Superbooth 2021: Arturia’s Ensoniq-inspired SQ80 V could be your new favourite ‘80s synth plugin

Superbooth 2021: Back in 1986, Ensoniq released a synth called the ESQ-1, a relatively affordable wavetable synth that, with its multitimbral capabilities and built-in sequencer, was one of the early workstation keyboards.

The company followed this up with the SQ-80, which offered more waveforms and a better keyboard, and now Arturia has revived this in the form of the SQ80 V plugin.

Billed as a digital/analogue Frankenstein synth that’s bursting with grainy character, the SQ-80V emulates all the features of the original - including the three digital oscillators and analogue filter and amp - and brings the instrument up to date with modern enhancements. 

These new features include hundreds more waveforms, an arpeggiator, MIDI modulation, 15 built-in effects with two busses, and MPE compatibility.

The SQ-80’s crunchy sound has been recreated by emulating its 8-bit DOC chip, while the facility to combine wavetables, instrument-style transients and hidden waveforms means there’s plenty of sound design potential.

This is designed to be a “quick-fire” synth, too; although the SQ-80’s architecture was pretty complex, thanks to the new streamlined workflow, the theory is that you’ll be able to get hands-on and make the sounds your own pretty easily.

Speaking of which, those sounds include resonant bells, vocal-like formants, crushed basses and delicate strings. In fact, Arturia claims that the SQ80 V’s sound is unique, being “unlike anything you’ve ever heard”.

To mark the release of the synth, the company has also put together two soundbanks. Dust Factory focuses on smooth, saturated patches, while Raw Machinery is grittier, with a distorted edge. The SQ80 V also ships with 100 presets as standard - 40 from the original synth, and 60 created by Arturia.

The SQ80 V is available now for PC and Mac in VST/AU/AAX formats, and is currently priced at €99, a 50% discount (this offer runs until 5 October and includes the two soundbanks). Find out more on the Arturia website.

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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