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
February 3, 2009 @ 12:25 pm
Simon Postford uses Korg Ms20

around 1:15
January 17, 2009 @ 5:30 am
An interesting synth but in my opinion a heavily over rated one too. Over priced one now if you're after something for functionality rather than retro chic. I bought mine a few years back when they were still going for less that £500 on a good day. Going for £1200+ at times now. I certainly wouldn't pay this much for one. Instead i would go for something like the jupiter4. The lfo is much faster and although obviously lacking in patch bay it's more than capable of holding it's own agains some of the more sought after synths. It's all a matter of personal taste at the end of the day but i'm far more into the yamaha cs15 and roland jp4 than the ms20. In short, over priced but interesting if you have the cash to spend.
December 19, 2008 @ 2:41 pm
My favourite of all time synth, and Ive owned plenty. It has intercourse with ears. And it looks like something that could kill you.
November 27, 2008 @ 10:16 pm
One of the greatest synths ever built, used by Justice, Daft Punk and probably every big name in electro these days as it is becoming a quality vintage item
November 26, 2008 @ 8:35 am
Seek this synth if you are a analog head with a taste for adventure. I had this synth for a few years and the possibilitiers were aplenty, stick a drum machine through it, stick a mic through it, fidget with the patchbay, it is such a blast! You do need a cv/midi converter if you are a midi composer but dont let it bother you. Everyone should hear one in real life. Two filters, amazingingly strange and comlpex patchbay with audio and 'trigger' input. This synth was made for open minds and enthusiasts. Even the parameters are named differently from the standard synth layout. This [beep] growls and clumsily sings to your heart. Only backdraw is that the heat [beep] s up the functions when it gets hot. Analog for real.
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Rated 4.48 (1703 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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