Korg MS-20 mini

Korg MS-20 mini Image

Many of the iconic brands in this industry have attempted to release modern versions of synthesizers from their vintage series of the past, and most have failed to do it right (we're looking at you Roland!). Until now, that is.

Korg's most famous and coveted monophonic synthesizer is the MS-20, first introduced in 1978, and it has been reborn as the MS-20 mini. Korg enlisted the same engineers who designed the original MS-20 to recreate it in a body that is smaller by 86% of the original size, but looks and sounds the same. This is an authentic reproduction of the original specifications of the MS-20, and it delivers the same powerful sound, from deep, growling basses to crisp, rounded leads.

The MS-20 mini has the exact same synthesis as the original: two analog oscillators with ring modulation, and envelope generators with delay and hold. The VCA (Voltage Controlled Amp) maintains the original basic design, but has been modified to produce less noise.

Best of all, the powerful MS-20 filter is alive and well in the MS-20 mini, providing both high-pass and low-pass with peak/resonance. This is the same reincarnated version of the filter that was also used on Korg's Monotron and Monotribe. Of special note, half-way through the production lifecycle of the original MS-20, the filter circuit was changed; the MS-20 mini uses the earlier KORG35 filter circuit which has been considered the better version of the two.

Korg MS-20 mini Image

The ESP (External Signal Processor) allows external audio signals to be used with the MS-20 mini, just as the original allowed. For example, the pitch or volume of an external audio source could be used to control the synthesizer. The distinctive and flexible patching system enables the creation of complex sounds by allowing the rerouting of both modulation and audio (both the internal oscillators and external audio). Flow-charts printed on the front panel (meticulously reproduced from the original) help users of any experience level understand how to route signals and produce a variety of sound possibilities.

The most obvious difference between the Mini and the original, is the size. It is 86% of the original size, and the 37 keys of the keyboard are mini-keys. Patch cables/plugs have also been shrunk down from 1/4" phone-plugs to 1/8" mini-plugs. The other major difference is the MS-20 mini is equipped with a MIDI IN jack for receiving note messages, and a USB-MIDI connector that can transmit and receive note messages from a computer and/or external sequencer. It should be noted that the MS-20 mini only responds to note messages; controller changes were excluded from the MIDI spec because they would not give you the smooth, un-stepped parameter changes associated with actual hands-on knob tweaking.

Korg also packaged the MS-20 mini in a manner that replicates the original, and included the original MS-20 owner's manual and settings chart. Buyers of the MS-20 mini are not getting a run-of-the-mill Korg synthesizer exploiting the namesake of its vintage Icons. The MS-20 mini is an MS-20, inside and out, with the added MIDI and USB functionality needed to make it talk to modern studio equipment right out of the box. Amazingly, it lists for only $599 USD!

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32 Visitor comments
August 23, 2013 @ 5:55 pm
I had the great privilege to play around on an MS-20 Mini at Cascio Music in Milwaukee a few weeks ago and was floored. I couldn't believe I was actually playing on this piece of analog greatness! Everything on it was so easy to use and very addictive! Also got to page through the manual. It has some really cool diagrams of vintage patches and sound ideas you can achieve with this beast. I'd love to get one but they're sold out everywhere! And the waiting lists are insane! Cascio for example said they were sold out through December! Very upsetting but for analog perfection, worth the wait!
August 22, 2013 @ 9:13 pm
I'm just here to also validate that marc the darc is a useless, as in dog wearing hats, troll and knows not of what he speaks. Why he insists on posting a comment on something he is clearly devoid of all knowledge from...aside from just being "hype" hater...speaks for itself.
Marc the Darc
August 19, 2013 @ 8:51 pm
Oh dear. Fine, i'll dumb it down for those with little understanding of language.
No, i haven't played an original MS-20, as such i don't speak of things i don't know. Again obvious if you actually read english.
But i don't need support staff to tell the crap in front of me from proper quality. And the Mini is most certainly crap! So IF the Mini can be considered a proper MS-20, then by extension the original MS-20 must be crap too, and i am left wondering WHY the original is a classic then.
Also, why do you feel the need to reference a 3rd person if you know what you are talking about?
ms-20 fan
August 16, 2013 @ 10:30 pm
So let's see here: Plastic knobs like the original, check. Metal case like the original, check. Plastic end panels like the original, check. You are right! This is such a cheapo budget synth, just like the original was 30 years ago! Kind of funny how you "doubt that the original is a classic" then "seriously wonder WHY the classic, is one?" all within the same paragraph. It's obvious you've never played an original and don't know what you are talking about, so watch Marc Doty's (Automatic Gainsay) videos on YouTube. He knows the original inside out has given nothing but praise for the Mini.
Marc the Darc
August 16, 2013 @ 12:45 pm
Honestly i don't get the hype! Not by a longshot!
Even before touching on insanely poor built quality, the likes of which i have never seen before - it's Toys'r'us bad!!!
I don't doubt that the original is a classic used many cool ways, but this sounds pretty much as poor as it's built. The triangle wave sounds like a squashed sawtooth, NOT a triangle. The filter sounds like it goes up to 7-8KHz tops, making the sound devoid of real top-end life unless you crank the resonance.
There's plenty more that i can't fit here, so if this is a true MS-20, i seriously wonder WHY the classic, is one.
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VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4.05 (236 Votes)

  • 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
  • Multitimbral - 1 Part
  • Oscillators - 2 VCOs. VCO1: Scale (32', 16', 8', 4'); VCO2: Scale (16', 8', 4', 2')
  • Waveforms - VCO1: Triangle, Sawtooth, PW-Square, White Noise; VCO2: Sawtooth, Square, Pulse, Ring modulator
  • LFO - 1 LFO: Positive Sawtooth - Triangle - Negative Sawtooth, Wide Pulse - Square - Narrow Pulse; Frequency (0.1Hz - 20Hz)
  • Modulation - _Description_
  • Filter - 1 Low pass VCF, 1 High pass VCF
  • Envelope - EG1: Attack, Decay, Release; EG2: Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, Hold
  • Effects - Portamento
  • Sequencer - None
  • Arpeggiator - None
  • Keyboard - 37 mini-keys
  • Memory - None
  • Control - MIDI In, USB, CV Out, ENV Out, Trig Out
  • Weight - 4.8 kg / 10.58 lbs.
  • Date Produced - 2013
  • Resources & Credits
  • Original images from KORG USA.

    Reviewed August, 2013.

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