Where digital dreams are made
Digital synthesizers are often known for sounds that are razor-sharp, crystal-clear, and precise - SQ80 V has other ideas.
Explore a detailed software resurrection of a digital anti-hero that’s out to break the rules.
Capture the grit, character, and charming imperfection favored by John Carpenter, Adamski, Mr Bungle, and countless others with an instrument that’s simultaneously complex and accessible, focused and intricate, edgy and dream-like - and unlike anything you’ve heard before.
The digital edge
SQ80 V’s perfectly-modeled 8-bit 5503 DOC chip delivers digital sounds that are uniquely full of organic character, ranging from silky smooth to razor sharp - all ready to customize & play in seconds.
Digital oscillators collide with an emulated analog filter and output circuit for sinewaves that growl, harmonics that sizzle, and warm lo-fi timbres that are perfectly imperfect.
Explore thousands of possible combinations of waves, instrument-style transients, hidden waveforms, and VFX transwaves for sound design potential that surpasses the original hardware.
Digital made easy
Digital synths have long been notoriously tricky to program, both hardware and software. SQ80 V bucks the trend with an immersive digital architecture that can be tweaked instantly, hassle-free.
Riding a wave
Created by the same engineers responsible for the Commodore 64 - considered the best-selling computer of all time - Ensoniq’s SQ80 was up against stiff competition.
At the time of its release, the digitization of hardware synthesizers was well under way - but it went on to become a cult classic.
Here was a digital synthesizer that offered a degree of warmth and character usually reserved for its analog peers; flexible voice and modulation controls that didn’t require 10,000 hours of practice to program; a workhorse keyboard that produced an unprecedented array of timbres to suit any style, without the stellar price tag of similarly capable instruments.
After finding success with the Commodore 64 computer, former MOS Technology engineers Robert Yannes, Bill Mauchly, Bruce Crockett, David Ziembicki, Al Charpentier, and Charles Winterble spent several years on projects that ultimately didn’t materialise. The best selling computer of all time was a tough act to follow.
It was the Commodore’s MOS Technology SID (Sound Interface Device) chip that led the team to form Ensoniq, a company to produce synthesizers. Robert Yannes put his sound expertise into creating the Digital Oscillator Chip - aka the DOC 5503 - which was the sonic foundation for Ensoniq’s first generation of synth releases.
Their debut 1985 release, the Mirage, was a sampling keyboard that entered the market at considerably less than the dominant samplers of the time like the Fairlight CMI. Its affordable price tag came at exactly the right time, so success was all but guaranteed. Their next release, the ESQ-1, cemented the company’s place as worthy contenders in the synth arena.
By the time Ensoniq released the SQ80 - an updated version of the ESQ-1 - the digital synth market was saturated. Pioneering Japanese manufacturers were dominating, with releases like the Roland D-50 and the Yamaha DX7 already in the world's top studios and on the biggest stages.
The SQ80 was up against stiff competition. And yet, during a time when synthesizers were becoming increasingly complex, and therefore difficult to program, Ensoniq had the upper hand. Simple menus, a clear screen, and clearly assigned buttons meant that crafting your own sound was quick, fun, and versatile. Compared to the leading Korg M1, the SQ80 was a breath of fresh air for keyboardists.
The fact that its proprietary digital circuitry was combined with a Curtis CEM 3379 filter & amp chip meant that its sound was unique too. Rather than glassy and precise like other digital offerings, it was crunchy, loud, and inconsistent.
It was this distinct formula that, ultimately, led to the SQ80 being considered a classic instrument. Its imperfect tones, featured on numerous ‘80s & ‘90s hits, soundtracks, and performances, are as nostalgic and edgy today as they ever were. SQ80 V brings them to your DAW in all their former glory, complete with additional enhancements modeled on Ensoniq’s later releases like the VFX.
SQ80 V’s unique voice is all about combining and manipulating waveforms.
Each of its 3 oscillators can be assigned a different waveform; SQ80 V unites classic waveforms from the original built-in library with hundreds more that we’ve added, ranging from the familiar to the abstract. The resulting range of sounds at your disposal is simply enormous; soft moving string pads, plucky pulse width basses, glitchy industrial percussion...
Just a small selection of the variety of sounds you can attain with SQ80 V, thanks to its diverse library of available waveforms.
The keyboard’s original factory library, ranging from sinewaves to unique drum transients, all distinctly synthetic in their nature.
An additional technology taken from Ensoniq’s follow-up generation of synthesizers, including ‘Transwaves’, a pioneering form of wavetable application.
ESQ-1 hidden waveforms
ESQ-1 preceded the SQ80, but had the same software. The same ‘hack’ was applied to produce a new selection of unique waveforms.
SQ80 hidden waveforms
By ‘hacking’ the original SQ80’s software, users unearthed a series of unpredictable waveforms made entirely of manipulated code.
Shades of analog
SQ80 V’s unique voice begins with its 8-bit oscillators and endless hybrid waveform combinations. It’s when these components collide with its emulated CEM 3379 analog filter that it truly comes into its own. By processing digital sounds through its emulated analog filter and amp, SQ80 V can inject organic imperfections, crunchy harmonics, and tangible lo-fi distortion into your modern mixes.
Hear the richness of SQ80 V's modeled CEM resonant low pass filter and how well it complements the digital voices.
Using our proprietary TAE® technology, we remodeled it in unparalleled detail to bring you a virtual instrument that sings, barks, and growls just like the original hardware.
Layer upon layer
From the immediacy of its controls to its games console aesthetic, SQ80 V is as charming, edgy, and accessible as the real deal. Use it in your DAW or as a standalone instrument and, quite literally, make waves.