Ensoniq EPS 16+ Review

Saturday Synth Porn: This video review, via TheDaydreamSound, takes a loving look at the vintage Ensoniq EPS 16+ sampler.

While sampling technology has advanced considerably since the Ensoniq EPS 16+ was released in 1990, the keyboard still has many features to recommend it, including vintage sampling sound, deep editing functions, polyphonic aftertouch, on-board effects and more.

If you’ve used the Ensoniq EPS 16+, let us know what you think of it!

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17 thoughts on “Ensoniq EPS 16+ Review

  1. I had an EPS then an EPS 16+. Both were the crashiest hardware I have EVER used. That said, the EPS was my introduction to synthesizers. The EPS/EPS 16+ incredibly logical interfaces and very cool features; including a supreme variety of crossfade processes– which more than made up for it’s lack of a graphical interface. The ability to edit at the sample level, layer level, and instrument level was really clever and efficient.

    My very favorite thing about the EPS/EPS16+ was the way custom tuning/scale maps could be created and edited. This made the instrument very versatile and fascinating to use. A close second was polyphonic aftertouch which I exploited fairly often. It had a feature that allowed you to modulate sample pointers with realtime controls. This was a cool idea. Someone made “transwaves” to exploit this feature.

    As I mentioned it was super crashy and I was often having to re-re-re-load discs in the middle of songs on gigs– what a drag! If the crash happened at home, occasionally there were some incredible noise events that were so sublime– it really sounded like a synthesizer struggling to become sentient but then collapsing from the pain and insanity of it all. (I may be embellishing in my nostalgia. But that’s how I remember it.)

    If someone created a modern and stable version of the EPS 16+ with a decent amount of sample RAM (maybe 64 MB), 48 voices, and a USB port, I would buy it.

    1. I owned three(!) ASR’s and none of these were stable, even the one with purple display which had a better memory architecture. Problems always occur building multiple layers in one instrument. As long as you stick with one sample per instrument things are quite cool, but who wants to stick with only eight samples? As long as only factory instruments were used, the ASR stays usable over all eight instruments including multiple layers and multisamples. I assume these instruments were build with some kind of editor and problems only occur when building instruments on the ASR itself. I never understood why they never fixed that. Then there were massive timing problems. If you go over 120bpm you simply hear every note lagging. Maybe HipHop is the only kind of music to produce with the ASR because there is no excessive note triggering or many samples loaded. The biggest plus was the flexible FX unit. While playing samples with different FX settings, you could even use the sample input simultaneously like an external FX unit with two different FX on each channel at 30khz. You only had to arm the sample/track input with a Multi-Input-FX like the Corus/Rev/Delay. Then select a different FX for each input channel and voila! You have a extra Chorus and a Reverb/Delay on your aux sends. The sample playback with its settings wont be affected by this. The average FX quality was superb and even better than the DP4. No noise was hearable as it always does on the DP4. Further the ASR features a ultra unreliable display. Once it starts to miss single symbols, you have to sell it. Its a deadly desease on the ASR as even more symbols will follow and there is NO replacement display on the market.

    2. Is this still available? Where from? And for the eps16+? I still have a 16+ and it sounds great the the disk drive and disks are very old

  2. I’ve had the rack version since the early 90s and it’s never left my set-up. It will often crash if I use all 8 tracks/instruments, but rarely otherwise. You can get pretty nutty with the editing and processing.

  3. Thanks for the info. The interface of the EPS/16+/ASR was VERY well-thought-out and well-organized. If someone was to attempt a software version, I think recreating the interface on screen would be key. Of course, adding graphic waveform editing and other improvements would be welcome. Of course improvements to the fidelity and FX would also be welcome (but perhaps allowing users to enable a “vintage grit” mode).

    Probably not going to happen, but fun to imagine.

  4. Yup,
    I’m surprised that there aren’t any software ‘samplers’ with the same flexibility in looping modes and modulation capabilities. The Ensoniq samplers are really more like having a super wave table synthesizer. If the EPS/ASR only had analog resonant filters and been more stable.

  5. I’ve also owned the rack mounted version since ’91. Although I don’t use it too much now, I used to tour with it and it gave me very little trouble (and someone once nailed it with a well aimed beer bottle). Maybe I was one of the lucky few.

  6. the first synth I owned, back in the day, way too complex for me, I sold it and didn’t regret it, looking for a minibrute, something I can actually play on!

  7. It was my first set of keys and I still have it.The music store I bought it from had a huge library of disks and let you come in and copy the patches to your own floppies.

    I almost never use it, but I can’t let it go. I still love the feel of the keys.

  8. In ’90-91 I owned an EPS16+ rack and a SD1, I remember the workflow of the sampler not being as user friendly as the more modern ones…but no where near as challenging as my Kurzweil K2600xs. I still think very highly of the Ensoniq’s fidelity. The lows were warm, the high freq’s could be a bit brash though. I would probably still own both but at the time I married and times were tight so I sold them to Sam Ash in Manhattan about 6 months after I. Ought them. I was heartbroken by the sale, and my marriage didn’t last either! Looking back I would have fared better keeping the Ensoniq’s .

  9. I have an EPS at this moment. I had it from new. Forget using these things for samplers just run sound modules, that way they don’t use up the memory. They are in y mind the best easiest to use sequencer ever. You can turn out songs on the EPS quicker than it takes most techies just to turn their keyboard on.
    If there was an upgrade out there today it would have to be better than good.
    Just letting you know.


  10. I am using my EPS 16+ now with usual 3.5″ diskettes, I practically play it live on my recordings and I use its internal effect unit which add so much color to the whole mix. I have this sampler since 1992 and I never had big problems with it. I do not use it anynore for sequencing.

    I also bought an Ensoniq effect unit (DP4) which is fantastic, and for music like mine (discofunk ecc) is an amazing tool to shape sounds.

    I made 5 albums with this Ensoniq and I plan to make more music with it, definitively one of the instruments I will never ever get rid of.

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