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The year was 1985. I had just heard a demo of the brand new Mirage sampling keyboard from Ensoniq and like thousand of other musicians, bought one for myself. To this day, you can't help but be impressed at what the Ensoniq people had accomplished: they had created a product that offered up the very latest digital sampling technology at a shockingly affordable price. And while the Mirage was only an 8-bit instrument with 128K of memory, it was a worldwide sensation.

But this is 1997. Sampling has come a long way in the last dozen years. And so has Ensoniq. Today, the company that first gave musicians like you and me the ability to create our own samples has a full line of superb 16-bit samplers, as well as brand new synths, performance keyboards and one of the industry's most highly-regarded effects processors. Yet it has done this without ever losing sight of the simple fact that great sounding products can still be truly affordable. Which makes everyone here at Sweetwater proud to announce that we're now authorized Ensoniq dealers (was that a cheer I just heard?).

Prime examples of the company's philosophy are the ASR-10 Advanced Sampling Recorders. Choose from the five-octave
Ensoniq ASR-10
ASR-10 Keyboard ($2695 list), the ASR-10 Rack ($2895 list), or the newest ASR-88 ($4495) with 88-keys and a weighted-action keyboard. All of these instruments can create stunning 16-bit samples in mono or stereo with up to 16 megabytes of sample RAM (standard in the ASR-88), but also feature what Ensoniq calls "the most powerful onboard effects processor ever offered in a sampler," a full-featured 16-track sequencer and the ability to add two tracks of live audio to your sequences.

Of course, with any world-class sampler, you need access to plenty of high quality sounds. Not only does the ASR read and write to its own proprietary format, but it can also import sounds from any Akai S1000/S1100 or Roland CD-ROMs, complete with all programming and performance parameters. That's thousands of megs of data you can access at the mere touch of a button.

If you're looking for a sound module with plenty of killer sounds, an awesome onboard effects processor, plus lots of expansion options, you might be in the market for an MR Rack ($1695 retail). This unit has 12 megs of exceptional sounds in ROM (piano, strings, brass and voices
The MR Rack: Powerful, affordable, expandable
MR Rack: Powerful, affordable, expandable
to name but a few), a 44.1 kHz playback rate, Ensoniq's new synth engine with unique Transwave technology (which uses the latest digital resynthesis technology for sounds that move and evolve), the company's next generation effects chip (the ESP-2) with reverb and chorus always available, as well as tons of insert effects.

But what may be most exciting about this machine is its expandability. Three card slots give you access to up to 84 megs of wave data, like the EXP-1 "Real World" Expander with 24 megs of world and ethnic sounds for $500 retail. Or how about the EXP-2 Drum Expander with two megs of new drums and percussion kits for just $119.95 (list). Or maybe the EXP-3 "Urban Dance Project" is more your style, with 24 megs of grooves, pads, hits, basses and effects for just $500 retail. Also available is the new MRC-1 Synth Banks Card, a collection of 180 classic synth sounds for only $99.95 list.

If composition is your thing, Ensoniq designed the MR-61 ($2595 retail) and MR-76 ($2995) Keyboards just for you. The product designers came up with all sorts of fresh, new ideas for these instruments. Take the Idea Pad, for instance. Noodle around a bit on the keyboard. When you hit on a riff you like, it's already captured, because the MR Keyboards remember what you play. Need a groove? Access the built-in drum machine (what a concept!). Want more sounds? Just pop in one of the expanders already covered in the MR Rack section above. There's even an optional MR-FLASH Sample Memory Board.

Just as we were going to press (the art director really loves this!) we got word that the first E-Prime keyboards ($1995 list price) had arrived. Sit down at this instrument and you'll feel like you're in front of your favorite acoustic piano. The flying-action mechanism simulates the weight and throw of a real piano hammer for amazingly lifelike piano performances. You can even customize the feel of E-Prime to match your playing style, selecting from 14 velocity curves and four pressure settings. Its 76-key range is big enough for most piano pieces and provides larger zones for split keyboard setups.

Onboard are three sampled pianos, a no-compromise design philosophy that gives you access to a wonderful Bosendorfer, a rich
The Ensoniq E-Prime Keyboard
Just arrived: The E-Prime has not one, but three sampled grand pianos for every application.
9-foot Baldwin, and a warm Yamaha. But the E-Prime doesn't stop there: It has sounds for every style of music. The 308 onboard sounds offer a broad range of authentic instruments, as well as modern synthesized sounds. They also include 128 General MIDI sounds and 10 GM/GS drum kits. Keyboard enthusiasts will appreciate the variety of organ, electric piano, synth, and pad sounds. A full complement of string, reed, woodwind, and brass instruments will enhance classical or pop arrangements and a wide range of drum, bass, and guitar sounds provide high-energy dance or smokin' jazz rhythm sections. For the adventurous, there are exotic world/ethnic instruments and other unique sounds. The E-Prime's exclusive SoundFinder searches through ROM, RAM, and cards to find sounds quickly and easily by their musical category. No more struggling with multiple menus.

This instrument also has impressive performance controls, built-in effects, a user-friendly sequencer and 64-voice polyphony for piano performance where you can hear every note ­ no matter how many sustained notes, chords, or arpeggios are played. At last, you'll have enough voices for creating complete orchestral arrangements, playing live with your sequencer, or performing multi-layered arrangements of your favorite compositions.

Are your effects processing needs growing faster than your budget? To the rescue: The DP/4+ Parallel Effects Processor ($1795 list). Four independent stereo effects processors integrated into a 2U rack space, for the utmost in flexibility, functionality and fidelity. Four
The Ensoniq DP/4+ Effects Processor
The Ensoniq DP/4+ Effects Processor
balanced (TRS) inputs can process from one to four separate signals. For one input (like your guitar), you can use all four processors to create an amazing sound rivaling those expensive custom rigs you've dreamed about. The Ensoniq engineers improved the audio circuitry for even cleaner performance, kept the same 46 algorithms that critics raved about in the original DP/4, then added some powerful new ones. In total you've got 54 algorithms designed for the highest fidelity and the most control over your sound possible.

The DP/Pro ($1395 list) is an all new, fully professional dual effects processor. It's a true stereo system powered by two of Ensoniq's next generation ESP-2 digital signal processors running at sample rates up to 48 kHz, with a dynamic range of better than 100dB. It's equipped with high resolution 20-bit converters and super low noise circuitry for maximum performance, and can be outfitted with a user-installable professional 24-bit digital I/O option. There are more than 35 finely tuned custom algorithms which deliver world class sound. The DP/Pro provides dense, sophisticated reverbs, accurate and flexible delays, smooth and warm compression, sweet and rich chorusing, wild and growling flangers, swirling phasers, intuitive pitch shifters, and tons more.

For their new, soon-to-be-shipping ASR-X, Ensoniq went to the masters of sampling and asked them to list the top features they would like to see in the ultimate groove machine. They said: Make it easy to sample, resample, and loop, include a built-in synth, add some incredible effects, resonant filters, an easy to use sequencer and put it all into a portable box with pads. So the company did. They took the best features of the famous ASR-10, added 20-bit A/D converters, made the RAM expandable to 34 MB, gave it 24-bit onboard effects and stuffed all this into one portable tabletop box. It's extremely fast and fun: Just sample, shoot it to one of the 14 velocity sensitive pads, and start jamming.

There are other Ensoniq products to tell you about, and coming soon there's the Paris Hard Disk Recording System, but darn, as usual we're out of room, so you need to call your Sweetwater sales engineer for more information and your very special pricing on all these great products from Ensoniq. - Michael Reif

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