ELZ_1 play, the successor of the Sonicware ELZ_1 Synthesizer by Dr. Yu Endo

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ELZ_1 play is the successor of the Sonicware ELZ_1 experimental multi-engine Synthesizer by Dr. Yu Endo with a new 4-track looper, and more. 

When the then-young company Sonicware introduced the ELZ_1 Synthesizer under the direction of Dr Yu Endo at NAMM 2018, OP-1 vibes came to me immediately. But these went away quickly because I noticed that the ELZ_1 is a completely different Synthesizer with many experimental synthesis forms.

In the last two years, the instrument disappeared from the dealer stages because Sonicware couldn’t produce new units due to chip shortage… and they focused instead on the LIVEN synth series and SMPLTREK sampler groovebox. For the chief developer Dr. Yu Endo, the synth is a heart project and he has decided to develop it further. Say hi to the ELZ_1 play.

ELZ_1 play Sonicware Dr Yu Endo

Sonicware/Dr. Yu Endo ELZ_1 play

The ELZ_1 play is the successor of the Sonicware ELZ_1 Synthesizer. A lot is the same, but there are also some nice additions.

The synth is currently a project and is still in development. According to Dr. Yu Endo, it will not be an official mass product at the moment. It will be built in limited numbers for backers and will be re-launched if there is further interest. So he can continue the project on a new hardware but with an engine that will probably run on both versions. Like its predecessor, ELZ_1 play is a very original and unique portable digital Synthesizer.


The synth has up to 15 voices of polyphony in total and bundles just as many innovative and weird synth engines ranging from pure synthesis, and sampling to drums.

  • low-bit oscillator: 2 ~ 8 bit variable low-bit oscillator with various shapes
  • standard OSC with 32-bit floating-point processing
  • custom OSC: choose two waveforms/period of cycles
  • DNA Explorer allows you to extract and generate waveforms from audio
  • SiGRINDER: a granular synth/sample engine
  • MASKED NOISE oscillator
  • SAND FLUTE allows you to extract and generate tone from noise
  • 8BIT wave memory engines:
    • synth with custom waveforms
    • morph: morphing of three waveforms
    • FM mode with 2 operators
    • WAVEMEM Synth (WARP) generates an intermediate waveform by crossfading two waveforms
  • FM SYNTH with four operators and 31 algorithms and 32-bit floating point processing
  • STK Drummer: Drum machine engine (SmplTrek .stk file compatible)

So you get a variety of oscillator types that are more in the noisy, bit world.

Sonicware ELZ_1 play

From here it goes again in a multimode filter section with various types, including LPF-6/12, HPF-6/12, BPF, peaking EQ, Lo/hi EQ, and notch. Modulation side, you have again the different envelopes (ADSR, ADSR (w/curve)…), and more.

Then, you can shape your sounds with 26 types of effects, including distortions, modulation FX (chorus, stereo chorus, ring mod), delays (tape echo..), reverbs, and character FX like vinyl simulator or cassette tape simulator. Also onboard again is the sophisticated arpeggiator and sequencer with up to 128 steps per pattern. ELZ_1 play is playable in mono, stereo, legato, and unison.

New In The ELZ_1 play

There are also major changes in the ELZ_1 play. It ships with a newly developed 4-track looper allowing you to record, playback, and overdub your loops by simply pressing the track buttons. According to Dr. Yu Endo, you can not only record the ELZ_1 play internal engines and performances but also via the line input and USB audio input.

Further, it ships with a new STK Drummer engine with 5 drum kits with 100 different rhythm patterns. Both the looper and drum machine engine turn the ELZ_1 play in a groovebox.

The interface of the ELZ_1 play got a major makeover. The backlit buttons look nicer now, and there’s a button landscape on the right that accesses the main features and menu structure. There is also again a 37-keys velocity-only keybed.

ELZ_1 play


On the backside, you get a headphone socket with a dedicated volume control, MIDI in/out on big sockets, AUX stereo in, stereo output (L/R), sync in/out, an SD card slot, USB-C port, and a power supply input. It can also run on 6x AA batteries.

First Impression

I am happy to see that the ELZ_1 is now coming back as ELZ_1 play. The further development is exciting. Hope the firmware will work on both versions. The ELZ_1 was a very special, quirky Synthesizer with its own charm and it would have been a real shame if it had disappeared from the market.

ELZ_1 play by Sonicware /Dr. Yu Endo is available now for pre-order for $599 USD in a standard white key version and limited black key version. Shipping starts in October 2023.

More information here: Dr. Yu Endo (Sonicware)

Hardware Synthesizer News


  1. Yeah, I owned the ELZ-1. Only sold it because having both the op-1 and the ELZ-1 was kinda pointless for me. And I cant live without the 4 tracks on the op-1 and the endless sequencer. Starting to get weird with their sampler and LFO’s now on the OP-1 Field. But, im definitely looking at this ELZ-Play, digging that looper, curious about any sequencing besides an ARP.

  2. i had an elz1. it was great but the only thing missing for me was a way to record patterns other than the clunky sequencer. it seems theyve fixed that now. would love to get one but a little too pricey for me at the moment. i hope they continue to develop it since this first run is limited to 200 units.

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