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Poly-Ensemble: ES-50 "Lambda"

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Korg's ES-50 is an interesting ensemble keyboard, again with 48 keys and 48 note polyphony. It's strictly a divide-down square wave machine, with networks mixing in octave-related pitches for building up a stair-step waveform which gives an approximation of a Sawtooth wave. There's a twist though: there are actually three independent top-octave generators and divider chains in the instrument, and each is separately de-tunable, which in itself gives quite a lush ensemble. Further, the generators are modulated with a vibrato generator having three phase-shifted outputs. Not enough? The machine is split into percussive and ensemble voices and each of these two groups are further independently routed through their own respective BBD Ensemble unit!

The joy of a square wave keyer system is that you can easily build up a variable 'gate' using diodes and resistors, and Korg did exactly that. The percussive voices- things like piano (16'), electric piano (16'), clavi (16') and harmonics (2') have a preset polyphonic fast attack and a polyphonic adjustable decay, along with a 'sustain' tab (really a 'release' control) whose function is available for access through an input jack on the back. Similarly, the ensemble voices- chorus (16'), strings I (16'), strings II (8'), Organ (16', 8', 4' all together) and Brass (16') have a fixed preset envelope of which the attack and release (again, polyphonic) can be adjusted.

While most voices have fixed formant filters for their voices, the brass preset is further provided with a single VCF (with an adjustable cutoff frequency) which is triggered by the depression of any key (i.e. global, not polyphonic, sorry to say).

All in all, a very poilte machine, great for unobtrusive work. It lacks the presence of the Korg's earlier polyphonic ensembles (PE-1000 and PE-2000), but it's very pleasant nonetheless!

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