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
November 22, 2008 @ 5:41 pm
My Ideal synth!, if only affordable, Used alot by Ladytron and extremely unique.
Geoff Crosby
November 21, 2008 @ 8:43 pm
I had two of these hooked up together when I played in Hunters & Collectors in the early 80's. I fed them through guitar distortion pedals I had modified and rack mounted and then through a digital delay. I loved them, they were so sound playable (I hardly used the keyboard for more than a trigger). I have still got them and I think I am ready to pull them out and fire them up.
Joel Galasso
November 15, 2008 @ 11:45 am
OHHH..plug&play. Es la gloria semi modular baratita. Desde que lo use por primera vez, no puedo pasar una semana sin pathchaerlo e intercalarle módulos y efectos. pd: el teclado que trae es malisimo. pd2: me aprece muy hermosocomo va cambiando el sonido a medida que pasan las horas de encendido. pd3: al interconectarlo intercalen pedales de efectos para bajo-guitarra (que usen baerias 9v), ahi cambia la cosa...
November 10, 2008 @ 6:20 am
I've got one of these under my bed, and every now and then I pull it out and have a play with it. It's a great little machine to play with, I only wish I was less of a cheap student so I could buy some patch cables and get the MS-20's full potential.
I was listening to some Röyksopp today, and I heard an instrument that I would have sworn was an MS-20. I was very impressed when I came here and discovered that they do, in fact, use one!
November 9, 2008 @ 9:10 am
herzinberg: isnt that depending on if u like the synth, look up some demos on youtube, if u like the sound snd the possibilitys of the ms-20 and feel you want it then go for it... i mean the importance is not if it suits a certain style of music but rather if u as a musichan can fit it in... good luck
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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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