Ensoniq EPS 16 or Emax II

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Burntcrust
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Ensoniq EPS 16 or Emax II

Post by Burntcrust » Sun Mar 31, 2019 5:38 pm

So I am looking to buy a vintage sampler, and I have found two for sale near me for a good price on both - though the Emax is still twice as much as the Ensoniq EPS 16. I understand the Emax II is more powerful, will be a higher fidelity sample, but beyond that when reading about these two samplers the Ensoniq EPS 16 sounds more versatile in many ways (mainly from reading the blurbs here on Vintage Synth). I am looking for something that will be better for playing live shows and switching between voices, and sequencing rhythm tracks to play solo, or with one other person. I have been using a Casio Sk-1s and 5's for years, so I am fine with lo-fi, but I want something more versatile and dynamic. In many ways, I feel like the EPS 16 seems like a better fit for what I need, and it is cheaper, but the Emax II I see is a good deal for the keyboard so I feel like I am passing up a good offer. Any advice on the functionality of these two keyboards?

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madtheory
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Re: Ensoniq EPS 16 or Emax II

Post by madtheory » Sun Mar 31, 2019 9:55 pm

They're both really nice sounding machines, but I would hesitate to use them live. You will definitely have failures during a show, with gear this old. Studio only for these beasts IMO.

With both machines, disks will be a problem. You'd have to update to SCSI2SD. They'll both need a good deep service, certainly requiring some new capacitors and displays. Even if you were to get one of them restored to as new condition, the Ensoniq is buggy and can crash.

So if you insist on a vintage sampler, go with the Emax but factor into your budget the cost of SCSSI2SD and a full overhaul. Someone will probably mention that Depeche Mode used them live. Ya they did, but that was over 25 years ago. They don't use them now!

If you already own a laptop, that is a much more reliable solution. I use Apple Mainstage, it's super reliable (but Mac only). Like you, I use a Casio SK-5. Mainstage has an Autosampler which I use to sample every note off the Casio so I can use it in Mainstage as an instrument. So I get all the tone of the Casio without carrying another thing that can break.

Mainstage is amazing. You can set up everything during rehearsals, and once it's set off you go. I even had it mix lead vocal, one BV, bass and electric guitar while also playing the backing track and running my softsynths and effects. No engineer required!

You should also seriously consider Ableton Live. For sampling work, it is vastly more powerful than any vintage sampler but it is also simpler to get into. The Emax will drive you a bit mad if you don't like how it works. Lots of people didn't! I did, but I'd never go back.

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Re: Ensoniq EPS 16 or Emax II

Post by Jabberwalky » Mon Apr 01, 2019 12:38 am

I've played live with both at different times. Really, with today's midi sequencing options, I wouldn't want to sequence anything with either of them live. As far as pure sound sources and synths, they're both really unique and have different sounds.

The EPS16+ has a lofi crunch, especially when you crush it further with the bitrate convertor. It's great for layering samples, and doing loops with the bi-directional x-fade. It has a bunch of weird synth editing features, cool low/hi pass filters, with stupidly confounding envelopes. It's also quite capable of loading and saving a bank of 8 sounds. The FX on the EPS16 is still awesome, and has an incredibly depth of possibility. For sure get the SCSi2sd or something as madtheory mentioned.

The emax2 has a much smoother, more refined sound and creates cleaner loops. The onboard chorus pushes that even further. Editing on the emax is more cumbersome, with the smaller display. The sequencer was never usable for me. I just really disliked how the UI was setup. It does have a nice arpeggiator though with tons of types. The emax2 doens't have any other FX aside from chorus on/off. Also again, don't f**k with floppies live unless it's just 1 and you're really good at trimming/compressing sample space.

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Re: Ensoniq EPS 16 or Emax II

Post by Burntcrust » Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:27 am

Thanks, both of your responses are very helpful. I understand your point, Madtheory, about these being outdated tech for live settings in this day of age, but the only computer I have is a Chromebook, and so any music stuff that is beyond the confines of the keyboard itself will require I get a new computer too (which I sometimes consider, but it becomes such a huge investment). I mainly do stuff just onto my Tascam cassette 4 track, and the set up I have right now is very difficult to do live unless I bring my four-track with me and play the tape while playing to it, so really anything is an upgrade in that regard.

It is still sounding like the EPS 16 is the better choice for me though. Where or how do I do the SCSID upgrades? Any rough estimate on the cost of doing that?

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Re: Ensoniq EPS 16 or Emax II

Post by madtheory » Mon Apr 01, 2019 9:34 am

I use a 2009 Apple Macbook with 6GB RAM and a 250GB SSD. That would cost you less than €400. It's just about powerful enough to do a show for my setup. I'm sure you could find a better deal if you look around. There are places that will sell you a refurb older Mac with an SSD and maximum RAM for that kind of money. Mainstage is €30.

How much is the EPS16?

I've no experience with putting SCSI2SD in an Ensoniq, but I did find this link via Google:
http://www.chickensys.com/products2/har ... drive.html

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Re: Ensoniq EPS 16 or Emax II

Post by Hyde » Tue Apr 02, 2019 11:37 am

I was using my ASR & EPS16 live, last year. No Problems. Ive been inside my machines, cleaned them, replaced parts. They are vintage machines. They need a good going through to ensure road worthiness. Though, gingerly. They are classic machines after all. I don't own the Emax. I'm sure its a great machine. I like the EPS16 for it's effects, sequencer & the ability to have a few patches loaded, at the same time. I wouldn't buy an EPS16 w/o SCSI & memory expanded, though. Not unless It was for next to nothing & I had a line on those parts. Also, I run a zip drive on my EPS16 & ASR10. EPS16 needs mod for that. all things to think about.
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Re: Ensoniq EPS 16 or Emax II

Post by madtheory » Tue Apr 02, 2019 8:40 pm

Yep, they'll be reliable if you're capable of and prepared to service them properly.

But honestly, for sampling functionality and wild processing, even Ableton Live Lite runs rings around an EPS.

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Re: Ensoniq EPS 16 or Emax II

Post by Hyde » Wed Apr 03, 2019 12:50 am

madtheory wrote:Yep, they'll be reliable if you're capable of and prepared to service them properly.

But honestly, for sampling functionality and wild processing, even Ableton Live Lite runs rings around an EPS.
I'm a hardware guy. How does it handle low bit rate sounds? I understand the ease of use but, the reason I use something like an EPS classic over the 16 or the ASR is the sound I get from it. I don't hear too many people praising the character sound of new software, or hardware for that matter.. Thoughts?
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Re: Ensoniq EPS 16 or Emax II

Post by madtheory » Wed Apr 03, 2019 5:43 pm

On balance I think the sheer amount and flexibility of processing and options in Ableton far outweighs the relatively subtle effect of grunge on a vintage hardware sampler. If you want that and want it authentically, my favourite thing is Arturia CMIV. It's amazing how much heftier wavs ripped from old CMI disk images sound in CMIV compared to any other sampler. Unless you already own a vintage sampler- then you can just sample that in to Ableton and leave the vintage gear in the studio.

Plus Ableton is so easy to get into on a superficial level, and you can make very decent productions at that level. When you actually read the manuals/ do tutorials, it's incredible. Setting up drum kits is a joy. It's literally just drag and drop plugins onto samples, get whatever sound you want.

I have to confess I haven't done anything with the Casio FZ-1 or SK-5 since I got CMIV. It doesn't replace the FZ filter (nothing can, for certain noises) but it's got great character.

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