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, and Portishead.

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113 Visitor comments
John
August 25, 2011 @ 8:05 pm
I guess the prices aren't too jacked up everywhere. I just purchased one for $300USD today! A real steal if you ask me. I can't wait to delve into everything this thing is capable of.
Tebbes
August 2, 2011 @ 3:46 am
There are two versions of the MS 20: one with the original Korg 35 filters and one with the LM13600 OTA filters. People say the Korg 35 filters sound better, but since I neverd heard one with the LM filters, I can't tell for sure. There is a pretty easy way to tell which one you have. Remove the left side-panel and look inside. The ones with the LM13600 OTA filters have an extra pcb connected to the back of the original pcb.
You'll spot it right away.
lee
July 5, 2011 @ 1:46 pm
To compare an SH101 to an MS20 is just stupid, albeit tryingto pull the prices down. Its like comparing a corn on the cob to a combine harvester. SH101 can be compared to quarter of an old Juno! The MS20 can only be compared to an entire mental asylum. Just listen to Aphex Twin
Sapere Aude
June 12, 2011 @ 5:16 pm
@median, sorry but a roland sh-101 sounds nothing like an ms-20. I have owned 3 101's over the years and while an interesting synth you just can't compare the 2.
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.
 
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  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a 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 Perfect Circuit Audio.

    Additional information provided by DAC Crowell.

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