Korg Lambda ES50

Korg Lambda ES50 Image

The Korg Lambda is a fully polyphonic 48-key preset synthesizer released in 1979. It features two types of sound - Percussive (Electric Piano, Clavi, Piano, Harmonics) and Ensemble (Brass, Organ, Choir, Strings I, Strings II). The Percussive sounds have a simple fast attack and variable decay envelope, and the Ensemble sounds have both preset and variable attack/release envelopes. Each key is articulated independently, so there is no note-stealing as experienced on synths limited to a handful of voices. The downside of this is the relative lack of programmability, but the presets sound good, particularly when layered (they are all available simultaneously).

The Lambda uses divide-down technology from three Top Octave oscillators to provide the basis for its sounds. The three oscillators are mixed and filtered using fixed circuits to create the preset sounds, but there are also controls on the front panel for basic low-pass filtering of the Percussive and Ensemble tones, and each section has its own volume control. There is also a control for "click" (used to add attack to the EP sound) and a filter cut-off control for the Brass sound, which has its own paraphonic filter - tuned to give a slightly resonant peak to the sound, and with its own preset filter envelope. This re-triggers on every keypress, so held notes will also be reshaped when new ones are played. In practice this is not much of a problem.

An Octave switch puts the keyboard in regular or Octave Down mode. The three oscillators can be detuned to thicken the sound further, and there is a separate analog "chorus phase" (really just a chorus) for each of the Percussive and Ensemble sections. These can be switched on/off independently but share the same sweep control, which is via the joystick on the modulation panel to the left of the keyboard. The joystick also acts as a pitch bend control. Vibrato can be switched off the Ensemble sounds. Percussive sounds feature a variable Tremolo and a Sustain switch that turns Decay into a Release.

Round the back, there are plenty of interface jacks for a synth of this type. Aside from the headphone out, the mono mix out, and the stereo outputs, there is a short-to-ground Keyboard Trigger output, a Sustain pedal input, and an Expression input jack, switchable between Percussive, Ensemble, or both.

The Lambda is a solidly-built instrument, and its large top panel is perfect for laying out some effect pedals and/or a mono-synth. Despite its preset nature, the Lambda is a more versatile synth than it might at first appear, partly due to the quality of its sound, but also the simple yet useful modulation and tone-shaping controls. It really shines through a phaser and some reverb, and is eminently playable.

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26 Visitor comments
Henrik
October 11, 2010 @ 3:11 am
Does anybody know any artists that have used the Lambda? I had one in the 80s which I sold, and I regret it today, cause it was a great machine providing very nice string, and with a priceless look!
cla
August 13, 2010 @ 9:13 am
got one of these today. i can't stop playin strings preset!!!
this is THE analog stringer from the 70s.
sorry solina, you are fired.
Pepe
April 2, 2010 @ 10:14 am
Here is a demo song I recently produced with this machine:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CXKqVRts2Q
Pepe
December 28, 2009 @ 1:58 pm
1/1
Nice machine, no doubt! I got one in good shape (but very dirty!) last week, one day before christmas.

I expected great new sounds, but I was a bit disappointed. The sounds cannot be modified in the way of a typical substractive synthesizer and the whole thing has the look of a 70's home organ - Korg must have had those organ players in mind as their target group.
Pepe
December 28, 2009 @ 1:58 pm
2/2:
There are some really good sounds! The strings and the mellow and muffled choir for example, especially combined with the nice chorus effect. The pianos are indeed pretty cheesy just like the organ in its new wave style. But clavi, harmonics and brass are quite useable! The full polyphony is not as good as I imagined it. The more keys you press the thinner the whole sound gets.

Altogether this string machine is a piece that will not stay too long in my gear setup. It has no real benefit for me, since I have a Korg Trident! And that machine can produce the sound of the Lambda in very similar ways and so much more! I have not yet compared the string sounds of the Lambda with the Trident's, but I think that they are quite the same - that would be no wonder since the production of the Trident began only one year after the Lambda, Sigma and Delta.

The Lambda is a nice machine for those who don't possess a Trident!
 
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  • Check Prices on eBay
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  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 48 notes
  • Oscillators - 3 top-octave generators
  • Waveforms - Divide-down pulse waves
  • LFO - Tremolo and Vibrato; pitch bend
  • Filter - Fixed filter banks for each preset; extra VCF for Brass
  • Envelope - 2 simple envelopes per key; 1 preset filter env for Brass
  • Effects - Analog chorus
  • Keyboard - 48 keys; no velocity or aftertouch
  • Memory - 9 preset sounds
  • Control - Keyboard trigger out, sustain and expression pedal inputs
  • Date Produced - 1979 - 82

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