Ensoniq EPS & other reminiscences


My fascination with Kyma began with ads in which it was compared to “TurboSynth falling into the hands of a race of super-intelligent alien beings”. I had used and loved Turbosynth in the 90s with an Ensoniq Mirage and a Casio FZ1, so that quote always intrigued me. It was years before I could afford a Kyma system, though, so I used to listen to the demo CD incessantly and dream.

I still love it - and TurboSynth for that matter. I’ve never tried TurboSynth with the EPS - I will, though, now that the old G3 has been pulled out of retirement…


That’s cool. I remember getting into Alchemy when I first got a Mac, but mostly I’m a “resample through a Rat pedal” kind of guy. I did go through the audio mangling VST rabbit hole a while ago, but now I prefer to keep things more stripped down and simple.


My “day job” (writer for Computer Music magazine) assures that software will always be a part of my world - however, it’s also why I sometimes just want to fire up the Octatrack/Digitakt, grab a couple of cables and get on it.


Had one of those as well back in the day. Loved the sound but never really jived with the interface.

What’s your favorite sampler of all time? For me it’s the E-Mu Emax with analog filters, sort of a poor-man’s EIII. Velocity to filter cutoff was magic for Front 242/Depeche Mode sounds.


That’s really hard to say! For interactive fun, Octatrack, maybe? It sometimes isn’t easy and it often isn’t quick, but it can be what I need it to be at any given time. Yeah, really, it’s probably the Octatrack, though I use other things for specific purposes.

For fidelity, probably the Akai Z4 with an fx board. 24-bit multisampling with all the trimmings in a 2U rack.

For in-fidelity, the Mirage. I still keep a Mirage rack around for that sound.

For “doing it the hard way”, the PPG Waveterm A/Wave 2.2 combo. I love how it sounds, and I love getting stuck in that old-time interface, though I tend to use it more to create custom wavetables.

I never owned an E-max, but I wanted to! I had a couple of ESI-32s which I loved for the Z-plane filters.

Having said that (which was utterly non-committal, I know!), the thing I most often use for samples is Kyma, with the Digitakt a close second, due to its speed and ease of use. Although now, having the EPS back in my life, I am enjoying it immensely. I am still so familiar with it, that it could be very easy for me to make it my main sampler when i am in a hurry.

But still, the Octatrack was a real game-changer for me, putting many of the things I was doing with other, more difficult process into an easier interface (yeah, I just said that about the Octatrack. Weird). It got me back into hardware sampling. Despite its limitations, I’d take the Octatrack over anything else on my list, with the exception of Kyma.


PPG = baller status. Always wanted one, but I’m sure it’s quite a process to use and keep up and running.

Always wanted a Mirage too for that “aliased Skinny Puppy vocal sample” sound. Maybe I’ll get the rack someday.

Had the Z8 and Octatrack but could never really get my head around them. These days I do fine with just the Digitakt. It was initially frustrating because of the limitations (spoiled by using E-Mu Ultras for years) but those make you have to think creatively to come up with solutions. Like when I used to sample everything into the EPS an octave higher to double the sampling time, haha.


I was just thinking pretty much the same thing. I’d like to hang out in person with this bunch here.


The PPG is quirky, to say the least. And it can’t sample without a Waveterm in tow. Mine is a 2.2, which requires a Waveterm A, which is insanely rare in the US. In fact, I bought mine only to find out that the seller had advertised it incorrectly, since though it was physically an “A”, it had been upgraded to a “B”. Thankfully, Wolfgang Palm himself responded to my dilemma by creating a new OS 30 years after the fact (which was sent to me on 8" floppies!) that allowed me to use it with my 2.2. That’s some serious aftermarket support!

The PPGs still work well, though my 2.2 is in pretty rough physical condition. As a sampler, it’s pretty limited. Sample times for a 2.2 are very, very short. Great for drums, though.

Yeah, the Mirage is pretty much instant “Puppy” juice!

The Z4/Z8 really require AKSYS software to really exploit them. Programming from the panel is not fun. Unfortunately, AKSYS doesn’t run on modern Macs without using an older (or different) OS via something like Virtual Box. I mainly bought the Z4 to act as something of a 24-bit ROMpler using my own (now vast) collection of samples (I have made lots of professional sample/sound sets over the years, so have quite a collection). Works great for that. Sturdy, stable live performer, too.

Me, I love the Digitakt, as well. With all of the things in my studio, it’s become the one I go to most for sampling. It’s quick, it sounds awesome, and it makes an brilliant wavetable synth. The limitations just remind me that I worry too much about things my sounds/song don’t really need.


I think @DonovanDwyer is actually in Florida if I recall correctly. I’m in Tampa.


Wow, Wolfgang is the man! How cool is that?

Reminds me of a Pennysaver find around 15 years ago, someone had listed amongst a bunch of guitar pedals an “EHX Guitar Synthesizer” which sparked my attention right away, immediately drove to the house and snatched it up for $175. It ended up being a rackmount 3 osc synth module controlled by tracking guitar input (with blending, but no MIDI or CV) with an insane filter. I had never seen this before and it wasn’t even on Google, so I emailed Electro-Harmonix for more information. Amazingly Mike Matthews himself wrote back to say he vaguely remembered it from the late 70’s and it was one of a couple of prototypes built, and that mine was most likely the only working example. Needless to say I put it on EBay and it ended up going for $1400. The bandleader for Martin Short’s (short-lived) talk show bought it, haha.

I sampled the hell out of it first, of course :slight_smile:


That is correct. I grew up in Tampa/St. Pete actually, my family is still there. After moving out to Portland I ended up back in FL in Ormond Beach. I was only going to stay for a year or so but met my wife, had a kiddo and before you know it it’s 20 years later.


That is fantastic! I often wonder where some of my old gear has been. I have a beautiful Microtech-Gefell UM92 microphone that was used to record everyone from Glenn Campbell and Lyle Lovett to Billy Preston and Alice Cooper. I didn’t know that when I bought it, though. It was a deal arranged by my oldest, best friend who used to engineer in the studio it came out of. Despite having many more “classic” mics, the engineers loved the sound of this Gefell, so put it in front of many legendary performers. I am definitely not worthy.


Amazing. I would definitely not be worthy of it.

I did own Mike Score from A Flock of Seagulls’ personal MKS-80 for a while. Can’t believe I ever sold it.


Wow! (longtime A Flock of Seagulls fan here. And MKS-80 user.)


We should meet up @ Datz sometime! I don’t drink scotch or smoke cigars but I’ll tear up some IPAs and Patron coffee liqueur :slight_smile:


We certainly have a lot of odd things in common!


Mike Score is one of the coolest, most laid back music stars I’ve ever met. A chilled out surf rat.


I’ve heard that. When I went down to Brevard to pick up the MKS I didn’t meet him personally, one of his bandmates at the time was selling it for him. Supposedly the one I acquired was his backup unit, which I liked to believe had the same sounds as his main one :slight_smile:

As awesome as it was, editing it without the programmer was mindnumbingly difficult to make new sounds, so the time I had with the MKS it was basically a preset Jupiter, which was a bummer.


I held off buying an MKS-80 for years because they were so very expensive with the programmer. I finally gave in when the Lemur came out for iPad. It’s not as tactile as using the MPG-80, but it does a reasonable job. I can’t imagine trying to edit it from the front panel.


If I could have envisioned that something like an iPad editor would come along I probably would never parted with it. Those pads were so lush… I imagine through a Dimension C and a modern reverb they would be unbelievable.