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