Ensoniq ESQ-1/SQ-80 vs Kawai K3 vs Waldorf Microwave 1

A forum for comparing two or more synths against each other. Also known as "versus" threads.

Ensoniq ESQ-1/SQ-80 vs Kawai K3 vs Waldorf Microwave 1

Postby dudefinal » Tue Nov 22, 2016 10:01 pm

Was wondering which one of these would be good for a nice spacey sounding/ambient/dark sound. I have heard demos of each and am torn. They all sound really good. The Ensoniq sounds most like it would be good for those ambient and spacey sounds. Have also heard that is very easy to learn and play and that I would not regret making a purchase of any of these. In the future I plan to have each of these legendary synths and a Virus but for now I have to make a choice. What do you guys think?
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Re: Ensoniq ESQ-1/SQ-80 vs Kawai K3 vs Waldorf Microwave 1

Postby meatballfulton » Tue Nov 22, 2016 10:19 pm

The Ensoniqs are super easy to program because of the unusually large display. Two button presses gets you to any parameter. They have very good modulation routings for a synth of that era. They can do hard sync and AM (ring modulation) which is seldom seen on sample based synths.

The thing missing from both the Ensoniqs and the Kawai is any reverb or delay, which is pretty important for ambient sounds.

I can't speak to the Microwave since I have never used one.
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Re: Ensoniq ESQ-1/SQ-80 vs Kawai K3 vs Waldorf Microwave 1

Postby Baus » Thu Nov 24, 2016 12:17 pm

Those synths are all good choices by default... and what you say is true.

I am really a fan of Ensoniq and have the ESQ-1 with the last OS, which means access to the hidden waves.

The Kawai K3 sounds really good. On that one you only have two oscillators to combine, in the Ensoniqs you have 3. Like meatballfulton points out.... there is OSC Sync and AM on the Ensoniqs as well. The SQ-80 has more acoustic waveforms to play with than the ESQ-1.

The Waldorf is a Wavetable synth so probably you can get some more morphing type of sounds out of it by scrolling through the wavetable. You can do that too with the Ensoniq EPS-16 Plus... but that's a sampler with amazing synth capabilities, a digital filter with no resonance (in the filter section).

All of your options do need effects to give them that juice that's needed to make ambient sounds.
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Re: Ensoniq ESQ-1/SQ-80 vs Kawai K3 vs Waldorf Microwave 1

Postby Baus » Thu Nov 24, 2016 11:23 pm

....and another thing: The Acces Virus is just GREAT for Ambient sounds.

It has all kinds of effects on board too so if you want something to work with right out of the box then that would be an excellent choice too.

I have both the Ensoniq ESQ-1 and the Access Virus Kb and they complement each other well.

The Virus also has 3 oscillators and a sub-oscillator, plus noise, plus pulse-width Modulation and Frequency Modulation, Ring Modulator and many more possibilities in terms of Modulation.

Let us know what your first choice is going to be!
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Re: Ensoniq ESQ-1/SQ-80 vs Kawai K3 vs Waldorf Microwave 1

Postby ian » Sun Jan 01, 2017 1:51 am

I have a Kawai 3, it is very easy to use and I like the sounds on it very much, it definitely has a sort of dark crunch and can give you that sort of John Carpenter type of vibe. It is extremely easy to program, everything is layed out right in front of you, if you have any synth experience at all it is usable straight out of the box and you will probably never have to look at any instructions. So yeah, I like it.

(Here is an aside: I also have a Kawai K1 ii, which, if you are going for dark ambience sounds, I would recommend over the Kawai K3, because you can do a lot more sound sculpting with it. It takes a little bit more time to get the hang of, but I think most people that have messed around with synths would find it a pretty quick study. The interface is not as simple as the K3 but it is pretty hands on once you get the hang of it. The thing I would say about it is that it gives you a much more lush, David Lynch-y type of sound. I know the filters on the K3 are it's big selling point, but owning both, I feel that I use the K3 almost for more hands on dark-ish, brassy type sounds.... Where as the K1ii really goes deep into super textured, beautiful, haunting territory... I love them both... K1ii is more ambient.)

I can' t really comment on the Ensoniq or the Waldorf. Heard a lot of good things about the Ensoniq, however, and I did have an "X" for a short time which was cool.
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Re: Ensoniq ESQ-1/SQ-80 vs Kawai K3 vs Waldorf Microwave 1

Postby Ensoniq5 » Sat Jan 07, 2017 3:42 pm

meatballfulton wrote:The thing missing from both the Ensoniqs and the Kawai is any reverb or delay, which is pretty important for ambient sounds.


This isn't quite true. The SQ80 has a simple reverb that engages by pushing the release on EG4 above half way (ie. above half way the release value drops to 0 with reverb engaged).

I continue to be impressed with the power, range and expressiveness of the SQ80 but not having played the K3 I can't add much to the conversation. The SQ80/ESQ-1 interface has to be one of the most intuitive of the single data entry slider mob, however live tweaking is limited to whatever is assigned to the wheels or pedals. It's modulation options are staggering (3 LFOs, 4 EGs) and simple to implement and it has a great filter, though it can take a bit of wrangling. I doubt you'd be disappointed with either of the Ensoniq offerings.
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