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"Ensoniq is one American manufacturer that understands the value of building custom chips. Founded in the early '80s by some engineers from Commodore [Bruce Crockett, Al Charpentier, and Bob Yannes], Ensoniq's first product (a software drum machine) was aimed at the home computer market. Bob Yannes, on of Ensoniq's cofounders, was responsible for designing the Commodore 64's three-voice synth chip. In 1982 he designed a portion of a PC that was similar to the sound synthesizer that ended up in the Amiga. It was this chip [the 'Q chip'] that was used in the Mirage (1984)--the world's first really affordable sampler--and the ESQ-1 (1986), Ensoniq's wavetable synth.

"Unlike most of the American manufactures who had come before them, Ensoniq did not go for the high-end market. Explains Yannes, 'We have always courted the mass market in music. We know you could build high-end equipment that's really superb and that you'd be able to sell for a little while to a certain number of people, but sooner or later someone's going to come along and stomp on you because the technology will allow them to produce something that's almost as good as what you've got for less. I think our going for the larger market is more of a Japanese philosophy. There is no significant longterm growth potential in high-market.'

"Still, Yannes is quick to point out that Ensoniq expanded their product orientation to inclued the high-end as well as the low. 'The EPS and SQ-80 were intended to address the professional market, but we know our bread and butter is in the low end.' In 1998 Ensoniq, like E-mu before it, became part of Creative Technologies. The two companies were conglomerated into Emu-Ensoniq, doing business out of Scotts Valley, California. Creative Technologies absorbed the former Ensoniq manufacturing plant in Malvern, Pennsylvania, into its own system."

[excerpted with permission from the book Vintage Synthesizers by Mark Vail, copyright Miller Freeman, Inc]

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