Korg MS2000 & MS2000R

Korg MS2000 Image

This beauty from Korg combines state of the art analog physical modeling synth sounds with a very vintage Korg appearance. Yes, this sounds as good as it looks! Remember Korg's MS-series (the MS-10, MS-20 and MS-50)? That's right, the MS or MonoSynth series are some of Korg's most sought after analog synths. They were some of the only compact Patchable monosynths of their time, and had a great Korg sound too. While the MS2000 is somewhat "hard-wired", it offers just as much and more flexibility while maintaining a straight forward and hands-on approach towards old-fashioned editing via dedicated knobs, buttons and flashy lights. In place of actual patch cables and input jacks, the MS2000 features a cool "Virtual Patch" mode in which signal can be routed to various sections of the synth (ie: LFO, Filter or Keyboard Velocity) using the LCD display and paging through various screens.

The MS2000 actually comes up against the similar Roland JP-8000 and Novation SuperNova & Nova synths. Despite its amazing look, the MS2000 has some surprising limitations. It has only 4-voice polyphony so you won't be creating very lush or complex pads and sounds with it. In spite of this, its sound is clean, crisp and very flexible. It can easily conjure up beefy basslines, sub-basses, wonderful sweeping leads, pads and hits. Classic features include a 6 pattern arpeggiator, a very flexible LFO with sample and hold and even vintage wood side-panels and printed block diagrams and programming data on the face.

Programming seems just about as classic as its look. The two oscillators offer up to eight waveforms plus noise. A great self-oscillating filter section provides 12dB high and band pass filtering and switchable 12 or 24dB low pass filtering. A typical set of Envelopes modulate the filter and amplifier. Extensive modulation is provided by the two LFOs. A 16-band Vocoder section (a la VC-10) is also on-board and it does an excellent job! There are also on-board effects which include chorus, flange, phaser, delay, distortion and EQ. It also features a "Modulation Sequence" mode which is a 16-step pattern or sequence you create in either step- or real-time and any tweaking or editing can also be recorded into the pattern to add movement to it. The MS2000 is a very well designed and flexible synth with a look and functionality that not only honors but transcends its classic predecessors. It is used by BT, Depeche Mode, Apollo 440, The Crystal Method, Placebo, the Faint, Royksopp, Adrian Belew, Jean-Jacques Perrey, Saga, Klaus Schulze, Rick Wakeman, Yes, Yesterdays, Keith Emerson and Snoop Dogg.

Korg MS2000R Image

The MS2000R is, of course, the rackmount version of this beast. Although there is no keyboard and no real need for one, the 16 function buttons on the front of the unit can be switched into "Keyboard" mode in which they function as keys, mainly for demoing sounds while you're programming it. This is a really great feature since most rackmount synths either don't allow you to hear your progress from the actual unit or they only feature a one-note demo button to hear your sounds. The MS2000 is truly a well thought out instrument for musicians of any level looking for classic and new sounds within a quality digital synth with a sleek vintage look that'll turn a few heads!

Korg MS2000B Image

Released in 2003 with an updated sound set, a sharp new black metallic color scheme and dedicated vocoder mic, the MS2000B and MS2000BR provide a combination of playability, expression and sound manipulation that is at once familiar, yet ready to open a new universe of possibilities. It is also worth mentioning that an MS2000 and MS2000B can be connected synchronously for eight voices of polyphony, as long as the two units have the same samples installed.

Korg MS2000BR Image

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151 Visitor comments
January 6, 2010 @ 9:45 am
I agree that the knobs on this thing feels worringly flimsy, some of them feels loose and not properly greased up, although they still work flawlessly, you just have to be careful while tweaking it, no violent live twitching and turning these little things. Overall its cheap build quality is this synths biggest drawback, but yeah, take care of it and it will most likely not let you down, as soon as you start playing it you will forget all about that anyhow! I am still looking for the keyboard model in good condition to merge with my rack model for some 8-voice, 4-part multitimbral action :)
January 5, 2010 @ 11:39 am
I've owned a MS2kR since a few months after they were released and still love it dearly. The accessability and on-the-fly creation offered by the knob-heavy control scheme is friggin' sweet, and this thing is gorgeous for live setups when combined with a solid sequencer and a bit of preplanning. It is not a fat-sounding synth; it really shines in colder and more brittle sounds. As others have mentioned, you can coax some very thick and impressive basses out of it, but it takes a lot of coaxing and will never measure up to a true or well-sampled analog voice. I love this piece, though, and have played it daily for at least a decade now... oh, yeah, it's solidly constructed as well, even though it comes from an era where Korg was using cheap-as-hell pots for frontpanel controls.
December 9, 2009 @ 9:17 am
PART 1 -I have owned many synths over the years for ambient and left of centre music (mostly low end stuff - Juno 106 / Korg Poly 800 / DX100 / Ensoniq VFX / ESQ1 / SCI PRO-1) I've also spent a lot of time working without hardware synths on VA type instruments (fruityloops / ZynAddSubFX etc). To my ears the MS2000 beats all of the synths I have ever owned and used. Of course all of the synths I listed have their own qualities but I wouldn't swap the MS for all of them put together. The MOD sequencer once learned is the secret weapon of this keyboard. You can make long evolving textures or amazing rhythmic sounds very easily. It's easy to make a string sound as nice as a Juno or Poly 800 in a snap and take those sounds further than with the older machines I owned. If you don't know how to create sounds on a knobby synthesizer you will probably find this disappointing as the presets are pretty boring and you really need to roll up your sleeves to get the most out of it.
December 9, 2009 @ 9:16 am
PART 2 -The are a couple of nags. I miss any decent amount of feedback from the resonance control - the volume seems to drop off the more resonance you add where I would expect an earthquake or broken speakers. Also when you're editing a sound it's all too easy to select another memory location instead of another page and lose your edits. Save to a new program location first then save often. Hardware wise it looks very nice and seems well constructed. The knobs could do with being a little more substantial I'm afraid they're about to snap off when I use them. The price is very reasonable given the sonic potential (I paid £300 for mine). 4 note poly is fine by me the only synth I owned with decent multi-timbrality / polophony was the VFX and I thought it sounded cold and was hard to program anyway.
November 20, 2009 @ 6:21 am
I almost bought this when I demoed it at GC years back. I tried the black version and didnt think it sounded as good. There's a real love-hate attitude towards this synth. My main defenses would be A. it sounds nothing like a roland B. it makes a bunch of wack sounds and gives you a lot of filter sweeps and arp good for weird not happy dance music.
SO what if it doesnt do an analog bass. That's what the old roland is for.
My old roland can't do most of what this does, so I'm picking one up. MAybe I'll change my mind, but variety is the spice of life.
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Rated 4.47 (1969 Votes)

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  • 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 - 4 voices
  • Oscillators - Analog Modeling Synthesis System: 2 osc. plus 1 noise generator (8 waveforms: sine, tri, saw, pulse, human voice and 64 DWGS waves)
  • LFO - 2 LFOs with sample and hold
  • Filter - High and band-pass (12dB), low-pass (12 or 24dB) with resonance and ADSR
  • Effects - 3 types modulation, 3 types delay, EQ, vocoder, 6 pattern arpeggiator
  • Keyboard - 44 keys with velocity (rack has 16 emulated keys, no velocity)
  • Memory - 128 programs
  • Control - MIDI (2-parts)
  • Date Produced - 2000
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