It was limited, had a lo-fi
bandwidth, minimal (144Kb!!) memory and it was difficult to use
with nothing more than a 2-digit LED display but it was a quarter
of the price of the Emu and was an influential product nonetheless.
Ensoniq followed this up not with another sampler but
with a powerful three-oscillator, analogue-style synth, the ESQ1,
which not only offered comprehensive modulation possibilites to
rival the Oberheim Matrix but also a sophisticated (for the time)
8-track, multi-timbral sequencer. When Roland introduced their D50
that used simple samples to construct sounds, Ensoniq tried to fight
back with their SQ80 which was basically an ESQ1 but with an expanded
set of waveforms that included some rudimentary 'attack' and 'loop'
samples. It was a great synth but it was a half-hearted attempt
to keep up with the new breed of S+S synths.
This changed in 1989 when Ensoniq released their VFX
that offered not only a wide range of multi-sampled waveforms but
also, using their 'transwave' technology, a form of wavetable synthesis
not unlike that found on PPG synths. It also had two multi-mode
filters, three 11-stage envelopes and much more besides including
24-bit effects derived from their outboard processors. The VFX (and
its successor the VFX-SD) had several innovative performance features
for live work that allowed quick and easily accessible layering
using dedicated front panel switches. Whilst not the most versatile
synth, the VFX was an excellent choice for rich pads and textural
sounds. Unfortunately (for Ensoniq), the poor old VFX had a hard
time competing with the Korg M1 which was dominating the market
at the time.
In a cost-down exercise, Ensoniq released the SQ1 that
retained the VFX's basic voice engine but lost the performance features
offering instead a smaller, menu-driven 2 x 16 LCD. An offshoot
of this was their SQ-R, a rack-mount version of the SQ1. This was
superceded by the SQ-R Plus which had a different voice ROM and
added 1Mb of multi-sampled piano.
My thanks to Louis Van Dompelsaar (again!) who has carefully
multi-sampled his own SQ-R+