Sampler, Sequencer

Main Details
Maker Ensoniq Company
Additional Model ID DSK-1
  • 8 × Voice
Form Factor Keyboard
Signal Path Hybrid Analog / Digital Hardware
Made In Malvern, Pennsylvania, USA
Date Produced 1986-1988
Dimensions (103cm) wide x (10cm) high x (34cm) deep
Weight 10.8 kg
Notes The Mirage was Ensoniq Corporation's first product, introduced in 1984. Priced below $1700 with features previously only found on more expensive samplers like the Fairlight CMI, it became a best-seller. The mirage was one of the earliest affordable sampler-synths.
The Mirage was an 8-bit sampler featuring a 61 key velocity-sensitive keyboard, a two-digit LED display, extensive MIDI implementation, analog filters, a 333-event sequencer. It had 128kB of RAM (64kB for each keyboard half) and it was not expandable. Sample rate was variable from 10 kHz to 33 kHz with available sample time ranging from 2 to 6.5 seconds accordingly (for each keyboard half).
It included a built-in 3.5 inch SS/DD floppy drive, which was used to boot the operating system as well as store samples and sequences. Each disk had a copy of the operating system and could be used as a boot disk, obviating the need for a separate boot disk.
Each disk stored six samples and up to eight sequences. The keyboard was 'pre-configured' into two halves, each functioning as two independent instruments, though the split point could be moved. This made it easy to have one sound for the right hand (an 'upper' sound) and another for the left (a 'lower' sound). However, the standard OS could not move samples between keyboard halves. Thus the diskette could save three 'upper' sounds and three 'lower' sounds. Ensoniq later made an alternative OS available called MASOS which traded off performance features for editing features, including the ability to copy an 'upper' sound to a 'lower' sound and vice versa.

It is based around an ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) called the Q-Chip which does much of the hard work associated with getting the sounds out of the memory. That memory is in two banks of 64k: the upper and lower banks. The Mirage is an eight bit sampler meaning that each sample can have any of 256 values (though, in actuality, the value 0 is reserved for marking the ends of samples, so there are only 255 possible values). The processor in the Mirage is the Motorola 6809, a sibling to the once famous 6800 (not to be confused with the highly successful, and still in production 68000).

There have been several versions of the Mirage during its lifetime. The DSK-8 was the original model and it featured a black steel chassis and a weighted Pratt-Reed keyboard. Later DSK-8 models were updated with a dark gray chassis and an improved Fatar keyboard as the original Pratt-Reed did not have very good feel. These later DSK-8 models are identified by smaller gray+yellow buttons and a solid yellow Mirage logo. In 1985 the DMS-8 rack-mount version of the DSK-8 was released. Then, in 1986 the DSK-1 appeared with a newer lighter plastic chassis, a relocated disk drive, an un-weighted keyboard action and the addition of stereo outputs. The DSK-1 is easily identified by the solid red stripe on the front panel.

Technical specifications
Polyphony - 8 voices
Sampler - 8-bit, 32kHz (up to 6.5 seconds sample-time at 10kHz)
Filter - Analog low pass filter with 5 stage envelope
VCA - 5 stage digital envelope
Keyboard - 61 keys (velocity)
Memory - 16 internal patches, 128 kb sampler memory, 3.5 inch diskette
Sequencer - 333 Note capacity
Control - MIDI
Date Produced - 1984 - 1988


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