Superbooth 21: Arturia SQ80 V, emulation of the Ensoniq SQ-80 Synthesizer

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For Superbooth 21 Arturia has released the SQ80 V plugin, an emulation of the iconic Ensoniq SQ-80 hybrid Synthesizer from the 80s. 

The software was leaked on a Twitch stream recently. It’s now officially out and available for every DAW.

The French hardware and software manufacturer Arturia has released the SQ80 V, an emulation of the Ensoniq SQ-80 from 1988. A very special year, at least for me.

Arturia SQ 80

Arturia SQ80 V

As a reminder, the original Ensoniq SQ-80 was an 8-voice hybrid Synthesizer with three digital oscillators with 75 waveforms, 4-pole analog filter per voice with sweepable resonance, four envelopes, three LFOs per voice, 8-track sequencer, and more. It has a very unique timbre to the mixture of raw digital synthesis  of the 80s with classic juicy analog filtering.

In the software version, Arturia emulates these classic aspects but they also take it even further. A kind of next-gen in software. The SQ80 V offers all the classic waveforms found in the original plus hundreds more expanding the sonic cope of the synth. The developers hacked the original software and extracted new waveforms from it. By manipulating the code, new waveforms have been created. Interestingly, they’ve also included some transwaves that come from later Ensoniq synths.

The developers also emulated the filter in great detail, more precisely the CEM 3379 filter of the original unit. They have kept in all the “vintage” imperfection, crunchy harmonics, and lo-fi distortions.

New Features

It wouldn’t be an Arturia plugin if they hadn’t built numerous new features. And yes, the SQ80 V has many new modern additions. Starting with an onboard arpeggiator, 16-voice of polyphony, and 8-voice unison mode. It also hosts expanded envelopes as well as a powerful mod mixer. The latter allows you to mixer two different mod sources into one complex one. Plus you get MPE support.

Hidden behind the interface, you can find a Dispersion section with which you can add subtle variations and fluxes to the sounds. So the sound gets more vintage and inconsistent.

I was able to look at the plugin a few days before it was released. On the one hand, I like the interface a lot.  It’s not deep and is very easy to use. Not a menu jungle at all. It sounds great and thanks to the big amount of waveforms, you can create a wide range of sounds. But I can’t say how authentic it is. I don’t have the original unit. What I am missing is the possibility to load SQ-80 patches. Hope this comes in a future update.

Arturia SQ80 V is available now for an introductory price of 99€ instead of 199€. You can save up to 65% if you have other Arturia products. The plugin runs as a VST, AU, AAX plugin on macOS and Windows.

More information here: Arturia

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