Ensoniq EPS & other reminiscences


I remember fondly my frustrations with the EPS. We used to play live shows with three of them daisychained together via midi and maybe every other show one of them would go tits up in the middle of the set… sometimes in a very dramatic fashion.

What's your latest purchase & what are your intentions with it?

Ha ha! YES! I did the same thing, with a friend’s EPS always alongside mine at shows in case mine threw up the dreaded “System Error 018” and rebooted. I eventually sent mine back to Ensoniq, who replaced one of the boards and it never did it again. I had the same sort of issue with my VFX-SD, and again, sent it to Ensoniq who replaced the main board with that of an SD-1 32-Voice. It, too, never crashed after that. Both of those units are now long gone. The SD-1 32-Voice and EPS I currently have are both seemingly stable and I hope they remain so.


Yep, the dreaded ERROR message. Ensoniqs from that era were famously finicky when it came to voltage irregularities and crappy stage outlets plus power strips didn’t help.
Quick story: My personal setup onstage back then was one of the EPS’s and an Emax. That EPS would do this annoying thing when locking up where it would stop sensing key release and just sustain every note till polyphony was reached and then cut them all off. I remember one show (opening up for Xymox in Portland, 1000+ people) and on the last song I was playing a distorted lead bass thing and it started doing that… so I turned down the EPS and switched to the Emax which had a low string sound loaded and played that instead till the end of the song. But there were some spoken word samples on the EPS that I really wanted for the end of the set… so (with the volume still down) I CASUALLY leaned my forearm on two octaves of keys to hopefully cut off the sustaining notes. On the very last beat of the song with the spoken word patch cued up I threw up the volume slider… and ALL 21 random notes of the distorted patch were still sustaining at once. It pegged all the limiters of the PA drowning out everything else and the crowd visibly stepped back several feet. After the show people in attendance thought that it was on purpose and that we had upstaged the headliner… funny.



That story would have been both a dream and nightmare come true for me back in those days (hell, it wouldn’t suck now). Luckily I never had an EPS fail on stage and, in fact, my old VFX-SD saved a gig when a drummer got pissed at the sound guy and walked off the stage mid-set. I had heard rumors of this guy’s flakiness, so was prepared with VFX sequences on floppy.

Another EPS-owning friend and I put together a short-lived industrial thing in 1990 called “System Error 018” in honor of our Ensoniqs. “The technology That Performs” indeed…:stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: Despite the flaws (and because of one of them), the EPS was always pretty danged good for industrial kinda stuff.


Hahaha clever. I always wanted a VFX, sometimes I still comb CL looking for that or a nice SQ80. There’s an EPS-M locally right now for cheap, might pick that up for the nostalgia (and to see if my 25 year old floppies still work!)
Since you are an EPS veteran I’m sure you know about the sample start point random freakout trick… I remember back then hanging out with Legendary Pink Dots (they crashed at our house one night after a gig) and they couldn’t believe that we were aware of it too… apparently it was a primary songwriting tool for them.


Was that the classic or the 16+? My classic to have the keyboard calibration error tell I got thesoniq to replace the keyboard calibration board. Resampling with the EPS sounds so good that I baby mine and resample what I need to throw into the DAW.


Now this is getting a bit weird. Do we know each other? The Dots have been longtime friends of mine, too and, in fact, we shared a label in the form of Beta-lactam Ring Records (I’ve done quite a bit of art for Edward Ka-Spel and LPD things, as well). The Dots likewise used to stay with us when they toured.
(and yeah, that sample-start point trick is the main reason I mentioned its flaws as a good sampler for industrial style music)


I’ve only ever owned the original EPS. I remember lusting after the EPS 16+ when it came out. I had a friend who owned one (the late Devin Fleenor of Zeta and Mr. Meeble), and he worked magic with that thing.


Yeah, I had the feeling that might be it :slight_smile:

I don’t know if we knew each other back in the day, I was doing industrial-ish stuff in the late 80’s to mid 90’s and knew a lot of people in the Pacific Northwest in the IDM scene back then. Then I gave all that up, moved and started producing D&B.

I was never close with LPD but we opened up for them and it was cool just being in their presence, Ka-Spel was like a god to me. They were one of the few bands that I don’t regret meeting in fact, just super down-to-earth and chill.


I was quite close with them for a very long time, trading phone calls and music, opening for them for one (disastrous) gig, and hanging out every time they toured from the late-1980’s through the next decade or so. We spent a lovely day and evening at the Grand Canyon together during the Shadow Weaver Pt. 2 tour. They were a massive influence on me over the years. We lost touch in the 2000s, though it was during that time that I did art for them (through BLRR) and even fulfilled a longtime dream of working on a record with Edward (Armchair Migraine Journey’s Cosmic Space Drone We didn’t work on it together, alas, it was all arranged by the label owner). A couple of years back, my wife, son, and I all went up to Kansas City to see them after many years. It was great to hang out with them again.

I was in Phoenix and Colorado during the late 80s/90s/2000s. I’ve never been to Portland, though I have friends/ex label-mates there.

Good to run into another LPD fan/friend here!


Looks like we’ve been consigned to our own thread. EPS forever!


Ummm, that’s fucking awesome. Looking that up now.

Hey, our own thread… thanks mods, definitely was getting way off topic :slight_smile:


Alas, there is one major issue with that record - my favorite bit - a Kyma+modular remix of the track Edward are on together was not mastered for the CD, so is much, much lower in volume than the rest of the album. Still, crank it up and enjoy it!

(also, you might wanna go iTunes or Amazon for it, as I don’t know if the label is actually around to fulfill orders, despite the fact that their site is still up)


This feels like a gentleman’s club where we sip scotch and smoke cigars.

Hey Scott do you have a signal chain when recording EPS to DAW?

I max out the volume on the EPS and add gain on my rodec restyler to Apollo soundcard. Then I HPF the mud out to keep the ensoniq sound without sounding too muddy on the low end.


I’ve only had this EPS for a few months. During that time, it’s been plumbed through a Chandler Limited TG-2. Now that you mention the mud, I am thinking it might be wise to send it through a pair of Warm Audio Pultec knock-offs I have in the rack. I am also wondering about sticking it down the throat of a Manley Nu Mu.

I might also scoop out the low-end build up (when/if necessary) using Alchemy - depending on the length of the samples (if I recall, there is a limitation).

I forgot how many freakin’ floppies this burns through. My current EPS has a 4x memory expander, and that makes it even hungrier. I will likely do something about this floppy drive sooner than later…


Listening to this… I dig it. Reminds me of Godspeed You Black Emperor without the guitars :slight_smile:


I think that was Chris McBeth and Ty Hodson. I never played live with AMJ (I’m just a guest on many of the records), much to my regret. It could happen someday though. I built Chris’ modular synth for him from the ground up, using YuSynth designs, as well as some others (my son’t awesome one-off analog sampler module). He’s coming to my place in a month or so to do another record with me.


Ahh OK. Were you involved with this? Similar vibes.


Nope, that one wasn’t me. However, I have been involved with Un Festin Sagital at some point… I think (it’s kinda laughable to say that, but I’ve done a lot of stuff with various BLRR artists, and I’ve lost track). One of them has a project called Thanatoloop, and and my bandmate/guitarist (Har) did an album called El Retratowith him - I may have contributed too. I was in frequent contact with them for some length of time.


That’s a lot of projects that I’m unfamiliar with, will def check out.
My frequent collaborator Mike Miller has music on SoundCloud as Distressor… he uses a lot of Kyma too.