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ESQ/SQ80 Clav Shootout

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Introduction

  JULY/AUGUST 2008

MARK WYNKOOP

 

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The Ensoniq ESQ/SQ80 synthesizers are amazingly malleable beasts. They can be so chameleon-like that it's surprising when you encounter a tone you can't replicate.

Be that as it may, there are a handful of patches which seem to challenge the ESQ series. One such sound is the Hohner Clavinet, the funky 1970's keyboard. Pictured (to the right) is the famous D6 model, which was basically an electric bass guitar on it's side. The keys caused rubber hammers to strike the strings, and this sound was amplified via the pickups.

The Clavinet is a distinctive sound that most analog synthesizers can approximate without too much fiddling, even on two oscillator synths.

But for some reason, the clav sound is tough to nail on the ESQ series --Even though the SQ80 includes a clav multi-sample as part of it's large oscillator wave library!

Hohner D6 Clavinet

Ensoniq SQ80

This web page presents audio snippets from nineteen different clav patches executed on the ESQ1 and SQ80.  Very few of the sound samples on this page actually make use of the clav waves.

Audition them for yourself and vote on which ones you think are best. You can leave comments for each sound (look for the Add Comment icons in each "Rate Clav" section).

It's impossible to directly compare more than three or four sounds, so I have instead invoked the old "5-star rating system". Give the sounds you don't care for the least stars, and give the best sounds 5 stars.

You may want to listen to all the sounds before rating them to see if you really love (or hate!) any particular patches.

Getting the Listen Lab (next page) to work:

  • The built-in player requires Adobe Flash Player. You probably already have it.
  • Allow embeds (Vista!). If you don't see the media players, right click that yellow bar up there and "allow blocked content"!
  • You may need to click play buttons twice (curses!). Some newer browser "security" features now require a "focus click", so only your second click registers on the transport buttons. There are ways to overcome this with PHP scripting, but I'm a lazy, lazy man.
  • Try viewing this page with one of the "big 4" browsers. Page should be relatively cross-platform.
  • Don't be a turkey! You can start multiple players simultaneously. But why would you?
  • You can cheat on the voting. But why would you?  Life is too short to rig a contest for a boutique synthesizer patch.

If you've tried all the suggestions and the Listen Lab still doesn't work for you, send me an email or post a message on the SQ80 mailing list or the Yahoo ESQsMe group. I'll try to get it working for your browser.

 About these sounds:

  • There are 19 different clav sounds for you to rate.
  • Each sound is an identical 10 second riff similar to Stevie Wonder's "Superstition".
  • The sounds are normalized, but uncompressed, just as you would record them from your SQ80.  I am talking, of course, about dynamics compression, not the data compression in the MP3 files (which I did utilize).
  • Stereo pan preserved from the original patches--Sometimes favors the player, sometimes the listener.
  • Some patches are not strictly imitative. You'll also hear bass clavs, piano clavs and Pianets.
  • The sound clips are recorded direct from 2-track (okay, digital!) and compressed with LAME to VBR preset extreme, which should produce reasonably accurate encodes with limited compression (but larger file sizes). If the last sentence was meaningless to you, you are not going crazy. You can safely ignore some of the technical details and just skip to the sounds.
  • No effects were employed, any chorusing, wah, flange or pan effects are part of the original program.

 

 

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