French hardware sampling masters UVI released a new product — the USQ-1. It’s a sample-based recreation of the coveted Ensoniq ESQ-1 hybrid synthesizer from 1986. A very technically accomplished synth for its time, the ESQ-1 has a very lush, distinct sound that you can find on many synth-pop and industrial records from that era.
Ever heard Worlock by Skinny Puppy? Yes, the late Dwayne Goettel played those harrowing strings on the ESQ-1. What’s more, the Ensoniq was among the first affordable workstation-class keyboards. It featured an 8-voice multitimbral engine and an 8-track sequencer. There are three digital oscillators assignable to 32 waveshapes going into a Curtis 4-pole low-pass filter and modulated by 15 modulation sources.
Unabashedly digital, yet very rich-sounding, the ESQ-1 still sounds fresh and very pleasant. Props to UVI for digging out this old classic and giving it in the hands of modern producers!
Numbering over 22,000 samples, the USQ-1 features 268 selectable layers and 400 all-new patches, including bells, strings, leads, basses, textures, and atmospheres. The “vintage-digital” vibe has been well-preserved by UVI! The patches were made on an actual ESQ-1, recorded and processed through high-quality gear.
Of course, UVI recreated the ESQ-1’s synth engine (though sample-based, so not a direct emulation) to let you come up with your own sounds. Controls include ADSR, multi-mode filter with envelope, pitch, portamento, stereo, LFO, modwheel assignments, and an arpeggiator. UVI also added original effects — 3 band EQ, drive, chorus (coming from the Thorus effect), phaser, delay, and reverb (Sparkverb).
Overall, awesome stuff! The library takes about 7GB of space and is encoded in FLAC. It numbers 22,768 samples, so there was a lot of work and thought put into this product, clearly. I will be buying it for sure, as I have been looking for a professional ESQ-1 recreation for a long while.
Price and availability
Normally priced EUR 79, USQ-1 is being sold for EUR 50 until April 9. It runs inside UVI Workstation and Falcon, the former a free product for hosting other UVI stuff. USQ-1 requires an iLok account for authorization, though it doesn’t need the dongle. The product is available for Windows and Mac in AU, AAX, VST, and stand-alone formats. A demo is not available, but there are plenty of samples on the product page.