Korg MS-20

Korg MS-20 Image

The MS-20 was one of Korg's first major successful portable analog monosynths and even today it is still a great little machine! The MS-20 is the big brother to the MS-10. It is an analog two-oscillator monophonic lead and bass synth with hard wired and patchable connections. The hard-wiring can be overridden however, using patch-cords. This type of hard-wired but patchable design was similar to the ARP 2600 of the late seventies. Of course the 2600 was much bigger and better. But the MS-20 offered a lot of flexible control and great sounds at a more affordable price.

In addition to two analog oscillators, the MS-20 featured two resonant VCFs (filters), two VCAs, sample and hold, a noise generator, an assignable mod-wheel and lots of knobs! The VCF (filter) section is capable of high-pass, low-pass, notch and band-reject which is unique and different than your basic lowpass style filter. External sound sources can be routed through the filter section as well. In fact William Ørbit uses the filter in his MS-20 relentlessly to filter and tweak his samples, beats, delay returns, vocals, etc.

There's also a Pitch-CV converter for triggering sounds from external sources. Aphex Twin makes quite a bit of use of this, feeding the input stage of his MS-20s with drum sounds and other untrackable audio to get the synth to make a wide variety of crunch/squawp/screech noises by mistracking the filters, etc.

As for its sounds, the MS-20 sounds great! It makes a great alternative for Minimoog-seekers. The MS-20 is great for just about any type of analog synth sound you could want! Fat round bass sounds, percussive bass or sounds, noise effects, squiggly-bubbly sounds or sinuous-worm leads are all waiting to be unleashed from inside this classic beast. The MS-20 is not only a great sounding instrument, but a great learning-synth. It is fairly easy and intuitive to operate but in doing so you can learn and understand more about synthesis and signal-flow. It is used by William Ørbit, Aphex Twin, Hardfloor, Air, SkyLab, Stereolab, Vince Clarke, Astral Projection, Biosphere, Apollo 440, Mr. Oizo, Jimi Tenor, The Prodigy, OMD, Freddy Fresh, Luke Vibert, Einstuerzende Neubauten, Add N to (X), Daft Punk, Coldcut, Die Krupps, Skinny Puppy, Electronic Dream Planet, Jimmy Edgar, Front 242, Front Line Assembly, The Legendary Pink Dots, KMFDM, Severed Heads, Royksopp, The Faint, The Shamen, Jean-Michel Jarre, Soulwax and Portishead.

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114 Visitor comments
J. A.
February 25, 2010 @ 12:39 pm
Jacqueline - only about 40 of those blackboard MS20s were ever made, all by hand! Please take care of yours!
February 21, 2010 @ 5:48 pm
this was my very first synthesizer and wow, what a synth! it can do things with its filters, patching and external signal processor that i didnt think were possible...

I own the bizzare and apparently very rare 'blackboard version' that is flat and about 4 times the size of a regular ms-20, kind of a drag seeing as it takes up so much space and isn't really possible to gig with (although i have done so on occasion) but i forget all of that when i play it... brilliant!
January 12, 2010 @ 4:08 pm
MS20 is the mutant in the world of synths. I
changed many times type of music in my life, and
this synth every time has something to say.
If you're in trouble when creating an arrangement, switch on the MS20 and always finds a way out ... a trick to get you out of trouble. No matter if you're a guitarist. This device can overload the sound better than a Marshall stack, or customize the sound of your guitar and make it unique.
December 6, 2009 @ 6:34 am
Sonically it is brilliant.
However it is very difficult to escape this single sound unless you are creating sound fx. So what is this synth good for? dirty grime bass and infinite sound effects.
I found the semi-modular aspect just laziness from korg, or is it efficiency? I could never tell. Basically it lets you wire up a load of functions to other functions e.g assign the lfo rate to the wheel while the lf0 is triggered by another synth....something silly like that if you want it.
The best function on this synth by a mile is the Pitch-CV converter which I would keep this synth for alone, fantastic, read up on that.
However I sold it for a huge profit because to me it was someone else's child that I was never going to fall in love with. Choose wisely, before you buy this synth - ask yourself is this what I am looking for in a synth, or do I just want to have some instant fun?
November 30, 2009 @ 8:18 pm
i would say the yamaha cs 10 is a better synth to go for over the ms 20 for many reasons. (bang for buck! sexy looks,reliability and build, stable tuning and gig freindly are just a few to mention) but if you have the chance of getting a decent condition ms 20 go for it.
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Rated 4.48 (1700 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - Monophonic
  • Oscillators - 2 VCO's + noise
  • LFO - One LFO w/ multiple waveforms
  • Filter - 2 MultiMode VCFs: Lowpass, Highpass, Notch, BandReject; with ADSR
  • VCA - 2 VCAs: ADSR + Sample and Hold with an envelope follower
  • Keyboard - 37 keys
  • Arpeg/Seq - None
  • Control - CV/GATE
  • Date Produced - 1978-83
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from a Korg product brochure and

    Additional information provided by DAC Crowell.

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