I may be in the minority here, but I love the (sometimes as they are called cheap sounds) you can get from the mid to late 80’s hybrid synths like the Korg DW-6/8000, Sequential Six Trak, Oberheim Matirix and others.

One of the more odd man out (but well loved) synths from that time period is the Ensoniq ESQ-1. The original was a 3 oscillator synth with 8 voices of polyphony and a 4 pole, resonant low pass CEM 3379 chip on board. It was capable of making some really nice bright and sparky sounds as well as dark and gritty basses.

SQ8L of course is the VST emulation of it that accurately captures the sound of the original, as you can hear in the A/B test below. It also loads ESQ-1 sysex and best of all, it’s free! Given how long SQ8L has been around and how well it captures the sound and essence of the ESQ-1, I don’t know why the CEM or SSM sound is all but neglected by programmers. I suppose while it may not be immediately lucrative, it certainly is possible and proves what can be done when you put your mind to something and it’s a great example of how small the gap between hardware and software actually is.

SQ8L can be downloaded for free from butchy.net

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