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
September 2, 2012 @ 5:12 pm
iv had one for years (a grey one)... love it to bits but the ms-20 is EASILY the most overrated monosynth of all time. be careful if you havnt played one before, its probably not what you might think it is...its definitly developed "hipster" factor. still, i do love mine.....always prefered my octave kitten tho (dont laugh!)
August 31, 2012 @ 12:39 am
Additionally, I just tried an LFO by patching the cable & it just started to work!!! It's probably because of internal patched connection has been lewdly dis connected?
August 29, 2012 @ 11:12 am
Sounds munchy, a tight dice of juicy meat chewing kinda expression. However I found out that the LFO doesn't seem to response. Anyone got any idea of what causes & the remedy.
Cheap Chip
August 2, 2012 @ 1:25 pm
"Creamy" is not the word I associate with the ms-20 filter. I had a lot of cool sounds with the machine. Sold it for 250 in 2001. Wouldn't buy it again. I'm on Doepfer and other's Modular systems now. But the MS-20 started it all...
July 18, 2012 @ 12:10 pm
I replaced my MS10 with a 20 cos the 10's tuning was so unstable. The MS20 is rock solid no matter the ambient temp. And character in buckets. TBH I don't think it has quite as much power as the MS10 (I suspect my 20 is a later model), but it still screams. Whatever you do, feed the phones output back into the external input and it's just dirty as ****. No digital distortion is going to give you piercing yet creamy overdrive like that. That's the beauty of MS20s - they can be bread'n'butter and quite dull, but you crank them up to filthy overdriven filters. No equal outside of modulars.
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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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