NOT AN IDYLLIC PICNIC
I bought it as 100% operational, but of course the battery was dead
and the memory was not working. When I asked for a fraction of the
price to be returned, the stupid bitch I bought it from blamed it on
transportation and accused me of trying to con money out of her. And
she said that before leaving her house the instrument had had 100
patches, which is quite funny when you know that ESQ1 has 40 slots in
its patch memory. So I called her a liar and told her to fuck herself.
Within the first impressions I thought that one of the chips has gone
bad over the years, but it turned out that the filters of this board
have a tendency to drift, or detune after the battery death &
replacement, so the filter tuning procedure helped a little.
So, my finally working ESQ-1.
One of these synths in which amateurish and disobliging twists of knobs for
fun result in a pile of garbage. If you're a smooth hi-fi, quick 'n' easy
twiddling rolandy-juice lover, I advise to re-think before buying the ESQ.
In terms of sound and experience it's the most remote thing from Roland Juno /
Korg Polysix - the interface demands a totally different approach, and the basic tone of this synth is the most stiff and crude
thing in the synth world. However, if you get used to the buttons + lcd mode
(which turns out to be pretty effortless), and
curious of all things insane and bizarre and willing to spend several long
meticulously experimenting to eventually come up with deep, spacious, punchy,
brutal, mellow, organic, widely-and-wildly-modulated, industrial, crazy
lo-fi, 8-bit commodore chip, original and surprisingly classy patches - don't think for too long
and buy it.
3 LFOs, 4 envelopes, various wave shapes, ringmod, phase sync options (LFO
and OSC start), layering... you won't get bored as fast as you would sitting
in front of a cheap Korg, and I bet the ESQ is even cheaper. Even though it
would be fair to blame it for rigidity of the tone, or aliasing, or whatever
else, we also
have to admit that what seems to be its flaws is actually giving it a
character, a unique flavor, a feel of vintage goodies going through a rusty
metal pipe. There's always something going on; either filter resonance or
the DCA get clipped, so prepare yourself for a gritty and dirty sonic
picnic. For me, the most important thing is that the tone of this synth
makes me want to rock 'n' roll and bash all the things around and hit the
board with my head (from which I refrain of course). I'd say it's the best,
the deepest, and the most convincing sound amongst the "digital waveform - analog VCF"
synths (although the Korg DW-8000 is a gem too and shines in its own, much more
agile & lush way - but if the DW-8000 is a luxury-version Land Rover, the
ESQ is the
Lord Humungus'es car).
Plus it has the most comfortable tactile interaction (not to be confused
with interface / architecture, which is quite quirky, especially when we add
to it the antique vacuum-tube display). And it's a very "synthy" synth due to its variety of modulation
sources and flexibility, unlike other boards that cater to the DX-organ-Rhodes
fans and limit you this or that way. Speaking of DX, the ESQ is like a cross
between Akai AX80 and Yamaha DX7 (and in terms of tonal flavors you can even throw in ARP Odyssey
plus a string machine!). Or it's the Waldorf Blofeld in its previous incarnation. Yes! Blofeld
is like a modern ESQ1. You just feel you need to sit down again and
explore what is yet to be explored, find yet another bizarre routing option
hidden in some corner of the menu.
The possible downside of this
individuality / originality is that this instrument is very idiosyncratic and can be either loved
or hated. Nothing in between. A risky buy!
Two weeks after buying the
first one I spotted another one and I bought it right away, without a moment
of hesitation. A remarkable cheap synth. Let it in da house and it'll
devour your $800 Rolands and Korgs. Sitting in front of this thing, seeing
how it is designed and what it can do, while realizing it was made in 1986
by a small company somewhere in Pennsylvania, you can really feel respect
for history, feel a spirit hovering in your room,
feel the soul.
TRANSMITTING SYSEX SOUNDS
If you want to feed some
sysex sounds to your ESQ, first put the midi settings into receiving all
info, and then click one of the four bank buttons that will transport you to
the general patch view. Only then will the synth accept incoming patches.