While some vintage synths are etched into the consciousness of electronic musicians everywhere - we’re talking about the likes of the Minimoog and the Jupiter-8 - others are less well known. Take the Ensoniq SQ-80, for example, a digital/analogue ‘Frankenstein’ keyboard that was released in 1988.
One company that’s well aware of the SQ-80, though, is vintage synth emulation specialist Arturia, and it’s now revived it in the form of the SQ80 V, a new plugin instrument for your DAW.
Although you might not have heard of the original, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about this reboot, which captures all of the SQ-80’s grainy character while also bringing it bang up to date.
All of the key features have been emulated - such as the three digital oscillators and analogue filter and amp - but you also get loads more waveforms, an arpeggiator, MIDI modulation, 15 built-in effects with two busses, and MPE compatibility.
The result is a synth that sounds both deliciously retro and effortlessly modern, and unlike anything else you have on your desktop. The perfect emulation of the 8-bit 5503 DOC chip from the original SQ-80 means that you can create classic digital tones ranging from smooth to spiky, with the analogue filter and output circuit giving you all the lo-fi warmth you need.
And, although you have masses of sound design potential - the number of possible waveform combinations run into the thousands, and there are plenty of creative features that take the SQ80 V far beyond its hardware forebear - the streamlined interface means that programming this synth is a joy. Forget diving into multiple menus and staring at a tiny screen - this is one ‘retro’ digital instrument that won’t leave you scratching your head.
In fact, the SQ80 V might quickly become your new secret sonic weapon, giving you access to sounds that other producers simply don’t have. Suffice to say, fans of the original SQ-80 will love it, too.
Speaking of which, the SQ80 V comes with all 40 of Ensoniq’s presets, plus 160 more that have been created by Arturia. A couple of additional soundbanks - Dust Factory and Raw Machinery - have been released, too.
A free demo means that you can try the SQ80 V right now, but the even better news is that, if you buy it before 5 October, you can pick it up at a 50% discount for just €99, with both add-on soundbanks included. It runs on PC and Mac, either standalone or as a VST/AU/AAX plugin.
Find out more on the Arturia website.
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