction is obvious. Only a small host-driven audio chip (one of the following: S5016, ES1370, ES 1371) and a companion DAC. AudioPCI still offers nearly all of the audio capabilities of the Soundscape ELITE card.


*Case, Loyd. "In Search Of The Ultimate... Sound Card." Computer Gaming World Dec. 1994: 138-148.
*Ensoniq Corp. Soundscape S-2000 Manual, Ensoniq, 1994.
* [http://web.archive.org/web/19980214014059/http://www.ensoniq.com/ "Ensoniq Corp. Web Site"] by Ensoniq Corp., Multimedia Division Product Information and Support Pages, 1998, retrieved December 25 2005
* [http://web.archive.org/web/19970607104214/www.ensoniq.com/html/mm-pi.htm "Ensoniq FAQ"] by Ensoniq Corp., Multimedia Division Product Information and Support Pages, 1997, retrieved December 27 2005
*Prince, Bobby. "In Search Of The Ultimate... Wavetable Daughtercard." Computer Gaming World Dec. 1994: 156-164.
*Weksler, Mike & McGee, Joe. "CGW Sound Card Survey." Computer Gaming World Oct. 1993: 76-84.

External links

* [http://www.creative.com Creative Labs : Home Page]
* [http://www.emu.com E-MU / Ensoniq home page]
* [http://web.archive.org/web/19980214014059/http://www.ensoniq.com/ Ensoniq in the Internet Archive 2/14/1998]
* [http://personales.ya.com/sailor/ensoniq/ Ensoniq AudioPCI S5016 User Manual]

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