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
robert
April 3, 2011 @ 12:23 am
Sound wise, it's incredible. i have a prophet, juno 106, radias, dave smith evolver, virus and a moog taurus. the ms20 cuts through any mix; i challenge anyone to record with this and then try to bury it in the mix; it will fight you to the death. it is easy to sync and i use a cv-midi box that works great when sequencing. compress every time because it's all over the place sonically. i think that is why everyone says it will blow your speakers! Very low, lows, and very cutting and particularly nasty highs. Looks like a control module for an electric chair. yes, visually, quite striking.
robert
April 3, 2011 @ 12:20 am
i wanted one ever since i saw blancmange using one in the 80s. They also used the ms10 and the jup8. i searched high and low and found nothing but turds in the USA where i currently live. Someone was also selling one local to me in Maryland but when i got to his house it was broken, looked like it was modified to the extreme with about 50 holes drilled and lots of mods. but no sound! Half the knobs were missing and the case was cracked, like it was thrown down a flight of stairs. I eventually bought one in mint condition form japan (and an ms10) for $1500. Now they are going for $2000. luv it
median
March 22, 2011 @ 8:31 am
A little secret for those searching for an MS20 and finding nothing but stupidly high prices (well over £1k!). Buy an SH-101! It lacks one of the osc but it doesn't sound as if it does thanks to 4 seperately adjustable sources (inc sub). It will get you MS20 sounds and is 90% there, on top of that it will do stuff the MS20 can't - PWM - ARP - SEQ. What's more? It costs at least half the price! I was shocked how my MS20 didn't blow me away for the cost and I went back to my 101 and loved it (sold the MS20 = $$$) :)
4 bit rev
March 17, 2011 @ 5:26 pm
No pwm. LFO doesnt do audiorates, but fairly usable as a guitarstompbox as the envelopfollower is pretty good.
Had a couple of MS-20s and the MS-50
The overprice the collector payed for that kit bought me some nice Serge panels.
Now thats a synthesizer!
arpeggiator
March 11, 2011 @ 12:46 am
Hi,
I just bought the Legacy Collection Digital Edition and when I registered it Korg offered as a bonus MS-20, Polysix and Mono/Poly (=the Legacy Collection Analog Edition) downloads from their site. Great!!!
 
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  • 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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