Ensoniq Corp. was an American electronics manufacturer, best known throughout the mid 1980's and 1990's 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.
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. In 1988, the company enlisted the Dixie Dregs in a limited edition promotional c.d. "Off the Record" which featured the band using the EPS sampler and SQ-80 cross wave synthesizer.
The Ensoniq VFX Synth was initially released as a performance type Synthesizer in 1989. Shortly after, the VFX-SD followed and included some updated waveforms (drum waves) and a 24-track sequencer. Both models were equipped with the Ensoniq Signal Processing (ESP) chip for 24-bit effects. The VFX-SD also included an AUX out patching system, which allowed for a total of 4 outputs from the synth for more routing flexibility. The initial models were 21-voice polyphony, and in latter models of the VFX-SD II, the polyphony was 32.
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.
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.
Archive - From the Original Ensoniq Website About us Page.......
The foundation of ENSONIQ's growth and success has been its ability to offer consumers high-quality, custom technology that is affordably priced. Through superior chip and software designs, ENSONIQ has established a reputation as a manufacturer of innovative sound products with exceptional value and performance.
ENSONIQ is a world leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing innovative sound products based on its proprietary integrated circuit technology. It was founded in 1982 by Bruce Crockett, Al Charpentier, and Bob Yannes. As key personnel during the heyday of Commodore Business Machines, they developed technology, designed microchips and systems, and guided the manufacturing of America's most popular home computers. Through this extensive experience, they became one of the foremost VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) teams in the country.
At the time, VLSI technology had not been extensively used in electronic musical instruments. ENSONIQ saw the opportunity to create a significant price/performance breakthrough, and, in 1984, introduced the Mirage digital sampling keyboard (a keyboard that records sounds which can be manipulated and played back as musical notes) to the professional music market. Its custom chip expertise enabled ENSONIQ to price the Mirage at only $1,695, competing with similar products selling for $8,000.
ENSONIQ quickly became a price leader, while its superior chip and software design established the company's reputation for innovation, performance, and value. Today, ENSONIQ owns over 75 percent of the sampling keyboard market and is one of the top three suppliers in the world of samplers and synthesizers to professional, semi-professional, and home musicians. ENSONIQ products are sold through a select group of musical instrument retailers in the United States, international distributors, and a direct sales office in Japan.
In 1992, after years of successfully integrating ENSONIQ chip technology into products of companies such as Apple Computer, Baldwin Piano & Organ, and Taito Corporation, ENSONIQ established its Multimedia Division. The company's expertise in audio technology has won a wide range of design and production contracts from PC, video arcade game, karaoke, and other markets (such as Disney Imagineering, which uses ENSONIQ technology for programming audio in its theme park rides). In 1994, the company entered the rapidly growing market for personal computer multimedia sound cards, using its music and sound expertise to lead the evolution of PC audio from inferior FM (frequency modulation) synthesis to the more realistic sounding wavetable synthesis.
Soundscape, which utilizes the same synthesizer that ENSONIQ uses in its musical keyboards, is a 16-bit, 32 voice wavetable synthesis add-in board for PC's. Soundscape has been recognized for its high-quality sound and the value it provides to consumers, winning awards such as Windows Magazines "Recommended". ENSONIQ sells Soundscape to OEM customers, as well as through Value-Added Resellers (VARs), and distributors worldwide.
ENSONIQ's long history of musical instrument innovation provides it with a competitive advantage in these markets: 1) the highest quality audio technology available developed to meet the demands of professional musicians; 2) exceptional price/performance ratio derived from the ability to design custom chips in-house; and 3) the largest sound library in the world, recorded with many of the top professionals in the music industry.
Each of ENSONIQ's products contains one or more custom integrated circuits. These chips are specifically designed for wavetable synthesis, sampling, and digital effects, incorporating in hardware the sound generation and processing algorithms. ENSONIQ's chip division origins go back to 1985, when Apple Computer licensed the company's sound chip designs for the Apple II GS computer. Since 1991, we have supplied custom chips, systems hardware, and software to Taito, one of the world's largest manufacturers of video arcade games. Walt Disney Imagineering has designed ENSONIQ chips into its theme park rides.
ES-5510 - "ESP"
ENSONIQ Signal Processor
The ESP chip is a custom digital signal processor chip with over 75,000 transistors, used in all of the company's musical instruments and some multimedia products. It is a high-speed microprocessor with an instruction set that is optimized for manipulating audio data, which has typical sample rates of between 10 kHz and 50 kHz. The ESP chip is capable of creating a wide range of digital effects including reverb, delay, echo, flanging, chorusing, harmonizing, equalization, and distortion, and is capable of generating multiple effects simultaneously.
The ESP is a VLSI device designed in a 1.0 micron double-metal CMOS process. It is optimized for signals in the audio frequency range. The multiplicity and flexibility of the data paths in the ESP allows many DSP operations to be accomplished in a minimum number of microinstruction steps. Its nominal instruction cycle is 250 ns, yielding program lengths from about 64 to 160 microinstructions at typical sample rates. Because the ESP chip is fully programmable, the range of effects is unlimited. (Competitive DSP products are generally limited to their specific design functions.)
The major features of the ESP chip are:
48 Pin DIP or 52 Pin PLCC
Separate Address Generator ALU
4 Programmable Serial I/O Channels (I2S or Sony Format)
On-Chip Data and Microprogram Memory
8-Bit Address/Data Multiplexed Host CPU Interface
External Sample Rate Synchronization
Multiplexed Addressing for Simple DRAM Interface
Host Access to ESP DRAM
The architecture of the ESP chip is implemented by the following major components:
ALU - 24-bit wide, capable of 16 different instructions
Multiplier - 24x24 bit with dedicated 48 bit accumulator
Separate Address Generator ALU
Microinstruction Memory Array (160 x 45 bits)
General Purpose Register Array (192 x 24 bits)
23 Special Purpose Registers
Three 24-bit wide data paths
Serial Digital I/O (4 stereo channels, I2S or Sony)
ENSONIQ ES-5506 - "OTTO"
32-Voice Wavetable Oscillator Chip
The ES 5506 OTTO chip is a sample playback synthesizer designed to play back digital recordings. It creates one or more complete musical instruments through onboard signal processing. Unlike a CD player, which only plays back the signal as recorded, OTTO is capable of altering the pitch and timbre of a digital recording and operating with 32 channels (voices). Each channel provides independent control of pitch, volume, waveform, and filtering.
OTTO is a VLSI device designed in a 1.5 micron double-metal CMOS process. It contains approximately 80,000 transistors. The device is the fourth generation of audio technology from ENSONIQ. All calculations are made with at least 18-bit accuracy.
The major features of OTTO are:
68-pin PLCC package
Real time digital filters
32 independent voices
Loop start and stop positions for each voice
Bidirectional and reverse looping
68000 compatibility for asynchronous bus communication
Separate host and sound memory interface
6 channel stereo serial communication port
Programmable clocks for defining serial protocol
Internal volume multiplication and stereo panning
A to D input for pots and wheels
Hardware support for envelopes
Support for dual OTTO systems
Optional compressed data format for sample data
Up to 16 MHz operation
ENSONIQ's sound library contains sounds ranging from basic General MIDI to special purpose effects, world instruments, and large-memory sounds that satisfy even the most demanding fidelity requirements. Our sound design staff is available to customize elements of our library to specific needs or to source and develop totally new audio data.
Information gleamed from :
wikipedia.org on the VFX
Archived Ensoniq website