Or was it?
To reach a certain price point, Ensoniq had to make compromises
with a minimal control panel with a 2-digit LED display - hardly
the stuff we're used to today! But beneath this simplistic front
panel was actually quite a potent sampler for the time.
Capable of (limited) multi-sampling, the Ensoniq Mirage
was something of a miracle (at the time) offering affordable sampling
for around $2,000. This might seem a lot by today's standard but
bearing in mind that the Mirage's nearest competitor was $10,000,
it seemed to be quite an attractive alternative. On paper, it also
offered a lot - analogue filters, multi-stage envelopes, a flexible
LFO... it even had a sequencer (albeit restricted to 300 notes!)!
In practice, it was an utter pig to use! To get the best
out of it you needed the MASOS software installed but with that
2-digit LED display, it required a lot of patience to make anything
meaningful on the thing - even back in the '80s, dialing in Hex
codes for sample editing and looping was not entirely intuitive!
Also, memory was limited to a mere 144kb!!!
And even if you persevered, you were hamperd by the lo-fi
results - 8-bit with a maximum sampling rate of 32kHz meant that
your best efforts were unlikely to be rewarded with quality output.
That said, the Mirage was popular by default.... it brought
this new-fangled concept of 'sampling' to the masses. The fact that
it wasn't very good was not really an issue at the time. Why should
it be? After all, sampling quality was pretty lousy on the £20,000+
Fairlight and no better on the £7,000 Emulator either....
why should it be any different on a £1,300 product?! Users
at the time accepted this level of lo-fi quality as 'normal' !!
But there was a contender waiting in the wings.