During the nineties, ENSONIQ consisted of three divisions: multimedia
and hearing aid
The hearing aid division closed in the early nineties. The musical instrument
division which enjoyed great success in the late eighties and early nineties
began to lose market share to the Japanese musical instrument companies
(Yamaha and Korg). However, the multimedia division (which manufactured the
Soundscape card) enjoyed great success.
During the nineties, sound cards moved from specialty high end hardware to the
commodity item that it is today. In order to do this, sound cards needed to
become cheaper. ENSONIQ was a pioneer in the evolution of the soundcards
from the Soundscape to the AudioPCI.
The original Soundscape consisted of a Motorola MC68000 processor, a custom
gate-array (ODIE), a full custom chip OTTO and a CODEC (either the Analog
Devices AD1848 or Crystal Semiconductor CT4248). This design basically
remained unchanged for the Soundscape II and Soundscape Elite.
Following up on the original Soundscape design came the Soundscape Vivo.
Recognizing the need to reduce cost, the engineers removed the MC68000 from the
sound card and moved the embedded firmware into the host computer. This
dramatically reduced the cost and size of the board.
After the Soundscape Vivo card, the ENSONIQ engineers took a bold step. While
Microsoft and the rest of the audio industry were pushing the benefits of
hardware accelerated audio the ENSONIQ group were looking for ways to further
reduce the cost of audio. Their efforts resulted in the AudioPCI.
The AudioPCI card was the first PCI based audio card on the market. It was
also ENSONIQ's most successful. In a radical move, OTTO, the synthesizer engine
used in all previous soundcards was removed from the board. This meant that all
audio processing was performed on the host computer. While the rest of the
industry tried to sell expensive hardware accelerated sound cards the AudioPCI
was proving the hardware acceleration was unnecessary.
It was during this period the Creative Labs, who was having a difficult time
releasing it's PCI audio solution decided to acquire ENSONIQ. This move gave
Creative Labs PCI audio technology and ENSONIQ the retail presence required to
make the AudioPCI the standard audio card for much of the PC world.
The cost reduction strategies employed by ENSONIQ for the AudioPCI proved
to be its undoing. Host audio (the ultimate cost reduction) is replacing sound
in all but the most expensive PCs.