Well, what can I say... I own two of these ugly little synths. You will not see people eyeing your gear with the kind of lust that a Nord Lead can inspire, but that's not all bad. It's what they can do that is important and wow - they deliver the goods. A friend turned me onto them a few years ago and I fell in love with these synths. The module is built like a tank... The manual is a must since a couple of commands are kind of weird, plus it has some features which aren't standard on most synths, like staged LFO's for example (LFO level 1 goes to level 2 at whatever rate you set and remember - there are three LFO's). Very helpful, but I think it can be downloaded off the web these days. The thing about these synths is that they have an amazing presence, for lack of a better term. It can sound like a whole lot of other classic synths if you get the patches right, or it can sound like nothing else on the planet. No onboard FX. The module doesn't have the sequencer the keyboard has. However, the module will respond to aftertouch, as will the ESQ-1, so either way, you're better off driving it from a master keyboard, so why take up the space with the keyboard? The keyboard is plastic and doesn't have a lot of keys, the module is a metal box and usually costs about 50$ less or so. The con is the display in the module is smaller and a bit more cryptic. I have not had any weirdness with either of the two ESQm's I own and I've had them several years now. Why have two? You can use overflow mode with the ESQm and get 16 note poly out of two units. Also, you can find so many good sounds that if you like to layer stuff, setting them both to different patches or the same ones slightly detuned can be very impressive plus, the ESQ is only 2 part multitymbral, so this way you can double that to 4 part... But, bottom line is this synth is fat as hell... It does have a grittiness, but it can also be pretty smooth if you program it right. The filters are definitely sweet.
One problem I ran into was that there is something wrong with the ESQ-1 editor file in SoundDiver when used with the ESQm. There is a group for the ESQ on Yahoo, however, and they had a modified version. It works great. With SoundDiver this synth is very easy to program, though the possibilities are so huge... Well, lets say you can spend a lot of time tweaking these boxes. As I write this these are selling here for around 150$. If anybody knows of a better sounding synth than this for that kind of money - please let me know what it is - I want one! As somebody else said in one of the posts - buy this now, because some day people will realize what these synths can do and they will all be gone. For the money I definitely give it a 5, I'd give it more, but.... Oh, one more tip, you can connect a CV pedal (the old kind with active power) to the jack in the back to get expression. This is well worth doing if you can find a real CV pedal in this day and age... Most of the new ones are passive and won't work. But, it is really a very useful addition. YOu really have to hear one of these (through a decent FX box) to appreciate how cool these can be. I recently got a Yamaha AN1x and I have to say I really am having fun with the AN1x, but it doesn't sound as good on a lot of patches as the ESQM's, of course, it can do a lot of stuff the ESQm's can't, but the point is the ESQ's definitely can hold their own against a lot of modern gear soundwise. So, cheap, fat and massive modulation possibilities. Realistic instruments? No way - buy a Roland or an E-mu module for that. This is a real synth and that is what it does - weird electronic mayhem... And some pretty good analog emulations. Last thing - watch out on the volume - the mains are real hot compared to most modern gear. You won't need to boost these puppies at the mixer!